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L.A.'s Disney Facade

For Charles Phoenix, Los Angeles itself is a magic kingdom.

Charles Phoenix in L.A.'s Chinatown
Photo caption
For Charles Phoenix, Los Angeles itself is a magic kingdom.

Southern California native Charles Phoenix grew up visiting Disneyland. Now, sporting personalized mouse ears, the 45-year-old "histotainer" leads six-hour bus tours in which he points out some astonishing parallels between the Magic Kingdom and spots around downtown Los Angeles. A $75 ticket includes transport in a yellow school bus, museum and show tickets, snacks, and surprise souvenirs.

Q What inspired an L.A. Disney tour?
A I wanted to show off my downtown discoveries and I started making a list. Then I realized it's like Disneyland!

Q In what ways?
A Olvera Street is a hybrid of Main Street, Frontierland, and Adventureland. Chinatown is Adventureland. We ride there from Union Station on the Metro Gold Line—that's the Monorail. The freeway is Autopia. Skyscrapers are Tomorrowland. Who knew?

Q Is there a message?
A The sites we visit are beyond being destination locations—they're timeless places. If you blur your eyes a little you could be in any decade. I want people to come back and explore more of downtown on their own.

Q Do Disney employees take the tour?
A Oh, yes, both Disney people and Disnoids—you know, loyal fans. They're usually like, "Oh my God, we loved it. It was so much fun."

Q What would Uncle Walt say?
A" Stop using the name Disneyland!"

Q And the mouse ears?
A The crowning touch, if you will. My way of icing the cake.

Photography by Catherine Karnow

This article was first published in November 2008. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.