Thursday, September 29, 2005

Disneyland (Was Made for You and Me)
I've been trying to wrest a harmless entertainment feature story out of the newly opened Hong Kong Disneyland lately -- no easy task given The Rodent's penchant for micro-managing its press and my own instinctive loathing of All Things Walt.
But I sucked it up and on a recent rainy Tuesday afternoon made the 70-or-so minute subway ride to the latest incarnation of the Magic Kingdom in order to take in two shows and to fulfill some latent curiousity. It's taken a lot of flak lately in the local press, some from my paper which has hammered it for hypocritical environmental follies, overcrowding and food poisoning incidents. The Chinese language rags which seized on opening day chaos to run generous photo spreads showing coarse mainland touristas littering, sleeping on the benches with their shoes off and urging their toddlers to relieve themselves from both ends in the carefully groomed hedgerows, garden paths and restroom trash cans and sinks.
Stories have also focused on both the mainlander and Hongkies passion for photographing and videotaping every facet of their visit. So much so that Snow White, Mickey and Donald et al have scheduled times and places for photo opportunities. The crush and demands for poses if they actually wandered around the park at will would otherwise be too much.
While I saw no public displays of relieving oneself or wanton littering, I can say that the picture taking was as depicted. It began immediately on the Disney Express, the final train to the park with cars bedecked with Mickey ear handhold rings and window frames as well as pewter colored Disney character statues under glass on shelves between the plush purple velveteen seats.
As the lone camera-free foreigner aboard my car, I felt more out of it than usual when the 18 or so other passengers immediately began posing and snapping pics nonstop for the 10 minute ride and virtually every step of the way into the park and beyond.
Once there I was somewhat underwhelmed. It's smaller than the US version in California (my only previous brush with the Evil Empire and one facilitated by `shrooms which nearly got me evicted after I began gibbering at Donald in a pharmacutically inspired fit of hilarity) and the US parks probably don't have Asian attendants with name tags reading: ``Mankind'' or ``Moses.''
It is hideously expensive even by Hong Kong standards with small bottles of water going for about US$3 and small portion meals for about US$24 per person.
On the plus side it's easy to navigate, the relentlessly cheerful employees are helpful and I got a free pen for participating in a survey for which I lied about my income, occupation, age, residence and plans to return.
The shows, one an Oscars-takeoff called ``Golden Mickeys'' and ``Festival of the Lion King'' were fast-paced and painless, though Mickeys is in Cantonese. Lion King, however, was mostly in English with stunt monkeys providing between scenes plot development updates in Cantonese.
My story involves some of the performers in these shows and unfortuantely through a combination of the company's reluctance talk about any ``angle'' they haven't approved and the performers' paranoia about blabbing to the press, so far I've only found one person to go off the record.
And the snarkiest thing this Deep Throat was able to tell me is something I can't print. But let's just say that one of the Snow Whites isn't exactly as pristine as as her role and she and a certain Little Mermaid are making big sparks with the Hawaiian fire dancers.
Now if I could get the gossip nailed down on Minnie and Goofy, I might have a real story.
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