Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Magical Reads: Reading Recs Inspired by Disneyland

 Sorry about the recent unplanned hiatus... I seem to have found myself in a bit of a pickle over the last week or so, over an overwhelming to-do list with so little room to-do in my planner, mainly caused by a weekend trip to Disneyland to celebrate my bestie's 22nd Birthday! So, between packing, and planning, and, well, enjoying my time at the Happiest Place on Earth, I've had little to no time to post... I know, I know, my life is so hard!

Well, after spending the weekend getting around five hours of sleep a night and walking around all day, you might say I got a little bit tired. Or maybe you can say I'm exhausted. And the necessary psychological transition between Disneyland and reality was way too hard of a hurdle to jump on a rainy Monday. So, I've been taking a little time to reacclimate to the fact that Seattle doesn't have a churro stand within every approximate 200 feet. 

But seriously? I don't want that magic to end. So as I've found myself time and again unable to sink into a book due to my preoccupation with another kind of magic, I had an epiphany: why not read a couple of books that take me back, instead of helping me move on? Therefore, I've assembled some recommended reading lists, perfect to take you back to some of your favorite Disneyland... Lands. (Magically redundant).

And just for clarity's sake, let's wind our path clockwise, starting at the left hand side of the park, just like the path my family travels as soon as we get through the gates (mainly because that's the fastest way to get to Pirates of the Caribbean, our traditional first ride, but still). Alright, everybody, here we go!

First is Adventureland, home to Dole Pineapple Whips, the quipping skippers of the Jungle Cruise, and, one of my favorite rides, Indiana Jones and the Temple of the 2 Hour Line. Adventureland was conceived not as a duplication of one kind of exotic locale over another, but instead, as an amalgamation of all the far-off places that serve as inspiration for youthful adventurers, combining Middle Eastern, African, Asian, and Tropical influences for an overall magical place you couldn't find anywhere other than Disneyland... and your own imagination. What sort of books might you read to perfectly capture the adventure, suspense, and rhythm of the jungle? 

Tarzan of the Apes, by Edgar Rice Burroughs, served as the basis for the exciting and adventurous 1999 animated film, as well as the Tarzan's Treehouse attraction. Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad, surprisingly enough, also served as a source of inspiration; this time, for the winding pathways, roughly-assembled queue area, and fearsome native assailants of the Jungle Cruise, while The Jungle Books, by Rudyard Kipling, are yet another foundational work for a Disney classic, that also helped inspire Walt Disney's vision of Adventureland itself. 

New Orleans Square, my favorite area of the entire park, was the one of which I was originally the most afraid; however, nowadays, I've fallen in love with the cheerfully macabre and darkly daring exploits of the hitchhiking ghosts and rapscallion pirates, and the two rides housed within this area of the park are two of my favorites. Based on the 19th century history of New Orleans, it was the first addition to the park in 1966, and cost roughly $18 million... which is about the same amount of money I'd pay to have a Mickey-shaped beignet and a mint julep in hand right about now. What novels might call to mind the same gothic glamour and extravagant history? 

Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte, might not take place in New Orleans (or even the same continent), but its classic twisted tale of gothic romance and ghosts serves as a similar match for the 999 residents of The Haunted Mansion. The Pirate Hunter: The True Story of Captain Kidd, by Richard Zacks, is a nonfiction reminder of the carousing contenders competing with Jack Sparrow for the title of my favorite pirate. And Disney-official cookbooks like Cooking with Mickey and Chef Mickey fill a bit of the void left by lack of New Orleans Square food, which, lets face it, is some of the best in the entire park (Blue Bayou's Monte Cristo Sandwiches being the pinnacle of excellence, of course). 

Frontierland, one of the less active areas in the park due to fewer rides, makes up for its dearth of attractions with an overwhelmingly spectacular ambience. The dusty grit and uncontrollable action of Manifest Destiny and the Old West may have faded to the annals of history, but not here, where runaway mine cars, saloon gals, and shooting expositions are still in happy supply. (The fact that Thunder Mountain was closed during our vacation was almost enough to put my dear Bestie into an early grave, I'm telling you.) What books might capture that same invigorating expansion into the frontier of old? 

Louis L'amour is a champion of the western genre, and his expertise are especially evident in How the West Was Won, while True Grit, by Charles Portis is a best-seller that retains a large cultural following even so many years later. Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry is a slightly more recent release that still manages to perfectly hearken back to the kind of action that put the "wild" in Wild West. 

Fantasyland is probably the most easy category for which to accumulate a reading list, being that the majority of its many rides take firm basis in classic children's literature. It is the most prominently featured land in each and every one of the Disney parks, providing a home for each of the respective castles, from Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty castle to Tokyo Disney's home for Cinderella. Walt Disney himself said, "What youngster has not dreamed of flying with Peter Pan over moonlit London, or tumbling into Alice's nonsensical Wonderland? In Fantasyland, these classic stories of everyone's youth have become realities for youngsters - of all ages - to participate in." It isn't difficult to find plenty of novels that encompass that same kind of magic. 

The works of the Grimm Brothers serve as basis for the popularization of such inevitably classic Disney Princesses like Snow White and Rapunzel, while Hans Christian Andersen takes responsibility for writing "The Little Mermaid" and "The Snow Queen" (the latter of which served as Disney's most recent source of popular inspiration, as it is the basis of the smash hit film, Frozen!). Alice in Wonderland is the most popularly represented in the parks, serving as the basis for two attractions, with the Mad Hatter's Tea Party and the actual Alice in Wonderland dark ride.

Tomorrowland is one of the largest, and most active, areas in the park, and most likely competes with only Fantasyland for most popular, as well. From the bronze-and-neon retro-futuristic sheen of its towering structures, to the captivating allure of routine upgrades and innovations via the constantly developing promise of the future, Tomorrowland has served as a source of inspiration and promise for the future since the park opened in 1955, all the way back when the land depicted what Disney thought the world might look like by the dazzling tomorrow of 1986. Thankfully, the science fiction genre is a popular one, to say the least; however, not-so-popular is the kind of barefaced optimism and cheerful view of development that Tomorrowland stands for. 

Still, Philip K. Dick and H.G. Wells are pioneers in their field, with the former's depictions of robots living alongside humans in a synthetic-heavy world, and the latter's desperate and bleak view of social development and attitudes towards what constitutes food, serving as an interesting contrast to the hyper-hopeful organics of the park land (Fun Fact: the landscaping in Tomorrowland are also primarily sources of food, like flax, clover, aloe, artichoke, pomegranate, and lemon trees, being that the Imagineers in charge of the redesign thought that in the future, we'd take agricultural green areas where we could find them, and put them to the most use). Marissa Meyer's Cinder also calls to mind a tech-friendly and expansive universe of the future, and since it's based on a fairy tale, maintains that sense of magic and wonder Dick and Wells might be missing. 

So, thus concludes our tour of the West Coast's happy kingdom. While I wish this bastion of childhood is one I could visit far more often, at least it's reassuring that the magic doesn't just stop at the end of the airplane terminal home. Until next time! 

Main Street, Critter Country, and Toon Town omitted by choice... then again, maybe we can revisit those some other time, like when my family returns to the Park in August!


  1. Oh my goodness, I love this post. :D Although I'm jealous about your weekend trip...sounds fun and crazy!

  2. Awww, this is such a great list! I especially love the Fantasy Land and Tomorrow Land inspired book recommendations, but that's no surprise since those are my favorite genres anyway. ;) I have lived in southern California for about 10 years, but only recently visited Disneyland for the first time, if you can believe it. It truly is a magical place. :)

    Loved the post!

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden