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The gag's on me

Jim Hill

Jim's musings on the history of and rumors about movies, TV shows, books and theme parks including Disneyland, Walt Disney World. Universal Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood.

The gag's on me

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Greetings from not-so-sunny Southern California. Where -- this past weekend -- I was supposed to be running JHM's latest set of Disneyland tours. But things didn't go quite according to plan.

How so? Well, Disneyland Security actually pulled the plug on my Sunday afternoon tour.

I'm serious, folks. 20 minutes into my 2 o'clock tour, I was suddenly interrupted by two officials from the park's security staff. They quietly pulled me aside and said that they'd had complaints about my tour. That they'd heard that I was saying negative things about their theme park. More importantly, that my JHM tour was somehow undercutting Disneyland Guest Relations' ability to sell its own tours of the theme park.

Needless to say, I was somewhat surprised by this reaction. As were the 10 or so people who were taking my 2 o'clock tour and watching all of this unfold from 5 feet away. I mean, yes, the JHM Disneyland tour does contain a few juicy stories. Which is why Chuck Oberleitner once called it "The 'E' True Hollywood version of Disneyland's history." But is that really reason enough to shut the tour down?

To be honest, I'm not sure. I can't help but think that the First Amendment sort-of, kind-of covers this issue. The right to tell somewhat embarassing stories about the Mouse. That's somewhere in the Constitution ... isn't it?

Well, that's clearly not how Disneyland Security sees it. The next thing I know, I've got an Anaheim police detective advising me that -- should I decide to continue with my tour -- the park's security staff could have me escorted off property. Worse yet, they could have me arrested. Which -- to my way of thinking, anyway -- wasn't exactly the best way to end my day at "The Happiest Place on Earth."

So I caved. I agreed to stop giving that tour and immediately vacate the premises. And the Mouse -- as a sort of a "make-good" to all the nice folks who'd signed up for yesterday afternoon's tour -- then offered to treat these JHM readers to a "Walk in Walt's Footsteps" tour. Which I've never taken myself. But I hear is quite snazzy.

So what happens now? To be honest, I'm not sure. Given that I cooperated fully with Disneyland Security and -- when asked -- provided their staff with my driver's license, my home address, even my annual pass info ... I sort of feel like a marked man right now. That -- from here on in -- everyone but me is invited to take part in the "Happiest Homecoming on Earth." Which is kind of depressing.

I have to tell you, folks: In the 25 years that I have been writing & telling stories about the Walt Disney Company, this is the first time ever that Mickey has made an effort to gag me. And -- to be honest -- it wasn't a very pleasant experience.

My apologies if this morning's story seems somewhat self-serving. I don't mean it to be. I just figured that -- once those JHM readers got back home from taking their "Walk in Walt's Footsteps" tours -- that they were going to get on the site's discussion boards and start talking about what they'd seen happen on Sunday afternoon.

So I figured that -- rather than let the rumors fly -- that  I should address this issue head-on. Get everything out in the open immediately.

So -- yes -- Disneyland Security did shut down yesterday afternoon's JHM tour of that theme park. All because three women (Who took Saturday afternoon's JHM Disneyland tour by accident. They were somehow under the impression that the fat-bearded-man-in-the-loud-Hawaiian-shirt-who-wasn't-wearing-a- Disney-nametag was the official tour guide for their "Walk in Walt's Footsteps" tour) complained at City Hall about some of the stories that they'd heard.

Mind you, no one from Disneyland Security ever took the JHM tour to determine whether or not the tales that I was telling actually were in questionable taste. All they had to go on was the word of these three rather confused women (Who evidently couldn't handle stories about land searches, C.V. Wood and/or attractions that never quite made it off the drawing board). But that was thought to be a good enough reason to shut me down & attempt to shut me up.

Well, rest assured, folks. I'm not gonna shut up. I'm going to continue to tell those sorts of tales here at JHM. But I've given my last tour of Disneyland. In person, that is.

"What do you mean by 'in person'?," you ask. Well, for the past few months, Jeff Lange and I have been talking about doing a CD version of my Disneyland tour. So that JHM readers can then get to hear all of these stories about how "The Happiest Place on Earth" was actually built without having to watch me waddle around that theme park.

So you wanna hear the stories that Disneyland Security felt were totally inappropriate to be told inside the berm? Give me a week or so to get back to my home in the woods of New England. Then Jeff & I will get started on that CD project ASAP.

Soooo ... How was your Sunday?

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