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CLUB DISNEY OPEN TO PLAYFUL CROWDS OF KIDS : IMAGINATION RUNS RAMPANT AS FUN PARK DEBUTS IN THOUSAND OAKS.

Byline: Alicia Doyle Daily News Staff Writer

Mickey may be 69 years old, but he's still a kid at heart.

The legendary mouse left his heart in Thousand Oaks on Friday at the grand opening of Club Disney, where it's no work and all play.

Thousands swarmed to roam inside the giant mouse pad, filled with imagination-powered computer games, cubbyhole crawling and Winnie the Pooh tea parties.

Grown-ups are only admitted if accompanied by a child. Imagination is required. And shoes are optional.

``We didn't have things like this when we were children,'' said Deva Andrews, trying to keep up with her daughter Brooke inside a jungle-theme clubhouse.

As the two rampaged through a carpeted playground in their socks, Andrews couldn't help but rediscover her own imagination.

``It's fun being part of Brooke's childhood,'' said the out-of-breath Thousand Oaks mom. ``She's going to wear me out, though.''

The first of its kind in the world, Club Disney at The Promenade at Westlake is a place where kids and grown-ups are encouraged to bond through hands-on activities.

Whether it's dressing up as Mickey Mouse or sweating it out in Winnie the ``Pooh-robics,'' Club Disney is a place to indulge in imaginative adventures.

Children can slide down a 30-foot chute, wear a Dalmatian costume and conduct science experiments inside a lab. They can explore their creative side in an art room filled with colored crepe paper, paint, markers and crayons. Children can also visit the theater for fashion shows or do the Mickey Macarena at a Club Disney dance party.

``It's a lot like Disneyland, only this is closer and less expensive,'' said Frank Sorbello, 75, who brought his granddaughter, 5-year-old Samantha Motyl.

As Samantha crawled on her hands and knees through a cubbyhole inside Winnie the Pooh's tree house, Sorbello was tempted to follow.

``Sure, I'm compelled,'' he said. ``Part of that child inside never leaves you.''

The club, spread across a 24,500-square-foot site, is designed for kids up to age 10. Though grown-ups are discouraged from going down the tube-shaped slide - the tiny hole was made for a tiny body - adults may engage in all other activities.

Thousand Oaks mayor Judy Lazar was proud to see Thousand Oaks as Club Disney's city of choice.

``I'm pleased that Thousand Oaks is going to have it first,'' Lazar said. ``I know everyone is going to have a wonderful time.''

Disney fans pushed past about a dozen picketers who protested the corporation's treatment of garment workers in Haitian clothing factories.

Claiming that Disney ``pays Mickey Mouse wages'' to Haitian workers, the demonstrators hoped to draw attention to Disney's unfair labor practices, said Ron Lipshultz, member of the Alliance for Democracy.

``What people fail to see is Disney's involvement with sweatshops - this is the other side people don't see,'' Lipshultz said. ``We don't hope for a boycott. We just want to arouse people's emotions so they will speak out against what Disney is doing. We want to bring about social awareness.''

Jay Rasulo, senior vice president and general manager of Club Disney, said little about the protesters' allegations.

``I'd rather talk about Club Disney,'' he said.

THE FACTS

WHAT: Club Disney.

WHEN: Tuesdays through Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Fridays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sundays, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. On Mondays, Club Disney will be reserved for private events.

WHERE: 120 S. Westlake Blvd., Thousand Oaks, just off the Ventura Freeway.

COST: $8 per family member. Includes unlimited play inside Club Disney.

INFORMATION: (805) 777-8000.

CAPTION(S):

4 Photos

Photo: (1--Color only in Conejo and Simi editions) The Club Disney grand opening in Thousand Oaks was also attended by local government and business leaders, as well as crowds of excited children.

(2--Color only in Conejo and Simi editions,) Alex Katz, 9, peeks through one of Club Disney's attractions, which apparently allows children to have the experience of being served as food.

(3--Ran in Conejo and Simi editions only--Color) Adults join in the fun at Club Disney, striking poses in a room that temporarily imprints silhouettes on the walls.

(4--Ran in Conejo and Simi editions only) Protesters Archie Gillett, left, and Lester Hoyle charge Disney with exploiting its workers in Haiti.

Evan Yee/Daily News
COPYRIGHT 1997 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 22, 1997
Words:719
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