Interview with David Koenig, Author of More Mouse Tales
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David Koenig has published three books about Disney, Mouse Tales: A Behind-The-Ears Look at Disneyland, Mouse Under Glass: Secrets of Disney Animation and Theme Parks and More Mouse Tales: A Closer Peek Backstage at Disneyland. This interview was conducted at his office in early August. In it he discusses his personal Disney background and the process of writing the books. He also delves into why he wrote on some of the more controversial subjects he covers in his latest book and gives his feelings about Disneyland today and the future.
LaughingPlace: What is your personal history with Disney and Disneyland?
David Koenig: I was born in Chicago. We moved out here when I was three and a couple years later moved to Costa Mesa. I'm not from a wealthy family so a trip to Disneyland was once a year or once every other year and that was the highlight of the year. Now I have an annual pass so it's a different type of thing. Before it was like the equivalent of a vacation. It was a huge, huge deal. We'd get those coupons and all the kids would get together and say "what are you going to use your "E" coupons on?" Because there were more "E" rides than there were "E" coupons. That was just a huge, huge deal.
There were things I really liked, I always liked Storybook Land. l like when they submerge you into a different world and to me, with such detail, it was just so perfect and the music and everything - I loved that. I liked the Magic Shop. That was kind of neat because there were all these funny guys screwing around in the Magic Shop. They used to have one in Fantasyland, Merlin's Magic Shop. As I grew up my favorite became the Jungle Cruise. because after you're at Disneyland several times, I don't want to say you get more jaded, you come to realize that there are people working and this is a big place. It's like if you see a movie a couple of times and you start to think "how did the director do that" as opposed to just enjoying the story. And I'd always appreciate the Jungle Cruise because those guys just seemed to be having more fun than anyone else, laughing and making other people laugh.
So I always liked Disney and thought that would be a neat place to work, but i never did have a chance to work there. I went to Cal State Fullerton and had a lot of friends who worked there and by that time I had gotten a job as a waiter and was making enough for rent, so there was no going to Disneyland at that point. My last semester at Fullerton, 15 years ago, there was a big strike and all my friend, eight to ten pretty good friends, all worked at Disneyland and they all loved Disneyland. They had fun with their jobs, they appreciated Disneyland, they felt part of the family.
A couple were Jungle Cruise drivers, most worked for attractions, so they weren't naive. But they loved Disneyland and they all went out on strike. And the curious thing, I don't know anybody who liked Disneyland more than them and they were picketing Disneyland. One of them I saw on TV holding a picket sign that said "Don't go to Disneyland". I'm thinking, this is bizarre. these people who love Disneyland are telling people not to go to Disneyland. And I knew one guy who always wanted to work there and he was sort of an un-Disney like person. a little more crude than you'd expect a typical Cast Member to be. And he wanted to work for Disneyland for some reason and they would never hire him. When my friends went on strike they hired him as a scab and I thought that was so bizarre that all these Disney loving people were out holding picket signs telling people not to go to Disneyland and here this most un-Disney like person you could ever imagine was working on Dumbo. I thought at that time, "I'd like to read more about this."
The papers covered it briefly and that's when I first
started thinking this would be an interesting story to talk about. To record these
people's funny stories about things they did on their last day of work or whatnot, but as
well the deeper story of behind the scenes and what goes through the minds of the people
that work there. These people who are sometimes critical of the job maybe, but love
Disneyland every bit as much as I do. And that's when I started thinking of turning this
into writing. and I was as already a writer so that's how that all fell together
LP: Are you currently an Annual Passholder?
DK: I currently am an AP.
LP: How often do you go to Disneyland?
DK: Not as often as I would like. There'll
be times when I do a lot of research and I get there more often than I like, especially
when it's crowded. To me, a crowded day at Disneyland is not much fun. That last year of
the Electrical Parade, it was a nice emotional time to see it the last few times, but it
got so busy. They put 80-85 thousand people in a park that was not made to fit more than
60-65 thousand and it was so uncomfortable and I'm thinking "I'd rather be like
anywhere but here" because my favorite thing now is just to walk around and talk to
people and look at things and have a meal there. Not so much any one attraction, just
enjoy Disneyland and the music, the performances, that's the best thing. So now I get
there probably once a month