Little known fact: The Griswolds were originally on a pilgrimage to see a mouse.
For my generation, the cornerstone to a bitchin' Friday night back in junior high -- other than the negligent guardians and stolen six-pack of Natty Ice -- was a worn VHS copy of Harold Ramis' 1983 hit film National Lampoon's Vacation
Based on a short story by the late, great John Hughes, Vacation
tells the tale of Clark W. Griswold, his wife Ellen, and his kids Rusty and Audrey taking a doomed cross-country road trip to America's favorite family fun park, Walley World. Subjected to everything from corrupt mechanics to a dead aunt, Clark -- played by Chevy Chase in his most classic role -- remains determined to take his family to the Promised Land and roller coasters and goofy ungulate mascots.
For anyone who's seen the movie, there's no doubt that Walley World is an affectionate take on Disney
(DIS) and its family-friendly theme parks and characters. And appropriately so: The original theme park in an earlier draft of the script -- as well as the influential short story -- was, in fact, Disneyland. However, during the approval stages of pre-production, Disney objected to the notion that they would ever be closed for construction -- which is the final straw in the Griswolds' ill-fated trek. Insisting that its theme parks are always open 365 days a year, the company asked that references to its name and property be removed from the script.
The name may have changed for the movie, but the similarities remained.
Like Disneyland, Walley World is located in California. In fact, the Walley World scenes were filmed at Six Flags Magic Mountain
(SIXFQ) in Valencia, a mere 61 miles from the famed Disney park in Anaheim. A bombastic, 3D sign featuring the Walley cast of characters hangs over the highway near the entrance, much like the frenzy-inducing signs Disney places on the road to its parks.
While the main Walley character, Marty Moose, bears more resemblance to Bullwinkle than Mickey Mouse, the classic "Marty Moose National Anthem" that the family croons en route sounds awfully familiar:
Who's the moosiest moose we know?Marty Moose!
Who's the star of our favorite show?
M is for Merry, we're merry you see;
O is for Oh gosh, Oh golly, Oh gee;
S is for Super Swell family glee;
E is for Everything you want to be.
M - A - R - T - Y;
M - O - O - S - E.
What's that spell?
(Hyuk), that's me!
Perhaps the most subtle reference -- all thanks to the casting director -- was enlisting owl-faced character actor Eddie Bracken to play the part of Roy Walley. A caricature of both Walt Disney and his nephew Roy Edward, Walley is the kindly mustachioed owner of the Walley brand who is charmed by the Griswolds' story and allows the family to continue their exclusive run of the theme park.
Although most of the Disney references were shrouded in loose parody, one direct allusion might have been left untouched after the Disney name was removed from the script.
In the middle of an unrestrained meltdown -- when the rest of the family is ready to admit defeat -- Clark unleashes a profane attack on their lack of resilience and their insistence that they won't enjoy their destination. "I'm going to have fun, and you're going to have fun," Clark asserts -- illustrating his point by remarking they'll need "plastic surgery to remove their God damn smiles." In case they weren't convinced, he provides a reference to the Disney film Song of the South
. "You'll be whistling 'Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah' out of your assholes!"
If that's not a perfect example of what happens when you actually visit Disneyland, I don't know what is.
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