Friday, Feb. 2, 2007 | I went on my first double date in years without my wife.
Don’t worry. It’s not how it sounds. It was a daddy-daughter double-date with a friend of mine and his daughter.
We went to the Disney On Ice show “A Disneyland Adventure,” which is playing at the IPayOne Center until Sunday.
I wanted it to be a rite of passage for my friend, who I will call “Otis.”
You see, I’ve taken my daughter Alex to ice shows before but Otis had never been to one. A lot of that is because ice shows are more of a feminine entertainment, as opposed to, say, mud bog races at the Stadium.
But also, he has sort of an apprehension towards the “Disney-fication” of our culture, and how the film studio tends to purloin classic myths and turn them into toys.
It’s not just Disney. Otis and I once had a wonderful debate on whether Curious George is an allegory for colonial imperialists who take over other countries because they presumably know what’s best for them.
Personally, I long reconciled my intellectual feelings about the mixed messages in children’s entertainment and am now a happy drone puttering around until “the man” tells me whatever new object I have to buy.
Consequently, I also believe a guy never realizes he’s a dad until he takes his daughter to an ice show.
There’s something about seeing Mickey Mouse skate around that makes a man realize, “Wow, I am a dad. There’s no going back.”
That’s why I enjoy watching all the first-time fathers at an ice show. They all seem to hunch down as if they’re afraid their buddies at the sports bar will see them carrying a Disney Princess snowcone cup.
Except for the Spanish-speaking dads. Those guys have the right idea: They approach the ice show, not with trepidation, but with joy, knowing they are providing their kids with a lifetime of happy memories of people in animal suits skating around a dumpy sports arena.
My pal, Otis, is a true intellectual so I sold him on the ice show by explaining that it would be an opportunity to see the effects of consumer culture on kids, and also how the plot of a popular mainstream movie is abridged to reflect the requirements of ice skating.
“For instance,” I told him, “When a character in an ice show is happy, he or she or skates around the arena excitedly and wave at the audience. When they are not happy, they don’t wave.”
“I see,” he says, fascinated at the dramatic possibilities.
Alex and his daughter, Isabella, got along famously. Isabella is in first grade and already has a natural nurturing instinct. She really wants to baby-sit Alex but considering my daughter’s larger-than-life personality, I hope Isabella learns the life lesson, “Be careful what you wish for” before she attempts to watch my daughter.
Anyway, the ice show provided my friend and me a chance to engage in a cultural debate about the effects of cartoons on society. Before the show started, of course.
For instance, we talked about how “The Incredibles” movie is as provocative a discussion about the rights of the individual to soar as high as possible versus the collectives need to smash them down as anything by Ayn Rand — plus, it’s funnier.
We also discussed aspects of “The Other” in “Shrek” and whether Eddie Murphy’s donkey character is a racist black stereotype.
I disagreed with that premise: “How can the donkey be a racist black stereotype? He’s a donkey.”
“Yes, but the voice he’s using is reminiscent of Stepin Fetchit.”
“But kids don’t know that. They just see a donkey. There’s probably more stuff that unfairly stereotypes African-Americans on Black Entertainment Television than ‘Shrek.’”
Meanwhile, Alex and Isabella were discussing dolls. Isabella has one named “Natalie,” and Alex has one named “Alyla.”
Then Otis and I started talking about “Pocahontas” and how some religious groups didn’t like the film’s “New Age philosophies.”
“Yeah, I guess some groups didn’t like referring to things like the ‘corn goddess.’” They said, “There’s only one God — and he’s not just responsible for corn.’ Oh, speaking of corn, the show’s beginning.”
The show “Disney On Ice: A Disneyland Adventure” focuses on what happens when the family in “The Incredibles” goes to Disneyland.
I love looking at my daughter’s face during an ice show. She seems to really appreciate all the theatricality and the exaggerated pantomime of the athletic skaters as they perform highly choreographed routines to phrases like, “Let’s pack the luggage in the station wagon,” or “I hear the Enchanted Tiki Room is nice.”
I’m sorry I can’t recreate the spins, or double axles that accompanied those phrases. Use your imagination.
This time, I enjoyed looking at my middle-aged friend’s reactions to watching “The Incredibles” go to Disneyland.
Anyway, I look at Isabella during the show. She’s entranced. I look at Alex. She’s entranced. I look at Otis and he’s entranced, but for a different reason.
As he put it: “This is a commercial for Disneyland.”
“Yes, it is. The ‘Finding Nemo’ show was a little better because the core story has so much heart to it. It’s surprising because you figure this audience doesn’t need to be sold on Disneyland.”
The show has musical numbers tied into various Disneyland rides and Alex’s favorite in the first act was the Haunted Mansion. Alex and Isabella found it spooky, and Otis and I enjoyed the choreography and lighting that made the skaters look like ghosts.
We discussed how accentuating the unreality of a theatrical presentation can enhance the emotional impact; a technique employed by “The Lion King.”
Of course, then Mickey Mouse appeared and the realization that we were watching a six-foot-tall talking mouse in a suit proved that our observation wasn’t a hard-and-fast rule. In Mickey’s case: Accentuating the unreality doesn’t enhance the emotional impact of Mickey. He’s kind of like Bob Hope is to me: I respect his career but he just doesn’t move me as much as, say, SpongeBob Squarepants.
I could tell the intermission was coming, so I warned Otis: “Be careful if you go out in the lobby. We’ll have to run through the ‘Buy Me Gauntlet.’”
Ah yes, the “Buy Me Gauntlet.” That’s what I call the line of merchandisers set up around the arena perimeter selling all sorts of goodies that every child feels they need. Things like snow cone containers, spinning lights and popcorn bags with masks.
I had to take Alex to the restroom so I picked her up and ran her to the facilities while she screamed, “Buy me this! Buy me that!” repeatedly.
Then we answered nature’s call. And when we ran back to our seats, I had to deal with “Buy me this! Buy me that!”
It gets old.
It’s even worse when the guys walk down the aisles with this evil smirk that says, “You better shell out some loot for your kid, because otherwise Child Services is going to learn you’re a bad dad.”
Looks like I’m a bad dad because I had no plans to buy Alex anything for sale. There’s something called “bills” that I have to pay.
Of course, if you tell that to a 3-year-old, they look at you blankly. At least, Alex did.
As the show continued through its second act, Alex became punchier with each minute past her bedtime. Finally, she saw the man selling cotton candy and turned to me and said, “Daddy, I want cotton candy.”
I told her, “No. You can’t have cotton candy.”
So she puts her hands on my cheeks and says, “I want cotton candy.”
I look at her and say, “No. You can’t have cotton candy.”
Finally, she says, “Can I get cotton candy next time?”
So I bite. “Sure. Next time, you can have cotton candy,” figuring that would be plenty of time for her to forget the promise.
Little did I know that the Wiggles are coming next month.
David Moye is a La Mesa-based writer who is giving away four tickets to Disney On Ice: A Disney Adventure to the first person who can answer this trivia question: Which actor provided the voice of Syndrome in the 2004 movie, The Incredibles. Send answers before noon, on Friday, Feb. 2 to firstname.lastname@example.org (please include a contact phone number). The tickets are for the Saturday night performance, and anyone who knows me or works for voiceofsandiego.org is ineligible. Send a letter to the editor here.