One of the great, underrated joys of living in Southern California is the semi-regular opportunity it presents to interact with disciples of The Church of Disney, a cult-like congregation of “cast members” past and present who are likely to disembowel and consume the remains of any non-believer sinful enough to believe that “The Little Mermaid 6: Ariel Makes That Little Lobster Her Deep Sea Hubby Toy” went straight to video because mainstream theatres would rather show a Wilford Brimley film festival than that animated swill. There is no gray when you’re a Disneyophile — anything associated with the mouse or the theme park or the cable channel is mind-blowing, off-the-charts genius.
I know a handful of people who have worked for Disney — one who worked in the corporate environs and one who was employed at Disneyland, presumably mopping up the snow-cone-colored vomit of park patrons who evicted their $8 corn dogs all over Main Street after a particularly bumpy trek through Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. In both cases, despite the fact that their respective tenures with Disney ended over a decade ago, there are incessant references made to Disney as the model by which all other brands and animation studios and employers should be judged. It’s as if anyone who ever signed a W-2 there has a fresh shot of Disney Kool-Aid waiting on his front porch each morning, right there next to the Orange County Register, the mud-covered Welcome matt and the stinky, corroded flip flops that don’t dare enter the home, lest they shower their toe-jammy stench all over the Goofy-and-Donald-playing-Pinochle throw rug in the entryway.
When I worked in advertising, I remember hearing one particular Disney cult member describe in glowing terms the Disneyland strategy of posting signs at various rides that overstate the amount of time visitors would have to wait. If the sign outside Space Mountain said “30 minutes from this point” and the wait was only 15, Disney had made a miracle happen by making people actually feel good about waiting 15 minutes. Funny, he never said anything about how that goodwill came crashing back to earth when the same patron had to pay $173 for two plates of cold, congealed fried chicken, leaden mashed potatoes, two Cokes and a piece of ass-cheese-flavored cheesecake at The Mad Hatter’s Hideaway in Tomorrowland. F**ers.
I was shopping at the mall with Left-Handed, Power-Hitting Son this weekend when he predictably wandered into The Disney Store, a satellite supplier of Disney propaganda, overpriced merchandise and little plastic tchotchkes bearing the likenesses of Rollie Pollie Olie and Buzz Lightyear and the aforementioned undersea mermaid with the loose morals. I obliged the boy and sure enough he found a pair of underpants baring the likeness of the little blonde kid from The Incredibles (and let’s not even discuss how I feel about my son having pictures of a boy on his skivvies), and he absolutely HAD to have them. To avoid a scene, I obliged him and we trotted to the register with his new Dash butthuggers (and I have set the over-under on this garment being smeared with unwiped poop from his ass at four days).
Behind the register stood a sloth who embodies all things Disney: early 40s, overweight, pocked with acne and random, thick-gauge hairs in places where women don’t normally have hair (see: moustache, beard, ear bush), and enough Disney-themed pins and buttons on her suspenders to add a good 40 pounds to her already hefty upper body.
“Hi, welcome to The Disney Shtore,” she says, her speech slurred by a heavy lateral lisp and a build-up of thick white mouth smeg in the corners of her lips.. “Will thish be all for you today?”
“Yes, that’s it.”
“Would you like to shign up for our Disney Shavers Club and resheive an addition 15% off your purchash?”
“No. No thank you.”
“Are you sure? You’ll also get dishcounts off of cool Disney shpecialsh like admission to Disneyland and membersh-only merchandishe.”
“I’m sure. Just the underwear, ma’am.”
“Are these for you, little Mousheketeer?” she asks my son, folding the undies in that nice little trifold that only retail clothing experts can reproduce. My son says nothing. He merely hugs my right leg, partially hiding behind it. He is petrified.
“I love The Incredibles, don’t you? I think it’sh some of the besht animation we’ve done since The Jungle Book 14: Mogley Getsh Busted For Shtealing Cigarettesh.” My favorite schene is the one where Mr. Ice hash to go help The Incredibles and he shaysh, ‘Honey, where is my shupershuit?’ Washn’t that hilarioush?”
A line is forming behind us and I pray to God and Walt Disney and all of those kinds of guys that no one I know is in the queue. They may think that I have said something to indulge this behemoth weirdo, and perhaps that I too am a disciple of The Church of Disney. I am not. I am merely a man who wants to get these underpants purchased so my son can get them home and poop in them.
“Oh! That remindsh me,” she says, “would you like to preorder your copy of The Incredibles on DVD?”
“Are you shure?”
“Honey, here’s what I’m sure of. I’m sure that you are scaring the crap out of my son. I’m sure that there is so much of that white build-up in the corners of your mouth that if you were a shih-tzu they’d test you for rabies and distemper and probably euthanize you. And I’m sure that of all of the tweaked, pathetic Disney low-lifes I have ever met, none of them has had a better Tom Selleck porn star moustache than you. I am also sure that if you don’t swipe my Visa card right now so I can conclude this purchase, my son and I are going to strip naked, light our hair on fire and run screaming from this store.
“Furthermore, I don’t want to be in your little Disney Rewards club and I don’t want to preorder any stupid DVDs and I don’t want to hear your lame-ass Samuel L. Jackson impression — which, by the way, sounds more like Carol Channing than Mr. Ice. Simply hand me my son’s underpants and let’s get this over with, shishter.”
The Disney sloth didn’t miss a beat. She leaned over and asked my son, “Is your daddy always this grumpy?”
“No,” my son said. “Are you always this ugly?”
And a little tear ran down my face. My little boy is becoming a man.