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Monday, November 8, 2010

Memory, Opinion and Truth

One of the "funny" things (depending upon where you're standing) about Asperger's Syndrome is that Aspies tend to believe everything they are told. I'm a little better at sifting now that I know better how my mind works, but you'll still catch me saying "REALLY??" way too much. (Usually followed by "Oh. Oh, yeah. Of course I knew you were joking.")

I was so torn back in the late 90s and early 2000s. I'm really glad that huge chunks of that time have disappeared from my memory. Undiagnosed, and with no clue about AS, I was frantically trying to keep my head above water. I wasn't too bad, I think, at "passing" as merely eccentric. I taught myself to study someone's retina so that they would be fooled into thinking that I was making eye contact. People in the Disney community often wear name tags; if I was reminded of the first name, I could often follow that in my leaky memory by their last name and what they did. I was absolutely certain of something, then absolutely certain of the opposite after listening to or reading someone else. Disney was wonderful. Disney was horrible. Why, if Disney is so horrible, do I still love Disney? Because Disney is wonderful. Doesn't even make sense to a neurotypical when put that way, does it? It makes my head spin even now.

I hated the cutbacks and scrimping on quality for the sake of an easier buck. I also hated the endless negativity, sniping and complaining. I got sick of doing it, and I got sick of hearing it. I couldn't figure out which Imagineers were giving me information because they wanted the fans to have the excitement of the defunct Preview of Coming Attractions that I loved so much or if they had axes to grind and agendas to promote. I didn't know who my friends were. Later, I found out.

I moved back home to Hawaii, and was working long hours in a bunker on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor with the NMCI-ISF. I stepped away from Disney, returning for the 50th anniversary kickoff refreshed. It was nice to look at Disney without a jaded, angry outlook.

In the meantime, I'd found other things to interest me. I had a brief Special Focus on Harry Potter, and made good friends at Draco Dormien. At the end of Book 5, Minister Fudge refers to "Lord....Thingy" -he didn't want to say "Voldemort", who got his moniker by anagramming his name, Tom Marvelo Riddle, into "I am Lord Voldemort". I anagrammed "I am Lord Thingy" and got "Royal Midnight". That was my character's name and a few account names had that, too. I also dropped 40 pounds, dyed my hair blonde, got blue contacts, and dropped the Michelle for Shelly. I wanted a new start, and I got one. I even came upon a new Special Focus that sent me halfway around the world - but more on that another time.

I went back to Walt Disney World in January 2001, after being away for five years. I don't remember much of it. I just have to write it off to all the stress I was under at the time. I don't even know where the photos are that I took, but I remember that I borrowed the camera from someone very, very kind at MousePlanet. I know that it was a gentleman, but don't remember whom.

I now write, on occasion, for Jim Hill Media, which Jon Nadelberg and I started back in the Dark Ages and Jim bought from me before I left for Hawaii. I retain 5% and right of first refusal for most West Coast stories/events. He and Nancy have done an amazing job. I'm jealous, and proud, and thankful it isn't me having to do all that work that they do. What makes me happiest is that finally, all those great stories of Jim's are getting heard, and because he doesn't have a slant (though he's constantly accused of it, sometimes "you hate Disney" and "you're a Disney lackey" from the same exact article!) when something negative pops up, it isn't "the boy who cried 'wolf'" and is taken a bit more seriously. Richard Kaufman's points are backed up by solid evidence. He has no axe to grind. He also knows what he's talking about.

I got weary of trying to armchair-quarterback what a dead man would have done, and even more weary of others doing it. Walt Disney's daughter says that even she didn't know what he was going to do next. If she didn't, and his brother and people who worked closely with him didn't, then how the hell do you know if he'd be offended by Indiana Jones in the Parks or would have or wouldn't have or wanted or didn't want? He had an innate sense of what people would like. That made him an exceptionally rare creature; most people can't do that.

This, however, is not a valid reason to slap the Disney name on any piece of crap and wait for the money to roll in. If you're going to try to do what you think Walt wanted, just remember that he was always willing to spend money to make sure something was done right. And while you're at it, don't twist his words to back your cheap-ass agenda:

Awesome! What new, cutting-edge attractions HAVE you done since 2005 with all that moolah you saved?

Nice try, but people do notice. But they also keep coming, stating more with their purchases of annual passes and Sunday lunches at Rancho del Zocalo that Disney can keep doing this and they'll still come back and spend money. The stockholders will be happy, and that, as a public company, is Disney's primary concern. Is that the right thing to do? Depends. If you're a theme park historian or even a guest expecting highest possible quality for price paid, no. If you're looking to make short gains on your stock or get that profit-based bonus, or, hell, even try to keep your job at Imagineering, then, yes, it's the right thing to do.

Still sucks, though.

Is Disney horrible? Sometimes. Soarin' over California at Epcot? Seriously? Tom! Stand in the corner! Is Disney wonderful? You bet! My daughter Alice raved about Tangled; she said it was as good as "How to Train Your Dragon", and for her, that's saying something. The ad campaign (and name change) had me pretty worried - but a far better person than I had similar fears a few years back:

Here's what I do: spend accordingly.
When I have (rarely, I'm a full-time student) discretionary income to spend on Disney stuff, I steer clear of the crap and vote with my dollars for the good stuff. This is why you'll rarely see me in a Disney Store nowadays when in the late 80s I used to haunt the place, blowing paycheck after paycheck on wonderful books and collectibles. I understand it's looking less like KB Toys lately, and might give it a peek. I lean away from prefab trends like pin collecting and Disney vinyl. It seems like a money tree for the not-very-creative; collecting for collecting's sake and a knock-off of the Urban Vinyl Movement. Make something that touches my heart, memory banks or funny bone, is useful or at least brings genuine joy, and you're more likely to get me to set the moths free from my wallet. Experiences are another thing I'm fond of, shoddy memory or no.

Lastly, if you're writing about Disney and you're angry and miserable, there are other things out there. Be happy you're not living in a tent in Haiti and go look at my pictures of Lotte World's Snow White Castle Walkthrough for a giggle. Find something that brings you peace, makes you happy, and isn't Disney. Then come back and be delighted. Or not. But at least your eyes will be fresh. I'm lucky, though. When I start to feel like the world is against me, I remember the Happy Troll Song my husband Noe taught me:

"I'm the happy troll and you can all go to hell."


Thanks to Tim O'Day for helping me figure out the blog's name.


  1. In the words of Buster Keaton, "Damnfino".

    Welcome back to the blogosphere, pal.

  2. Great work Shelly, here's a good timeline to frame the attractions in context of good vs bad.