Sunday, February 12, 2006

Suspending Disbelief

That willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Biographia Literaria

In graduate school I had a professor who expounded willingness to suspend disbelief on a biweekly basis. In fact, we wagered on how many minutes would lapse before he said the words. I agree with him, though. In order to participate in books, movies, and for that matter, Disney World, you must be willing and able to suspend disbelief.

Last week, while in Orlando, I took my children to Disney's Magic Kingdom. Everything from the eateries, to the landscaping, to the rides and shows is planned, scripted, and tested. Disney does a terrific job creating the magic that draws so many people each year. But I wonder . . . Can the magic continue?

While on Jungle Cruise, my children and I sat next to a young girl who at every turn said, "That elephant is not real," "That gorilla is not real," "Nothing is real!" She was so persistent that she even befuddled the comedian guide. I wanted to say, but politely held my tongue (until now), " You are right! Nothing is real." You are in Disney World - the world created by someone who read good books and was willing to suspend disbelief enough to visualize and then create replicas of flying elephants, mermaids, wooden boys, and Mickey Mouse.

Then, I thought why? Why was my reaction so strong (other than she ruined the ride for me)? She could have just been a precocious child who wanted to share her observations, not an accurate picture of what is wrong with the modern child.

Later in the day we had the opportunity to partake in The Magic Kingdom's newest amusement - Stitch. I believe it is the reconfigured Alien Adventure that was closed recently. My questions are these:
  • With all of Disney's available market research is this what they found appeals to the masses?
  • Is this the unreal reality the girl from Jungle Cruise was seeking?
Stitch is captured by Galatic police and is transferred to prison where he breaks out and runs amuck in the holding station. Most of this occurs in the dark with strobe lights and cool special effects produced with the shoulder harness. (The dark and moving shoulder harnesses were too scary for my six year old. ) But the "highlight" of the show was Stitch belching (complete with odor) and spitting (yes, you get wet). Needless to say, I was disgusted. The dark, scary "ride" complete with rude behaviors had longer waiting lines than any of the tamer exhibits, especially Tom Sawyer's Island and It's a Small World, except Dumbo which is popular with the toddler crowd.

Are the belching and spitting of Stitch what sell today instead of the peaceful family of elephants taking a shower of Jungle Cruise? I find it difficult to suspend disbelief.

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