Splendid China: one of Central Florida’s more noteworthy theme park failures. “Failure,” of course, is a relative term. The seventy-five acre space that recreated in miniature some of mainland China’s finest attractions (the Great Wall, the Leshan Buddha) managed to remain open for ten whole years. That’s twice as long as Boardwalk & Baseball.
Unfortunately, for more or less its entire existence, Splendid China was plagued by controversy. Critics lambasted the park, which was purchased by the Chinese government before its 1993 opening from Taiwanese American founder Josephine Chen, for appropriating from other Asian cultures, pushing Communist propaganda, and financial mismanagement (the gov’t owners insisted on importing building materials from China, often at sixteen times the cost). Once Splendid China closed its doors permanently it became a hotspot for ne’er-do-wells, who snuck in through the poorly sealed entrance to steal and/or destroy the abandoned miniatures.
What was left of Splendid China was allegedly demolished last year, but there’s still a large satellite monument to the deleted park’s existence. On West Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway in Kissimmee you’ll find an entire shopping plaza that mimics the architecture we all associate with the Far East (though only in Florida will you find turquoise pagodas). The plaza’s centerpiece is a Winn-Dixie, but you won’t see that grocery chain’s familiar logo anywhere on the building exterior. The only signal anything occupies this space is the presences of Winn-Dixie’s less recognized subtitle, “Marketplace,” above the entryway.
The photo above depicts what you see the moment you enter Kissimmee’s Splendid China Winn-Dixie. Three tiny figures on the balcony of a more realistic-looking pagoda, beckoning you in with warm off-brand “It’s A Small World” charm. As you can see, this store also makes extensive use of track lighting. I’m not sure how true that is to Chinese custom but it certainly gives a grocery store an otherworldly atmosphere.
What’s most interesting about the Splendid China Winn-Dixie is how it seems to cater most exclusively to a British clientele. At any given moment I’d wager a third of Kissimmee’s population is British tourists killing time between laps around the Magic Kingdom. This supermarket is one of the closest there is to Disney, and their selection of imported English products is staggering. Entire endcaps overflowing with big blue cans of Heinz Beans, Lion bars, and slim glass bottles containing a creamy liquid identified only as “salad sauce.”
I didn’t engage any of the employees about what their professional lives are like at the Splendid China Winn-Dixie, but you can sorta see it on their faces. They know they work in a store that’s still modeled after a theme park that closed in 2003. Talking about it isn’t going to make stocking shelves under track lighting any easier.
And yet the place somehow seems decidedly less bizarre than the Planet Hollywood that continues to thrive on Disney property, that drab grey globe surrounding itself with a moat(!) and the miserable spirits of ’90s Hollywood hubris. A restaurant venture between Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and Bruce Willis is something that should have remained relegated to the margins of Last Action Hero, not formed fully in our three dimensional world.
A: Con if we’re talking about eating it. Pro if we’re talking about skipping it across lakes or loading into slingshots or using it as earplugs. They should call sweet corn candy corn and candy corn chewy flavorless sugar nuggets.
It’s late August. You know how I can tell? People are starting to lose their minds about pumpkin spice lattes. Like bald eagles in heat they screech: “PUMPKIN SPICE LATTES ARE COMING! PUMPKIN SPICE LATTES!”
At some point in the past five years this artificial coffee flavoring surpassed Thanksgiving and the leaves changing as the apex of the Fall season. The wonder of nature? The warmth of your family? Fuck that shit, we can make hot liquid taste like a gourd!
But I kid the industrial beverage complex and its tight stranglehold on our emotions. Living in Florida I of course welcome the arrival of PSLs, as they provide the only concrete evidence that the season is actually changing. It’s a blistering ninety-five degrees here year round. Oh sure, for a couple days in February it pretends to be cold, but generally there’s nothing in FL to counter the belief that pool season is eternal.
That can really gum up your melon, the endless summer. How can it be Columbus Day? I’m still wearing shorts and flip flops and this Orlando Magic jersey from 1996. Thankfully, the pumpkin spice latte sends important signals to my brain, saying, “Christmas is coming. You’re gonna be broke again!”
This is a good place to note that Pumpkin Spice Latte would be the perfect name for a celebrity baby. Pumpkin Spice Latte Kardashian. Pumpkin Spice Latte Theron. Pumpkin Spice Latte Ciccone Penn Ritchie Kabbalah.
How’m I doin’ on time? I can stretch this out for another five minutes.
The relief map of Hawaii you see on my hand in this photo comes courtesy of a Family Dollar brand frosted toaster pastry (a.k.a. a fake Pop Tart). During this morning’s toasting procedure, the pastry cracked, allowing a few globs of s’more-flavored filling to leak out. Said globs came in contact with my palm as I attempted to remove the pastry from my non-industrial toasting device, searing me like a branding iron.
Coincidentally, just yesterday I was joking on Twitter about the possible radioactivity of Family Dollar brand frosted toaster pastries. Oh, how carefree I was in my mirth, unaware of the shocking and dangerous truths at hand.
I’ve been toasting edibles for over thirty years and nothing like this has ever happened before. Family Dollar, why do you put lava in your frosted toaster pastries? More importantly, why don’t you list the lava in the ingredients? I would have never purchased your off-brand Pop Tarts had I known they contain molten rock.
Yes, I’ve already picked myself up a nice pair of toaster-friendly wooden tongs. Thank you for your concern.
– Mandatory Fun’s cover is funny, but not as funny as the fact we could go to war with North Korea over that James Franco movie
– my issues with late period Yank: he doesn’t scream as much as he used to, and rarely do any songs break mid-tempo (even the polka medley here speeds too safely); in Al’s defense, he’s creeping up on 55, and he went plenty nutso on his older albums
– I want to say the Lorde parody “Foil” should be longer to milk more out of the subject twist, but laborious college fight send-up “Sports Song” proves brevity is the soul of wit
– “Word Crimes” is disappointing because Al spends more time just shitting on the grammatically ignorant instead of trying to educate them; it’s very “get off my lawn,” but at least his heart’s in the right place
– Mandatory Fun’s polka medley may be caught in second gear but it’s also plenty fun, as most of his medleys prove to be
– while I appreciate Al taking the piss out of Frank Black on his Pixies style parody “First World Problems,” the song itself is nowhere near as clever as the first world problem rap that mush-mouthed teen posted to YouTube a few years ago; this could be because mush-mouthed teen legit feels the struggle and Al is (generationally?) removed from that kinda thing
– a few of Mandatory Fun’s originals lean alt country, which makes one wonder what a non-weird Yank album would be like at this point; maybe like Wilco, with more references to boogers and socket wrenches?
– “Weird Al” has some major cajones calling out other people for being tacky (“Tacky”) when you consider the fact he’s worn nothing but Hawaiian shirts for his entire career
– overall, Mandatory Fun is limp; not one song is on par with classic Yank, and the album’s closing ballad “Jackson Park Express” (a tale of love and miscommunication on public transit) could be the least engaging song Al’s ever done; of course, it’s all lightyears better than whatever Dr. Elmo’s doing right now, and what do you want from a guy twenty-six years after “Stuck In A Closet With Vanna White?”
– this would be a great place to post a link to the interview I did with “Weird Al” in 2011 where he clears up that rumor about getting punched by Billy Joel’s wife; alas, evil forces have taken it offline
– yes, I am bragging that I interviewed “Weird Al”; career lulls aside, he’s still “Weird Al,” American comedy god, hero of my youth, the Gozer of parody
– General Tso’s serving large enough to stun Dikembe Mutombo
– equally large fried rice hill of the pork variety
– cup of froyo dusted w/ so much graham cracker I now have Wonka Lung
– several “gluten-free” cream sodas (like that makes a difference)
– three tiny pieces of broccoli
– two coffees
– two pieces of toast w/ Nutella just before bed
Needless to say, I do not feel like participating in a Tough Mudder today. This is where I make a defensive joke about how my shitty eating reflects the true values of America. Blah blah blah it’s my constitutional right [fart noise] Jefferson died so I could be an angry marshmallow man are you gonna finish that spiral ham?