You’ve just arrived to Disney World for another day as Donald Duck.
Every morning you report to work in your Donald Duck uniform, ready to bring Disney to life for guests. Since Walt Disney created the park in 1950 to destroy the swamp of an alligator he thought might be Jewish, people from all over the world have come to see their favorite Disney World sights: beloved characters, Cinderella’s Castle, and unhinged adults getting engaged.
But even though you work at the Happiest Place on Earth, there’s something missing in your life.
A friend. A true friend.
You used to be friends with a trash can that kind of looked like it had a nose, but then it ditched you for a trash can that kind of looked like it had eyes.
Being Donald Duck is lonely. It’s hard to connect with people when you’re trapped in a dark, stale costume with a 90-pound feathered ass attachment. And you’re practically forbidden from communicating with anyone in a genuine sense, because you have to follow the Behavior Code for Valued Members of the Disney World Family:
1) If you’re wearing a mask, no taking off your mask.
2) No talking to visitors. Especially no telling kids that they live in a Toy Story universe where every time they fall asleep, giant alien children are using them as action figures.
3) No withholding autographs from any visitors, even the teenagers who are desperately asking for the autographs of every single character because they learned that their long-lost birth father works as a Disney World actor and the only other thing they have is his signature on their birth certificate. This scenario unfolds roughly five to six times per day at the park.
4) No vomiting.
You want someone to talk to, someone to laugh with, someone who will have your back through thick and thin. But the code makes that hard. And to make matters worse, you’re stationed at one of the park’s most remote outposts: Pinnochio’s Old West Starvation Camp and Mini Golf, where guests can watch their favorite Disney characters fight over a tin cup of molasses. The only people who make it all the way out to your desolate slice of the park are history professors, church groups that are looking for a kid who’s been missing for 36 hours but don’t want to make a big deal out of it, and pioneers. You hate your part of Disney World.
You’re not supposed to leave your Old West Starvation Camp and Mini Golf area. It’s your job to bring the American frontier to life for visitors, so your boss insists that you spend your time riding a Conestoga wagon, feeding Native American relics to a horse, or building a railroad until you die. It’s significantly hampered your ability to make a new friend.
Your boss is irritable and demanding. Every day, you ask him if you can broaden your horizons and visit another area of the park. Every day, he says no. But last night, you watched the scene in Lilo & Stitch where best friends Lilo and Stitch grab coffee and catch up, and your desire for one true friend at Disney World is greater than ever.
This is Disney World’s Pinocchio. He is your boss. He has worked at the park for 40 years and was promoted to your supervisor for digging up Walt Disney’s body and dressing it in traditional Nepalese garb for the “It’s A Small World” ride.
“No. Go waddle around in front of that family outside and pretend that you just ran over an outlaw with your wagon.”
“No, I have way too many friends as it is, like gnats on a hog’s corpse. Now go waddle around in front of that family outside and pretend that you just ran over an outlaw with your wagon.”
You did not make one true friend. In fact, you made enemies of an entire Portuguese family, who immediately called the police when they assumed that you were confessing to a real murder you had committed with a wagon, and now you’ve been banned from the park for life.
“This turtleneck is wonderful already.”
“Go get me a brown one so that people think my neck is a branch.”
“That’s depressing. Leave.”
Now that you’ve finally convinced Pinocchio to let you leave this lonely outpost, you have free rein to explore the world around you for one true friend. Someone who cares about you. Someone who will make sacrifices for you. Someone who will defend you from the actual ducks that attack you because you’re their version of a Yeti.
Where do you want to look for your friend?
The Magic Kingdom. The crown jewel of the Disney empire. Home to Cinderella’s Castle, angry fathers, and so many white people. It’s the most popular theme park in the world and the Most Magical Place on Earth. If you can find a true friend anywhere, surely it’s here.
The Magic Kingdom. Here it is. The only place in the world where creativity becomes reality, heroes become way sweatier than you thought they’d be, and every nationality becomes a caricature. A Christian American wet dream come to life in a swamp. Your one true friend must be waiting here somewhere.
The Magic Kingdom. Every child’s dream and every pedophile’s dream a little more. A sunny, sweaty petri dish teeming with capitalism, sunscreen, and, just maybe, that one true friend that you’re looking for.
As you wrap your head around the splendor of the Magic Kingdom, you see a potential friend. She’s standing in a grassy area reserved for people who shelled out for a FastPass but who want somewhere nice to sit and marvel at the people who wait in line.
She looks toward you. She seems excited to be in a place where she can see a fake mouse and a real elephant on the same day, so maybe she’d be happy to make a new friend to enjoy them both with.
In a perfect world, you would strike up a conversation with this potential friend, but Disney laws prohibit the actors from talking to guests.
You never find out if she wants you to take a picture, because someone else just waltzed up and stole the attention of your potential new friend.
You never find out if she wants you to assassinate a nemesis for her, because someone else just waltzed up and stole the attention of your potential new friend.
Uh-oh. It seems like you have competition for your friend.
She didn’t even notice you coming closer. She’s too busy flooding Buzz Lightyear with questions and hugs.
“Buzz Lightyear, be my best friend in the whole world! Come everywhere with me! Come to my birthday party and to the store and to my piano teacher’s divorce proceedings!”
She still hasn’t addressed you at all.
“Buzz Lightyear, let’s do everything together! Let’s spill stuff and lie to substitute teachers and share every experience for years until one of us becomes embarrassed by the other in high school and slowly pulls away with no explanation!”
She hasn’t said anything to you.
“Buzz Lightyear, I would kill this duck if you asked me to!”
By taking off your mask, you broke the strict rules of your employment. As a result, you landed in Disney World’s makeshift version of jail, the Central Florida Correctional Institution.
You lunge at Buzz, but he’s much quicker than you because his costume doesn’t have an ass made of lead, and he skillfully turns the attack from you into a caring, supportive hug from him.
“Buzz Lightyear! You met anger with love! Come skiing with my family!”
This kid is even more won over by Buzz Lightyear now. Your chance is over.
Where do you want to go to get as far away as possible from that noble, charming spaceman and avoid any future comparison between the two of you?
Space Mountain is a Disney fan favorite, known for showing its visitors the wonders of the cosmos and the fact that a bunch of small lightbulbs in a dark room really looks a lot like space.
There’s an incredibly long line to get into the ride. But everyone in it is just looking down at their phones, cut off from the world around them, using a popular new app where users confide their deepest secrets in cartoon ducks dressed as sailors. No one wants to talk to you.
“Welcome. Are you interested in embarking on the challenging journey that is Space Mountain? Are you ready to test your character on this boundless adventure of planets and galaxies and some Star Wars shit that they recently shoehorned in? Are you prepared to see what old men in the 1970s thought would impress people forever?”
“I’m not a guest. You can talk to me out loud.”
“I’m Cristian, and my organization runs Space Mountain. Should you make it through the biggest drop on this ride without throwing up, you’ve passed the crucial test, and you’ll be inducted as a member.”
“We’re the Latin Kings. We seek to embody the kind of sacrifice, courage, and teamwork that once opened the door to the greatest frontier of all: outer space. We took over the sponsorship of Space Mountain after FedEx dropped out and we moved our headquarters here. We’ve been running it smoothly and acquiring members at a steady rate since 2004.
“This ride determines whether or not you’ll join our lifelong brotherhood. If you do, we‘ll have your back, and you’ll have ours. Our blood will be your blood, and your blood will be our blood. And you’ll have to wipe down the seats of the cars once a month, but we all take turns.”
“That’s okay. You’ll never have the kind of bond that we have with each other if you don’t get on the ride, but maybe you can buy a stuffed animal at a CVS and pretend that it would die for you.”
Where do you want to go?
“Great. Get in one of the cars and put on the seat belt, and I’ll start the ride.”
You are immediately murdered by Cristian. Motor safety is the biggest priority of the Latin Kings after educating people about space.
As your rocket leaves the start of the ride, you pass some Christmas lights wrapped around a disco ball, which is Space Mountain’s version of a supernova, and then you pass Bob Iger giving a trifold presentation on his favorite constellation.
Next, you start to climb the hill. An animatronic astronaut floats by and tells you that space food is so good that he plans on roving from museum gift shop to museum gift shop and stealing it from spoiled children.
You climb and you climb.
You get to the top of the hill.
The rocket plunges down into Space Mountain’s biggest drop.
You failed to pass the test that would earn you brotherhood. You were killed by the Latin Kings for vomiting on Space Mountain. You did not make a friend.
You passed the initiation test for the Latin Kings and joined a lifelong brotherhood that will give you support and companionship. You’ll spend the rest of your days respecting space travel, making sure that Space Mountain is operating properly, and slaughtering anyone who throws up on the ride.
You made true friends!
The sewer is only open to visitors between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m., so going there during working hours won’t help you find any new friends.
You can tell you’ve arrived when you pass through a welcome archway made of fireworks and antelope bones. Where do you want to go first?
Dinosaur World is one of Disney’s most beloved roller-coasters. It teaches visitors about different kinds of prehistoric animals by taking them on a magical ride through the bowels of a giant whale that’s eaten every kind of dinosaur.
The only open roller-coaster car is the one with this boy in it.
He looks at you and says “It’s Gronald Goose!”
Just as you’re sitting down, you hear an announcement that the ride will be delayed for a few minutes while Disney engineers clear off a Super Bowl MVP who fell onto the tracks.
It looks like you’d better pass the time and try to communicate with your seat mate.
“No, it’s not my first time at Disney’s Dinosaur World. I’ve been here 12 other times, one to celebrate each time I got an expander.”
Okay, it seems like he didn’t quite understand what was going on with your gestures, but he’s talking to you.
You hear an announcement come on that says the MVP is still on the tracks but that they’re just going to go for it anyway. The roller-coaster starts to move.
“Yeah, I’ve been to Harry Potter World, but only 11 times, one to celebrate each time I wrapped my expander in a napkin and threw it away at a Wendy’s.”
He’s still not totally understanding what you’re saying, but at least you’re trying.
You hear an announcement that says the ride is too heavy to make it past the MVP and that it’s about to derail completely unless one person jumps off immediately.
“Roger that. Thanks for sacrificing yourself. Bye, Gronald!”
He pushed you off. You died after jumping the gun to sacrifice yourself for someone who didn’t even know your name.
You died learning about all the different dinosaurs living in the organs of a whale, and you didn’t make any friends along the way.
You look around you at Mufasa’s Planet Wildlife. It’s hot, because park employees simulate an authentic savanna temperature by keeping roaring fires of priceless African archaeological artifacts. You see the bright sun, the exotic landscapes, and a fourth-grader who insists that he won’t go back to his family until he sees a giraffe hump a baobab tree.
Suddenly, you hear a thundering sound behind you.
“Welcome to Mufasa’s Planet Wildlife! My name is Simba, and I’m in charge of the Rafiki Safari, which I lead with my trusted elephant, Cinderella. Are you interested in going on a safari?”
You’re feeling a bit dizzy in the savanna temperature with your heavy costume, but this could be a good opportunity to make a friend and maybe see a plastic termite mound along the way.
“Wonderful! Please just sign this waiver to agree that it’s your responsibility if you die here and that, if that’s the case, we have the right to tell your family that you provoked a wild water buffalo by bringing your own water buffalo to the safari. Let’s get started!”
Okay. The heat is definitely getting a little uncomfortable, but you’re not going to find a true friend without leaving your comfort zone, right?
“Terrific! Climb on into a safari vehicle and follow me.”
You get into a hot Jeep, insert an elephant tusk into the ignition, and start.
Simba sniffs the air, and frowns. He turns to you.
“Do you want to use some Ariel’s Deodorant for Active Princesses before we go?”
“Before we get started, I want each of you to look to your left and to your right and get to know your safari partners, with whom you may need to gossip about hippos.”
You turn to your left and see the most beautiful being you’ve ever laid eyes on. Her blue sclera; her knife-like tongue; her enchanting, feminine eye shadow…
Like you, Daisy isn’t allowed to talk. She can hold up a sign, though.
You turn to your right and see a pudgy kid, maybe 8 or 9 years old. He’s got a watch hooked to his belt loop, and he smells like corn starch. He really seems pretty lame. Jesus.
“Hi, Donald Duck! I love you, and you’re a hero to me. I wish we could talk and spend time together and go to the pond and feed pieces of bread to other ducks and other children.”
He brought his own glass of milk onto the ride? What a dork.
“Okay! We’re going to start with the lame part of the safari where we show you gazelles that are basically just deer. They’re a normal size and they don’t kill anything, but it can’t all be lions and elephants, so check these guys out.”
“These two chimpanzees are very close. They’re the inspiration for an upcoming Disney movie in which an upper-class chimpanzee befriends a poor pauper chimpanzee and the two work together to kill a human.”
“This is a little baby!!!”
“…This is a dead bird…We stole it from the road…”
His voice is getting fuzzy, and your vision is getting warped.
It’s so hot. You feel terrible.
Just as you started waving your arms for help, your guide is attacked by a bunch of wildebeest that thought they knew him from somewhere. He can’t help you.
You can feel the sweat pooling in your giant duck fingers.
You’re having a heat stroke.
You died after seeking help from the most beautiful and heartless duck in the world.
Robert immediately gives you some water and a cool washcloth, and then he personally escorts you to a shady area and waits until you’re lucid. He stuck up for you, and you’d be dead or irreparably injured without him. He still smells like corn starch.
“I understand if you don’t want to be my friend,” Robert chortles in his awful voice. “If you want to go somewhere colder than the safari, you should try the Himalayan village. I went there once when I was suspended from school for a day for fainting too much at assemblies. Or, if you want to get some rest before enjoying the rest of your day at the park, my family has a room at the Best Western that’s not formally affiliated with Disney World but offers reasonably priced rooms that are technically within the park’s boundaries.”
The Animal Kingdom consists of Mufasa’s Planet Wildlife, Disney’s Dinosaur World, and Asia, which includes the peaceful Himalayan Snowtime Village. First built in 1999 to serve as a Y2K shelter for the cast of Inspector Gadget, it seems cooler in temperature than the rest of the park.
“Brrr! Welcome the Himalayan Snowtime Village, where you’ll see snow leopards, a dead Everest climber, and a bunch of macaws we had left over from another thing.
“I’m Cole. I go to high school nearby, which means I just get to work here. Are you ready for priceless cultural experiences like Dr. Maharajah’s Smoothie Harem and grilled cheese sandwiches in the shape of Buddha?”
“You’re lucky, because today is a special surprise in the Himalayan Snowtime Village…”
“Get ready, snowsplorer, because it’s…”
“TROPICAL DESERT BEACH DAY at the Himalayan Snowtime Village!!!”
“Crank the heat, everyone!!!”
The village oxen have all been revealed to be space heaters with wigs on them. A giant greenhouse roof is closing in over the village to trap in the heat. A sitar version of Sean Paul’s “Temperature” is playing.
It is overwhelmingly hot. You are immobilized.
You suffered a heat stroke and went to the Disney World hospital, which consists of a bunch of Make-A-Wish kids and the doctors who tell them that Jafar is going to come trap them as a genie in a Crock-Pot if they don’t take their medicine. Neither group wants to be friends with you.
You suffered a heat stroke and went to the Disney World hospital, which consists of a bunch of Make-A-Wish kids and the doctors who tell them that Jafar is going to come trap them as a genie in a Crock-Pot if they don’t take their medicine. You are ignored and then fired.
This is the Best Western. It’s not officially affiliated with Disney World, but it’s affordably priced and has a great shuttle to different areas of the park. It’s perfectly nice, and just because some little brats stay at the Animal Kingdom Four Seasons where there’s a giraffe outside their window and rhino-shaped french toast in the morning doesn’t mean that this isn’t a fine place to stay.
You walk a bit into the lobby, past cookies that are maybe free and dads that are on their way out to move the car for the third time so that they can see it from their room.
You see two doors.
You walk into the pool area and see your boss, Pinocchio.
“Hello, Donald Duck.”
“This is where I lifeguard.”
“No, but only on the condition that you jump in the pool and let me be a lifeguard.”
“Because I’m very good at it. Before my job at Pinnochio’s Old West Starvation Camp and Mini Golf, I trained as a lifeguard by saving all the Jamaican men dressed as lobsters that nearly drowned in the live-action Little Mermaid spin off, Sebastian And His Clones Try To Kill A Whale.”
“Trust me, if you jump into that pool right now, I know how to save you.”
You died after your boss, Pinocchio, watched you drown. He’s a terrific lifeguard and could have easily saved you if he wanted to, but he clearly wanted to teach you some lesson about not leaving your post. It will be tough to apply that lesson because you are dead.
This is the only person in the business center. There is a printer, a TV and VHS, and a bowl of apples and coffee creamer.
“Thank you. I’m afraid I can’t hear you quack or scream. I’m very old and my hearing is terrible. It’s nearly impossible to communicate with me, which is why my family abandoned me here while they explore Disney World and get face paint that spells out ‘We don’t have a grandma’ when they all stand in a line.
“I stay in this business center all day and make sure I follow the rules that they left me in the printer. I pass the time by drinking coffee creamer and watching my favorite Disney movie, which is Song Of The South.”
“I need a companion to watch my movie and keep me from being lonely. Would you like to watch Song Of The South with me?”
“Okay. I’m going to watch it by myself and hold a nice piece of warm printer paper up to my face while I do.”
You made a true friend. You can bond over having to follow the same rules, and you made a sacrifice by watching a terribly racist movie for her sake. She accepts your flaw of not being able to speak to her by virtue of not being able to hear you. You have a lot in common, and now you have each other. Maybe you’ll even, over time, convince her to watch a different, less-racist movie. After all, that’s what friends are for.