Friday, March 16, 2001

Invisible In the Magic Kingdom, part II

What place for the futurist at Disneyworld? Nostalgia is WDW’s lifeblood--from Main Street USA (hearkening back to the “good old days” that never were) all the way down the line. I think it was completely intentional: in 1971 (the year WDW opened) nobody, but nobody thought the Future was seriously going to be all Art Deco stainless steel parabolas and skinny typefaces: that was already a retro vision of the future, the future predicted by the 1939 World's Fair. It's a a retro-future that shows up often in comics, from ZOT! to Terminal City

And it was a savvy move on Disney's part—because that retro style is a goddam sight more appealing than the functional, dull architecture and design that we've got in the “real” 2001. We still recognize the Deco flourishes of Tomorrowland as quote-unquote "futuristic" simply because they don't look anything like that which we see around us in Todayland.

The most horrendously dated (and ugly!) design at Disneyworld can be found at the so-called “Contemporary” Resort. Make of that what you will.

If anything, Tomorrowland made me impatient and discontent with the utilitarian ugliness that is to be our lot for years to come. Warren Ellis is right: if this is the Future, it’s fucking boring. It’s the Twenty-First Century! Our lives should be bright and shiny! All our music should be charming bloopy-bleepy Moog synthesizers! Our every waking moment should be a Main Street Electrical Parade!

Despite its reputation as a kitschy horrorshow, I liked “It’s A Small World”— the riot of details, the icon-making, the sheer blown weirdness of it. And (although the execution is admittedly not great) the attraction’s sound design touched on some ideas about melding music with radio-drama production techniques—using the studio itself as an arranbging tool, creating the sense of travel through sound design: the forground, the tune, remains constant, but the background keeps shifting—here a Latin beat, here African drums, here a dijiridu, here a balalaika—such that the melody is continually recontextualized: song as tracking shot.

In fact, we rode it twice.

Resurrecting a dead Internet meme, pointless and silly and dated as it is, because it still makes me laugh and because it reminds me of the bus driver who enlivened a tedious ride: Carlos, this one’s for you. (Requires QuickTime)

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