In the immortal words of man I respect like few others: “Go with me here.”
There’s been an awful lot of talk lately on this blog about villains. Disney villains. And while the phrase may conjure up ideas of Cruella deVil, and Peg-Leg Pete, I have another nefarious character in mind…one that does have to do with Epcot, but more to do with the subject of a certain annual “week” on a certain cable network.
A brief explanation (I thank you in advance for indulging my random childhood memories):
Lou’s podcast back in December — Show # 389 – Wayback Machine to Walt Disney World in 1986 – reminded me of my own first trip to Disney World in the summer of 1988. As a normal, apple pie eatin’ American boy of 10, I was interested in the typical indulgences: baseball, video games…and sharks.
The book and film Jaws. Living near the Jersey Shore. Having caught a sand shark on a fishing excursion with my father. Yes, sharks, to me, were fascinating…awe-inspiring…heck, they were my heroes!
This all changed in I-95 North.
Back in those days, what we affectionately now know as The Seas with Nemo & Friends® was a much different pavilion in what was the much more true-to-its name “Future World”: The Living Seas. As those of us who visited it know, the pavilion possessed much more of a science-y, aquarium feel as opposed to the animated, Pixar-esque theme today.
At the pavilion’s heart was the unforgettable Seabase Alpha – a central exploratory where guests were educated as well as entertained. Hydrolaters. Submarines. Seacabs. It was a blast.
However, also like your typical apple pie eatin’ kid, the part that really attracted me was…the gift shop. Mickey ears with scuba gear attached, mugs with Goofy and fish, Donald Duck fishing hooks, and…
Books, and books, and books. Jacques Cousteau books. Sailing books. Barrier Reef books.
And shark books.
Ooooh. I really liked the shark books.
I remember spending what seemed like hours in that shop (actually, it was probably just enough time for my father to grab a beverage at the Rose and Crown and return) and for my parents’ trouble, walked out of that pavilion with two shark books. Picture books with basic information…you know the deal.
The books transfixed me. I learned about these creatures. I studied the animals. After a while I began to think these were the most wonderful sea beasts in the history of God’s creation.
After a while, however, the books became a kind of negative distraction. I had, after all, begged my parents to go – er, drive – down to Disney for the five years prior, and this trip did cost a pretty penny, so when I continued to read these two shark books later in the trip while riding, say, it’s a small world! or Big Thunder Mountain, my parents took them away so that I could enjoy this trip in full. (Think of these shark books as a primitive iPhone or Game Boy, if you will.)
The result? Well, I grumped, groaned, and otherwise miffed in irritation for the rest of the trip because the books were taken away from me. God forbid I have fun in the Happiest Place on Earth.
But persist in my grudge I did…however, when the books were returned to me at last (chucked my way as an after-thought as we prepared our Ford Tempo for the 24-hour ride back to Springfield, NJ) a sense of foreboding entered my consciousness. These sharks – these vicious, unrelenting beasts – almost ruined my trip! If I hadn’t been to stinkin’ obsessed with these books, I might have enjoyed the final 36 hours of my trip. The Main Street Electrical Parade. Ice Cream in the Magic Kingdom. Meeting Mickey Mouse in front of Cinderella’s Castle! It wasn’t enough that these murderous fish had devoured half the town of Amity in Peter Benchley’s classic novel. No! They pretty much soured the final hours of the greatest trip of mu life. All of it wasted with a shark-less puss on my face.
I began to hate sharks. I began to loathe sharks!
And as we approached the South Carolina border, it dawned on me that I wanted no part of these sharks anymore. I carefully rolled down my window a crack, deposited the books at a high rate of speed onto the shoulder of I-95, and wiped my hands of these villainous creatures forever.
My Disney villains.
I was rid of them, and their stinkin’ books too.
After all, I couldn’t read the books in the car anyway.
I get car sick.
Photos of Living Seas c/o: Kurtti, Jeff. Since the World Began: Walt Disney World, the First 25 Years. New York: Hyperion, 1996. Print.