Thursday, May 30, 2013

Disney Associations

Over the years, there have been many non-Disney films that have in one way or another reminded me of being in Disney. Most of them are films I have seen while on vacation at Disney. Now I know what you’re thinking: “Why would you go all the way to Disney just to see a movie?” Well I have been to Disneyland many, many times. I’ve been every year of my life, and multiple times per year once I procured the means. That said, I have been there during several off-seasons, when the parks (or just park, pre-DCA) closed at 8pm. And when Downtown Disney opened in 2001, it was a new thing to do. That new thing included catching the occasional flick. Vanilla Sky and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back are two films I very specifically remember watching at Downtown Disney. I also saw Bowfinger and Black Dynamite at nearby theaters. However, none of these films do anything specific to remind me of Disney. They were just films I happened to catch while there, and could be replaced with any other film and still produce the same effect.

What I want to talk about is, films that for some reason make me think of Disney, without ever having watched them in Anaheim or Lake Buena Vista.

Antitrust (2001 - Ryan Phillipe, Tim Robbins) – A young computer programmer gets an apparent dream job with a Microsoft-like company, only to discover his boss may or may not be involved in some shady, and deadly, antitrust practices.

My Disney Connection: Spaceship Earth (Epcot)

Because the film deals with young computer programmers on the verge of breakthroughs, there are a few scenes that involve computer stations inside garages. The first time I rode Spaceship Earth after the 2007 redo, the “garage in California” scene reminded me of the film. I didn’t think much about it after that, until a few months later when Antitrust aired on basic cable. One of the garage scenes instantly took me back to Spaceship Earth, and now whenever I happen to catch the film, I think of Epcot.


Spaceship Earth

Blazing Saddles (1974 - Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder) – A dirty politician appoints a black sheriff to the small town of Rock Ridge, in an attempt to send the town into ruins. The politician gets much more than he bargained for, however, when the Sheriff wins the town over.

My Disney Connection: Frontierland (Disneyland)

One of the most politically incorrect films of all time also happens to be one of the funniest films of all time (AFI ranked it as the 6th funniest American film ever made). Now why would I associate an R-rated, not nearly safe-for-family-viewing film with Disney? Two reasons, actually.

The scene in which the late (and brilliant) Madeline Kahn’s character performs her musical number takes place in “The Rock Ridge Saloon.” I never watched Westerns as a kid, so the only other “saloon environment” I had ever seen was in-person, at the Golden Horseshoe in Disneyland. As I was grabbing screenshots for this article, I realized that the two venues don’t look terribly alike. But the scene in the film did manage to make me think of the famous Disney saloon as a kid, and actually still does today.

The second and more obvious reason is: Disneyland actually used to play the theme song to Blazing Saddles in Frontierland. While I haven’t heard it on my last couple of trips, up until recently the title song of Mel Brooks’ Western parody (sung in earnest by Frankie Laine, who incidentally wasn’t told the film was a comedy at the time of recording) could be heard as background music whenever you sauntered through Frontierland. Fun fact: the 1946 song “Cool Water” (by The Sons of the Pioneers) could also be heard in Frontierland, and that is another song Frankie Laine recorded.

Blazing Saddles

Golden Horseshoe Revue
Photo courtesy of

White Men Can’t Jump (1992 - Woody Harrelson, Wesley Snipes) – Two street basketball players, one black, one white, form an unlikely duo to hustle the rough courts in South Central Los Angeles.

My Disney Connection: Universe of Energy (Epcot)

I had no idea what the Universe of Energy was about prior to riding it during my first visit to Epcot in 2005. When I entered the show building, the pre-ride film was just starting. As soon as my eyes adjusted to the dark, I found a spot on the floor in which to relax (this was either before they didn’t allow it, or the CM that day just didn’t care). I chuckled at some of the scenes in the pre-show, particularly the fact that Ellen seemed to have every single item Bill Nye the Science Guy came over to borrow all together in one kitchen drawer. When Ellen drifted off to sleep and appeared on Jeopardy, I remember thinking to myself that I hadn’t seen Jeopardy “on the big screen” since the movie White Men Can’t Jump. The very next time I saw that film again, just like with Antitrust, I was transported back to Epcot’s Future World. Weird, I know.

White Men Can't Jump

Universe of Energy

Arthur (1981 - Dudley Moore, Liza Minnelli) – A happy and often intoxicated multi-millionaire is faced with a decision: marry a woman he can’t stand, or be cut off from the family fortune. To make matters worse, he just so happens to be falling for a blue-collar girl.

My Disney Connection: The (Former) Frontierland Shooting Gallery (Disneyland)

This is the original “reminds me of Disney” film, since it dates so far back for me. I couldn’t find much information about it, or any photos for the longest time, but there used to be a shooting gallery located inside the store now known as the Pioneer Mercantile. The store’s back entrance faces Adventureland, and if you were to enter through there, the gallery was immediately to your left. It consisted of little plastic bears with infrared sensors, and when you hit one, the bear would “growl,” stand up, and change direction. There were only two places on earth I had ever seen that gallery: In Disneyland, and in the movie Arthur.

Arthur (1981)

B'ar Country
Photo courtesy of Kevin Kidney

HUGE thanks to Kevin Kidney for providing the “B’ar Country” photo, as I was going crazy trying to find one.

The Arthur/B’ar Country connection was the main inspiration for this article, and I guess I wanted to share my somewhat strange Disney associations with my readers/fellow Disney fans. I mean, I can’t be the only one, right?

As it turns out, I'm not. After Kevin provided me with the photo above, he then told me, "I know what you mean about non-Disney films that remind you of Disneyland. For me, 'Meet Me In St. Louis' is the quintessential 'Main Street USA' movie, streetcar and all."

Looks like I'm in good company!


  1. Absolutely love this post! It's late and I'm sure I could think of some of my own but I love your examples a ton. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you Estelle! Nice to know I'm not alone. When I first started polling my Disney friends about this, it looked like I was going to be. :p