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Going My Way: The Happy-ish Place on Earth

Going My Way: The Happy-ish Place on Earth

With Gay Days at Disneyland coming up, Dennis Hensley introduces a new work to the gay lexicon, Dis-noid, and lists his seven favorite things about the Disney theme parks.

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Show of hands: Any Dis-noids in the house? I'm sure there are.

Dis-noid is a term a friend and I came up with to describe a person who is really, really into Disney. I know several hardcore Dis-noids, all gay guys, who go to the park at least once a month, have shelves of collectibles, and never miss the opening of a new Disney movie at the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood, where for a few extra bucks, you get a live-pre show or, in the case of Enchanted, a visit to the wondrous Princess Pavilion.

Though I have fond memories of bantering with the Little Mermaid at said pavilion, I am not a Dis-noid. I'm not even Dis-noid adjacent. Try as I may, I just can't fully lose myself in Walt's idealized "What if?" world where good is good, evil is evil, and the only shades of gray are on the castle. The What if? question I'm most interested in considering is: What if we sat down for a few minutes and had a Mickey-shaped Rice Krispies treat dipped in chocolate? I'm not into wizards, Muggles, vampires, or superheroes either. I know -- it's a sad life.

I once went on a date with a perfectly nice guy I met in a step aerobics class -- hey, it was the '90s -- and when I picked him up at his apartment, I noticed that the walls were covered with collectible cels from animated Disney movies. I knew then we didn't have a future.

All of that being said, there are lots of things I do love about Disneyland and with Gay Days fast approaching (October 2-4), I thought now would be a good time to catalog them. Here, in no particular order, are things about the Disney parks that I love love love; seven of them, to be exact -- one for each dwarf.

1) Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
This is my favorite ride at Disneyland. I like it because it's kind of an underdog attraction, less flashy than Space Mountain, less wet than Splash Mountain, and it doesn't have a movie tie-in like the Indiana Jones ride or Pirates of the Caribbean. It's just itself. As roller coasters go, Thunder Mountain has some decent thrills and spills and the old west atmosphere reminds me of my home state of Arizona. Plus, I heard that someone died on there, which only adds to its mystique.

2) The sweet smell of Main Street USA
An insider told me that the park actually pumps the smell of vanilla into in the street to entice people to buy their tasty, fattening treats. This ploy is a little sneaky and underhanded, which is why I like it. I almost always buy something sweet and decadent within my first five minutes in the park and as I take my first bite, I think, You win, Walt. You win.

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3) The Space Mountain soundtrack
It?s a good thing this ride is in the dark or I would really embarrass myself. The musical accompaniment on this thrill ride is so irresistibly retro-groovy that I can?t help but go-go dance in my seat. And pony?and pony?and shimmy?and swim?and Watusi and pose! That?s what I?m chanting all through the galaxy. It turns out that the tasty guitar riffs were provided by surf music legend, Dick Dale. You wouldn't think surf and sci-fi would work together but they so do.

4) Muppet Vision 3-D
Everyone loves the Muppets but I took them for granted until a trip to Disney World back in the 1990s for a friend's birthday. This particular friend is the King of the Dis-noids and had us all running ragged from attraction to attraction, with a fast-pass strategy that was more complicated than a season of 24. So by the time we got to Muppet Vision 3-D, I was beyond thrilled to just get to sit down for a few minutes. I also found the sweetly twisted sensibility of the Muppet universe to be the perfect antidote to a long day of 2-D Disney heroes and villains. In this clever 3-D mini-movie, Miss Piggy proves that it's possible to be an ego-driven pain in the ass and still be the star of the show. They may be puppets but the Muppets remind me of people I know.

5) Phantasmic
This eye-popping spectacular featuring live performers, a water parade, projected images, and fireworks makes for a great nighttime coda after a long day in the park. I like Disneyland best at night, I think. It?s more mysterious and you don?t feel surrounded by quite so many people. And by people, I mean children.

6) Any Show with Performing Young People
As a former cruise ship chorine, I adore any show or parade with singers and dancers. The cheesier, the better. I try to imagine who has a crush on who, who's banging who, who's the dick everyone hates, etc. Sometimes, the shows work on me in the way that they're meant to, with no irony at all. Last trip to Disneyland, I took in the live Aladdin stage show in California Adventure and got misty twice. I also concluded that Jasmine's not that much of a catch. Sure, she?s hot in her little harem pants, but she?s also humorless and judgmental. With those abs and that winning personality, Aladdin could do much better. There, I said it.

7) The Tower of Terror
This thrill ride, inspired by the old Twilight Zone TV series, messes with my mind more than Lost and Keeping Up With the Kardashians combined. It?s genuinely terrifying. I rode it in Florida years ago and my memory was that it was just one big drop, but when I rode last year in Anaheim, I discovered it jerks you all over the place. When those doors flew open and revealed the sky outside and the park below, I totally lost my shit and let out a sentence that involved doing something untoward to a duck. Not Donald, mind you, just a generic duck. But it's still not something you want to be screaming out when there are kids around.

So there are my favorite things about Disneyland. Maybe this year at Gay Days, I'll add a few more.

A jaded friend of mine once theorized that the reason Disneyland is called the happiest place on earth is because it drains you of all your happiness while you're there and you leave feeling spent and empty. Next time I visit, I'm going challenge this theory and try to take some happiness home with me, like a doggy bag.

And if that doesn't work, maybe I can kidnap Aladdin.

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