by Richie McNanna
The purpose of this post is simple: to forsake my own embarrassing plight.
Alright, I’m going to just come right out and say it: I wish I was at the D23 Expo in Anaheim this week, and I’m jealous of anyone who is there!
There. I said it.
Alas, I cannot attend this glorious event. Circumstances dictate that I remain home in suburban New Jersey with a stack of Disney twenty-three magazines, my computer poised to watch WDW Radio’s live feed on Ustream, and the shame of knowing I am a grown man who resents my friends who made the trip to the West Coast.
I weep for myself.
Yes, my story is a sad one – on so many levels – but luckily, I had a stroke of genius two days ago that helped quell the vicarious yearnings I harbor.
Here’s my story:
While watching my beloved New York Mets on television Tuesday night — I told you this was a sad story – there was a camera shot that panned the entirety of Citi Field and then continued down, across the street, to the site of the 1964 World’s Fair. (If you didn’t know it already, the Mets play in the borough of Queens; their previous home, Shea Stadium – which resided where the current Citi Filed parking lot now exists – was part of a comprehensive development planned around the construction of the ‘64 World’s Fair.)
Now, this will seem hard to believe, but just as this serendipitous camera angle materialized on my 40” Samsung HDTV, my copy of the latest Disney twenty-three lay open in the foreground of my vision to this page:
“So what?” you say?
Well, look closely, and you’ll notice that on the pages shown, a brief article reflecting the top five achievements in Imagineering history is depicted; and, yes, two of the featured accomplishments are references to…you guessed it: The 1964 World’s Fair!
The article, by Tim O’Day, cites the achievements of using the “game-changing” technology of “recordable magnetic tape, electronic impulses, and pneumatics” in Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln and culturally transcendent visual theming in it’s a small world — yes, to attractions first seen at the ‘64 World’s Fair – as two of the top five notable feats of the Disney magicians. (Sponsored by the State of Illinois and Pepsi respectively, these two attractions were produced and created for the Fair by the Walt Disney Company in addition to The Carousel of Progress for General Electric and Ford’s Magic Skyway – the precursor to the PeopleMover – for the Ford Motor Company.)
And then, it struck me: as a fan that has trod many, many times to Queens, NY, to see the Amazins play over the years, little did I ever really appreciate the authentic, visceral connection to Disney history that lie right under my nose every time I attended a Mets game. I knew what I had to do.
I had to visit this place.
I would have my own mini D23 Expo, of sorts!
So, the next morning I arranged a sitter for our baby boy and drove over the George Washington Bridge to the object of my satisfaction. I didn’t quite know what to expect – I always had a gut feeling that the neighborhood was rather sketchy, to say the least – but I was armed with a set of mouse ears and an authentic Walt Disney World lollipop no matter what would occur; I felt protected.
A note about that lollipop: while the trip to Queens filled the void of not being able to go out to California, the pop was my connection to Florida; more than that, bringing it not only served as my Disney food portal, but it also would serve as a way for me to imagine all sorts of people walking around this urban fair ground with all sorts of sweet and savory treats.
The result? Flushing Meadows Corona Park – the current name of the area – contained remnants of some of the old exhibits from the Fair, most notably, the iconic steel unisphere that served as centerpiece of the festivities and represented “Man’s role on a shrinking planet in an expanding universe” and the steel skeleton of the State of New York pavilion. (You may know the latter of the two from its appearance in Men In Black.)
Long story short…
There were no footprints or markers denoting the locations of old Disney attractions of the Fair, but as I walked the entire perimeter of the park, I imagined how kids in ’64 must have experienced talking Lincoln robots and portrayals of energy in the 20th Century and little dolls from around the world singing a catchy tune for the first time in their lives – probably not much different than I felt when I first experienced them in Orlando twenty five years ago.
But this was New York City. Loud, dirty, crowded New York, New York.
But when I touched the ears on my head, chomped on the all-day swirlie I had on a stick, and closed my eyes, I kind of realized I was closer to California, Orlando, or anywhere the Disney spirit lives than anyone could have imagined – even the random kid who chuckled at me for wearing a Mickey hat in the park.
Rich McNanna is a seventh grade language arts teacher and avid Disney, baseball, and food fan from Westfield, New Jersey. He is a regular columnist sharing his passion for Disney food experiences and an avid listener and reader of the WDW Radio world.
Citation: O’Day , Tim. “Imagineer’s Fab 5.” Disney twenty-three. 08 2013: 14-15. Print.