Tag Archive | Disney fan

The Award Winning Rebecca Light

Sure, I dream about winning a Newbery or an Oscar—even an Ovation award would be nice. But honestly I think I’ve already won what will most likely endure as my favorite pair of honors. Hi, I’m Rebecca Light: two-time Golden Betty Award winner at Theatre of NOTE, and now the proud recipient of a Mousetalgia platinum pen.

awards.jpg

I was awarded this super fancy pen for completing the Mousetalgia Soarin’ Over California Challenge. What’s that you ask? Well I’ll tell you. Per challenge regulations, I visited 10 out of 13 of the locations featured on the ride, Soarin’ Over California—taking a picture in the exact filming location of each. Now I have this beautifully engraved pen to go along with the lifetime of memories this challenge helped to create.

I thought I would share a few highlights of the journey.

PGA west 1.JPG

Oh this was a good one. Soarin’ credits this location as Palm Springs, but don’t be fooled by fancy city names. This is a golf course of lies. First, it’s not in Palm Springs. It’s in the neighboring town of La Quinta. Second, it’s not PGA West. I mean, it’s part of the whole PGA West resort, but you can’t play this course.

La Quinta is full of three things: dust, golf, and gated communities. I convinced Brad that I wanted to go to Palm Springs a few years ago ostensibly to celebrate my birthday, but I had ulterior motives. Did I mention my birthday is in June? You putting this together? Palm Springs. June. Brad’s car doesn’t have air conditioner. He must really love me.

Once we arrived, we had a nice casual lunch al fresco, piddled around Palm Springs a little bit, then I casually mentioned that maybe we could drive twenty minutes down the highway to La Quinta to, oh I don’t know, see what that would be all about. On the drive there the temperature gauge hit 118 and we had to pull over to put Brad’s iPhone in a freezer at the gas station because it almost exploded.

Wondering the need for driving through this furnace, I eventually confessed my scheme. Brad may not share my level of Disney fandom, but luckily he’s up for an adventure. We made it to PGA West. Lies! The resort course at PGA West looked nothing like the Soarin’ video. Brad suggested it was probably because the exact shot was somewhere out on the middle of the course. Hmm, maybe. But I didn’t see any benchmarks. There were hills in that part of Soarin’. Where were the hills?

We found a map of the entire PGA West resort in front of the gift shop. Turned out there were three private courses in addition to the resort courses. How interesting. Looking up I noticed to the east of us… hills! We cross-referenced the map and YES! There was a course over there. A private course. Eee.

If you know me you know that I love rules, and simply do not break them. I respect rules. I find that by breaking rules people disregard respect for their fellow man. If all of us broke the rules there would be chaos! Rules bring order, and a chance for us all to live in harmony.

Harmony flies out the window and chaos reigns when it comes to a good Disney challenge.

Brad at this point was either getting into it, or just eager to get out of the desert dust storm that was La Quinta, because he very enthusiastically drove us straight to the gated community that housed the private golf course. I sort of freaked out. I mean there were signs. “Residents Only.” We made up an elaborate story that we were visiting our grandparents who lived in the neighborhood in case the suspecting private golf police tried to cart us away.

At this point our only breadcrumb was to walk toward the hills.. We walked confidently, like we literally owned the place, and luckily no golf police bothered us. Okay so there were no golf police, but there were signs. I respect signs. Usually.

Palm Springs.jpg

That was a great birthday.

The other location I’m quite proud to have tracked down was in Napa. Have you been to Napa? It’s huge.

On a weekend home in Sacramento,] I convinced my parents to drive with Brad and I to Napa Valley for wine tasting.

Sure. Wine tasting.

I eventually confessed my true purpose. They did end up with a nice wine subscription though.

I trawled the internet to see if I could track down any forums or sites with inside info about this location. I even called the Napa Chamber of Commerce to see if they had a record of the shoot. When they asked me if I was crazy didn’t, I asked them if there was a spot over which the hot air balloons usually flew. “Nah, not really. They kind of go where the wind takes them. We’ve had them land on houses before.”

Remind me to skip the hot air balloon ride over Napa Valley.

This exact location seemed all but impossible to track down. A stickler for the rules, I did not feel comfortable taking a generic picture just anywhere in Napa, but by the end of the day this was what I had to do.

IMAG0754.jpg

We drove home and life went on, but the fact that it wasn’t the precise location ate away at me. I watched the Soarin’ video on YouTube a few more times and finally something jumped out at me. A strange triangle-shaped body of water. Now that’s fairly unique. I could use that.

I hopped back on Google Earth and scrolled around Napa Valley looking for triangle lakes. There are unfortunately a few. (Weird, right?) Looking back at the source material for more benchmarks I made note of a big white house adjacent to the lake. Bingo. The combination of the two didn’t take long to isolate on Google Earth.

I convinced my Mom and brother to drive back to Napa to go “wine tasting” again. By this point I’ve assumed they think I have a drinking problem, but whatever.

What do you know, the triangle lake was also on private property. By now this challenge had turned me into a complete outlaw and we unabashedly drove down the private driveway to find the body of water in some vintners backyard. I crossed my fingers for some hot air balloons passing overhead, but alas, just blue sky. The balloons were probably stuck in some trees in Calistoga. But I got my perfect picture.

20140510_133957 (1).jpg

Hard to tell from the pic but this lake is indeed triangle-shaped.

20140510_134013.jpg

The white house that sealed the location off in the distance.

The other location I visited twice was Point Lobos in Monterey. The first time while in Santa Cruz for a friend’s wedding…

Point Lobos Monterey

… but I never felt like it was quite right so I dragged Brad and the parents back for round two. Jeez, my family got dragged quite a few places for this.

Monterey

I worked in Downtown LA for several years so that one was easy.

DTLA

Brad and I almost got washed away getting this shot in Malibu. Guess we should’ve checked what time the tide was coming in.

Malibu

I love any excuse to visit San Diego so this was one of the first I tracked down. It doesn’t hurt when your husband is a SoCal sales rep and has to drive all over the Southland for work. I just tagged along. Turns out you can’t just walk onto an active aircraft carrier, so I got as close as possible to Coronado Naval Base.

San Diego

My favorite place in all of California…

Yosemite

Open your Golden Gate…

San Fran

Anza-Borrego wins the award for most surprisingly beautiful location. The Soarin’ ride does not do it justice. Three times my breath has been literally taken away by a vista. Grand Canyon. Yosemite Valley. Anza-Borrego Badlands.

AB

This one was pretty easy.

Disneyland 2a

Dland castle xmas.jpg

And at Christmas, just like on the ride.

I can guess what some of your are thinking. Why? Why go to all of this trouble? I guess my answer is, why not? I’m a competitive person and I love a good challenge, but that wasn’t enough to make me care. More than that, I love California with every fiber of my being. Raised in NorCal, now a transplant to SoCal, sometimes I want to scoop the whole state up like ice cream and swallow it so it will always be with me. This is a breathtaking and magnificent state, and I could not be more proud to be a born and raised California girl.

And I love Disney. I know, shocking! The experience gave me a new appreciation for Soarin’ (Which they’re about to replace with stupid Soarin’ Over the WORLD! Boo! Like honestly, who needs the Great Wall?).

Thirdly, it was fun. I don’t know if I would have taken the challenge on without Brad in my life. He brings out the explorer in me, while tempering the competitor. In other words, he makes me the best Becky possible.

Okay but the most important part of the story is that Mousetalgia is the best Disney podcast you will find on the web. If you’re interested in the history of the company and you’re looking to find a tribe at your advanced level of nerddom, download Mousetalgia right now. Start at episode 1 and get ready to binge. It’s delightful. Just don’t get too excited when they get to the Soarin’ Over California Challenge episode. That case has been closed.

ituneslogo600.jpg

Thank you for this honor friends. An honor it truly is. Carpe Kingdom!

Carpe Kingdom.jpg

pen.jpg

Advertisements

what do you get the mouse that has everything? a love letter to disneyland

Today marks the 57th birthday of The Happiest Place on Earth. What a brilliant tagline. Walt Disney was pretty good at that. Branding. He was good at many things and while there are many who fault him for this or that, I can’t help but admire the guy. Through the desire to create and innovate he developed, well, the happiest place on earth. There may be things wrong with the Disney company. It is one of the largest corporations in the world. What large corporation is perfect? (are you reading this on your iPhone?) I won’t focus today on what Disney could do better, though I’m sure there is a list. Today I focus on what Disney does better than anyone else.

If you have followed my writing at all you must know that I am a bonified Disney nerd. Why? Why do I like it? I’m sure many of my friends and family wonder that. Why do I like something that is ultimately made for kids? I’ve never really been able to articulate a proper answer to that question. Why do I love Disney and specifically Disneyland so much? Sure there’s the obvious answer. It’s a theme park. It is by definition a place to have fun. There are rides. There is junk food. Six Flags has those things too. As does Universal Studios. So what makes Disneyland special? I shall try to put it into words.

Passion, love and ideas are the driving force of life but they aren’t worth anything if one can’t find a way to communicate them. This is what art is for. This is what literature is for. Heck, this is what science is for. (Carl Sagan communicates more passion through his study of the cosmos than I read in most plays or hear in most songs). I admire deeply the masters who can articulate exactly how and why they feel something. Whatever the feeling is, doesn’t matter, if what they communicate makes me understand them, I’m on board. I’m moved. I admire that ability greatly perhaps because I count myself bad at it. I’m an actor. I need other writer’s words to be able to communicate my passion. I just finished playing Mary Warren in The Crucible. My favorite role to date. Mary Warren told my story more than I could have told it on my own. I’m grateful to Arthur Miller for writing it. So what am I getting at here? I’m trying to build up the courage to explain why I love Disneyland so much and prefacing it by saying that I’m  not sure I’ll be able to. Yet, I think there’s something in my love for the place that goes beyond the place itself. I want to share it. So here goes. For its birthday I bestow upon the Mouse House a humble gift, a love letter to Disneyland. I don’t have the skill to compose a song about it. I don’t have the skill to paint it. I don’t have the money to make a movie about it. But I can write. I can write about it and hopefully you will read it, and you will look for your own Disneyland in life. Your own place that elicits imagination and possibility. Here goes…

I don’t remember my first trip to Disneyland. I believe I was 5. I know it was a big trip with aunts and uncles and grandparents. I know we stayed at the Disneyland Hotel. I know we made the obligatory day trip over to Knott’s Berry Farm and counted the hours until we went back to Disneyland. These are things I’ve been told about the trip. They are not things I remember. I have a vague memory of feelings. Can you remember feelings? I think so, but not until you feel them again. That’s when you’re reminded that you’ve felt them before. When the familiarity strikes you like lightning. This, I believe, this mingling of faint memories to emotions is what ultimately made Disneyland a mythical place in my life.

About 5 years after that first trip, we started planning another with my brother, my mom, and our family friend Erin (a fellow lifelong Disney fan). My brother gets excited about things. Really excited. Perhaps obsessive. Especially as a kid. Perhaps only as a kid actually. I haven’t seen the same level of unbridled frantic joy about anything since those years. When he visits me in L.A. I always ask him if he wants to go to Disneyland in the hopes that I’ll rekindle some of that fire in him. It doesn’t really work. He’s grown out of it, I think by choice. Or maybe he really is, just, over it. Nowadays he just makes fun of me, for I have chosen not to grow out of it. And I think I’m the better for it. 

In the weeks leading up to our trip down south, we would get home from school every day and watch Disney Sing-a-Long: Disneyland Fun

When I say repeat, I mean, literally, repeat. A couple of times a day, every day, for several weeks. So here is my first point of analysis. Why did this excite me so? Why did I love this video so much and why did I get more excited about this trip to Disneyland than I did about a new Barbie, or a trip to the State Fair, or Knott’s Berry Farm. It must have been those cloudy feelings that I couldn’t put images to from when I was 5. I think my 10 year old self yearned to remember what it was that made me so deliriously happy. There was mystery in it and that intrigued me. I couldn’t wait to get there, and to remember.

I won’t go through the details of this trip to Disneyland. It would take me the entire chapter of a book let alone a simple page on a blog. I will say this. It was the trip. You know which one I’m talking about Disney fans. You all have one. That one trip that cements your status as a Disney nerd forever. You can repress it for the rest of your life but once you’ve had that special trip, somewhere within you there will always be a little kid who wants to go to Disneyland. You can let that little kid come out once in awhile, or you can bury it. I let mine out quite frequently.

I was thinking a few weeks ago about how there is something inherently sad about being a Disneyland fan. Let me explain. I can’t remember being as in awe of anything as a child as I was when I first stepped foot back on Main Street. I’ve had more awestruck moments as an adult. Seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time. Looking at the Sistine Chapel for the first time. Hearing Brad say “I’m falling in love with you” for the first time. These awe struck moments are treasured; but of my childhood memories that moment on Main Street takes the cake. We walked through the gates. “Here you leave today, and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy.” It was a perfect place. I could dream there about anything and everything and there would be no limit to my imagination. What more could a kid ask for?

Have you ever been to a place, or had a dream about a place, that felt so familiar yet you had no memory of it. Every time I turned a corner I uncovered something about the park that felt so familiar to me and brought back a flood of happy feelings, yet I couldn’t place them so I still enjoyed the place as if I was discovering it for the first time. In that way this trip was better than the first, for how many times in life do you get to rediscover something you love as if for the first time? You get one first love, one first kiss, one first trip to Disneyland. Not me, I felt like I got two. Going back to my previous comment, why is this sad? Because I can never get that back. I think many Disney fans spend lots of time in the parks waxing poetic about their previous experiences there, feeling nostalgic, and trying to reclaim that feeling of being 10 and like you’d just stepped into heaven. But you never can. As much as I love going to Disneyland to this day, obviously, it will never be like that again. Even if I didn’t go for the next 10 years and tried to forget everything, it wouldn’t be like that. I know almost every nook and cranny in that park. I will never again turn a corner and not know what I will find. I will never be in awe of Fantasmic like I was for the first time. I will never get the same giddy bubbles in my heart when I’m driving down the 5 and see the Matterhorn poking up next to the freeway. I will never be 10 years old and be allowed to express that kind of unbridled excitement. There is something sad about growing up. Going to Disneyland now is both a bittersweet reminder of that fact as well as a welcome allowance to get back in touch with the wide-eyed little girl I once was.

There are ways to deal with this inherently sad aspect of being heartsick  for a child’s view of Disneyland. You become an annual passholder like me and go three or four times a year to try and capture a fleeting moment of that joyful nostalgia, and in the other 59 seconds of every minute you enjoy a new kind of Disneyland experience; one where you know every window on Main Street and know what the light in the window of the firehouse stands for. Or you don’t really go anymore but you hold on to the memories of loving the place as a kid. Or you go there once maybe every 5-10 years if you’re invited by a group of friends or an event of some sort. Or you bury that child within you and try to focus on being an adult. Adults don’t go to Disneyland. Adults don’t play with toys. Adults don’t get nostalgic. Adults move forward. Or, you never liked Disneyland in the first place, in which case, I hope you have some place or some thing from your childhood that was the equivalent.

What else is it? It must be more than just memories that make a place special? And why DO kids like it so much? I asked my brother that one time and he answered with this, “Because it’s theatre. Disneyland is theatre.” And that’s exactly it. The theatre is a place of dreams and ideas and fantasy reflecting off of reality. Everything in Disneyland is fake, and I know this is what turns a lot of people off of it. It’s what turns me on. It’s the most elaborate theatrical set I have ever seen. Every cobblestone on the street, every boulder, every door, every piece of music playing in the background is all part of an elaborate artistic design to tell a story. Many stories actually. Many stories that make up one story, the story of Disneyland. I mean how incredible is that? In real theatres, we get one stage (Most of the time anyway. I once went to a play in London that took place in the underground tunnel system and we walked through several tunnels to see the play, but that’s rare.) Most of the time, you get one stage, and you get the best set designer possible to bring your little empty space to life. Disneyland is an entire LAND. You get to look at it up close and inspect it. You get to pretend you’re part of the fantasy. It’s immersive theatre, and it’s done well. It’s sensory. Every sense. Not enough can be said about the execution of this theatrical experience. I’m an annual passholder. I go to the park about 4 times a year. I’ve been going since I was 5. I always discover some new small detail I never noticed before. Even if you don’t like the “play” itself, you have to appreciate the artistic execution.

On top of everything and maybe most of all, I’m a dreamer. I have passionate dreams for this world and my place in it. Life is hard and drags down these dreams often. When I’m in Disneyland, it welcomes them. Disneyland fulfills a fantasy and a dreamer’s sensibility at every stage of her life. When I was young, the fantasies were imaginative. I was a princess, I was a dragon, I was fighting off snakes with Indiana Jones (who am I kidding? I still fantasize about that). When I was a tween, I fantasized about being independent and going places with my friends. When I was a teenager and finally went to Disneyland just with my friends, I fantasized about being in love, and going to Disneyland with a boy. Now I go to Disneyland with a boy, and we hold hands and watch the fireworks. Now I’ve started to fantasize about one day going to Disneyland with my kids. (Don’t worry sweetie, not quite yet). One day I hope to fantasize about going to Disneyland with their kids. Disneyland makes me interested in storytelling. It makes me interested in people. It makes me interested in history. It sparks creativity. Everything I’ve ever dreamt about accomplishing in life I would love to celebrate in Disneyland. Love, marriage, kids, career, family. I want it all, and I want to celebrate in the land. Because it’s there that we can let our freak flags fly. It’s there that we don’t have to worry about anyone telling us we can’t. Or anyone telling us we look stupid, or aren’t right, or aren’t being realistic. How many places can you go and find dozens of Monday thru Friday Executive types wearing Mickey Mouse ears? How many places in the world do you go where thousands of people all at once are full of joy, love, and excitement? How many places in the world do you go where thousands of people squeezed next to each other are all happy? There’s something to be said about that.

Disneyland started from an idea Walt had one day while watching his daughters on the merry-go-round at Griffith Park. He imagined a place where parents could take their children, and enjoy the day just as much as they would. Reeeeally enjoy it. Not just fake enjoy it because the kids are occupied and having fun. Disneyland is not just a place for kids. It’s a place for people who need to remember what it’s like to be a kid. What it’s like to dream, and to let the sky be limitless. After all, “Adults are only kids grown up.” -WD-

I’m certain that Disneyland does not and could not mean this to everyone, but this is what it means to me. If you don’t have a Disneyland, find one. It may be a book, or a song, or a city, or a park, or a toy. Hold on to what made you joyful as a child, for chances are the same will make you joyful today. And it will be a pure joy, full of possibility. So after 57 years of making billions of people all over the world smile, thank you. Happy birthday Disneyland.

the first trip

brad’s first trip

the day we were invited to club 33, a rite of passage for any disney fan

being sworn in as an honorary citizen of Disneyland