I opened my eyes. I couldn't believe it.
I was standing in the middle of a forest, but rather than trees surrounding me, tall fiberglass blades of grass towered all around, springing up out of a spongy, rubber ground. Mounds of fake earth led up to rocks made of concrete, while a single brown ant the size of a small elephant stood off to the side. A large plastic Lego block cast a shadow over the area in a similar manner to other larger-than-life household items.
And the entire area was scurrying with the most terrifying creatures of all: other children.
Having grown up during the early 1990s, I was familiar with the Honey film franchise (Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Honey I Blew Up the Kid, Honey We Shrunk Ourselves). I understood the context for the playground at Disney-MGM Studios, something that has been lost to the most recent generation, many of whom would give a quizzical look if you mentioned Wayne Szalinski, asking if you're talking about the hockey player (although I doubt many of today's youth would be familiar with Wayne Gretzky, either). As a result, I was immediately immersed in the world of the film, living the scene in the film when Nicky and Amy are attempting to make it through their backyard back to the house so they can become unshrunk. Looking back on the film and the playground now, I realize how much junk the Szalinski's have in their backyard (leading me to wonder if I'm that bad).
My parents had brought me into the HISTK Playground to escape some of the Florida sun, shortly after ending our three or four hour Backlot Studio Tour. They decided to stand off to the side, where they could relax in the shade while I played. Being an only child, I was reluctant to go off and play. And being an only child, I was nervous around (or better than?) other kids. They suggested I go over to the giant slide meant to look like an "old" camera film canister, and I begrudgingly went along with their ploy. I began to walk up the rubber steps, headed in that direction, entering the "fibergrass" (see what I did there?) forest, hiding the rest of the playground from view. Being only four or five, I wasn't that great at direction yet, and as I came to a split, decided to go in the most obvious direction, away from the film slide. I wandered around the playground, somehow managing to stay out of my parents' sightline (I mean, let's be honest...it was the 90s and parents weren't too concerned about kids being around strangers, as long as they didn't offer you candy). I discovered a large black dog's nose sticking between some enormous blades of grass. The nose began to sniff, blowing air through my bowl cut. A large hose hung over a clearing, dripping water out of the tip every time someone stepped on a pressure point on the ground. I hobbled over giant cheerios that were obviously never saturated in milk, because they were as hard as concrete, and scurried up a spider's web, terrified of getting stuck and ending up as someone's snack.
Finally, I found a way out of the maze of grass stems and ginormous litter. It was a walkway situated between a corrugated metal wall and a ten-foot-high fence. Metal signs hung from horizontal poles over the walkway. As I came to the end of the walkway, I found myself standing before a bottle of Coca-Cola that was three times my height, spewing steam out of the cap. A fountain stood nearby with dolphins and a naked mermaid. People rushed past me. I realized I wasn't where I was supposed to be. I started to cry.
Luckily, a kind cast member named Harry (okay, I lied, I don't really remember his name) found me and asked me where my parents were. I admitted that I was supposed to go down the film strip slide but got lost. He took my hand and guided me back down the path into the HISTK Playground, where we found my kids. I was "lost" for maybe forty-five seconds, but in my mind, it felt like a lot longer.
"Please don't ever leave me ever again!" I pleaded with my parents.
"Okay, Andrew." They responded, caringly. "Now go on the slide."
Again, reluctantly, I climbed the rubber/concrete/dirt steps, but took the opposite split at the top. I found the large black, yellow, and gray tube of film and rode down the slide. As my parents took my picture, I crossed my arms and frowned.