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My Niece, the Haunted Mansion and Fear

Niece and Minnie at Disneyland

When my oldest niece was about five, my mom and I took her on the Haunted Mansion. We went through the Stretching Room, down the Portrait Gallery and boarded the same Doom Buggy. As we rolled up the stairs and into the mansion, I was getting into it. The Haunted Mansion isn’t scary, but it’s fun to pretend it is.

So, I was taking everything seriously. The armor, the endless hallway with the floating candelabra, the chair that seems to be staring at you. Each new “horror” made me look more fearful. As we rotated to see the body trying to get out of the coffin, my mom hit me in the shoulder.

“Lighten up. You’re scaring your niece,” she whispered at me.

I switched the way I was looking at the mansion and laughed at its humorous elements. I kept smiling through the ride, and my niece had a great time. She wasn’t afraid of no ghosts.

Fortunately, the team of Claude Coats and Marc Davis helped to provide the elements of a frightening atmosphere and comic presentations. (Of course, there are plenty of contributions from other prominent imagineers, like Rolly Crump and his human-like furniture and wallpaper and the effects pioneered by Yale Gracey with Crump.) So, you can see the Haunted Mansion the way you want to. It is the creativity that the team put into the mansion that makes it a classic attraction that everyone loves.

For more on the Haunted Mansion and creativity, preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.” You can also get “Disneyland Is Creativity” and “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories: Improve your Creativity for a Better Life and World.”

For more on the Disney Company, preorder “Penguinate! The Disney Company.”

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5 Episodes in: Isolation within and outside of ‘The Umbrella Academy’

Isolation is one of those themes that pops up quite a bit in science fiction. From “The Twilight Zone’s” first episode ‘Where Is Everybody’ to Will Smith’s “I Am Legend,” people are fascinated by the effects that being alone for an extended period can have on a person. It’s probably in part due to the dual nature of humanity. We want to be alone, and we need companionship; every person is somewhere on the spectrum between these demands, and it changes depending on the day and inner requirements.

Spoiler Alert.

This theme should have been clearer from the start of “The Umbrella Academy.” There were so many other things to adjust to, however, that it got lost until episode five. Number Five is the most isolated. He spends decades in the future with a manikin, who is as real to him as any person. Luther spends four years on the moon, which for him was enough.

Allison has been psychologically isolated from people for most of her life. She couldn’t discern what was real and what was the result of her power. She is now isolated from her daughter ad is attempting to build a new relationship with Vanya.

Pogo, and this is important, was left alone in the house after all the children moved on with their lives. Diego constantly talks about how mom was treated, but he doesn’t pay any attention to the talking chimpanzee who also had to put up with the abuse (as Diego sees it) that father dished out. Pogo says that he owes everything he is to Mr. Hargreeves, but it’s clear he’s hiding something.

Klaus used drugs to keep the spirits at bay. These are the spirits he should have been connecting with his whole life in a “Ghost Whisperer” sort of way. Unfortunately, his father’s ill-conceived training regime did nothing but frighten a young child into a life of escapism and dulling fear through chemistry. He continues to refuse to embrace who he his and what his power represents, even if there’s nothing scary about his brother Ben, who hangs out with him.

Diego lives in the backroom of a gym and goes out nights to fight crime. He has spent his life pushing people away and doing things his way without compromise. The death of his not-girlfriend sends him further down the road to isolation. He doesn’t recognize that he needs companionship, but his actions suggest otherwise as he takes Klaus with him to stake out the donut shop.

Surprisingly, it’s the relationship between Hazel and Agnes that hammers the theme home. Hazel feels acutely alone, and it’s affecting his work. Perhaps his isolation is worse because he spends all of his time with a partner as they travel 52 weeks a year. When he opens up to Agnes, he reveals that his job is fulfilling anymore.

People need companionship. They need to be part of something bigger than themselves. They need to be loved. Religions, cults and sports teams flourish because they can provide a semblance of these things. Humans define themselves in terms of the other; we don’t know who we are without someone else to base ourselves on. It’s part of our strongest desire – that of establishing and maintaining our identity. Sometimes, that means embracing the love of family, both biological and chosen. Sometimes, it means choosing something more carnal.

When a man finally shows interest in Vanya, she falls for him. She doesn’t care if he’s nefarious. On the outside he presents a nice-guy façade, and he does things to support and help her, including, unbeknownst to her, murder. Vanya won’t take the warnings of Allison because she has been isolated for so long. She hasn’t felt worthy and no one has expressed to her that she is worthy. Her father always told her she was ordinary. Her siblings ignored her to the point that when Allison watches tapes from their childhood, she says she wouldn’t let anyone treat her daughter that way. Vanya wrote a book that further estranged her from the family. She lives alone and pushes people away. So, when she finally decides to open up and take a chance, she falls hook, line and sinker for the manipulations of Leonard.

Vanya gives Leonard her love, literally and her power, figuratively. Leonard, a creep, stalker and killer, dumps her pills and unleashes Vanya’s creative power. Not all creative power is good. Some people use their creativity to destroy. The atomic bomb, hypersonic ICBMs, new forms of torture… the list of terrible creativity is long and horrific. Vanya’s power isn’t just to build but to destroy, and when she finds out about Leonard’s manipulations, it could be apocalyptic. Allison still provides hope that someone can reach her.

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Go Oahu Card: Family at the Polynesian Cultural Center

My wife and I with Maui at the PCC

The theme of the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) is family and the ties that bind. Every fan of “Lilo and Stitch” can tell you that “ohana” means “family.” Those who aren’t fans of the Disney film will still know “ohana” means “family” by the end of the day.

If you take a bus chartered through the PCC, your adoption into the family will start with your bus guide the moment you leave Waikiki.The BYU-Hawaii student, who is paying his or her tuition in part by working at the PCC, will introduce you to the concept of “cousin,” which means anyone of Polynesian descent, and for the length of the stay at PCC, anyone who is visiting the center. Our guide was funny with his dry sense of humor, and he related interesting facts about Polynesian cultures and the PCC before we arrived. He also took our food orders for Pounders and made sure we got our tickets into the PCC.

At the Huki Canoe Show, we were again reminded of the meaning of “ohana.” In the Polynesian cultures, “the waters do not divide us;they unite us.” Marriage between different seafaring cultures keeps the gene pool fresh. While the Polynesians of long ago may not have known the science,they did realize that people marrying between different islands helped to prevent war.

The Hawaiian Journey film reinforced the concept of family. The story that frames the beauty of the island is told from the perspective a Hawaiian boy who learns about who he is from his grandma. As the film ends, his granddaughter will learn about her heritage from him.

Ha: The Breath of Life” follows the same structure with a father and mother giving birth to a boy and ending with the son and his wife having a daughter. The family is at the center of the story line. We live for our families. We fight for our families, and we die for our families because of love. If you didn’t believe the family was important before your day at the Polynesian Cultural Center, you should have no doubt about its centrality to life after your visit.

For more on the Polynesian Cultural Center, check out my review.