Sometimes we need a little something random and wacky in our lives. My friends at Disnerland are that way every day. Somehow they
bribedconvinced me to share their special brand of insanity. Be dazzled, confounded, or even disappointed . . . it doesn’t matter . . . you’re in Disnerland . . .
That’s right, everyone, hello, you just got a taste of Disnerland, the place with the most happy. A look at the Disnerland blog, found HERE, will reveal an entire similarly strange and absurd world, where everything Disney is just ever so slightly…off. You’ll first see the main bread and butter of Disnerland, parodies of attraction posters, where with some careful photoshopping, the ride or show is transformed with “Disner-speak,” wherein the Matterhorn Bobsleds become the Butterhorn Bobcats, Fantasmic! becomes Amazeballs!, etc… Digging deeper, you’ll find some poignant pieces as well, The Adventures of Snow White is distilled into White Lady Problems. Even still, beyond the attraction posters you’ll find the occasional quote from Wald Disner himself, taking the inspiring words of Walt Disney, and making them, well, Disner’d.
You might wonder what is going on here, and hopefully you’re laughing while you’re wondering. Though Disnerland’s blog is public, it has existed widely as an industry in-joke, spreading through themed entertainment’s social circles. As such, its origins have been somewhat of a secret. Well, as it turns out Disnerland is the brain child of a trio of theme park creatives and fans: Nick Nielsen, graphic artist and video editor for theme parks, Mae Catt, a screenwriter, and Andy Garfield, composer, sound designer and producer for theme parks. For them Disnerland has become a continual absurdist art project, dedicated to lampooning the works of Walt Disney, most especially Disneyland.
So how did this craziness begin?
Nick: A typo! A few stray keystrokes and I accidentally typed “Walt Disney” as “Wald Disner” into Google. It made me laugh so I wrote it up on my whiteboard by my desk at the office.
Mae: Then we walked in, visiting. I think I saw it first and asked about it, but almost instantly Andy read it aloud with this funny voice, where did that come from?
Andy: Well, it first struck me that it was weird that Nick would record one of his typos. I thought: ‘he’s such a peculiar person, definitely my strangest friend,’ writing down his mistakes. So it was absurd to me on that level already, then it just continued being absurd. It reminded me of the character, Mr. Plinkett from Red Letter Media Reviews, this parody of basement dwelling nerds, where he speaks in a stilted gargled cryptic manner.
Mae: Andy spoke “Wald Disner,” aloud and that was that. It was hilarious. At that time Hyperspace Mountain had just opened and the next day we all went to Disneyland. We started listing off weird names for everything, Wald Disner names, in that Plinkett voice.
Andy: It’s how I read all of the Disner stuff.
Nick: Hyperspace Mountain became Hooperspace Murphy, and so “Murphy” became the word for “Mountain.” We spent the rest of the day just trying to make each other laugh by renaming things in this typo, sound-alike way.
So when did a joke turn into the posters?
Nick: I do graphic design at work and I just thought to myself, I could change the “Hyperspace Mountain” logo, I could make it say “Hooperspace Murphy.” And that’s what I did. Mostly for Mae and Andy, but others saw it and enjoyed it too. It became the first Disner poster.
Mae: I was with Andy when he came up with “Butterhorn Bobcats” for the Matterhorn, I immediately texted it to you.
Nick: I remember getting that text. It was so good I had to do that poster too, but then I thought, “what if we did more?”
Mae: Christmas was right around the corner, so we decided to team up, because I know a decent amount of photoshop too, we were going to team up and tackle some posters and present them to Andy as a gift. Since he got, like, the most kick out of it.
Nick: I started making the list of the posters we could do, and it kept growing until I thought “well, what if we just did all of them?” We ended up doing around 30. The language of Disner really came from that, the pressure of a Christmas deadline.
Mae: Especially since we stayed up the night of our deadline to get these posters printed into a nice book. It was our photoshop-addled, tired brains coming up with parody names at like two in the morning that really refined the vocabulary. I’ll never forget killing myself over “Drown Murphy” (Splash Mountain), finishing it, thinking we were done, and then realizing we’d forgotten “Pringlemuncher” (Peoplemover). It was in that exasperated state I came up with “Bad Time” for Good Year Tires on the Pringlemuncher. That’s one of the better examples I can think of, illustrating the creative process for Disner.
Nick: That’s also where the Wald Disner quotes came from, to fill up the book and give it dividers to not mess up the layout. I had already written the dedication speech as the opening to the book, but I came up with those first Disner quotes right there on the spot.
Mae: That night we also decided that any name or change we came up with for Disner had to make us laugh out loud. Like, an actual, literal, audible to other human ears, laugh.
Andy: And I just enjoyed my Christmas present. It was the best Christmas present I’ve ever gotten. I almost had an asthma attack laughing so hard.
Mae: Nick was out of town for Christmas, I filmed an entire 10-minute video of Andy reading the book, laughing the whole time.
Andy: It will be a source of joy for me for the rest of my life.
Nick: Once Andy got his gift we all decided to make a Disner blog. Which meant continuing to make content. We make lists of attractions and shows and brainstorm. Then Mae and I will take turns photoshopping the posters, sometimes doing passes on each other’s posters.
Mae: I’d say Nick is the creative lead on this. Andy’s the producer.
Andy: I’d agree with that.
Nick: What’s rewarding is seeing other people’s reactions. It’s very reassuring to see this weird thing between the three of us, this humor that’s very me, being so well received, like “oh, good!” other people get it.
Andy: I think, part of why it’s so popular is why I like it so much, in that it takes something that is incredibly familiar to me – I grew up in Anaheim, I spent my life in the park, I joke that Disneyland is my birthright. So Disner takes this extremely familiar thing to me and tweaks it just a bit, making it surreal and humorous. It changes the familiar in a delightfully disarming way. Even in the smallest details, which are sometimes my favorite thing about the posters. They’re always captioned with a changed date of opening, which are different from the actual attraction. Sometimes it’s off by a year or two, but sometimes it’s decades, where it becomes impossible, it just increases the absurdity of it all. Again, the taking of something well known and putting it on its head.
Mae: I think too, the jokes are very sincere. We all love the parks, we never intend to really make fun of them. And it’s an easy thing to do, be sarcastic about Disney and sort of ridicule it, but that was never our intent, and we manage to stray away from that. It’s all very good-natured.
Nick: Right, we just change the words around. We use distilled down language and sound-alikes, but keep the essence and intention of the source material.
Andy: It’s a celebration of Disney. You have to not take your fandom of Disney so seriously, and let this absurd thing happen. What I like about this whole thing is that it’s sort of re-examining and re-constructing the images so you can see what made them work in the first place, and just transform it a bit that makes you laugh, not at it, but because of it.
Nick: And people are participating too! People speak to the Disner pages in Disner-speak! Fans are coming up with new names for things, we’ve had to start keeping a list to make sure who came up with what.
Which is your Favorite Disnerland Poster?
Nick: Oh, “Monster Mouth” (Storybookland)! It makes me laugh. Oh, no “Dino House” (Primeval World)! “Dino House” was the third poster I did, and I think a lot of the language got developed with that one. But stuff like “Monster Mouth” and “Wet Tube Trip” (Submarine Voyage) have the “literally’s” as in, “go literally in there,” “go literally under.” I like it when the poster is so direct like that. Like Wald Disner’s commanding you to go enjoy yourself.
Mae: “Drown Murphy” will always have a special place in my heart, it was the first poster where we didn’t find a font that looked similar enough and was free on the Internet, and I remember staring at the original poster and with a heavy heart saying “I can manipulate the text.” Meaning I took “Splash Mountain” and just moved the text around into “Drown Murphy.” I’m also proud of “Amazeballs!” (Fantasmic) because it emulates Disney’s tendency to make up puns and magic-words. But “Dirt Train” (Nature’s Wonderland) has dirt! So much dirt!
Andy: “Pringlemuncher” remains my favorite, it always makes me laugh. So evocative, it gives me such an absurd image of a person eating pringles, but then at the same time I see the Peoplemover. It’s such an affront to my senses with its bold font, like the font is so insistent, you just have to accept it as reality, but then realize upon closer inspection it’s some alternate reality with no explanation.
What’s Next for Disnerland?
Nick: It’s actually becoming harder finding attraction posters. We’ve done most of the well-known ones already, we’re definitely running out. So we’ve started expanding into the other Disney parks, starting with Wald Disner Global (Walt Disney World). I’m very excited to tackle EPCOT. We’re also looking to modify other Disney promotional materials. In fact, if anyone has any images they want Disner-fied, they can submit it via our Tumblr page or email us at [email protected] We’ll credit you of course!
Mae: We’ll also probably crash some in-park fan events, like “Dated Day” (Dapper Day). We did that earlier this year where we passed out E-tickets and pins with Disner phrases like “Maybe,” and “Why not?”
Andy: But the most exciting thing to announce is that we’ve just opened up a Disnerland store where you can get some Disner T-Shirts, just in time for the holidays! Once these first round of shirts sell we’ll be able to get even more merchandise out there. Stay tuned!
Nick: The merchandise can also go to funding our ultimate goal. A Disner-inspired art and history show, where other people and artists can get into the fun of parodying Disney, and we can expand on the historical canon of Disnerland. I really like the idea of taking Disnerland out of the digital space and into an immersive, thematic, physical space. There is a lot of talent between the three of us to make this happen. Talents that go well beyond our photoshop skills, why not use them so everyone can benefit?
You can see more of Disnerland at www.disnerland.com, and the Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/disnerland/. The Disnerland store can be found here: http://disnerland.storenvy.com/. New posts are made every Tuesday and Friday. Get in on the fun. Why not? Maybe you’ll enjoy it. Maybe.