Mickey Mouse is Watching

Disney Chicks are like Trekkies. They are bizarre and insufferable and make whatever their prospective obsession happens to be appear terrible and soul-devouring.

Don’t get me wrong. I like Disney movies and I like Star Trek. I can say things like that because I am a nerd myself.

Maybe I’m just bitter Walt Kelly never got an amusement park.

Scene from "Escape from Tomorrow."

Scene from “Escape from Tomorrow.”

I’m sorry for the hostility in the first bit there. I’m just testy because I’ve lost a few friends to the mind-numbing positivity that is Disney. You know the ones I mean. They’ve been indoctrinated and have only love, admiration, and fear for the Mouse and zero tolerance for anyone who didn’t particularly care for High School Musical.

I recently read [skimmed] a book called Mouse Trap: Memoir of a Disneyland Cast Member by Kevin Yee. For some reason, perhaps it was the title and the seemingly ironic uber-happy cover, but I was somehow under the impression that this memoir was going to be a dark examination of the seedy underbelly of Disneyland. I was expecting some mad ravings from a deranged, disgruntled, and disenfranchised former employee. I thought it was going to be the unmasking of the Mouse. A shameless deconstruction of the Happiest Place on Earth. Totally biased and skewed, but entertaining! This was not the case.

As I wearily perused the remaining chapters, I was hoping for something good tucked away. It soon became clear to me that Mr. Yee had no intention of staining his former employer. I thought, well there’s a big man. He can walk away with respect for the Man and he can take the time to collect his thoughts and share with us what he learned. It was not this either.

Then I thought maybe it was gearing up to be an account from a male Disney Chick (we’ll call them Disney Dudes). It would be a super-happy-saccharine-cotton-candy-sweet-tooth-deluxe-eat-it-up ad nausea ode to the One with the Round Ears. Totally biased again but in the reverse thrust. So delighted and positive it would prove dishearteningly hilarious. Again, not the case.

Instead what I found within the pages of Mouse Trap: Memoir of a Disneyland Cast Member was one of the most tepid and toothless accounts of anything anywhere in existence. I was astounded at how boring it all was. Yee hasn’t recorded naughty backstage stories. He has compiled his work schedule, the minutiae of his shifts, and a list of the random events the park threw for its workers. And no feeling behind any of it. This was not a memoir but the account of a single cog in a monstrous contraption. I hadn’t been this disappointed in literature since I read Amberville.*

I might actually be more inclined to go if they still looked like this.

I might actually be more inclined to go if they still looked like this.

There was no mouse trap at all. There was nothing. When Yee comes close to something that might be interesting he completely handles wrong. There are passages that explain the importance of good customer service and then there’s the part where he tells of how of he had to inform people the elevator was broken and the time where he talked with Henry Winkler that simply states he “had a long chat with Henry Winkler, a real down-to-earth guy.” This is a man who had worked in Disneyland for 15 years and most of his stories feel emotionally distant and monotonously robotic…which I find even more telling.

The damp writing style reminded me of how I imagined the inner-monologue of one of my old managers at Barnes & Noble must have played out in his head. Everything is like looking through a foggy View-Master but it doesn’t really matter because it’s all about providing quality customer service. Total bureaucrat. It’s like the teleplay to a “Welcome to Wal-Mart, New Employee!” video. Why write this book? Who is the audience? Who could possibly find any of this entertaining? Then it all hit me. Almost everyone I had ever known who had worked for the Mouse on a peon level had become this. This was not the Kevin Yee that existed before Disneyland. This was aftermath. If you ever wondered what someone without a soul would write like, check out this book. It’s a disturbing horror story of what clean employment can do to a man.

Disneyland suckers you in with its pristine everything-is-always-perfect approach. It gets almost everybody. Some are repelled by suspected phoniness, smelling a rat. Others embrace it as the Atman joining with Brahma. Still others see it simply as a business that tries really hard to uphold a quality reputation. Whatever you think it really is, the cold fact lays before us: Yee has joined the Mouse. It is too late for him. It will undoubtedly be years before he can readily relate to normal society. He writes this memoir with the last strength he has to tell the truth, but the Mouse’s hold is strong and his words are mangled and his purpose is lost. A telling account indeed.

No Jews.

No Jews.

I feel bad for ragging on the one guy like this. He’s a victim here too after all. I’m sure he’s a splendid guy. Probably loves his kids. Pays his taxes. Don’t worry. He’ll get his soul back. The cog doesn’t see much of the rest of the machine, but his ambivalent and dim perspective, although familiar and tedious, might just give us a glimpse of something truly chilling at work.

A part of me does want to give him the benefit of the doubt. One of my roommates pointed out while I was yelling at the book that it’s exactly the sort of thing I would do. I would bill my book as a tell-all memoir but only write boring passages about what I had to eat on a given day and what the weather was like. I would do that because I would find it personally humorous and delight at the expense of my idiot readers. I would do that. Might there be other comedy sociopaths like that out there? Maybe Mr. Yee just pulled a fast one.

*Amberville by Tim Davys so did entice me. A hard-boiled detective novel except all the characters are stuffed animals? It was irresistibly askew in premise…but mind-numbingly disappointing in execution. All but totally devoid of wit or irony. Sad day for stuffed animals everywhere. All this being said, there’s no such thing as bad publicity go out and enjoy these too awful books, you schlubs.

The Abduction of Zack Butterfield by the Coed April McKenna

I really love bad movies sometimes. I feel like they get me. I love Plan 9 From Outer Space, Troll 2, Birdemic, Starcrash, The RoomTurkish Star Wars, Night of the Lepus, the whole Godzilla series, you name it. I genuinely like these guys. They get strange and seemingly inexplicable cult followings too. Naturally, I have a dedicated perimeter of friends who are always on the lookout for new potential entries into the pantheon of cinematic crapdom.

There is a new movie. It is the progeny of writer/director/producer/editor (always a dangerous sign) Rick Lancaster. It is The Abduction of Zack Butterfield (aka The Last Days of April) (2011). I saw this film with some friends and fellow Chroniclers on its first run at the Laemmle on Sunset Blvd. It was one of the few theaters we could find that would even screen it. Half of our party was fighting illness, but the trailer had so enticed us. We took a wrong turn getting off the 101 freeway and we were running late as it was, but we simply had to get there. We parked in the wrong structure too and so could not get our ticket validated. The fates bellowed and laughed, but we purchased our tickets anyway and marched into the darkened theater just as the opening credits started. We made it. Take that, fates.

Can I put my shirt back on?

Can I put my shirt back on?

 

It takes place in upstate New York (ah, me old stomping grounds). The film was the story of a 15 year old boy who gets kidnapped by former mercenary, April, with a sad (and boring) backstory that leads her into insanity. She wants to make the perfect man for herself so she can recapture her lost teen years. . . so get ‘em young, right? April has an explosive necklace attached to Zack so he won’t escape and then she forces him to do chores around the house in some truly nauseating tight bicycle shorts. There is NO need for a codpiece to be that accentuating. They bang a few times (which is extra gross because Zack looks like he’s about 10 years old), but he only does it to lull her into a false sense of security and plan his escape.

The police frequent Zack’s home to remind his parents that there is little hope they will find him. The tubby sheriff was my favorite character. I could almost picture his face after climbing a flight of stairs. You can even see the lav mic peeking around from behind his tie when he sits down. What else, what else…hmm…oh, the acting is terrible (naturally), the characters are laughable, and the dialogue is hilariously awkward. The plot is stupid and completely devoid of tension, suspense, atmosphere and there is little art in the setup of any shot or scene. I get that they’re trying to be edgy and Misery-esque, but nothing works. It’s wall-to-wall awful. I will say only this of Zack Butterfield, it’s definitely wretched and I laughed quite a bit, but I doubt it will have the cult following of some of the classic baddies. The filmmakers had to be either a group of prepubescent boys or else they were criminally irresponsible perverts. I can see a group of 12 year old boys thinking, “wouldn’t it be cool if we like made a movie where there was like a hot chick who like kidnapped you and made you have sex with her? That would be cool, dude.” Anyone beyond puberty should be locked up for this garbage.

"Love is like a truck." What the heck was that about?

“Love is like a truck.” What the heck was that about?

One more thing! The theater actually had at least one person who genuinely enjoyed the film as a serious dramatic psychosexual thriller. He mumbled every time we made a joke or laughed at this ludicrous, pedophilic trainwreck. I couldn’t believe someone would view this film un-ironically. Even if someone absent-mindedly wandered into the theater with no pretext you would still think they would eventually realize that what they were looking at was bad. Maybe not. Perhaps there is a real audience for this film and I’m just missing something.

Perhaps the film does have a certain weird realism to it. A lot of real people are this dumb and would probably act and react the way the characters do in this movie’s situations. No heightened drama and no super elaborate plan conjured by unbelievable (but enjoyable) intelligent people. This is real cinéma vérité, ladies and gentlemen! And it’s near unwatchable. To each his own, I suppose. I just don’t see it. You should watch the trailer anyway.

If you love great indie thrillers. . . look somewhere else. Somewhere very far.

I love Los Angeles.

 

Native American disguise!

Native American disguise!

 

For more Alternative Chronicle questionable movie reviews check out: C.H.U.D.S., The Beast of Yucca Flats, For Y’ur Height Only (although I really love this movie), Endhiran, the complete Planet of the Apes, and more.

http://www.theabductionofzackbutterfield.com/moviestillsthumbs.html

Originally published for “The Alternative Chronicle” May 30, 2011.