When I was three, my parents took me to Disneyland right after Christmas, along with my aunt, uncle, and four-year-old cousin. I had recently received a baby brother for my birthday, and by Christmas he was doing fascinating things like not crawling yet. The camcorder was also new that year, resulting in hours of footage like this:
My cousin had a new baby sister of his own, and he was exactly as thrilled about the arrangement as I was. Our grandparents kept both babies while the rest of us went to California, though, so Chad and I spent most of the trip shouting “no babies!” where most kids would say “Look! Mickey!”
Most of my memories from this trip consist of the ways I thought I might die. Flying Dumbos? I will fall in the water and drown. Monstro the Whale? I will be attacked in the darkness, then fall in the water and drown. Hall of Presidents? Abraham Lincoln will kill me with his creaky, double-jointed hands, then find some water where I will drown. Splash Mountain? We did not go on this ride because my parents thought it would be too scary. I thought it sounded great.
Of all the attractions bent on my destruction, though, the most horrifying was Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. By the time I had my last Wild Ride-induced nightmare around the 8th grade, my memories of it had boiled down to darkness, multicolored fire, and unrelenting full-body terror. Naturally, when I went back to Disneyland in college, I had to try it again.
My friends and I lined up behind six dozen parents with toddlers, listening to jaunty music while a giant Tigger the Tiger bounced by. I smiled at all the happy children and reflected that my memory must have been faulty—Disneyland wasn’t scary! It’s the Happiest Place on Earth!
Do you know what happens on that ride? You climb aboard a little car that speeds through Toad Hall, crashing through doors and fireplaces before it leaves through a wall and starts terrorizing the town. After almost running into buildings, pedestrians, and the river (you will drown!), you are tried and sentenced to prison. You promptly break out through the prison wall and ride through darkness until a light approaches—and then a whistle sounds—and then a train runs you over and you die. After that, you go to hell. It’s full of red light and fire and stalagmites and stalactites and laughing demons and the screams of children oh wait that’s you and WHY MR. DISNEY WHY???
If your childhood lacked this particular trauma but you want the souvenir psychological scars, try watching this video with the lights off and multiplying it by a billion.
In the end I escaped with my life, but my dignity is still lying in one of those tunnels.