Choosing Poison with the Apple

Katelyn asks an expert if biting a poisoned apple was worth her reward afterwards. Disneyland’s recent price increases sure feel like a poisoned apple in that sense…

This year, daily passes for the Anaheim Disney parks — Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park — rose as of May 20 from $80 to $87. The biggest increase hit the estimated 300,000 park-goers…who buy premium annual passes that include parking. Those went from $499 to $649…”This is all about Cars Land,” said David Koenig, author of four books about Disney’s theme parks. “If it wasn’t for Cars Land, the increase would be $4 or $5. Park-goers will go to see Cars Land.” Koenig also noted that the big jump in annual pass fees may be intended as a cap on those visitors. Pass holders tend to be Southern California locals who don’t spend as much on food and souvenirs, and they can crowd out the big-spending out-of-towners, he said. “There is no room in the park and the parking lot for this many people to come back over and over and over,” he said.

While the initial mention of the Disneyland price hikes showed up in a small note in their Business pages, this morning’s L.A. Times shared out a much larger story about this fee increase’s impact.

With Katelyn’s 5th birthday coming this weekend, we’re taking advantage of our own annual passes and taking our little princess to Goofy’s Kitchen at the Disneyland Hotel on Monday morning, followed by some pushing and shoving to get into the park itself to give her some theme park time as part of her birthday present.  Given that it’s Memorial Day, no doubt it will be busy, especially since the park didn’t blackout the day for Deluxe pass holders (as we had originally suspected they would).  The wife and I are Premium passholders, which gives us the run of the park, along with parking, and discounted pricing for many items and meals at the Disneyland’s stores and restaurants.  Kate, for her part, has the Deluxe pass, which limits her entry to certain days (most Saturdays and a chunk of Winter Break, for instance).  We made that decision based upon the price structure of the pass when we got it, as well as realizing that we wouldn’t be going to the park during the days that were blacked out as it was.  One of our friends, also a passholder likes to call that time “asscheek-to-asscheek”.

Fortunately for the wife and I, our annual pass renewal was due in March, so we re-upped for our third year.  Katelyn, for her part, has her pass up for renewal in July, and therein lies the big conundrum that this fee increase will mean for us.  The wife wants to upgrade her pass, while I’ve been content to allow the pass to remain at its current level.  We’d been paying monthly for the $379 Deluxe pass price, which will go up to $469 under the new price structure.  The wife’s thinking, prior to the pass price increase, was that the bump to $499 (last year’s price for the Premium pass) wasn’t that significant.  Unfortunately, with the price of the Premium pass now jumping to $649, we have to think hard about that, especially since our own passes will eventually come back up for renewal next year.  Sadly, it’s also got us rethinking ideas that possibly “gifting” some passes offered a good value for potential gifts.

While Disney is publicly stating that the prince increase is to provide “entertainment value”, I think a lot of us would feel better if they’d just admit that it might be all about building Cars Land over in Disney’s California Adventure.  Or not.  As a captive audience, Disneyphiles will continue to come irrespective of the pricing structure.  And if we, or others, didn’t buy or renew our annual passes, other park visitors will be getting off the parking trams each day to take our place.

As the article points out in its anecdotes, it’s not like we haven’t taken advantage of our passes.  We got our passes first, when Kate was still 3 and could get in free.  We’ve gone nearly 40 times in the 3 years we’ve had the pass.  We’ve even planned our own gifting for our little princess to coincide with merchandise purchases either in the park or at Downtown Disney’s World of Disney store, to take advantage of the 20% discount we get on things we buy there.  It represents a significant savings for us over buying similar items at the local Disney Store.  For instance, with her birthday on Monday, I headed down to Anaheim earlier this past week to buy Disney/Pixar “Brave” goodies for Katelyn to open on her birthday this Monday.  I saved over $30 on items we had planned on buying her anyway, which also would have included additional shipping and handling, had we gone through the Disney Store website.  Then, on Monday, when we go to Goofy’s Kitchen, we plan on using our pass yet again for the meal, in addition to getting our parking cost covered, since it comes automatically with the price of the Premium pass.

Do we take advantage of being passholders?  Absolutely, wherever and whenever we can.  From this morning’s story:

“If there is going to be resistance, it will be from locals,” said Gerner. After all, they’re more likely go multiple times in a year. To appease them, industry experts say theme park operators often unveil discount deals for area residents during lower attendance periods, particularly in the fall or winter months. But Disney fans such as Casado don’t want their visits to be limited to off-peak periods…Casado said she and her family try to visit one of the Anaheim parks once a month. “It hurts,” she said of the price hike, “because we count on that as our only entertainment.”

Making the decision to upgrade Kate’s pass and pay the $270 price increase will undoubtedly seem to constitute a similar commitment on our part.

Maybe that’s part of Disney’s plan all along.

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Summer of the Self-Rescuing Princess

In my dreams, I could be a Princess, and that’s what I was. Like most little girls, I believed nothing less than a Prince could make my dreams come true. — Loretta Young

We are trying to raise our little girl to not need a Prince, or any man for that matter, as the only way to make her life whole.  Just like E.D. Kain points out, I am also excited about Pixar’s summer release, Brave.

So I was already excited about this movie before the latest trailer, but now I can barely stand the thought of waiting until June 22nd to see the 13th Pixar film.

For one thing, Princess Merida looks tough and fiery, and we finally get a strong female lead in a Pixar flick.

This is awesome for those of us with young daughters who need all the good role models they can get, even animated ones. I’ve told my daughter similar stories, of princesses destined to be married off to some knight or other who become knights themselves instead.

At home, as it has been released to the public, I’ve gradually exposed Katelyn to the film, to the point that she was already recognizing the film’s initial film poster even before she had seen the film’s trailer.

 While my wife sheepishly admits to not necessarily wanting to turn our daughter into one of the acolytes of the cult of the Disney Princess, our kid has nonetheless become a devotee.  As such, the release of Pixar’s latest this summer, has given me the opportunity to show Katelyn that princesses can also kick rear end and take names.  After all, a long while back, when Katelyn asked me which was my favorite Princess, she was totally confused when, instead of answering “Snow White” or “Cinderella”, I answered, “Leia”.

Yes, granted, we should not be necessarily looking to film to find strong female role models for Katelyn. At least however, she realizes that in something like Sleeping Beauty, it’s not Aurora who carries the bulk of that narrative, but rather Prince Phillip and the three Good Fairies.  (Aurora is only on screen for about 18 minutes!) But after seeing how much she enjoyed Tigress in the latest of the Kung Fu Panda films, we get how much she will like a strong-willed proactive character with an entire movie built around her.  Seeing her respond even more excitedly at the prospect of finally “meeting” Princess Merida in Brave, has both my wife and I reconfiguring our plans for our little girl’s upcoming 5th birthday in May.  With a big wedding of a family friend scheduled for around the same time, putting our own plans for Kate’s real-time birthday celebration on hold, we’re gearing up to try to do something instead, around the film’s release in late June.

Granted though, Pixar is just bit late to the party, as Dreamworks’ Shrek quartet of films basically got it right about the self-rescuing princess concept in the first film (and please excuse the Finnish singing, even while my point is made…):

Found: Poem

A common evening activity at our hourse is always bathtime, at least when I’m running it.  (The wife tends to be more of a “turn & burn” type of gal with respect to Kate’s bathtime…)  On my nights, Kate gets unfettered free time to indulge her LIttle Mermaid fantasy, athough when she’s playing with her baby bath doll “Chimbodes”, she sounds more and more like Ursula.  Either way, since my work desk abuts the bathroom, one of the things I like to do is play my usual random music for Kate to have a listen.  Usually this involves such masterpieces as Butterpants (from Shrek 4) or Baby Monkey (Riding Backwards on a Pig) (which, not surprisingly became my 6th graders’ theme song the final two weeks of the school year just past).

This past weekend, however, Katelyn became enamored with this “mash-up” from the 2009 Pixar film, Up, called Upular.  More information can be found here.  Here is a link to the artist involved, Pogo.  Watch for yourself:

Pogo, as he describes his own process, “Video for my track ‘Upular’, composed using chords, bass notes and vocal samples from the Disney Pixar film ‘Up’. The track also features a small number of percussion samples, including an obvious kick drum, crash cymbals and hi-hats.”  I does help, I will admit, that he had an Academy Award-winning soundtrack with which to work his magic upon.

Pogo has done others that I’ve inevitably introduced to Kate, and they’re some I thought she’d enjoy.  But for some reason, she’s quite taken by a tune that has Wilderness Explorer Russell “singing”.  She has asked me to download the song, to go alongside, for instance, more mainstream fare from the soundtrack of Disney’s “Tangled”.

Now, to be honest, the lyrics to this “Upular” aren’t immediately sonically apparent.  But they are drawn from the film’s screenplay.  In essence, it represents a sort of “found poem”, wherein the work of a particular author is reconfigured into a new piece.  Interestingly enough, I was exposed to the concept of found poems while working in the California HIstory-Social Science Project and later in the UCI Writing Project.  

For whatever reason (and with me, there always tends to be…), I finally tapped into the experience that I had in the UCIWP, while struggling to figure out how in the hell I was supposed to teach 3 rotations of English-Language Arts at my school.  I had my students create found poems from literature that they were reading at the time.  I have a number of examples now, that I can use when I revisit the project come this Fall, but where “Upular” comes in is that in addition to my little girl’s affinity for the song, what I like is that it now gives me a teaching tool to use as a way of introducing the assignment to this year’s crop of 6th graders, to go along with what I culled last year.

The idea of found poems, therefore, are not new and unique, but they involve an understanding of the parent text that does force students into comprehension beyond the surface.  In popular culture, they are achieving a certain cachet.  In one instance, Sarah Palin’s recently released e-mails from her time as Governor of Alaska were given this treatment.  Even more striking is how another artist, while not going the poetry treatment, used Barack Obama to create this.