About halfway through the sweltering day, my brother in-law and I made our way from Frontierland toward Tomorrowland to get a half-dozen frozen lemonades; a small treat for our crowd-weary wives and kids, whom we had just left on a bench near the Jungle Boat cruise.
We crossed the roundabout at the end of Main Street, just before the entrance to Sleeping Beauty’s castle. There, we saw a small crowd parting to form a path at the castle drawbridge. They were making way for two round dudes emerging from Fantasyland: Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum from the Alice in Wonderland film.
These two characters (and I mean that in every sense of the term), were holding hands and skipping, their enormous plastic heads bearing sinister smiles, locked in place for eternity. I wondered which Tweedle was which and then quickly decided I didn’t care. I was hot and just wanted lemonade--and they were getting in the way.
The two spherical hulks skipped closer and closer to me and my brother-in-law, so we stopped, expecting them to cross our paths in the circle. However, as they approached the roundabout, I could see the Tweedles were on a collision course with the plaster horse hitching posts that lined the perimeter of the circle—and they weren’t slowing down. I’m sure the posts were considered a stroke of decorative genius at some park planning committee meeting at Disney corporate HQ. But now these three-foot pillars, probably intended to evoke feelings of a simpler time, were nothing but an accident waiting to happen. And, brother, it happened.
Those big heads must have afforded little visibility to the Tweedles as they skipped merrily along. The crowd, now cluing in to the impending disaster, let out a unified gasp. But it was too late to stop Tweedle—uh, let’s just say, "Dum." Tweedle-Dum ended his skipping routine, and perhaps his Disney career, crotch first on a hitching post. I think I heard a "clang"—but that may have been my cartoonish imagination at work.
Therein followed a series of moments; vignettes—each forever etched in my memory like snapshots taken at a car accident. The consequences unfurled as follows:
- Tweedle-Dum screamed—a no-no for the characters at the happiest place on Earth. It supposedly ruins the illusion for us parkgoers when we hear a beloved character use a human voice. Yep. I agree. Illusion officially ruined.
- Tweedle-Dum, in unimaginable pain, violently buckled forward with such a sudden force that he unhinged his enormous plastic head and catapulted it into the roundabout. The rubbery mound came skidding to a halt at my feet where it lay, disembodied and still smiling at me. Did I mention, illusion ruined?
- His pal, Tweedle-Dee, still smiling (it was a mask, right?), started patting his fellow Tweedle on the back and whispering something to him. I’m guessing it was something like, "Hey, buddy, are you okay?" or maybe, "Holy sh**!"
- The crowd could now see Tweedle-Dum’s all-too-human face, clearly sticking out of his oversized body. He was a white guy with a red bandanna on his head. I’d tell you his eye color, but his eyes were squeezed shut in pain. His face was contorted in a way that only a man can truly understand. Think "soccer-ball-to-the-nads" and you'll know what I mean.
- Tweedle-Dee realized Tweedle-Dum was missing his head and, after a double-take between his friend and his friend’s head, left his hunched over tweedle-buddy to retrieve the errant cranium still sitting at my feet. He lifted it off the ground with his giant gloved hands like my mom used to lift hot pies out of the oven with oven mitts, sized perfectly for this task. How could Disney know those giant hands would come in handy in just this way? Damn, evil is smart. Of course, in retrospect I realize I could have helped the Tweedles, but I was frozen like the lemonade I was still craving. Now that I think of it, a lemonade would’ve been the perfect libation to accompany this show!
- Tweedle-Dee returned to Dum and pushed the scuffed rubber head back onto his sideways friend. A black streak now scarred Tweedle-Dum’s left cheek. No getting around it now. They’d have some ‘splainin’ to do back in the dressing room underground at the Disney dungeon.
- After some additional back-patting and whispering, the two Tweedles stood again (Dum stood a little more slowly). They clutched hands, turned on their heels, and skipped off, back into the castle from whence they came. Of course, one Tweedle’s skip was a little less enthusiastic than when he first came out. But the guy was trying, so I think he gets bonus points, a medal, and the respect of every wincing man in the park who saw the travesty. I know I wouldn’t skip after a shot like that!
Now, I can’t recall the faces of the other onlookers. I can only imagine they struggled with the same challenge I did—laugh or be mortified? Help, or watch the Disney machine do its thing?
I’ll never know if poor Tweedle-Dum got in trouble. I've heard that breaking the cardinal employment rules by talking or removing one’s costume in view of the parkgoers usually results in the Disney death penalty or worse—Disney is licensed for its own law enforcement, so I’m told. Rumors are, Tigger isn’t so bouncy or flouncy after a few of his own infractions out in Florida. Why’s it always Florida?
In the months since last August, I’ve been back to Disneyland (the evil allure even has it's hold on cynical old me) and I've noticed two things: Costumed characters are now accompanied by cast members of the non-costumed variety. Not sure for whose safety this arrangement has been made—ours or theirs. But, accompaniment is now par for the course. Like Britney visiting her kids. Gotta have a normal dude go with you.
And, those horse hitching posts have been removed. Gone. Kaput. Totally missing. Again, like Britney’s kids. Come to think of it, she used to be a Mouseketeer… It’s like Disney knew I’d someday draw the metaphor…Hmmm… Did I mention evil was smart?
I suspect when it was all said and done, Tweedle-Dum could have used a couple of his own frozen lemonades to ease the day, or at least cool his cahones. Is there anything a couple of frozen lemonades can’t fix? Or maybe that was Disney's evil plan all along--to emphasize the perfection of their frozen lemonades...
© 2007, Herb Williams-Dalgart
From Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland:
'Now, I give you fair warning,' shouted the Queen, stamping on the ground as she
spoke; 'either you or your head must be off, and that in about half no time!
Take your choice!'
From Bob Dylan’s Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum:
Well, they're living in a happy harmony
Tweedle-dee Dum and Tweedle-dee Dee
They're one day older and a dollar short
They've got a parade permit and a police escort
They're lying low and they're makin' hay
They seem determined to go all the way
They run a brick and tile company
Tweedle-dee Dum and Tweedle-dee Dee