Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Beauty by Any Other Name

Twenty-one years ago, Disney released a film that introduced my favorite character of all time.  It didn't start out that way.  For a while, three animated heroines bobbed up and down on a current- Ariel, Belle, and Jasmine each taking a turn as the highest ranked.  I couldn't make up my mind which I liked best.  However, it wasn't long before one of them found her special place in my heart as number one.

Belle of Beauty and the Beast is so much that I am and everything I wish I could be.  I'll admit it- part of the reason I adore her is superficial.  She is the only Disney heroine with hair like mine, the only one I even remotely resemble, but she is so much more than her physical appearance.  When the entire village sings about how odd Belle is, I feel for her.  I know people think I'm odd too, and I go back and forth between just wanting to feel as if I belong and wanting to stand out and be embraced for my differences.  Like Belle, I have walked around with my nose in a book.  I beamed when friends back in my school days would on occasion call me Belle.  Like Belle, I tend to be off in my own world, forgetting to pay attention to my surroundings.

In 8th grade, I participated in the ensemble for a production of Cinderella.  Another girl playing a townsperson decided to make her entrance in the opening number with a book in hand, reading as she walked.  I wished so much I had thought of that myself that I decided to pretend to read over her shoulder so that I could be Belle-like too!

In other ways, Belle is very different from me.  She is far more courageous and selfless than I could ever be, and I greatly admire her for it.  She gave up her freedom for her father's.  She stood up to the Beast, and later she stood up for the Beast when Gaston riled up the town.  Belle is no wallflower.  She is not afraid to speak her mind, and she is not afraid to defy popular opinion.  I love how she has some sass and attitude.  When the Beast yells at her in her room, "You can't stay in there forever!" she yells right back, "Yes, I can!"  In the Broadway show, the Beast orders her to be hungry, and Belle points out just how ridiculous that is.

My latest obsession is the Disney produced fairytale mash-up television fantasy Once Upon a Time.  Last year, my favorite episode was, of course, the one that brought Belle, played by the lovely Emilie de Ravin, into the show's narrative, "Skin Deep."  In this version, Rumpelstiltskin takes on the role of the Beast, and it works perfectly.  Rumple hates himself for the monster that he believes he has become, but Belle reaches out to him and sees the goodness in his heart.  She isn't scared of him, and he has never met anyone quite like her.  It's heartbreaking when he sends her away because he can't believe someone could love him.  She calls him out on it, not believing for a second that he would choose his power over love but rather that he is too afraid to accept the idea that someone might actually love him.

Belle's love of books is also transposed to Once Upon a Time's take on her, and it is used to even greater effort.  Belle uses knowledge and books to find a monster and later a pirate.  Her ability to read another language saves a life.  She is strong in this show, not afraid to decide her own fate.

Sometimes among the vast world of fictional characters, we find one that truly resonates with us.  For me, that one is Belle.  Belle is my muse, my spirit, my aspirations.  She is beautiful both inside and out.  Several years ago, my mom bought me a name necklace that says "Belle" instead of "Angela."  Sometimes, people ask me why I wear a name that isn't mine.   I like to think that it's a little reminder of my own inner Belle.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Our anniversary day at Disneyland

I forgot to mention- after our first day in the parks, we were greeted with the sight of yummy anniversary cookies in our hotel room.  Score one for Candy Cane Inn!

For the day of our actual anniversary, we decided to start our day with breakfast at Storyteller's Cafe in the Grand Californian.  The buffet was tasty but fairly standard, however, we had a great server.  Not only was he friendly and very chatty, but when we returned from our first round of food, he had taken it upon himself to bring us a plate of fresh, hot Mickey waffles- yum!  Our characters were Meeko, Chip, Dale, Koda, Kenai, and....Terk (as I sing "One of these things is not like the others...")  Not all the characters made it to our table before we left, but oh well.

Our second day, we planned to be the reverse of the first day- spending most of it at DL with an evening return to DCA.  Because we had spent a good chunk of time at DL the year before, we took a more casual approach for the day.  Therefore, my coverage of this day will be a bit less play by play.

"It's a Small World" was already decked out for the holidays, and neither of us had ever seen it that way, so it was one of our first stops.  It's fun to hear a new song mixed in on a classic attraction, but both of us felt a little uncomfortable that Christmas was basically imposed on every country when many of them don't celebrate it.  (I know "Jingle Bells" doesn't specifically mention Christmas, but still...)

We spent some time in Toontown which I've always thought was leagues ahead of the one that used to be in WDW.  I had to visit the treehouse home of my two buddies, Chip and Dale, and Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin is always a favorite.  We practically walked right on.

We did some cave exploring on Tom Sawyer's Island, oh- excuse me, Pirate Island....eh, it will always be Tom Sawyer's Island to me, although I did enjoy the effects they've added.

I insisted we meet Merida from Brave since I had not been back to a Disney park since the film premiered and hadn't had the chance to pose with her before.  She was a total hoot with her Scottish accent.  When we told her we were celebrating our anniversary, she asked if my mother had picked him out!

The Haunted Mansion had it's holiday version up and running too.  This time, the makeover got enthusiastic thumbs up from us, although I missed some of the classic elements that had been temporarily removed.  The Nightmare Before Christmas made for a good fit though.

My other must do character interaction was Wreck it Ralph and Vanellope Von Schweetz.  We loved the film.  They were hanging out- appropriately enough- in the Tomorrowland Arcade.  Due to poor luck with timing, Vanellope left just as we were getting to the front of the line.  We got our picture with Ralph and then had to return later and get in line again for Vanellope.  I don't know why DL has them posing separately.  They would be a lot more fun to interact with if they could play off each other.

They had real "vintage" Fix it Felix machines in the arcade.  They cracked me up- anyone who didn't know better would think it was a real arcade game from the 80s! The machines were distressed to look old, and they had a copyright mark for 1982.

The lack of long lines meant I was able to go on both Space Mountain and the Matterhorn without making Derek wait too long for me.  Space is so different since they changed it a while back.  The new version is very fun but definitely more dizzying.  Matterhorn has new vehicles, but I couldn't tell if there was a huge difference in the ride experience.  It had been a while since I last rode it.  Indiana Jones- one of my favorites and a ride Derek is willing to go on- was sadly on a scheduled rehab period during our visit.

When it was time for our evening entertainment, we picked a spot in Fantasyland to watch the Christmas parade.  It was soon apparent that we should have watched from Main Street where the parade actually steps off from.  We just barely made it back to DCA in time for our dinner reservations at Carthay Circle Restaurant.

I had heard great things about Carthay Circle and couldn't wait to check it out for myself.  The theming was exquisite.  Despite most everyone wearing casual theme park clothes, we felt a bit under dressed.  The place emulated the 1930s movie palace for which it was named and felt  elegant and refined.  The walls were decorated with photos of Walt Disney with various celebrities.

We ordered the cheddar jalapeno biscuits that I had heard so much about- they were delicious although different from what I was expecting.  They were more like filled fried dough than what I would describe as a biscuit.  My main course was a unique version of ravioli.  I enjoyed it very much.  I don't remember exactly what we ordered for dessert, but I think it was something chocolate and yummy.  The couple next to us appeared to be regulars.  They were discussing the menu as if they had been there several times before.

Eating in the restaurant got us reserved viewing for The Wonderful World of Color.  We got to enter a section right in the center.  How nice it was for this 5' 3.5" girl to be able to see the show without periodically jumping or balancing on my toes as I did last time!  I also got a kick out of watching all the "Glow with the Show" mouse ears blink in unison with the show.

When it ended, the park was basically closed for the day, so we said good night and headed to Downtown Disney to choose a special anniversary memento.  It took us literally until store closing, but we finally settled on a Stitch big fig in our of our honeymoon in Hawaii.

The next morning, we ate our bagels, and headed back to San Jose.  Till we meet again, Disneyland!  Hopefully sooner rather than later!