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ICE SCREAM

There is no limit to the sacrifices parents will make for their children. Sometimes they are forced to kill. Sometimes they are forced to die. And sometimes they are forced to attend Walt Disney's World on Ice.

Actually, I was excited when my wife told me she'd purchased a family pack of tickets to see Disney on Ice. How often do you get the chance to view the cryogenically frozen remains of an honest-to-goodness cultural icon like Walt Disney?

"No, no, no," my wife said, her patience dwindling a mere six seconds into the conversation. (The longer you're married, the less time such things take.) "It's an ice show. Like the Ice Capades, only with Disney characters."

If I have ever been more disappointed, the experience was so emotionally scarring I blocked it from my memory.

The first and last time I attended the Ice Capades, I was about six years old. And even at that tender age, it seemed a monumentally silly form of entertainment: People in gowns and tuxedos skate around in circles while the audience members teeter on the edge of their seats, wondering if perchance someone might--gasp!--slip, fall and get ice chips in her perfectly coifed hair during the course of the performance.

That may qualify as real white-knuckle, heart-stopping stuff for some folks, but not me. And I seriously doubted that the suspense would be heightened by a bunch of clowns dressed up like cartoon mice, ducks and dogs.

But, hey. I'm a dad. My son wanted me to go, and by God, I wasn't gonna let him down. When you're a dad, you're a dad, and you've got to play the role even when it goes against your moral, ethical and entertainment values. And even when there's a real good Taxi rerun on TV that night.

A father's first task upon approaching the gates of Walt Disney's World on Ice, I discovered, is to shell out nine bucks for a battery-powered Mickey Mouse light sword. The outdoor concessionaires announce via bullhorn that it is virtually impossible to fully enjoy the show without one . . . while the indoor concessionaires announce via bullhorn that it is virtually impossible to enjoy the show without two.

(As it turns out, there is indeed a limit to the sacrifices parents will make for their children, and $18 is it.)

In retrospect, I can see that it's pure folly to hand a five-year-old boy a battery-powered Mickey Mouse light sword and expect him to keep it sheathed and unlighted for two hours. No, he's gonna turn that sucker on, raise it over his head and inform the world, "I am the Dragonmaster!" He will then proceed to scream, "Aha! You die!" while swinging the thing at everyone he sees--which can be a pretty time-consuming activity when you're in a stadium filled with about 10,000 people, three fourths of whom think they are the Dragonmaster.

Eventually my son settled down. But at no point did he become more fascinated with Walt Disney's World on Ice than he was with his brand new light sword.

And frankly, that was not difficult to understand. The show was simply an ice rinky-dink re-creation of Disney's animated Peter Pan movie, which my son has seen a few million times on videotape--and which seems an odd choice of material for an ice-skating show since the characters spend so much of their time flying. I don't care how good a skater you are, there aren't many stunts you can perform while dangling from a wire, thirty feet in the air. Unless flailing your arms and legs qualifies as a stunt. (In a world where ice shows qualify as entertainment, anything is possible.)

The show didn't improve much when the performers were on the rocks, so to speak, because they rarely stopped singing morbidly cheerful tunes with lyrics like, "Everything free and easy, do as we darn well pleasey." During these musical interludes, it was all I could do to keep from grabbing my son's light sword, storming the rink and screaming, "Aha! You die!"

But I didn't. For one thing, my son wasn't about to part with his weapon. For another, it is my firm conviction that parents who behead cartoon characters in front of their children are setting a very poor example indeed.

It does seem, however, that good examples are wasted on my kid. During the climactic finale of Walt Disney's World on Ice, I turned to see if he'd ever gotten caught up in the action. "Dad," he whispered, illuminating his light sword for the 9,000th time, "I'm gonna cut your arm off."

He didn't, thank goodness. But if he had, the loss of a limb seems a minor sacrifice for a dad who's been to an ice show.

When you're a dad, you've got to play the role even when it goes against your moral, ethical and entertainment values.

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Michael Burkett