Things I miss about England #83: People are not SO obsessed with Disney. We’re about to leave for 2 weeks in the States. In order to get direct flights from Recife to Miami (normally you have to add about half a day onto your trip going via Sao Paulo) we’re flying with an agency called Arituba who fix package tours for teenagers to go to Disney. Worryingly, some of my students will be on the flight. Even more worryingly, is the news that everyone will be so excited that the whole flight is set to basically be a din of sweaty, spotty, Brazilian adolescents freaking out at meeting Mickey.
Sometimes, I think Brazilians are the ones single-handedly propping up the entire Disney empire. They may not buy a lot of original DVDs (pirate copies are more readily available) but they do arrive in shed loads to Orlando’s Magic Kingdom.
It’s a rite of passage to go to Disney. If you can afford it, you’ll do it. And when you’re there you buy, buy, buy and probably need another airplane to ship the lifesize models of Pluto, Snow White and Bambi back down the continent. I was in a waiting room the other day and so picked up one of those celebrity mags. The top story was that a TV presenter (for her 60th birthday!) had chosen to go to Disney with 50 of her close friends and families. I was treated to glossy pictures of plastic-surgeried Brazilian b-listers riding carousels and having their pictures taken with Nemo.
Really, the final straw for me was when I had to go to a launch event put on by Arituba in order to retrieve some "essential" (read: promotional) info for our journey. Arituba had rented a conference centre had everyone was crammed into a huge room decked from head to foot in Disney gumpf. The man was giving safety instructions to the masses, but the promise of food and a post-talk party could be seen everywhere with stuffed toys, games, competitions and heavily-made-up excited teenagers brimming with electric excitement. I asked the lady if I HAD to stay and when she said I didn’t I took my promotional flyers and scarpered. What I realised then was that Arituba are selling a dream – a dream that starts and finishes at your door and is 100% Disney all the way.
Although we’re buying into this dream, we’re not wholesale buying into it. After much argy-bargy with Arituba we’re only going to be in the parks for 4 days ("What? You can’t possibly see everything in four days!". "Really? That’s good! Maybe we don’t want to be trapped inside a fictional dreamland inhabited by Brazilian pre-adults!"), preferring to use the rest of our time in Florida to visit both my and Rachel’s family in St.Petersburg. I don’t want to sound too high-faluting when I say this – and we will enjoy Disney, especially the Pixar Cars attractions (imagining an unleashed Nelsinho at this point) – but isn’t visiting another country about spending time with the people from there, eating their food, learning about their lives and experiences? That’s the way Rachel and I have always and will always do it.
Flying to the Disney Parks in Orlando is really not about flying to America – it’s about flying to another planet, another universe, full of animated creatures. And, as far as I can see, that’s exactly what all Brazilians, their tour operators and Disney want.
Things I love about Brazil #86: Turma de Monica. Brazilians have their own cartoon characters. For Christians, it's Smilinguido the ant. For everyone else it's Monica's crew aka. Turma de Monica. We watched a cartoon of theirs this morning - a bit less PC and gory than standard North American kids TV, loved it! They even have their own theme park in South Brazil although it's not a patch on Disney.