Having spent most of last week in Disney World with my family I found myself a little confused upon returning to New York. I was constantly stepping into lines expecting to see some sort of show or animatronic pirate at the end only to be greeted by people wondering how I take my coffee.
While living in this odd mindset of half Disney, half New York I decided to host a little competition between these two worlds to see which came out on top.
Round 1: Friendly Vermin
Actually I’m going to open this up to all animal performers and not just rats. But we’ll start with the rodents and that puts New York out to an early lead. Our rats have character, grit and verve. Disney’s rat has massive (and I mean massive) kid appeal but really doesn’t do anything entertaining outside of being famous. Mickey Mouse is like Paris Hilton that way. I’ll take New York’s rodents every time. Watching them scamper and play around the third rail has whiled away many a long subway wait for me.
However, when we throw open the net to all animals Disney starts to edge out New York. In Disney World I saw an all-bear band playing a hoedown complete with washboard and jug.
Summary: They have bears playing jugs in a hoedown. Come on. That’s like eight Simpson’s jokes fully realized.
Round 2: Spontaneous Performances
One of the more remarkable things at Disney World is the number of “spontaneous” events that crop up all around you during a day in the parks. Parades and floor shows and characters dancing, they all start to seem old hat once you’re on your third day of Disney and by day four you get a little miffed if you stop for some french fries and a chipmunk on a unicycle doesn’t instantly appear to entertain you.
That being said, New York City has its own type of floor shows and during my first few moments back in town I walked past a drummer in the subway going absolutely Bonham on some buckets and I began to realize that these worlds weren’t all that different and maybe New York could compete on this front.
So who wins? Disney, as mentioned, does a great job constantly making the world seem like freaking a Hollywood musical with everyone around pouncing on any opportunity that presents itself to sing and dance.
I realize the commitment it takes for you to watch a three minute video while surfing the web is immense but I really have to recommend checking this out. They break dance on a moving subway which is making stops the whole time and their grand finale is to form a human wheel and roll up and down the car slaloming between the poles.
If you’re not going to watch the video then please go ahead and reread that last sentence.
Disney has nothing on these guys.
Decision: New York City
Summary: Seriously? If you still need a summary you obviously haven’t watched the video.
Round 3: International Flair
The above image isn’t quite what I was shooting for but I couldn’t get a picture that nailed Epcot’s World Pavilion so I had to go with the iconic Epcot ball and leave it at that.
See it’s the World Pavilion, with its one hundred and eighty degrees of globe hopping, that I’m pitting against the multi-cultural neighborhoods of New York.
Oh, I know what you’re thinking. “What could Disney World’s little toy ‘cities’ have that could possibly compete against the diversity of a real live thriving metropolis? One is fake the other is real.”
Well pipe down there, Pepe. I’ve made this argument before and I’ll make it again, partly because I like arguing and partly because I refuse to let anyone out-cynical me. The areas of your cities that you call Chinatown and Little Italy are about as Chinese and Italian as fortune cookies and Chef-Boy-Ardee. Which is to say not at all. It’s all fake. Or at the very least it’s all the original culture sort of mushed up with the local culture and then boiled together over time. Anyone who claims to like “Italian food” and then goes to Italy quickly catches on that there are, in reality, eighty bajillion different types of Italian cuisine from southern to Sicilian to Tuscan to northern and that most of them serve horse. And none of them put olive oil on the table with your bread. And the bread sort of sucks.
One of the wonderful things about culture is how flimsy it is, which makes it a terrific medium for soaking up whatever happens to be around at the time and taking it to heart. My point here is that I’m more than happy to view the fake Epcot worlds as being just as real as Little Italy and Chinatown no matter how un-hip that makes me seem. So take off your Che Guevara t-shirt and shut the fuck up.
That being said the food at Epcot is nothing compared to the food in New York City’s neighborhoods, plus you get a lot more diversity in New York with the additions of Korea and Ethiopia and Nepal and on and on.
On the other hand wandering through twelve cultures in New York would ring up about two-hundred dollars in cab fare while at Disney it’s a nice leisurely stroll that you get drunk during.
Decision: Disney World
Summary: It’s all nuts to me and Disney allows roadies.
Round 4: Rides
The rides are one of the biggest attractions at Disney World, and for good reason. From The Tower of Terror, which is just so very wonderful, to Dumbo, which my 3-year old niece thinks is just so very wonderful, the flying, spinning storytelling trips through time and space in everything from tea cups to train cars tend to make up the bulk of most memories from Disney World. The negative to this is, of course, that everyone else in the park is trying to get on these rides and you can burn a lot of time waiting on lines. Still, it’s a theme park and lines are de rigueur so I can’t take too many points off for that.
Plus you can spend a lot of time waiting for one of New York’s rides, especially if it’s on the cursed orange line. And when you do board your train it usually goes sort of slow and at no point does it suddenly plummet down thirteen stories. So at first blush Disney seems to win here.
However, on New York City subways the people are as much a part of the ride as anything and dear god do I love the people. Crazy or happy, neurotic or asleep, dressed in full-on pimp gear or decked out like a wizard you will see every possible combination of everything if you take a seat on a subway car and keep your eyes open. I’ve gotten countless stories and characters from the nutcases and briefcases that have bounced in and out of my subway rides and just when you think you’ve seen it all you catch a train while a Knicks game is letting out and your car fills up with inebriated lunatics speaking in dialects that have yet to be recorded anywhere. And then someone walks by selling batteries at a very reasonable price. Combine that with a subway going to the boroughs where you break through into daylight for the first time and look back at the city framed in bridges and we have our winner.
Decision: New York City
Summary: People watching never loses its thrill. Also…seriously…why batteries?
Round 5: Soundtracks
I utterly loathe any and all musicals. As a friend of mine who shares this sentiment put it: “If you’re sitting there and the actors break into song and all you do is cringe and think, ‘Oh Jesus god no they’re singing again?!’ You are probably not a fan of musical theater.”
However, I love pretty much all the Disney films. Sneaking songs in via cartoons is downright dirty pool but it works and I’ve been known to sing “Under the Sea” in the shower in an awful Jamaican accent with the best of them. And while you’re in Disney World you hear all the classics over and over, and over and over. Long after the kids are in bed and you’re having a drink at the bar you still find yourself humming along to “Be Our Guest.” I honestly can’t tell if this is a positive for the strength of impact or a negative.
So while we’re deliberating let’s go to New York. What do we have? Well we’ve got Frank Sinatra singing “New York, New York” after every Yankee win. We’ve got Billy Joel and his “New York State of Mind” as well as Alicia Keys and Jay-Z with their Empire rejoinder. We’ve got hip-hop and doo-wop and Ella and Louis singing about Autumn in New York. There’s The Beastie Boys and “The Boy From New York City,” Neil Diamond’s “Brooklyn Roads” and Bob Dylan’s “Positively 4th Street.” Simon and Garfunkel boxed here, Croce didn’t mess with Jim here, AC/DC feels safe here. The Pogues put on a fairy tale while The Ramones rode to Rockaway Beach. There’s jazz and show-tunes, trance and punk, ballads and beats, from uptown girls to downtown where the lights are bright to Bono singing about angels.
And anything that got left out Bruce has covered.
Decision: New York City
Summary: I’m not repeating that.
Disney World: 2
New York City: 3
It’s good to be home.