Disneyland is like that too. Glancing at the upper storey windows on Main Street, I find them decorated with advertisements which incorporate the names of Disney artists and animators: ‘KEN ANDERSON Bait Co.’, ‘SHIPS MODELS – Bushman & DaGradi Mfrs.’ and in memory of his father, ‘ELIAS DISNEY Contractor Est. 1895’. Pure indulgence you might suppose, but Walt’s argument for the inclusion of such embellishments was that whilst they might not be noticed by everyone, their absence would be noticed in that the total creation would be significantly diminished.
If Disneyland is like a film, then I – and every other Visitor – become the camera. ‘Wherever I turn my gaze, I frame a new shot. I look this way: through a door with bevelled-glass panels, onto the flower market – a riot of coloured blooms in a neat cul-de-sac of pastel-painted buildings. I look that way: the posters of Main Street’s Cinema advertise Mickey Mouse in Steamboat Willie, and the Tobacco Store’s wooden Indian looms large in the foreground.
The most commanding shot of all is the vista down Main Street to where the towers and blue-tiled roofs of Sleeping Beauty’s castle gleam in the Californian sun. The idealised fairy-tale castle of a hundred children’s picture-books, it might easily have been designed by Ludwig of Bavaria in collaboration with Cedric Gibbons of Hollywood. It is the hub, the heart, the core of Disneyland and it draws one to itself like a magnet.
Approaching the castle, it seems -at first – a little smaller than I had imagined from all those years of watching Disney TV shows; but on reaching it, I discover that it is perfectly scaled to its surroundings, and that those surroundings are so artfully contrived that whatever path you take, you gain a new perspective on its crenulated battlements, ivy-covered walls, turret rooms and leaded windows. If you go to the left, you will see it reflected in the moat; if you choose the right-hand path, the castle becomes the perfect backdrop for Snow White’s Wishing Well.
I choose the drawbridge and pass beneath the portcullised arch into Fantasyland. ‘Here,’ said Walt, ‘is the world of the imagination, hopes and dreams. In this timeless land of enchantment, the age of chivalry, magic and make-believe are reborn -and fairy-tales come true.’ And here -perhaps more than anywhere else in Disneyland – the artistry of the Disney animators assumes tangible reality.
Astride one of the prancing stallions on King Arthur’s Carousel, I gallop around a village with an architectural style in which baronial English and rustic Alpine whimsically co-exist: Toad Hall with its coat-of-arms (motto: ‘Semper Absurda’) and its smoking Tudor chimney-stacks; the Wicked Queen’s castle with its gargoyles and sinister, shadowy archways; Pinocchio’s puppet-theatre with its bright flags and gaily-painted balconies; and the March Hare’s house with its thatched roof and lop-eared chimneys.
I am reminded of those elaborately detailed plans and meticulous scale models which Disney used to have made to provide his animators with authentic reference-points in creating the settings for his movies. The only difference here is that you can actually walk about among them.