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A Walt Disney World Fever Dream

Long ago, we old people had something called “film”. Film was how we made pictures move, and some of us had machines called “projectors” that we would use at home to make the pictures appear on a wall or bedsheet.

Before the era of smartphone video, and even up to the advent of the VHS video era, Disney actually sold souvenir filmstrips in the park. Films in the “Super 8″ 8mm format – some of them with sound! – were created that showed off the Florida resort by day and by night. What’s great about these films is seeing how Disney chose to depict itself in those days; it’s an experience far different from that of today. Films often tended to show off the resort itself, hardly even dwelling on the theme park. Others, like the one below, focused on the parks but took time to single out the distinctive shopping opportunities and other distractions. Who could imagine a video today taking time to show how kids would love all the special, unique shops on Main Street, or shopping for antiques in Liberty Square? There’s even a trip to the “old timey photo” location they once had on Main Street. Why isn’t this there anymore? I’d love a picture of myself on the back of the fake Walt Disney World Railroad.

As with most filmstrips that have emerged, it’s not in fantastic condition. The inks had faded so that it was originally bright red throughout, but I’ve color corrected as much as possible for a thirty year old faded print that was shot on 8mm film at night. Watch, then we’ll discuss:

I love this film because it’s just so strange – like a weird, unsettling dream. The conceit of “falling asleep and having an out of body adventure” is well-worn, but who can say that this wasn’t one of their fantasies as a kid? To hide out until the park closed, and have the entire Magic Kingdom to yourself? To run around and do everything you wanted, whenever you wanted?

Of course the “in the park alone” conceit fades in and out, as other hordes of guests appear at random only to disappear again. Are they ghosts? The souls of the accursed? They do like shopping, and carousels, at the very least.

I also love the use of the klieg lights and fog for effect. Seeing the castle gateway light up like that would be pretty rad, and one of my favorite shots ever is Tigger fleeing the Haunted Mansion as the little girl emerges from the giant cloud of fog. Talk about atmosphere!

Then there are the characters. Mickey doesn’t come off too weird, but Pinocchio sure does. What’s with the arm movement he does… twice? I love that Brer Bear gets an appearance long before Splash Mountain come onto the scene, and Tigger is streaking through Frontierland. “Goofy is driving??”

Between the weird characters, the eliding of time and space, and the very atypical, strangely jaunty music that plays throughout, it’s kind of a strange experience. But it certainly is effective – I can imagine watching this over and over as a kid, and pining for an adventure like that.

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