About two years ago, my husband and I travelled to the Orlando area for some good old fashioned theme parking. We went to Universal Studios and the first thing we did was get on the Incredible Hulk roller coaster. When did roller coasters become torture devices? Or am I just at the age of thrill ride diminishment of returns? About four years ago we went to King's Dominion which is all about roller coasters and I recall at the end of that day I was physically sore. My old bones had been rattled. I had the sad realization as to why a lot of the disclaimer/warning sings on most of the rides always warned old people not to ride. You reach a point in time when you simply can't take it physically. Perhaps this is a sad day of revelation. Or perhaps not: you finally have an excuse not to ride a roller coaster. Or for me; something that flings you into the sky at high rates of speed or plunges you into a freefall at a high rate of speed.
So, while in Orlando, my request to visit the Polynesian Resort at Walt Disney World was granted. I hadn't been there since the early 80's. My dad was in the Marine Corps. reserves and every summer he'd hitch up a trailer and we'd head south to live in it while he did Marine stuff. Usually in North Carolina or Virginia. And every now and then we'd go further south and hook up the Kon-Tiki (that was the name of the trailer brand) at Fort Wilderness. Fort Wilderness is WDW's campground. It was also the former home of River Country, one of the first water parks in the country. One of the most charming elements of WDW is the launch that travels between the hotels and the campground. We used to take it over to the Polynesian and hang out there. It had the best pool in the resort, the best beach and the best lobby. It was just, we thought, the best part of the whole place. Maybe even better than The Magic Kingdom. So, on this 2019 revisit I was excited to go back to this very dear to my heart place. Mostly what I wanted to do was drink in the atmosphere of the hotel's lobby. Smells revive memories like nothing else and the scent in that lobby was amazing. A two story rock fountain/waterfall covered with thousands of tropical plants. It really was like being in the South Seas. Oh I couldn't wait to relive it!
I tell you what Uncle Walt would do. He'd wreck it, Ralph.
The fountain and its water and its waterfall and its plantings and its one of kind fragrance were gone. In its place was a tacky statue of the hotel's mascot. Some call him Tikiman (although he's officially named Maui) or Tikigod. I always called him Trader Sam. Now I call him Traitor Sam. The lobby, once spectacular, was now no more special than any Super 8 with a tropical theme. Why Uncle Walt? Why? My guess is that the upkeep of the water-garden was too expensive. What price joy? I'm guessing around a half mil.
We went out to the formerly sublime swimming area with its rock slides and waterfalls and kidney shaped pools. That too was gone. Ripped out to make room for some cheezy, kiddie friendly mini-waterpark: crowned by a completely out of synch volcano(?). The beach was roped off. No more swimming in the lake. (That however, I could understand. I mean, when alligators that don't have alarm clocks in their stomachs, become actual threats to life, you kinda have to put up that rope. I often wonder if I'd ever been in the presence of alligators in the many hours I'd spent in Bay Lake. I'd certainly been in the presence of Naegleria fowleria bacteria, which had closed down River Country. It still sits there to this day, abandoned and falling to ruin. Why Uncle Walt? My guess is it would be too expensive to repurpose it. Let the alligators reclaim it). And paying for a bio-hazard clean-up? They'd lose more money than they did on John Carter and Mars Needs Moms combined.
We got on the monorail (which I was happy (and shocked) to find was still free of charge) and did a circuit around the park. Something though, was ineffably lost. Not just River Country--which to a twelve year-old was pretty awesome. Maybe it was my youth that had flown away like a sweet bird; but I don't think so. It's was a fundamental change in the outlook of the Disney corporation. Or was it?
I don't once recall a single Mickey Mouse cartoon being aired on the program. I'm from an entire generation of kids who wore Mickey Mouse t-shirts without benefit of ever actually having seen one of his cartoons. Uncle Walt was withholding. You wanna look at the mouse kid? Buy the t-shirt and quit bothering me. You wanna see Sleeping Beauty? Wake up kid! I can still squeeze a couple of million out of it in a theatrical re-release.
Well, apparently he's already done it.
So Uncle Walt now controls around 40% percent of the American entertainment industry. Correct me if I'm wrong; but isn't that a monopoly? Aren't they, like, illegal? Didn't the phone company, perhaps one of the most powerful organizations in the history of the USA, have to split-up because of such goings-ons? Didn't the movie industry itself have to divest of its own holdings in movie theaters? Isn't Mickey Mouse supposed to be in the public domain?
Have you ever seen the executive building of Disney Corp. in Burbank? It features the Seven Dwarfs blown up to gargantuan proportions. Is that supposed to be ironic? Is it supposed to be some kind of subliminal message along the lines of Mountains out of Mouseholes? Why Uncle Walt? Why? It's creepy to make gigantic dwarfs. It's perverse. And they've been frozen into eternal subservience; having to hold up the rooflines. Boy must their arms be tired! And why the Seven Dwarfs anyways? Because they had a gemstone mine literally overflowing with karats: a bottomless pit of untold wealth, belching money into mine cars? A little crass methinks.
They should tear that monstrosity down and replace it with a giant replica of The Death Star (which they now own). It seems a much more fitting statement. They could even put it on a turntable and affix it with a mega-laser and take out rival studios.
So, maybe we shouldn't ask the question: "WWUWD?" We probably don't want to hear the answer.
And right now; all I want is my fountain back.