Hiro's stomach growls. He skipped breakfast. Walking around sure works an appetite yet he's known for doing much more demanding work without breaking a sweat. Their current destination is Toontown on the Northern most part of the map and that's exactly what the sign says above him, headed by a bridge.
Everything looks colorful like it was trying to replicate a 2D painting come to life in a 3D realm.
"Bum bum! My gift to you. A luxury lunch fit for a king." Fred says proudly. Hiro doesn't think to believe it at first but then remembers, it's Fred who's saying this. He would either go all out and have a catering company come or just order a Noodle Burger, there was no in-between with him.
"This is the place. So, what are you in the mood for?"
Hiro takes a look. Pluto's Dog House sells hot dogs and turkey sandwiches, which makes sense since dogs chase birds and whatever other animals they can spot. He wonders if the turkey is made from the same stuff he saw earlier.
Clarabelle's is right near with more turkey sandwiches, dairy and fruit in the form of frozen yogurt, he might have to come back to that for dessert. Her logo is designed more like the old colorized versions of the 1930s Disney shorts, it makes Hiro wonder if there were a way to make a section of the park to match the black and white aesthetic that came before it. Constantly thinking forward and by doing that, he looks back.
The triplets, Huey, Dewey and Louie have a Good Time Cafe with multi-colored umbrellas. This is more for snacks based around Mickey gloves and webbed feet, fries and spring rolls. The soda machine and shelves are even stylized in the kitchen with leaning jars of mayo, ketchup and mustard and meters that would make you go 'what's this doohickey for?' It strokes the curiosity.
His attention wanders over to Mickey's house where he sees the old red jalopy he remembers from House of Mouse. "It almost reminds me of your car, Wasabi." Gogo comments.
"Ha-Ha. Very funny." Wasabi sarcastically comes back with.
Minnie's House is across the street. What it would be like to have all your friends live next to each other, would he grow tired of them? They could all fit in Fred's Mansion, they wouldn't even need separate houses, just separate rooms. They'll explore later, now time for lunch!
In the corner is the final food spot, Daisy's Diner. Every one of them is for outdoor food with park benches, no sit-down table seating but this seems the most comparable to an actual restaurant. "This one." Hiro points.
"Now that you've gotten familiar with the characters. I can get you a pass to dine with any one of them." Fred gets closer and starts whispering in Hiro's ear. "Even the ones they don't regularly bring out. Hercules, huh? Huh?"
Hiro thinks long and hard. Disney has a history spanning over a hundred years, with characters surpassing that number, this is a rare opportunity that he may never get again. He might as well go with Fred's advice and pick a rare one since he has a chance to meet some of the others in the park yet.
There is one character that he's been interested in that isn't a normal appearance. He stares down his squad-mates, his family, his friends. He isn't sure that any of them would even be able to recognize who it is, this would be a decision made purely for Hiro. He almost feels guilty, double guessing his choice, but in the end, it is his birthday after all and just because they may not know him, doesn't mean they can't enjoy him.
A few moments later, Oswald The Lucky Rabbit appears. All things considered, it was quite fleet-footed of a response after telling the lady at the counter. Just like the sticker on his wall in his bedroom, except this one looks a lot more joyful.
"Ooh!" Cass bounces up and down. "Everyone get together, I want to take a picture."
"It's the Easter Bunny!"
"Easter Bunny?" Hiro mutters.
She snaps the picture with her phone. Everyone's smiling, except Hiro. Who's more shocked from her false statement than anything. Of course, half the crew is giving each other bunny ears.
"Pizza or a salad." Cass contemplates rhetorically. Indulgent or healthy...healthier anyway. "Oh!" She flails her arms. "Fine, when in Disney." She bites her nail.
Hiro looks down at his slice, the steam rolling off, appetizing, a real deluxe feeling to it. He picks it up, putting the end to his mouth for a first bite. He chews three times before slowing down and looking around. His hunger is killed. He's distracted. It's sensory overload in an unfamiliar place. He can't enjoy the pizza for what it's worth when he's fed by excitement.
Next ride. Next ride. Next ride. His body wants to tell him but he sees the others chewing just fine. Hiro instead takes a sip of his drink, fondling the straw in his mouth. Oswald is standing right there. That's another thing he's unsure about, whether he's worried about this lasting or not. He'll always have time with his friends, that's the best part about it, so why does he feel this way? Why can't he just take things for what they're worth?
Oh, that's right! Hiro grabs a notebook from his bag and hands it to Oswald, complete with pen. "Can you sign this for me?" Hiro asks, sheepishly rocking on his toes. Oswald happily accepts, putting the book on his nose and signing the page. He hands it back and does the famous Mickey pose with his hands behind his back and his left foot raised. Hiro smiles. "Thank you."
"And-!" Aunt Cass comes back from Good Time Cafe with a cupcake. Blue icing. Somehow she managed to sneak in a candle too. Though with that lenient security guard at the front gate, Hiro shouldn't be surprised.
"Make a wish!" As if that wasn't already obvious. The words 'What do I wish for?' have become a trope but in this sort of situation, what do you wish for, how much thought should go into a wish?
'I wish the next line won't be that long.'
No clapping. It's not a congratulatory event especially sandwiched between one that's already been done before and probably one to come after. Instead Oswald celebrates by sticking his hands up to his face as if he's sticking his tongue out.
It's a good thing Hiro's not expected to eat it, then he'd feel bad. The thing is, who does he reward his cupcake to? In a way, it should be Fred since it was him that brought them here and him that planned the meal, he might not have cooked it but he planned it. Do they even know that Hiro's not supposed to eat it?
Just then, Aunt Cass takes it away, saving him the trouble. "Alright, who wants it?" So, she did explain it to them beforehand. And just like that, Fred takes it off her hands. He pulls out a fork and eats it bite by bite. He's erratic like that.
"Coffee? We'll see about that." Cass remarks looking to see what else is on the menu. She gives it a shot, gulping a mouthful with no expression for its heat. She balls her fist up for a swallow. Creamy. Bold. Like hot chocolate with a coffee glow. "It's alright."
She takes another sip, secretly knowing that it's better than her own, and happy that she can have something to compare it to and improve on. Her plan fails though when she's the only one who orders it; There's no other opinion to go off of. It would be a stark offense on Lucky Cat had they conceded. Besides, they're already hyped up from the experience alone, no caffeine necessary.
Oswald taps his foot on the ground, letting the cast member know that it's time. To save the awkwardness, Hiro stands up first, also drawing attention away from his uneaten food.
"See ya!" Everyone joins in. They simultaneously wave. He shakes his fluffy tail and is escorted away.
What's fun about Toontown is that it literally acts as a town with its own little post office, city hall, doctors and alleyways. They pass a red trolley, labelled the "Jolly Trolley". It reminds Hiro of the cable cars back home, except much smaller. The tracks look functional but the trolley doesn't move, it might've worked once but not so much now, it's more for decoration. Haha, Trolley Troubles.
The first house that catches Hiro's eye is Mickey's. A bit of a backtrack but there's a certain draw to it.
Hiro recognizes a lot of the easter eggs inside to some of the pictures on the wall, in the cabinet, a tv playing black and white cartoons but the first thing he messes with is the washing machine of all things. Hand cranked, a technological downgrade, but it swishes the water in a circle. That's something that Hiro doesn't consider as often as he should, hands-on interactivity. With tech, it's the next and latest model until something better replaces it, normally implying an automatic status to save more work.
A puzzling fact is that the calendar shows Society Dog Show, a short from 1932 but the date says 1942, perhaps Hiro doesn't know everything about it after all. He could just ask Baymax, his walking, talking computer but again, there's a certain allusion to figuring things out on his own, maybe that's where the analog things could be beneficial to Hiro and his mindset.
Hiro's track stops when he realizes he's no longer heading through the house, the laundry room headed directly outside, or at least an inside version of it, into Mickey's barn and garden. Outside the fence in a very narrow grass patch is Pluto's house. The garden itself has carrots sink into their sockets, followed by a rabbit or gopher with one of the prizes in his mouth like a game of Whack-A-Mole. Chip and Dale would be jealous.
Inside the barn, chickens cluck as Hiro's eyes pop at the sight of the magic mirror. He stares at it, hoping the face from Snow White would appear but the cue reveals faint version of Mickey's own face. A creepy sight to be sure. The brooms from Sorcerer's Apprentice line the walls and rafters. Frames for socks, including a giant's which could mean the one from Brave Little Tailor or even Willie the Giant. The different clothes hung up resemble the ones from 'The Band Concert' and 'Symphony Hour' along with some beach clothes.
The whole thing is set up to be his own studio with costumes and props and paint, all the individual pieces to make a production. Up top there's a door that reads 'Production' with Donald and Goofy's hats strung up like they're inside screening a short. Outside that room leads to a one man band machine as well as a fork. They can either head back to Toontown or to the left to meet Mickey.
Hiro feels a set of hands on his shoulders. He looks up-
"It wouldn't seem right if we didn't meet Mickey." Cass mentions. He follows her outlook.
They're led into a screening room where they watch the latest Mickey cartoon. This one is about Mickey losing his fish. A cast member comes to retrieve them, saying they can meet the star and director, Mickey Mouse. The next room is a vault of various film reels before the cast member finally allows access into the movie set.
They head down a zig-zag ramp. Mickey stands in the middle, his apprentice outfit on, with the hat on a pedastal. Too powerful for any one mouse.
Mickey holds his hand out.
"Oh!" Hiro reaches in his bag to grab his notebook again. He holds it from a distance, Mickey looking at it before pointing at Oswald's name. "Oh, yeah. That's Oswald."
Mickey nods then puts his hand on his heart.
"Brothers." Hiro says for him. "You're right."
Mickey signs and hands Hiro back his notebook then makes a camera frame with his fingers.
"Oh, uh, you want me to pose?" Hiro asks. Mickey nods in response. Hiro puts his hands on his hips, trying to look heroic. Mickey copies.
"And action!" Yells the cast member. They get their picture taken and end of scene.
Now that's Oswald and Mickey.
The barn leads out to posters and the exit leads to Mickey's garage. Everything seems so different in contrast because this is meant to be the return point from the world you were just in but the return world is still similar, the only thing different is the music, something Hiro hasn't really noticed until he went without it.
Goofy's House is quite big, his backyard more of a playground where kids are playing. In a way, they're trespassing, sliding and crawling through tunnels. But it makes sense with Goofy's son, Max, to have a playground, there's even a sign that reads 'How To Playground' fashioned after Goofy's solo 'How To-' cartoons. Chalk drawings cover up the entrance, it's not much that Hiro is interested it, it's aimed more for smaller children. It's his birthday, he's older, he can't drag friends who are even older than him into the kiddie pool (though, maybe Fred wouldn't mind). Though it's obviously the most populated area, perhaps in all of Toontown and for good reason, it's a good magnet for little kids.
Next door is Donald Duck's house, Hiro can imagine a Spongebob and Squidward dynamic coming from the two being neighbors. An orchestral version of the Ducktales theme plays over the loud speakers which is the first Hiro's taken notice to it. His house is designed like a boat which is unlike many iterations of his house in the cartoons but Hiro's not judging it by accuracy but more by personality.
The house isn't a walk-in area, it's a pass-by where you look through the windows. As soon as he looks though, it makes sense, the whole interior is underwater. There are gas and air pumps lining the front, pushing either of each will bubble the inside and make the ducks float inside along with a pile of gold coins.
Each window has a different duck with scuba gear. Huey, Dewey, Louie and Webby. One sitting in a chair, one hanging with starfish, one in a cyclone and one with a magnifying glass. Guess you'd have to attend a meet-and-greet to actually see Uncle Donald. Hiro plays the narrative in his head the the triplets and Webby went into his house unattended and flooded it while Donald was gone. He smiles at the thought.
Last house in the circle is Minnie's house. Most of it is pink, Hiro's least favorite color, though he can appreciate Honey's love for it. Her mailbox even matches with Mickey. Hiro's always been someone who tries to make all his stuff look different than any other, he couldn't understand how someone would want to match, even in a romantic context. He guesses that makes him 'independent' and 'unique'.
Gogo grabs the scruff of his shirt, stopping his pace cold. "You're going into a girl's bedroom."
Hiro is confused. "But it's a character. An attraction. There are tons of people-"
"Have you no shame?" Honey teases. Hiro's eyes widen, thinking twice about setting foot in the door.
"Oh-kay!" Hiro addresses, spinning his heel the other way. Just as he's about to exit, Fred shouts with excitement, letting him know that there's more.
"Oh ho ho ho, guys, watch this." Fred demonstrates by lifting the handle of one of the crates. Slip and slide sound effects emit from the box.
"And throughout this section- Just watch!" Fred excitedly presses a red button on the wall. It acts as a doorbell, making a little sound that's just barely audible over all the commotion from other people trying out all the wacky attractions. Fred catches everyone's attention again and points up. The button activated a Dalmatian, rising from the Fire Hall window. Everything has interaction.
Gag Factory, Enginear, stores for gifts and souvenirs. "Uh, I don't like the idea of carrying things." He'll save that for the end.
Next to Chip and Dale's Treehouse is Gadget's Go Coaster based on Rescue Rangers.
"It's probably not a good idea considering we just ate." Gogo looks up at the red track.
"Yeah, this was a good spot to eat because it's not as busy." Wasabi comments. The line might not be long for the ride but they have to be picky and choosy because they only have so much time.
Hiro checks his map. "Frontierland is next then...and last." He looks it over, not wanting to believe himself.
"Actually, we still have California Adventure." Wasabi corrects.
"That's where Toy Story Land is!" Honey Lemon shakes her fists down. Through this experience, Hiro is learning just what kind of movies and characters his friends like. Of course, everybody likes Toy Story, it should be no surprise, but what's their favorite character? What's their favorite part? What about it gets them excited to hear it?
Frontierland, that's where Woody would belong, the Wild West with cowboys and horses and canyons. The West doesn't seem so wild anymore though. Hiro looks around. It's quite tame in comparison. People walking with canes and sun hats, comparable to the size of cowboys but a lot less clothing.
He looks over at the canyon, a train passes by. It must be the famous Big Thunder Mountain. Here's where he's going to slip his reverse card in. Everyone in the group starts heading for the wait line. All things considered, a twenty minute wait isn't that bad but Hiro has other things in mind.
"Actually, I was thinking of going this way." He promotes confidently. Of course, he isn't sure what 'this way' meant and confides in the map for further direction for what he could possibly sidetrack to. Aha! It's a bit of a hike, but it'll do.
As he circles around Big Thunder, however, he sees the skeleton of a dinosaur peeking out of the rock. His mouth is agape as he continues walking. Dinosaurs in the park wasn't exactly on his list of expectations but a welcome one to say the least. It almost gives him a tinge of regret skipping the ride.
He swirls his head around, hoping to distract himself when he sees all the restaurants. Rancho del Zocalo, chicken, tacos, beef, Mexican cuisine. The Golden Horseshoe with fish, ice cream and would you look at that? One of cups in the shape of Woody's boot. Even the chili cheese fries sound good.
All this brings even more regret that Hiro didn't eat. His appetite seems back but once he sits down, will it remain? He doesn't want to pick something up after just refusing, it would be rude. Maybe before the day is over, he'll have Baymax come up with an excuse to break away.
"Do we know where we're going?" Wasabi asks.
"Do we have to?" Hiro teases, reaching for his pockets.
"Does it bother you that you're not driving?" Honey surprisingly jokes.
"I don't mind walking but maybe we should stop and ask for directions." The road is straightforward but long, heading this way and it being the wrong way would be cause for a lot of backtracking.
"No, we're good."
They head up a fenced bridge where a tunnel runs underneath with water. Suddenly-
"YAHHHHHAAAHHHHAAA!" They hear screaming underneath.
"Ok, now I'm a little concerned." Wasabi curls up closer to the others. For all he knows, there could be another Haunted Mansion just over the crest. The path has a lot of greenery, some leaves overhanging and blocking the view ahead but still, they press on.
"I see where we're going." Gogo smiles, looking up. She sees the tip of a broken off tree trunk. Everything beneath it is covered with foliage, a surprise for when it's actually revealed.
"Critter Country." Fred says. The first attraction they see is the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, or at least, the back end of it where the Honey Tree is.
"Home of the Country Bears." Fred adds, sticking his thumbs out.
"What are they?"
"No more! Discontinued! A tragedy among our time...except! The other Disneylands I've visited with Heathcliff. And also maybe my mom. Those were cool!"
Wasabi looks it up on his phone, realizing he's not getting the answer he wanted. "Puppets, really?"
"They're country and they're bears. What's not to love?" Fred asks.
Too bad they don't have anything to do with the Adventures of Gummi Bears. That's Hiro's favorite snack.
Right outside the tree lies a little stream, honey pots and little houses lining the inside of the fence. The Pooh Stix bridge. Something flies by Hiro's face. He takes it as a leaf or flying fuzz from somewhere off a tree, not paying it much mind but more continue to align with Hiro's line of sight. He takes a closer look, seeing that they're bubbles. It's been so long since he's seen them that their presence didn't register right away. Such a simple gesture but one that's always welcome.
He looks around for the source, people all over the place, had he moved away from the group, he'd easily lose them in the crowd. This is an instance where his stature makes him feel inferior.
"Oh my...you don't expect me to go on that, do you?"Splash Mountain becomes visible. Heights, a plunge, water (that may or may not be sterile). Wasabi's alarm is on red alert.
"It's a staple of the Disneyland experience." Gogo interferes.
"Not sure I like this initiation. Actually, I am sure. I don't."
"Then close your eyes." Gogo offers, proceeding through the line and leaving Wasabi behind.
"There, there." Baymax comforts, patting Wasabi's shoulder.
"Hey...Baymax. You know, you're alright." They walk into the line together. "I hope you don't mind me saying that you'd make a good pad if we fall. You're buoyant, we'd stay afloat too. HA! We're in better shape than anybody!"
"Look! A cute bear, a fox, even a bunny. This ride might not be so bad after all." He comments.
They pass through the doors. Two floors of a cabin, everything made of wood. Two sides for Fast Pass and regular lines, crates in the middle of the floor dividing them. Banjo music narrates their trot, soon introducing violins. The pace is steady, so either line would suffice.
Out and up a flight of stairs, they're now on the second floor, face to face with the chandelier. The environment transitions into a mine type background, wooden framing and cracked stone walls. There's an opening ahead, a wooden cage displaying a picnic stick and dresser. Gone fishing.
On the opposite side, they find themselves on a bridge behind their own wooden cave, looking down at people entering the logs. Hiro quickly looks away, not wanting to spoil what's ahead.
Attention! Last Chance To Exit.
"Signs usually mean something." Wasabi remarks nervously.
There are eight seats per log and seven already in their party so they allow them to just go together. Wasabi and Baymax board the back. "Where do you want to sit Hiro?"
The obvious answer would be the front if he was looking for the most thrill, joined by a little rabbit ornament. The back if he was looking for the least. "Second." Hiro has himself a seat, allowing whoever to join him. Honey and Gogo behind him while Cass squeezes in next to Hiro and Fred sits in the front by himself. This way, Hiro doesn't have to be directly in front of Wasabi screaming and not directly with Fred spoiling the ride.
The first sight is an elevator of water lifting them to the sky, a sharp bright light in their way. The drop must be coming sooner than he thought. On the edge is Brer Frog.
"Mark my words—Br'er Rabbit's gonna put his foot in Br'er Fox's mouth one of these days. Sooner than later, Br'er Fox and Br'er Bear gonna catch that Br'er Rabbit for sure."
The climb plains out, sharp thorns and branches poking out of the water. The ride makes a u-turn, previewing the drop as shrieks fill the air and a transport blinks by. They're going to be in for a bumpy ride.
Back under a roof, they climb again aaaannnnddd-
They even out. Hiro seems confused, even more anticipation than the last. A trailer cart with a Critter Country banner and a tree-house with a garden pass by. It's turning again, somewhat spiraling up the hill with a barrel and clothes line on the right. The next way-point says everything you need to know.
Brer Fox's Lair
The Laughin' Place
All correlate with each other and tell who they're about to visit next. Another tree but rather than a house built into it, smaller houses hang from it while chipmunk like singing hums through the air. Around the bend and a mailbox is labelled Brer Bear with a door nearby. Another tease but so far, the only character they've seen has been the frog.
"What does Brer even mean?" Gogo asks.
"Brother. A man's name." Fred cheats on his phone.
"Ok, too much." Gogo says.
A steam engine choos, signaling the next dip. Slippin' Falls.
"Wahh." Wasabi says on the way down. It's a little momentum but quick. The water waves over the land and into a tunnel headed by a beehive. Trees line the way inside with another sign 'No Fishin' but it doesn't stop a frog and seagull from trying regardless. "Pretty good seein' ya!" They say.
Brer Fox hangs over Brer Bear, equipped with rope and club. "Now's our chance to set a trap for Brer Rabbit." Brer Rabbit stands over his house, departing with a sign on the door that reads 'Gone For Good'.
A porcupine drumming a turtle, a raccoon playing harmonica, some juvenile rabbits watching a silhouette. "There goes Brer Rabbit being chased by Brer Fox and Brer Bear, as usual."
The next scene shows Brer Bear caught in a rope trap, hung by a tree by his feet. "You won't catch me!" Brer Rabbit hops past. Brer Frog appears again, riding an alligator or croc, fishing over the water. The music has been very happy-go-lucky, something that Goofy might sing. An overhanging branch houses possums looking down at the log. "Where is this secret laughin' place Brer Rabbit's talkin' about? Can I go too?"
More animals, more traps, more signs, all lead to the same place though, this illusive 'Laughin' Place'. They follow the three suspects into a cave. Darkness fills the room. "Heads up!" Cass says. Hiro can't see but can tell she's holding onto the rail for her life. She lets out a shrill scream, catching her off the balance but it's quickly regained.
Brer Bear has gotten his snout caught in a beehive, leaving Brer Rabbit to rock himself laughing. It's as if it was all a joke, the lack of light to indicate the upcoming drop but ending up to be a small hiccup in the grand scheme. "Got us again." Hiro says, he leans back this time, confident that the next tease won't be it either, so there's no need to brace himself.
Another small decline towards the light but Hiro's not impressed this time.
'Enter at your own risk'
All these warning signs and all these happy singing animals contrast each other. Brer Fox holds a trapped rabbit in a sticky beehive. He's caught him. Into the Fox's lair. They sway towards another ramp, vultures with top hats appearing at the forefront, lightning in the background. This one spells doom, but Hiro isn't convinced. "I think this is it." Cass tells him.
"We've got your laughin' place, right up here."
Brer Rabbit is held over a hot pot, time to be cooked. At the crest, Sleeping Beauty Castle is once again visible. Hiro's eyes widen once again. It's the true dive. Thorns await them at the bottom.
"WOAAAHHHHHAHHHHH!" They all scream, Baymax even joins in to mimic. They zoom towards the bridge, people at the ready to watch them come out. Hiro keeps his feet planted at the edge of the log, seeing that it's boosting all too quickly towards the oncoming turn around. But it all comes to a safety when the water breaks and gushes out of its pool.
"That was awesome!" Fred pumps his fists out in the air.
With a deep inhale- "Well, that was fun!" Cass says. Her hair is damp, making Hiro chuckle a little. He feels his own hair, feeling wet spots here and there but it looks like Cass got the brunt of the action. Hiro looks back at the others. "Wow!" Honey says, combing her hand through her messy hair.
"Almost swallowed my gum." Gogo adds.
"Ok. Ok. Ok." Wasabi tells himself. His attention is brought towards Baymax. Baymax could see the inner workings if he tried so this may not be as fun for him, the only illusion is the people around him and the way they're acting.
One more banner.
"Welcome Home Brer Rabbit!"
Chickens dance on a boat. The Zip-A-Dee-Lady. "? Zip a dee doo dah, zip a dee day?"
It must be a celebration that they made it out alive.
Brer Bear gets stuck in the thorns while Brer Fox tries to extract him, his own tail caught in a gator's mouth. The spotlight shines on Brer Rabbit once again, laying in his front yard, singing along with the tune. "Mr. Blue Bird on my shoulder-"
Then in big blue letter painted on the wall- "It's the truth, it's actual..."
"Everything is satisfaction." Fred finishes. Hiro ponders that, thinking he's starting to agree, the ride was worth it. The real world was already his Laughin' Place.