09.28.06 Counting the Disnoids
One statistic from the book still surprises me: half of the people who attend Disneyworld, Disneyland and the other Disney parks are adults without children. Half!
How do I know this? The notoriously uncooperative Disney publicity juggernaut declined to discuss park attendance with me, and independent trade data on park attendance is hard to come by. So I turned to a reliable, if unusual, source: a Fodor’s guidebook to Disneyworld written specifically for adults and apparently assembled with the cooperation of Disney.
Still, it’s hard to wrap one’s mind around the idea that half the people milling around the shadow of Cinderella’s castle are adults with nary a kid in tow. Even if you factor in those teeming masses of teenagers who qualify as “adults” (defined as any guest over 18).
A travel reporter for USA Today recently told me that Disney officials privately dispute the statistic quoted in the book, putting the percentage closer to a quarter. But they still haven’t released any concrete numbers, so as far as I’m concerned it’s still an open question.
I was at Disneyland over the weekend, and I made it a point to sit and watch the crowd go by – there’s no doubt that adults outnumber kids by far. There was no way to tell how many of these adults had come with kids, but it was clear from their wide-eyed expressions and the way they charged through the crowds that the vast majority of these grown-ups were happily giving themselves over to the Disney magic.
Pictured are snapshots of two pairs of adult Disney fans who I particularly enjoyed, spanning the cultural spectrum from cutting-edge urban hipsters to frumpy Midwesterners – worlds apart culturally, but joined in the common love of the land of Uncle Walt.
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09.28.06 Kim & Jason, rejuvenile power couple
I had a nice long chat last week with a true power couple in rejuvenile circles, Kim & Jason Kotecki. Once upon a time, Jason was a struggling cartoonist in Madison, Wisconsin who, in an attempt to woo his kindergarten-teacher girlfriend Kim, drew a strip picturing them as wisecracking kids (thus echoing the origin story of Uglydolls, the phenomenally successful line of rejuvenile dolls that began as doodles created by art student David Hovarth for his girlfriend Sun Min). Today, the Kim & Jason strip is syndicated across the country and Jason is a successful speaker on what he calls “adultitis,” that nasty blend of stress, burnout and habitual thinking commonly confused with “maturity.” Kim is now full-time advocate in the burgeoning Kim & Jason cottage industry – in addition to public appearances, they collaborate on books, comics, e-cards, podcasts and an online store packed with such goodies as rubber duckies, ice cream-scented bath salts and T-shirts printed with the slogan “Adulthood Stinks.”
Their online “Lemonade Stand” also carries artwork and books created by the pair, including a sort of prescriptive answer to Rejuvenile, Escape Adulthood: Eight Secrets from Childhood for the Stressed-Out Grown Up. For an even more user-friendly how-to manual, check out their Escape Plan, a collection of 40 specific exercises designed to “help you safely and effectively treat adultitis.” Feeling a touch of adultitis? Try “drawing a funny picture and hiding it in an unexpected place for someone else to find.” Grumpy and overburdened? Drop everything and “eat or drink something that brings back childhood memories.” (Two words: Swedish fish).
I only wish I’d known about Kim & Jason while researching my book – they’re models for the sort of productive, conscientious adults who’ve made a childlike sense of play and wonder a top adult priority (and indeed an entire business model). And they’ve smartly avoided the naïve trap of celebrating childhood as a single-ingredient recipe for happiness – they appreciate the importance of responsibility and a strong work ethic. But that doesn’t mean they also can’t enjoy the occasional water fight or superhero movie.
The Podcast on which I appear includes some discussion of our shared hatred of Bratz dolls and the glories of the Easy-Bake Oven Gourmet cookbook. I have ambitions to implement the Escape Plan myself and will keep you updated on how that goes…
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09.18.06 Niblets (Formerly Grab Bag)
Open wide for this heaping portion of briefs, quickies, and other stray crumbs of rejuvenile-flavored goodness…
• The New York Times weighed in on adult kickball on Friday in a feature that included some beard-pulling commentary from me and a good discussion of the growing rift between those who play to win and those who relish in the game’s ridiculousness. Pullquote put it best: “A manifestation of the breakdown of traditional age norms – or just a chance to drink or flirt?”
• The Come Out and Play Festival is set for this weekend in New York; anyone remotely nearby should hightail it to Gotham and get busy. Billed as “three days of play, talks and celebration focused on new types of games and play,” the event is the work of genius game designers with a passion for so-called “big games” – web-enabled participatory pastimes so involved and creative they make scavenger hunts look like tic-tac-toe. Think of it this way: when will you ever get another chance again to play a game of urban minigolf that uses cabbies, pedestrians and buildings as obstacles in a 1000-par course? Descriptions and signups for many more cool big games here.
• Be forewarned. NPR’s “Marketplace” aired a commentary from me today, but this one is different from ones I’ve done previously in three major respects: 1) Topic has nothing to do with the book – unless you consider the CEO who shelled out $20 million this week for a spot on a rocket ship rejuvenile, 2) It’s a back-and-forth exchange with another commentator, the lovely and amazing Ruthie Ellenson, and, most importantly, 3) It features my truly horrifying impersonation of a Russian cosmonaut singing Madonna’s “Lucky Star.”
• Check out this amazing clip of a daredevil on a Flybar, the grown-up pogo stick described in the book’s section on extreme sports. I’m told by Flybar honcho Dave Jargowsky that the clip has stirred up a ton of interest in his venture – look for it on “the Tonight Show” this fall…
• More cool video here of highly athletic rejuvenile tomfoolery – Bossball mixes volleyball, football and gymnastics in a game played on a court strewn with inflatable pads and trampolines. Just as the Flybar is an amped-up improvement on the pogo, Bossball looks like volleyball played by those superhero monks in kung fu movies who sail through the air as if gravity was a law made to be broken. Thanks to reader boldergeizd for the link.
• And I thought Disney Fairy Tale Weddings were the end-all-be-all rejuvenile twist on our last remaining rite of passage; behold, the Super Mario-themed wedding cake! Comes frosted with 8-bit-color graphic elements (via Boing Boing)…
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09.13.06 Rejuvenile Party People
A vivid example of the rejuvenile meme in its most exhibitionist form: Party Scammers Productions is a L.A. party production crew that’s making a stir in LA hipster circles hosting exaggerated, kitschy kiddie events.
The most blatant of which was undoubtedly “Your Eight Year Old Birthday Party” in which guests crammed the baroque Sunset Boulveard mariachi club El Cid to relive their own childhood nuptials surrounded by balloons, streamers, punch bowls and activities like Cage Match Thumb Wrestling, the Robot Jumper and the Pinata Gauntlet.
Party Scammers also jumped on the rock paper scissor bandwagon last year with a RPS Rumble and hosted a geek-fest extrordinaire known as Clash of the TETRIS in which guests played an all-night Tetris tournament accompanied by live bands and screaming onlookers.
The avant-nerds behind Party Scammers have also produced a few rejuvenile video shorts. Check out Gerald the Birthday Boy if you think you might get a chuckle out of watching a lumbering twentysomething dressed in baby clothes spaz out in a toy shop. Another video showcases their talents at getting dressed up in wild thrift store getups and tossing milkshakes in the faces of strangers (accomplices?).
I’ve yet to attend a Party Scammer event, but I’m eager to see these folks live in person. Seems to me like just the sort of ironic kitsch-fest that has a way of becoming a part of a normal everyday adult routine over the long haul. Remember Kurt Vonnegut’s sage advice in Mother Night: be careful what you pretend to be…
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09.11.06 Fisher Price Fonts
Toyification describes how everyday adult stuff is getting less utilitarian and more toy-like. In the book’s chapter on toys, I look at how cars, computers, cell phones and even vacuum cleaners are now designed, marketed and used more as playthings than tools of productivity.
Florida designer Nick Dominguez has a nice post applying this idea to web and graphic design. The look and feel of many new brands and logos, he writes, is “overwhelmingly toylike or Fisher Pricey.” Examples of toyification in web design include big bubbly buttons, big text and bold colors and gradients.
You can see the phenomenon in all its bright and cheery glory scanning this portfolio of recently redesigned logos for firms selling everything from insurance to mobile phone service. Businesslike, dignified, subdued, muted tones and shapes have been replaced by an open, friendly and chunky style – indeed, most of these designs look swiped straight from the romper room. The pictured logo for photo sharing company Tabblo even comes complete with a smiley face. Bright and cheery blues and oranges dominate other designs, with lime green jokingly called the “official color of Web 2.0.”
Can’t wait for the new Lehman Brothers logo with the star-eyed unicorn floating over the rainbow waterfall…
I’m an admirer but hardly an expert in graphics, so this is all new and unfamilar territory for me; anyone else besides Mr. Dominguez notice a shift toward the toylike?
Beyond the tropical monsoon and distressing number of injuries, the biggest bummer of this summer’s World Adult Kickball Association championship in Miami was the realization that all the best teams shared a strategy that hinged on the repetition of the single most boring play in all of kickball: the bunt.
When I was playing pickup ball back in the late ‘90s (he says, clearing the old-man phlegm from his windpipe and easing back in his rocking chair), bunts were expressly forbidden. Yes the surest way to get runners on base is to hit slow dribblers up the third base line. But how fun is that? It’s truly dispiriting to watch players robotically repeat the same noodle-legged kick again and again in a competition to see who can be the most precisely wimpy.
So I’m heartened to discover an advocacy group devoted to the elimination of bunts in kickball. NoBunting.com includes the 10 commandments of the movement (“Number 5: Behold, bunting is an abomination unto me, and maketh thy opponent’s head like unto spoiled fruit”), an advice column called “Ask Dr. Kick” (“Are bunting addictions different for men and women?”) and a shop filled with No Bunting merchandise.
The site is the work of a 23-year-old creative marketing manager from Arizona named Russell Perry, who tells me via e-mail that “simple nomenclature” inspired him to start the group:
I’m in full support of Perry’s good work, though as a kickballer with a childhood record dominated by spastic errors and asthma attacks, I take issue with his macho posturing about players working out pent-up playground losses in their adult kickball careers. The game is big enough for all sorts – those child stars who play to relive moments of glory and those formerly picked last who play to overcome childhood humiliations that would otherwise jolt them awake in cold sweats at 3 in the morning.
But on this, we agree: for both sorts of players, the best way to enjoy the game is to cut out the bunts and kick the damn ball.
In other kickball-media related news, Newsweek just did a brief item on the resurgence of kickball and there’s a new episode and home page for “View from Home Plate,” the kickball chat show filmed inside a moving subcompact on the streets of L.A.
Disney is unparalleled in its ability to summon our childlike capacity for make believe (to say nothing of unlocking our insatiable desire for merch). The roller coaster mills at Six Flags are a direct route to the childlike thrills of being jostled and whirled and overwhelmed.
But my pick for the best rejuvenile amusement park experience is way more low-rent. For my money, the best environment to revel in your rejuvenile self is the small, often-crumbling playland – the sort of run-down place created a generation ago by a wide-eyed cranky entrepreneur and now barely maintained as a setting for birthday parties and puppet shows.
Just back from terrific Labor Day weekend visiting friends in the Bay Area, where we sampled the local kid/rejuvenile attractions, including the miraculous San Francisco “tech and art” museum called Zeum, a gigantic playground and art walk outside Petaluma and Oakland’s always enchanting Fairyland.
Like a lot of other low-rent kiddie amusement parks, Fairyland is filled with creepy concrete statues of classic kid lit creatures. There’s a puppet theater and a mini Ferris Wheel and an astonishingly slow train called the Jolly Trolley. I visited a similar place in New Orleans that may or may not have survived the devastation last year. Anyone know of others? I love their pre-safety code hazards, their sweet outsider-art depiction of classic children’s icons and their shabby, nostalgic glory.
One thing I can’t abide: the unnecessary restrictions on adults. Grown-ups are expressly forbidden on slides and play structures. I got all hoity-toity and rode the Dragon Slide as a protest. Let ‘em drag me out in cuffs; this rejuvenile will fight for the right to scab my knee with the rest of the kiddies.
09.06.06 Grab Bag (Formerly Ball Pit)
Go ahead: sink your grubby little fist in the grab bag and pull out a quick rejuvenile goodie:
• The NPR program “Marketplace” ran a commentary from yours truly yesterday about toyification – the transformation of everyday adult stuff from utilitarian to positively toy-like (Requires Real Player).
• Another example of everyday rejuvenalia that had never occurred to me: the chocolate-flavored frozen coffee drink (grown-up coffee in guise of tasty sweet treat!). That’s one of several good observations in a feature on the book by Marilyn Bailey that’s been turning up all over the McClachy Newspaper chain.
• Sure he’s a slacker and a potty-mouth sex fiend, but is the slacker brother-in-law on Showtime’s Weeds a rejuvenile? I weighed in on how the book applies to the fictional characters on My Favorite Teevee Show last week in the Baltimore Sun.
• Will someone please respond to this Amazon reviewer talking trash about the book? I know I should do the mature thing and not spent another instant wondering why “gcon from Arizona” was so disapointed by the book, but what can I say? I’m a rejuvenile. And so I want to somehow both earn his/her praise and give her/him an expert wedgie.
09.01.06 news flash: moms kick!
Time Magazine recently did a feature on moms who play soccer or hockey or skateboard or otherwise imitate their kids’ athletic routines. Seems the number of “mom leagues” has shot up in recent years, spurred by mothers who’ve gotten sick of sitting on the sidelines watching their kids play. Playing the same games as their kids “gives them a window into their kids’ experience, a shared language and a new way to bond.”
The story is like so many other articles about adults who reclaim kid games – the common tone is uniformly gee-whiz, isn’t-this-wacky, with the occasional cynical aside about overinvolvement or the pathetic spectacle of adults playing kid games.
After reading literally hundreds of these stories (and writing a few myself), I’m beginning to wonder: when will the news value finally dissipate? When will we start taking it for granted that moms can of course play soccer or hockey or even rock paper scissors? True, adult leagues devoted to kidgames are still unusual enough to warrant attention and analysis, but isn’t the novelty wearing off fast?
I for one am looking forward to the day when moms and dads all adults are free to play any game we like without raising an eyebrow. When we reach the point that an editor rolls his eyes and barks “old news!” when a reporter files a piece about grown-up devotees of Duck-Duck-Goose, we will have finally demolished the last of our arbitrary age norms.