By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Yet at the very moment I inwardly dismissed them, I recognized something compelling, even profound, about their obsession. It made me think of a yeshiva I visited in Israel years ago: A group of rabbis were arguing a particularly narrow point of Talmud, having to do with whether on high holidays one is allowed to move the ladders attached to dove coops. It was not a practical question; the rabbis owned no dove coops. But for Orthodox Jews, God is precisely in these seemingly irrelevant details: They believe that God entered history only once, when He revealed the Scriptures and the oral tradition; their only access to the deity is therefore through His words, and by parsing every one of them, by comparing minute differences in scriptural language, Jews hope to learn what God meant. Through arcane debate, they can reach out and almost touch God.
Doug and Benji and Roger and their friends talk a lot about the Magic of Disneyland, that wonderful, childlike feeling of giving in to this world that Walt created, of letting the place make you happy. They want to hold on to that magic and feel it all the time, but it’s perhaps not as easy as when they actually were children. And so they become Talmudic. They go deep inside the history of Disneyland, study every inch of it. When Doug looks at the Mark Twain, he doesn’t see what kids see — wow! a big cool riverboat! — he sees Walt and Lillie dancing, he sees dozens of old-timers crafting the perfect experience. Doug sees these things everywhere.
By trying to understand just What Would Walt Do, they can in some way actually touch the man they believe did a better job than anyone of bringing magic into the workaday world.
I try to explain my theory to Doug. I’m getting it all wrong, he says. It’s not like an actual religion. They don’t think Walt is some sort of god. And, somewhat nervously, he points out that he doesn’t actually believe there is true magic — it’s more of a magical feeling. He knows Disney is a company run by businessmen who want to make money. But that doesn’t bother him. “I’m able to separate the magician and the magic,” he says.
Disneyland, he says simply, is “a very nice place, a wonderful place to go, I enjoy myself while I’m here.”
We leave the Mark Twain and head for Critter Country, where we stop at a high wooden barrier. Behind it, Benji tells me, they are building the since-opened Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Benji and Roger and I climb onto a low stone wall to look inside. (Doug says it’s against the rules and he won’t do it.) There’s not much to see — some narrow tracks and piles of construction material. Benji and Roger guess where the line will be and where they’ll put the gift shop.
Then we climb down and head back toward the entrance.
What do Disneyland regulars call themselves? I ask.
“We prefer Disneyana enthusiasts,” Doug says. Then he smiles, “Or Disney Freaks. Or Disney Nuts.”
They say that they don’t have one name, like Trekkies do. Most of them feel that Trekkies are lame.
“Our creator had other successes,” Roger says.
Benji says he was once a Trekkie. “There’s no difference,” he says, then adds, “Disney fans are crankier.” We walk in silence for a moment. Benji laughs. “I had a girlfriend once.”
“Trekkies are devoted to some stupid pop-culture fad,” Doug says finally. “Disney fans believe in the magic.”