Thursday, September 5, 2013
If You Had Wings
For the last few days I have had this song, if you can call it that, stuck in my head:
If you had wings
You could do many things
You could widen your world
If you had wings
OK, so it's not Proust, or even Rod McKuen. It's the jingle that played in the ride called "If You Had Wings," at Disney World in Orlando, until that ride closed in the mid-1980s.
"If You Had Wings," against all probability, was my favorite Disney World ride. It wasn't about speed or thrills, like "Space Mountain," or humor and adventure, like "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride," and it didn't involve ghosts or giant squid or pirates.
Instead, it was about traveling the world, and it was relatively peaceful and relaxing. The lilting choral jingle, which absolutely embedded itself in the rider's inner ear, accompanied a slow trip through a dark tunnel where Mexican dancers twirled on a patio and bathing-suit clad tourists climbed a Caribbean waterfall. A Bahamian traffic cop guided pedestrians and flamingoes in opposing directions. Seagulls flew in a graceful, animated cluster across the dark blue sky.
The ride was sponsored by Eastern Airlines, and built the tail end of the era when jet travel was seen as exclusive and stylish. It fed into my strong desire to see the world. At this point in my conscious life I'd only been to Washington, D.C., to visit my grandparents. But as I've written before, I collected stamps, I was aware of the globe and I wanted to see it all.
I got to thinking about "If You Had Wings" the other day, and after some Internet research came across an entertaining blog post that described its history, as well as a video taken in 1985 (unfortunately very dark -- all that's visible are the illuminated projections within the ride's chambers, rather than the rooms themselves) and an audio clip of that infuriatingly addictive tune. (Not as infuriating as "It's a Small World," I'll grant you.) The blog mentions the ticket system at Disney World, which I remember, but I'd forgotten that "If You Had Wings" was free. I guess that makes sense, since it was basically a big commercial for Eastern.
Apparently there was even an Eastern reservation desk at the conclusion of the ride, in case watching those people traipse through a waterfall was so inspiring that a rider was compelled to drop a couple hundred clams right away. I don't remember this reservation desk -- maybe I ignored it, since I wasn't in a position to spend clams.
In high school, I remember making my girlfriend ride through "If You Had Wings" numerous times. She probably wanted to be on "Space Mountain" with everyone else our age.
Anyway, it was fun to track down some online history of this ride and see the photos. The space today is occupied by an undoubtedly more high-tech ride based on the "Toy Story" movie franchise. I'm sure it's far less relaxing.
(Photo: A couple in Hackney Wick, on Aug. 17. This has nothing to do with "If You Had Wings," but I don't have any photos of that attraction!)