It wasn’t quite that my parents didn’t care what we wanted to do, when we went to Disneyland. It was that their interests were occasionally allowed to override ours. We always went on the train first thing, while my dad was alive, because my dad loved trains. He took me and my older sister on Big Thunder Mountain when it opened, which we hated—he had for years ditched my mom with us to go on Space Mountain by himself, as my mom doesn’t like roller coasters. The last time I went to Disneyland with my mom, when I was in college, my sister begged me to ride Small World with her so my sister wouldn’t have to. My parents ignored my fear of Haunted Mansion for years. And, once, they took me on Adventures Thru Inner Space.
By then, it was no longer sponsored by Monsanto; apparently, that partnership ended in 1977, when I was a babe in arms. Still, the basic premise of the ride remained. Paul Frees voiced a scientist who had developed a way to shrink you down to the unseen world of the microscopic. First into a snowflake, then into its individual crystals, then its molecules, its atoms—and he stops there, before entering the nucleus and shrinking still smaller, apparently afraid of what might happen if he went smaller. (It seems we would’ve run into Michelle Pfeiffer?) You are then returned to the macroscopic and pass under the giant eye of the scientist before you reach a jaunty Sherman Brothers tune and a hall about the wonders of Monsanto. Or, at the point I was riding, a gift shop.
As a child, your sense of fantasy versus reality is not fully developed, which is probably why my five-year-old asks so many questions about what’s fiction and what’s nonfiction. (And, yes, he uses those words.) I remember being afraid that the hitchhiking ghosts really would follow us home even though I didn’t fully believe in ghosts, and I definitely remember being afraid that we were really being shrunk, because although the Mighty Microscope doesn’t look convincing to me now, well, that ride got taken out in 1985. I was eight. I’m not sure how old I was when we actually rode it, but since it was with my dad, I was no older than five.
I actually called my mother about this one, and she has no real clear memory of the subject, either, which may well mean that my panic was internal. That can happen to small children. You can be too afraid to explain why you’re afraid. And you may ask, you know, you obviously went back to normal at the end, so why would you still be afraid? And the answer is “because I was perhaps four or five.” Looking back, I’m not sure if I was afraid that I grew back somehow different or that I might shrink again or what, but if you go on YouTube and watch virtual versions of the ride—which you can do—I think you might understand it some.
It is a pretty interesting ride, though. Granted, some of its understanding of subatomic physics is wrong—it’s still using the solar system model of atoms, at least somewhat—but there are worse ways to gain a working understanding of the microscopic. Provided, at least, that you’re old enough to not panic over the whole thing. Paul Frees doing his best Orson Welles won’t help you avoid that, though, I’m afraid.