Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Gold-medal service

My mom and I exit from Monsters Inc. and look for another attraction. We’re freelancing a bit – no plan, no specific agenda, just passing the time with whatever entertainment we find handy. It’s relaxing and fun to do things this way for a change.

Muppetvision 3-D is right next door. Hmm, okay. This is another one of the funny 3-D movies/shows that Disney does so well. I’ve been to the Florida version several times, and of course my mom saw this two days ago when I went back to the hotel. But it’s here, there’s no wait, and its funny, so why not?

We enter the preshow holding area, and I can tell we won’t be here long – Sam Eagle is on the preshow TV monitors being tricked by Scooter and Gonzo into introducing Rizzo the Rat as Mickey Mouse. (Sam of course is indignant: “You are not Mickey Mouse! You are a rat!” to which Rizzo replies, “Rat schmat! Besides, they’re tourists! What do they know?” Makes me laugh every time.) Sam’s bit is very near the end of the preshow, and sure enough, the doors are soon opening and we take our place in the theater.

This is a fun show. I’m right in the age bracket that remembers when The Muppet Show debuted on TV, a clever and light-hearted bit of weekly entertainment, and a surprising one at that (“These are ‘muppets’ like on Sesame Street???”). I’m pretty sure I watched every show back then – and this was before DVRs or even VCRs. So while Muppetvision may not be the funniest attraction in the world, especially on repeat viewings, I still enjoy it.

The show is it’s good old reliable self – the penguin orchestra, Fozzie’s “cheap 3D tricks,” Miss Piggy’s water-skiing fiasco, Sam’s “salute to all nations, but mostly America,” Sweetums roaming the theater looking for Bean Bunny, and of course Kermit being thoroughly frazzled by all the insanity. And Statler and Waldorf heckling from the balcony. Love them. I want to grow up to be them, in some way at least.

In the end, when Waldo morphs into Mickey Mouse, it makes me think – have I seen Mickey on this trip? Oh yeah, I did briefly yesterday, greeting people in Town Square when we first arrived at Disneyland. I’m used to more interaction with him on our vacations.

Muppetvision ends in its usual destructive way, with the Swedish Chef blowing holes in the screen and the theater wall. Funny stuff.

We toss our 3D glasses in the receptacle as we exit and try to figure out what to do next. It’s almost 3:30. We might be able to fit in another attraction before our 4:00 meeting time, but probably not at the pace we’re taking things today. Besides, I’m getting thirsty.

We amble over to the Soarin’ area and, after getting drinks from a cart, find a shaded bench to rest on, just opposite the picture area with Lightning McQueen and Mater. We sit, talk, and relax in the shade, watching people walk by.

Becky calls me on my cell phone with a status update. They’ve left the park and are heading back to the hotel. We’ll get in touch later about dinner plans

Okay, here’s how meticulous Disney is about cleanliness in their parks: The tree we’re sitting under is dropping a few yellow-colored leaves, or something. It’s natural, it doesn’t look too bad at all to have them scattered about on the ground. But a custodial cast member, dressed in a white jumpsuit, comes by every so often to sweep up the yellow stuff. Wow.

On his second pass, I strike up a conversation. He’s a nice man, a few years older than me. His name is Alec [to the best of my memory – I didn’t write it down! Forgive me if that’s wrong, not-Alec]. I ask about the pins on his oval CM nametag. He’s happy to talk about them. One is his five-year service pin, a nice (and sadly, increasingly rare) accomplishment. The other, though, he is very proud of – a Spirit of Disney award, which he says is not given out lightly. He earned it for voluntarily spending time doing months of detail work on the Toy Story Midway Mania ride while it was under construction. I can tell he really feels a sense of pride and ownership in that particular attraction.

Alec shows us one more pin, which he wears on his collar – Mickey Mouse, in gold, dressed in a custodial outfit and holding a broom. This golden “sweeper Mickey,” he tells us, is definitely another honor – you have to earn bronze and silver before you’re eligible for the gold.

I’m tempted to tell him that I’ve earned my silver and am ready to get gold, too, but I restrain myself.

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