Friday, February 10, 2006 | Parentally Incorrect:

I don’t know a father who isn’t at least a little proud when his child follows in his footsteps. And I got to feel that feeling awhile ago at Disneyland.

My wife and I figured we had already indoctrinated Alex with plenty of Disney films that it was time she see the Magic Kingdom up close and personal. My in-laws wanted to be part of the experience so we went up for two days.

First, I must say, now that I have visited Disneyland in winter during a “school day,” it’s going to be harder to go during more crowded times. There is hardly any wait in lines for the rides (even the so-called “E ticket” ones) and any wait is mainly because you have to walk down the many ramps and hallways that are set up for the periods when the park has lots more people.

Even better: The lack of crowds gave Alex a chance to see the park, its attractions and, most importantly, its “residents” without being overwhelmed.

I enjoyed seeing the park through the eyes of a two-year-old. I actually felt the animatronic figures on the Pirates Of The Caribbean look more lifelike than my last visit when I was a childless bachelor. Also, the jokes spouted by the Jungle Book guide sounded new again to these ears.

But the best part about the Disney Theme Park experience was the chance to actually hang out with Mickey, Donald, Goofy and the gang and get their autographs.

I don’t remember this from before but the park and its sister park, Disney’s California Adventure, have increased the number of costumed celebrities walking around and are now selling autograph books so that shy kids can make conversation with them by asking, “Can I have your autograph?”

Naturally, the characters with big plastic heads like Mickey can’t actually respond verbally but the humanoid characters like Cinderella or Cruella DeVille do.

So, much of our two days at Disney was spent chasing down Pluto much like those photographers chased Princess Di, but with happier results.

Our first celebrity was Gepetto, the toymaker who carved Pinocchio. We saw him walking around Main Street instead of Fantasyland and immediately, my mother-in-law wanted Alex to have that autograph book so she could immortalize her meeting.

Unfortunately, by the time my debit card went through and the purchase was final, Gepetto had already left and mom-in-law was a little disappointed.

I tried to cheer her up by pointing out that Gepetto is like Tom Arnold. A celebrity who is famous for who he knows. Every sentence featuring Gepetto inevitably mentions his close relationship with “Pinoke” and every time Arnold is mentioned, it’s in relation to Roseanne Barr or Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Luckily, my mom-in-law is very mature and got over what is now referred to in the Moye household as the “Gepetto Debacle.” Of course, it helped that Goofy and Pluto showed up to cheer up the folks.

I must say Goofy has a great way of dealing with the throngs of celebrity seekers. He walks by with a grin (actually, all of the characters have grins) and playfully touches almost every kid on the head. This allows him to reach as many people as possible.

Pluto has a mellower style and, at one point, he walked away to go to one of the mysterious character bathrooms that are set up around the park. My daughter chased after him and he was nice enough to come back and hug her for a picture. I was impressed. I’m not sure Russell Crowe would do the same thing.

Another thing that impressed: Pluto’s signature. He writes amazingly well for a dog even though he has the strange habit of holding the pen up to his mouth when writing. Come to think of it: All my favorite Disney celebs – Mickey, Pooh, Eeyore – do that too.

My daughter really got into autograph mode and politely asked everyone, “Would you please sign my book.” Captain Hook even obliged (albeit with a sinister frozen smile). He kind of tripped her out because of his hook. She kept asking about it and we had a hard time explaining how it was eaten by a crocodile.

But all autographs and no play makes for an uneven Disney experience. We went on the rides like the flying Dumbo, the Spinning Tea Cups and, especially, It’s A Small World, which she loved so much, she went on it three times with her grandma.

I really like the “we are all one happy family” message of It’s A Small World although it probably makes sense that it’s located in Fantasyland.

It’s A Small World is just a small distance from Toon Town, which is where we had the ultimate celebrity experience. It’s the part of the park where Mickey Mouse supposedly lives and we stopped by his house to pay our respects.

I thought it was going to be something like a Santa visit – short and quick – but we had at least two minutes with the Mouse and I really felt like I was in the presence of a legend – even more than the time I interviewed Jerry Lewis and he accidentally flashed some butt crack.

Mickey was very nice to Alex and seemed genuinely touched when I said, “Love your work, man,” and clutched his heart in appreciation. I was so touched by his response that I didn’t add, “especially your earlier, funny ones.”

We also met Minnie Mouse (she lives next door to Mickey) and I couldn’t help but notice that she has a nice pair of legs. I kept my comments to myself because I figured if my wife (who is eight months pregnant) knew I was ogling a giant mouse, she’d think I was a rat.

We wanted to go to Goofy’s house but it is being closed down for repairs. It looks appropriately goofy but also ramshackle. I wondered if Mickey worries if his neighbor’s house affects his own property values.

A little while later, we ran into Belle from “Beauty and the Beast,” who was reading stories near Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. Alex wasn’t able to get her autograph but they did have a brief exchange during a telling of Dumbo.

Belle talked about how Dumbo was unique because of his big ears and asked the kids gathered around her what they had that was special.

Alex told her she had a friend who was a pig who wears a suit and a big floppy hat (it’s from a series of stories I tell her before bedtime). Belle didn’t blink an eye when she said, “Well, you have a good imagination.”

Later, we went to Critter Country so Alex could meet Winnie The Pooh, Tigger too and Eeyore (which happens to be my wife’s nickname for me). They had a big line that allowed fans to meet all of them in a certain order. We accidentally took cuts and got Eeyore’s signature in the wrong order.

The assistants told us we could skip him when we saw him again and go straight to Tigger but I fretted to my mom-in-law, “I hope he doesn’t take it personally.”

Her response: “Oh, he will.”

I used one of the bathrooms while Tigger took a break and was hoping he might be in the next stall so I could ask him if he was looking for Pooh but, alas, you can’t have everything.

The next day was filled with even more characters. We stayed at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and booked a character breakfast at Chip &Dale’s Storytellers Café. I must say, I was a little worried about having breakfast served by two critters who probably had their hands on their nuts earlier that day but, thankfully, the animals don’t serve the food, they serve the customers.

During the meal (which is great, by the way. One of the best omelettes I’ve ever had), Chip, Dale, Koda from Brother Bear, and Turk, Tarzan’s ape buddy, all came by our table for hugs, autographs, photos and probing questions from my daughter.

“Are you a boy or a girl?” She asked Chip (or was it Dale). It wasn’t meant to be an insult. She’s been asking that of everyone lately, including a woman at Target.

Even so, Dale (or was it Chip) let it be known he was all man. One of the chipmunks seemed to appreciate Alex’s probing interview style. He kept coming back to say, “Hi.”

Disney’s California Adventure didn’t have as much opportunity for character meetings but I think it was just because we were there a short time. I did see Cruella DeVille cheerfully insulting people who were taking her photo and the Pixar characters were scheduled to appear at a block party but we left before then.

It’s been a couple of weeks but Alex is still talking about the trip and I am looking forward to future visits when she can fill out her autograph book with other celebrities.

Hopefully, Tom Arnold won’t be one of them.

David Moye is a La Mesa-based writer who thinks the spaghetti-eating scene in Lady And The Tramp is one of the most romantic scenes ever filmed.

Leave a comment

We expect all commenters to be constructive and civil. We reserve the right to delete comments without explanation. You are welcome to flag comments to us. You are welcome to submit an opinion piece for our editors to review.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.