LAST TIME on CHAOS IN PRINT, our intrepid adventurer SCARECROW CAPPIS was off to fulfil his lifelong dream of going to Disneyland. Granted, it was in Japan and he was going to Tokyo Disneyland, but it’s still Disneyland. After an eventful morning of the Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Carribean and Big Thunder Mountain, SCARECROW went on Star Tours, thus satisfying his outer geek. But, little did he know that there was something even cooler than Star Tours…
The ladies in our group were all ready to do the tour through Cinderella’s castle. Now, there were some warnings about how there were two different kinds of tours, and that it’s all in Japanese, but hey. The girls wanted to do it. So, as we went into the castle, the show began. Our tour guide gave us the spiel of all the mighty princes and beautiful princesses that have graced this castle, when the thunder and lightening began. See, the Disney villains have taken over the castle. And now, the only way out is through. Our brave tour guide led on.
As you walk through the castle, various scary things happen. You peek in on the Evil Queen from Snow White as she poisoned apples. And then, one crazy elevator ride later, and we were in the basement. I looked at the murals on the walls, and they were of a very familiar Disney movie. Not just any movie, but my favourite Disney movie. And then, the tour guide uttered some words that I caught: BLACK CAULDRON.
Oh my God. The Black Cauldron is only the best animated film Disney ever made. And now, I was about to come face to face with some kind of animatronic display from the movie. The tour guide continued, then there was a long pause. I leaned in to one of my bilingual friends. “Dude, what’d she say?”
“She says she needs a volunteer,” said my friend. My hand would have shot up if it weren’t for the language barrier. Someone else stepped forward. With a volunteer assisting our tour guide, we stepped forward.
We came to a large chamber. There was a pit in the middle of the room, and rising out of the pit was an altar. I looked up at the altar and I recognized what was up there: the Black Cauldron itself. A cloaked figure rose up behind the cauldron. I was face-to-face with the Horned King. The friggin’ Horned King.
The Horned King is the scariest villain in Disney history. He began launching into a speech, but I’d seen the movie enough times. I knew what he was saying. He lured us here to be the first victims of his Cauldron-borne.
Now, for those who’ve never seen the movie, the Horned King needed the Black Cauldron to summon forth his army of Cauldron-borne. The Cauldron-borne are an army of undead. That’s right. Disney made a movie that prominently features a zombie army.
The Horned King began his incantations. I looked into the pit to see something writhing. Holy moly. The Cauldron-borne. An army of animatronic zombies was coming to life. Here I was, at Disneyland, in Cinderella’s castle, surrounded by animatronic zombies. Nothing could wipe the smile off my face.
I looked to the side. The tour guide was handing our volunteer a sword. I figured out what was coming next. The volunteer thrust forth the sword. Lightening flew from the sword, striking the Horned King. The Horned King writhed in agony and sank back beneath the Cauldron. Without the Horned King, the zombies fell over, dead once more. I was a little disappointed that it didn’t end the way it does in the movie, but then I seriously doubt that the Disney tour guides could get people to kill themselves.
With that encounter passed, we rounded the corner. The tour guide stopped us, and reached into a treasure chest. For his bravery, our volunteer was rewarded with a medal. We all broke into applause. And that was it.
When we got back outside, I embarrassed our group. I just couldn’t stop bouncing around. “THAT WAS THE COOLEST THING EVER!!” I shouted. “I can’t believe Disney actually made animatronic Cauldron–borne! That rocked! That rocked! That rocked!”
“Mark, what ride do you want to go on next?” “Star Tours AGAIN!”
But, now that we were in the heat of the afternoon, the lines were starting to get bad. The ladies really wanted to go on Pooh’s Honey Hunt, but that had the longest line of all. Even with FasPas, we were looking at a 6-hour wait. Man, those Japanese girls are nuts for Winnie the Pooh. Instead, our brave volunteers ran ahead and got our FasPas tickets for Splash Mountain. It was now 2 in the afternoon. Splash Mountain at 5. Looks like that’s how we were ending the day.
We kind of let the ladies take charge. Failing Pooh’s Honey Hunt, they wanted to check out the Peter Pan ride. That was a 45 minute wait. I looked at the long, snaking line and lamented that none of my Japanese friends would get it if I likened it to a cattle chute. The carts through the Peter Pan ride only had enough room for two, so I wound up going through it with big, tough Seiji. He we were, two men, going through the girliest of rides together. As we were belted in, I raised my fist to Seiji. “Dude!” I said. Seiji returned the salute. “Hai!” he said. Even though this was a girly ride, our feeling was mutual. We were men, damn it! Luckily, it was only 2 minutes of cheesy animatronics recreating Peter Pan. Seiji and I emerged, our manhood intact.
“Mark, what ride do you want to go on next?” I did not blurt out “Star Tours.” Time was running short, and I still wanted to experience some of Disney’s more famous cheesy rides. Right across from Peter Pan was the Haunted Mansion. And the line wasn’t too bad. “Haunted Mansion,” I said. Everyone was stunned that I didn’t say “Star Tours,” and we got in the Haunted Mansion line.
Again, the carts were only built for two. And this time, I was going through with sweet, cuddly Yuriko. Nice. Now, as I was told while we were waiting in line, Haunted Mansion really isn’t scary. It’s cartoony, singing and dancing ghosts. But still, Yuriko and I were a little freaked out by the giant spider and clung to each other for support. Nice. Very, very nice. But I digress. I had the same reaction that I had with Pirates of the Carribean. It was a lot cheesier than I expected.
Still had some time to kill before Splash Mountain, so we took the raft out to Tom Sawyer’s Island. That was nice, but not Haunted-Mansion-with-Yuriko nice.
And now, the time had come for Splash Mountain. Now, I must confess, I really didn’t know what theme Splash Mountain had. I knew it was a log ride and there was a mountain and some splashing involved, but that was it. As we waited in line, they informed me that the whole ride revolved around Disney’s long-buried movie Song of the South, and throughout the ride you experience animatronic Bre’re Rabbit, Bre’re Fox, and Bre’re Bear. Cool. As we came closer and closer to the log ride, the air became overwhelmed with the scent of chlorine and other water purifiers. We all boarded the logs, and were off. Splash Mountain is cool. I will admit, that as we went down the climactic splash, I panicked that I would lose my glasses. That’s why my hand was over my face. I wasn’t worried about my hat, thought.
But that was a great end. Now, it was time to go shopping. We hit the shops on main street. I already knew kind of what I wanted to get. Most every gift I bought was for my niece and nephew. I figured I’d be a horrible uncle if I didn’t get them anything. So, the each got a set of Mickey Mouse ears. From there, it was off to the sweet shop. The Disneyland vets in my group pointed me to the best cookies that Disneyland makes, so a box of those went to my niece and nephew and my brother and sister-in-law. Got a few postcards for the collection and to mail to envious friends, and I was pretty much set.
After supper at one more overpriced restaurant, it was time to part ways. Some were going home to Kumagaya already, others wanted to stick around for the Electric Light Parade. I chose to stick around. I remembered how the American Disneyland infamously retired the Electric Light Parade in the mid-90s, so this was going to be my only chance to see it. Our seats were lousy, but I was able to take in the electrified versions of Cinderella’s coach and Buzz Lightyear’s rocketship.
Now, it was getting on to be 8 at night. It was time to go home. We made our way to the main gates and down to the train station. Heh. On the way to the train station was “the last chance gift shop,” so we did a little browsing while we waited for our train. I bought nothing more.
Rolled back into Kumagaya around 10pm. I said farewell to my friends, and remembered that those who left early came back to meet with some other friends and go drinking. I rattled through the list of popular gaijin bars and caught up with them. What could I say? The night was young, and so was I.
Now, almost two years after the experience, I look back on it and see how cheesy that Disneyland really is. It’s really nothing more than the average roadside attraction, only gussied up and sold by the best marketers in the world. I actually found the Studio Ghibli museum to be a much more fulfilling experience. But what I remember the most was the people I was with. Mike was right. It would have been a terrible experience had I gone alone. Because of those people, it was one of the best days I had in Japan. And, for my last few weeks, I could make anyone of those Disney vets smile by giving the thumbs up and saying, “Star Tours!”
But I never did meet Goofy. The stuck-up bastard.