Picture Prattle: More Than Words

21 May
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From a Disneyland gift shop, circa 2011

If you’ve ever been to a Disney theme park, I’m sure your memory is bursting with happy recollections of fanciful rides and costumed characters. You probably can think back to all the glorious treats you ate, the characters you met, and maybe even the souvenirs you bought.

For most of you, the bar of chocolate pictured to the left is probably a non-starter. But for those of us who grew up going to Disneyland on a very regular basis, it’s one big inside joke. The bar says “please stand clear of my chocolate”- which, upfront, seems like a simple plea for others to leave your darn chocolate alone. But really, this bar references a much-loved aspect of Disney that is far less glamorous than its rides or its princesses: the safety warnings that play on rides.

If you’ve ever ridden the Monorail at Disneyland or DisneyWorld, the memories may be coming back to you now: at each stop, as the doors close, the recording says “please stand clear of the doors.” And then, in Spanish, it pronounces: “por favor mantengase alejado de las puertas.” It’s obviously not a very deep message, but it’s somehow become a treasured part of the Disney experience. Park fans like to say the phrase along with the ride announcer, just for kicks.

So this candy bar isn’t just telling greedy hands to stay away: it’s sort of like a testament to an in-group, acknowledging their appreciation of the Disney culture. First, the bar made me smile. And then it made me think about how the smallest phrases can turn into the most meaningful markers of appreciation, inclusion, etc.

One more thing, while I’m on the topic. I recently realized that this phrase and another safety warning Disney uses on its rides may  have been some of the first Spanish phrases I ever learned. It’s weird to think about, now that I can understand the grammar and vocabulary. But when I was little, I simply memorized the phrases as groups of sounds- I had no clue what the individual words were. I’m not sure if this phrase would hold so much weight if I learned it today and immediately understood it from a rational perspective. Would the emotional weight still be there?

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