Thursday, February 9, 2012

Iconic LA: California Dreamin'

THERE ARE few places in L.A. as iconic of our city's spirit as the image of the Disneyland Castle.  To outsiders, L.A.'s mission statement is not so far from Disneyland's.  It is the place where dreams come true.  There is no better person to examine as a prime example of the materialization of dreams than Walt Disney.  Though he was born in Chicago, he fled to L.A. in pursuit of a career as an animator.  The indomitable Disney Co. makes it easy to imagine Walt Disney solely as an advocate of capitalism, but he really was a dreamer more than anything.  The reality of life was far less entertaining than what he could stir up with his imagination, so he found a way to re-imagine reality.  His work allowed viewers to slip out of the grim truths cast by the world around them, even if momentarily.
Disneyland is the prime example of a materialization of Disney's dream.  It was as if the magical world provided in his films was not enough, so Disney bought a huge sum of land and created a physical place where dreams could come true.There isn't a trouble in the world when you are at Disneyland.  Paradoxically, he created a magical reality, a real place where real problems didn't exist.

To many, the dream of coming to L.A. involves similar sentiments.  People don't come to Los Angeles to learn the disconcerting truth that they just aren't good enough to be an Oscar winning film director or a Hall of Fame musician, they come here to be realized for all the greatness they are.  If these beliefs are on part inspired, they also are one part delusional.  It propagates disappointment in the dreamers that flock to L.A. for fame, magic, resolution, and wealth.

An idea projected by Disney's enterprise is the thought that if you can imagine it, you can achieve it.  People come to L.A. to imagine and achieve wild dreams.  California dreamers have never been pragmatic folk.  Those with ordinary dreams can live in ordinary places, but those with extraordinary dreams live in L.A.

Growing up in LA, a city bursting with new ideas and creativity, has undeniably affected how my interests have developed.  It's impossible to be untouched by the California dream because LA is ornamented with places like Disneyland, where a magical Castle soars in the sky.  When it takes just a short haul to make it to "the happiest place on earth".   As a child, I remember getting lost in Disney's wonderland of magic.   There was a certain naivety to my marvel at the castle as a young child, much like a farmer in Kansas might have distorted perceptions of what LA is.  Last time I revisited the famed Castle to top off my evening with a bout of fireworks, I thought about Disney's dream and it was more than magic.  I saw vision, aestheticism, capitalism, all bundled up in a fantastical display.  As I thought about how the castle had come to mean much more to me as my city smartened me up, I remembered the famous words of Arthur C. Clarke, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic".  As I enjoyed the visual display, I realized that the magic had not been lost, it was just better understood.

The ornate castle that serves as the center of action in Disneyland is a sublime symbolization and materialization of this dream.  The castle is primarily a pink-purple, clad in gold to defeat any remaining sense of subtlety it might have had.  The castle at night has perhaps an even more romanticized flare to it.  Purple lights allow the castle to glow as a shining emblem of the L.A. dream in the night sky.  As if this isn't picturesque enough, fireworks explode into the sky every single night that Disneyland is open. Since Disneyland is one of the first locations that your average tourist to California will visit, imagine this dream being imprinted in the minds of all visitors to our city.  After seeing the fireworks light up the night sky behind Disney's majestic castle, how could you not believe that L.A. is the place where dreams come true?

--Carey Uhl
Photo Credit: Lauren Nemec

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