Friday, September 23, 2011

As Disney as I Wanna Be

Disney World + my family circa 1983
I had the day off work today.  It was rainy, I slept half the day away and my allergies were acting bananas, so that only left one reasonable option on how to spend the rest of my afternoon.  Disney World videos!

I have an envious collection of Disney World theme park movies.  Old souvenir VHSs from childhood visits, new DVDs from an adulthood trip, several years worth of the official vacation planning DVDs, the Modern Marvels episode, one personal home video and a gaggle of films of random theme park features that I've found online and accumulated over the years.  When the budget's too tight for a trip there, I can always visit all four theme parks, saunter through each resort, take in a Christmas parade and ride any number of rides all from my couch at home.  I just love that place!
Mary Blair concept art

There's just something comforting to me about the whole Disney brand.  The theme parks, the movies, the merchandise... I just want it all!  I don't know what formula they've cracked to win me over as a consumer.  But, Disney is my crack and I'm a lifetime devotee. 

I love everything from the old animated shorts to the vintage Mary Blair artwork to Walt Disney's whole ideology to the story of building the most amazing vacation resort on planet Earth.  Disney speaks to me.  And, what it says is that an imagination is a valuable resource.  It's not just for kids.  It's a wonderful and useful asset to all who possesses one, no matter what your station in life.
All hail Mary Blair!

And, I don't believe any other brand exists in the world that has made fuller use of imagination than Disney.  They even call their company's engineers "imagineers".  How cute is that?  (We've got to find a secretarial equivalent of that title to make my own day job seem more fulfilling.)

My deepest burned childhood memories are almost all Disney-related.  Back in the late 70's through mid-80's, Disney World was a viable vacation option for the average American family.  The Magic Kingdom, being the only theme park at the time, made ticket prices much more feasible than today's more-than-quadrupling in sites to see there. 

Fort Wilderness
My family would camp at Fort Wilderness, Disney World's official camp ground where you could take a quick boat ride directly from its shores to the gates of the Magic Kingdom itself.  Ahhh.  I remember nightly outdoor movies at the campground where Chip and Dale would always make an appearance, more than willing to sign your autograph book with their fluffy little costumed hands.  Sitting on the beach to watch the Electrical Water Parade.  Riding the monorail at nightfall with my mom and sisters as we'd sneak self-guided tours through the fancier hotels.  I vividly remember my sandal strap breaking in the Magic Kingdom during one visit.  Since Disney can fix all, the nurses station managed to staple the strap back in place so I could go on about enjoying my day.  While we were there, a call came in that medics were bringing in an older gentleman who had chickened out of riding It's a Small World After All and tried hopping out of the boat at the last minute.  He fell into the water and got run over by an incoming boat!  (Thus, spawning my curious fascination with urban legend-worthy Disney vacationers strange accidents and deaths.)  Was it really worth it dude?  C'mon.  Small World?  Maybe he had a strange phobia of small round-headed audioanimatronics.

Even the merchandise I owned as a kid was more memorable than any other toys or books in my collection.  I vividly remember all of our classic Golden Books and the stories on the 33 records that had accompanying books to read along with.  The stuffed animals, the stickers, the t-shirts, the tote bags and my Donald Duck hat that squeaked when I honked its bill.

I remember our family gathering around the TV for the weekly airing of The Wonderful World of Disney.  Walt Disney himself would host and a movie or collection of animated shorts would follow.  On a good night for me, it would air the original The Parent Trap or those silly collections of cartoons that would be hosted by Professor Von Duck as he explained the human psyche through use of Donald Duck and Goofy shorts.  On a bad night I'd have to sit through Swiss Family Robinson or some other such malarkey that I had no interest in at the time.

Now they have their own channel with their own programming!  And, Disney stores all over the country!  And, a website!  If I had a house, it's completely feasible that I could furnish from floor to ceiling in mouse ears if I really wanted to.  (Don't think that's not a dream of mine!)

But, the Disney trips come fewer and farther between these days.  I did have the honor of getting to bring one of my nieces and one of my nephews to Disney World a few years back.  And, you can imagine the tears that formed in my eyes each time I watched them form memories of their very own.  I had my mental checklist and every time I saw joy in their eyes I would shed a tear in mine as I'd check something else off.  First time hugging Mickey.  Check!  First time seeing a monorail in real life.  Check!  First Spectromagic Parade.  Check!  First firework show over Cinderella's castle.  The list was long and my eyes weren't dry for an entire week.  
First character encounter. Check!
I found Disney World alot more exhausting and over-stimulating as an adult.  As a kid, I could imagine hiding in the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse and living there forever.  As an adult, one week was plenty.  (My suggestion though is to stay onsite.  There are still affordable options right on the Disney grounds.  And, the impeccable service and free transportation services are worth it alone.  When you or the kids tire throughout the day, it's an easy trip back to the hotel to rest up or enjoy the relaxing resort amenities until you catch your second wind.)

My goal is to keep the Disney-loving tradition alive for the next generation.  Even if I can't afford to bring each child there in person, I'm happy if the world of Disney and its philosophies dust their little consciences somehow.  The five year-old already has made a favorite of the old Chip and Dale cartoons. The fourteen and nine-year-old regale him with stories of their trip, meeting the characters and jumping on the hotel beds.  They love all the movies from the classics to the newer Pixar collaborations.  We loved the moral taught in Meet the Robinsons.  I'm delighted when any of them pick up one of my vintage Disney books or even if they fight over who gets to use the Mickey blanket.  It's nice to see the Disney love already in their hearts because it's a bond we'll always share. 

Now, if only I could get them to watch Charlie Brown with me. Still haven't found a way to make The Peanuts stick. 

"I would rather entertain and hope that people learned something than educate people and hope they were entertained." ~ Walt Disney

1 comment:

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