Friday, December 31, 2010

Growing Up: How a skeptic softened to Tokyo Disneyland

Like most kids, I loved Disney. I had a stuffed animal Cheshire cat and fantasized about being a mermaid. I knew all the lyrics to “A Whole New World” and wished for my own pair of glass slippers.

Then I grew up and went to film school.
“Animation is for babies. Give me Hitchcock. Give me Truffaut. Give me Deren. Down with the bourgeoisie! Down with homogenizing American culture! Down with Disney!”

I’d strut around the university library chanting my countercultural mantras.

Then I grew up and went to Japan.
Here adults use Hello Kitty erasers and watch Sponge Bob on their iphones. There’s a cute creature on every package that personifies the product inside. Even beer cans and vacuum cleaners have smiley faces.

*            *            *

“Do you want to go to Tokyo Disneyland?” she asks.

I dig into the recesses of my recollections. Disney. The name sounds sour to my skeptical ears.
I muffle out a yes, followed by a louder note to self:

Keep an open mind. Keep an open mind.

We decide to save a little money and a little sanity with the after-6PM pass. Swapping positions with the kid-packed day crowd, we enter Disneyland at dark.

With my limited field of vision, sounds and smells grow stronger. Chocolate popcorn. Bright-light laughter. Songs that sparkle. Carousels. Jingle bells.

The crowd is waltzing and whirling and taking me by the hand. It’s corny and cheerful and kitschy and cuddly. I snuggle deeper into my down. The cold night air blows my fuzzy hood over my ears. I toss it back, welcoming whatever the wind brings. Saying goodbye to my seriousness.

Fun. What a concept!

From haunted houses to hot chocolate, we wander. Giggling girlishly. Dancing the Disney dance. I’m smiling so much my cheeks hurt. Cinderella’s castle twinkles in the distance. We make the merry-go-round of rides.

Sure, Minnie-mouse earmuffs cost $30. At the end of the day, the entertainment industry collects its currency, and I succumb to capitalist consumerism.

Blah blah blah blah….

It’s okay to escape sometimes. It’s okay to embrace the artificial. Thank you Tokyo Disneyland for your mainstream magic. Thank you for teaching me how to unlearn.

At the sound of the closing chimes, we head back to the train with our imaginations ignited.

That night, I grew up and tap-danced my way home.


  1. Hi Bren. You're right. There's a lot we adults have to UNlearn so we can have fun again! And what hard work it can be. Loved joining you at Tokyo Disney.

  2. Sweet =) happy new year, Brenna.

  3. What lovely photos of movement in rides and of the carousel! And what a great reminder to have fun despite all the years of programming to take everything so seriously!

    This makes me want to go to Tokyo Disneyland or to find a jumprope!

    Happy new year! And don't get sick on all the sticky rice treats!!

  4. What a really cool blog post! You have spent your time wisely, Grasshopper. Excellent pix!

    And, thanks to you & Google (all praise be upon his searchfulness) I now have some clue who (put THAT in your rhyme-pipe and parse it) Eleanora Derenkowsky is. In my day it was Jerzy Gratowski.

    Happy New Year!

  5. I LOVE all of your comments! Thanks for reading. You guys are awesome!

  6. Absolutely loved reading this and seeing Tokyo Disney through your 'grown-up' fun and wonder-filled eyes! A blessed and continuingly Happy New Year, Brenna!

  7. Thank you for your sweet comment! Happy New Year to you, too!

  8. Dear Brenna,

    I wanted to clear one thing up: when I said I added your blog to my RSS reader it didn't mean I was publicizing it. What an RSS client does is to crawl the web to see if any of the blogs you have specified have a new post up. That saves one the trouble of going to all the blogs one likes to see if there is anything new up and ensures one doesn't miss anything.

    [sorry if all the one's make the foregoing seem like a joke sentence; I couldn't think of a less-awkward way to do it :)]

    Sometimes one (there we go again) can put a button in the blog to do it. Your readers can do it themselves, if they have a Gmail account, by setting up a Google Reader account ( and putting in

  9. Thanks for tuning into my blog and sharing this information.

  10. OMG I was cracking up! Well written! And yes, I love the "mainstream magic" that the Magic Kingdom offers! But what I appreciate most about this post is the Cheshire Cat sticking its butt in the air!!