It never fails. Walking down Main St and seeing Cinderella’s castle for the first time always makes my heart jump. It’s a moment I can guarantee and rely on. A constant in my life. No matter what I am going through, seeing that castle makes the world melt away even if it is for only a moment. Suddenly the world is filled with magic and wonder and possibilities all over again and I feel a wave of happiness flow over me and a smile creep back onto my face easily, not forced or painted on. A real, true smile.
Walt Disney said that he wanted Disneyland and Walt Disney World to take us completely out of our reality and into a fantasy land, quite literally. He didn’t want anything to remind us of the outside world that so easily beats us down.
“To all who come to this happy place: Welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future.”
I have a deep love and bond to all things Disney. I grew up with it as most of us did. Actually all of us did. My parents grew up with it and passed it along to my brother and I. I remember going to Walt Disney World for the first time and my parents got to wear buttons that said the first year they had visited and we had our “First Visit” ones. I’ve had “Happy Birthday”, “Happy Anniversary” and “Just Engaged” and soon, “Happily Ever After”, pinned to my clothes every day in the parks. I am that person. When I’m down and need inspiration, I sing Disney songs about pursuing dreams and believing in yourself to get back on top. I’m not joking, you can ask Lincoln. It immediately clears my head and gets me focused on the task at hand. I am a Disney princess through and through.
My mother still reminds me to wish on stars and I do. I truly do. I believe in fairy godmothers and Jiminy Crickets and wishing wells. And I do because of Disney. When I sit and watch the current parade they have about believing and dreaming and being yourself and pursuing your goals, I am inspired even if it is just colorful floats and lip syncing characters. Something in it, in me, believes. Disney taught me to believe in myself, to love who I am. I believe in friendship and the ties that bind us and that faith that people we love will always be in our hearts. Disney also taught me to fall in love and have faith that love will always find a way. And it truly does.
I was able to see the new Fanstasyland before it opened (I was let in I think because Disney people can smell our kind) I wish I could describe what it was like but I don’t think I can. Let me just say this: if you are my age and grew up with Ariel and Belle as your princesses, your heart is going to explode. This was my first real experience with NEW Disney World besides going the year Animal Kingdom opened. I really got to see the time and love that went into this part of the Magic Kingdom. Walking into the ballroom of the Beast’s castle is not a moment I could forget. It came right off the page of animation from 1991. The ceiling is painted to perfection, the West Wing portion features the enchanted rose with petals falling and torn fabric hanging from the ceiling in a dim room, the windows of the ballroom reveal dark blue mountains with snow falling atop them. I felt like I was walking through the film. Every detail was cared for and immaculate.
And don’t get me started on Prince Eric’s castle. It’s as if they opened my brain and took out how I had imagine the castle in my head and built it. I mean, that is what they actually do but it felt like my personal brain instead of a collective one. They even had the cliff it sits atop! The sidewalk to the new Little Mermaid ride is littered with shells and sparkling sea glass. Everywhere you look in Ariel’s Grotto has a treasure. You forget you are a 28 year old adult and start reverting to your 6 year old self who wanted nothing more than to be a mermaid and have a crab as a best friend and who may or may not have combed her hair with a fork on several occasions. After sobbing all through the castle, Ariel’s portion of the new park was just filled with joy and me shouting and squealing at every discovery.
Just one more detail of the park that everyone can look forward to: attend Enchanted Tales with Belle. I know it sounds like Belle reading a book to children but it is not. You know that Disney magic every one talks about? That you see in the films or on stage? You see it here a few feet away from you. You walk through a magic mirror. I thought my heart was going to explode when it started happening. The effect is flawless and my face looked like Sebastian’s when he sees Ariel singing to Eric. Jaw on the floor.
Walt Disney introduced magic and wonder to the world in a way that it hadn’t been seen before. He was able to create characters, films, and a park where no matter how old you are, you are a part of it. I saw families, couples, groups of youths, retirees, 20 somethings of every background, race, country there smiling alongside each other. It appeals to everyone and how many things can claim to do that? Not everyone even likes chocolate. But I think all people love Disney. At least something about it resides in their heart whether it is a visit to the park they had as a kid or maybe an attachment to Simba or “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” is your mantra. I know whenever I hear “You’ll Be In My Heart”, I feel the tears coming thinking of my days at Tarzan with people I still hold dear in my heart and keep in my life. Those are Disney bonds and I’ve never heard any one speak of anything so fondly as they do Disney. Ok, maybe The Muppets but I personally put Henson and Disney in the same category of “Best Humans Ever”.
I could go on and on but I wanted to share things I noticed this particular time at Disney World that I haven’t before. I went this year after getting engaged to my prince and suffering the loss of my beloved cat, Turbo. I was emotional and a semi-wreck and almost didn’t want to go, especially after the hurricane canceled our flight. But, in true Disney fashion, we muscled up, got a car with our friends going with us, and drove there. And once I saw that sign welcoming us, my heart released a little tension. It started to let light and love back in. And that was when I opened my eyes and saw again what true magic this place holds.
- Everyone smiles at the end of Splash Mountain. We stood and watched on the bridge where the logs crash down for a few minutes. No matter how wet you get, you get to the bottom of that Laughing Place actually laughing.
- Fireworks are enchanting to all ages. “Wishes” is one of the most incredible fireworks show I think Walt Disney World has and every time I see it, I think of how so many of my wishes have come to by believing and how many more I have to spare. On another note, I learned from a cast member I met that the small beautiful clear voice of a girl in the main theme song of that show that sings the line “And all your wishes…” is a girl who wished to be a part of a Disney song. That was her last wish and it came true and though she is no longer here with us, her voice touches millions of ears every night.
- There are few things more heart warming than watching as a child dressed as a princess meeting that princess. I saw so much pure joy and fascinated and shock on the small faces of kids meeting their favorite characters in real life. I have always wanted to work in the parks as a character and I can honestly say I don’t think it could get old. Even when the day is long or hot, I think that one kid running up to you and hugging you so tightly out of just love and the thrill of meeting you would make up for any crap moment you’re having.
- Singing loudly is stores is allowed. I was in Art of Disney in Downtown Disney singing along with a song from Hercules and a cast member working there was singing as well. We caught each other’s eye and smiled and kept singing. Then “A Whole New World” came on and we each took parts and sang together as I wandered around the store. We got to talking and decided we are starting a band. We discussed how “Hunchback…” is so underrated and the score is so beautiful and the new Fantasyland which he offered to help me get into. I miss Matt the cast member already.
- Every person will have a personal moment. I had several but my favorite was meeting Minnie Mouse and have her grab my hand and drag me over to where we could see Mickey at his Character Spot across the way. She held up my left hand and pointed to my ring and huffed and puffed about it to him. Now, these are probably two 20 something girls in costume getting paid a minimal amount of money to make dreams come true. But for that moment, she was Minnie making a fuss over the fact she doesn’t have an engagement ring yet to Mickey. And when we met Mickey, his handler asked if we were the couple. Mickey waved over to Minnie again and did his Mickey giggle when looking at my ring. There is a picture of Mickey Mouse holding my hand and looking at my engagement ring. I just…can’t. Oh and one of Ariel doing the same. These cast members didn’t have to do what they did. We are adults. They could save those moments for the kids behind me in line. Instead, they gave me those magic moments and then turned around and gave the kids and other adults different moments that they hold in their hearts.
There is a new exhibit about Walt Disney and a short film in Hollywood Studios currently. Watching it, I was overwhelmed with what this man has done. He loved cartoons and drawing. He had a dream and he made it happen in the most incredible way. To think one man did all this is unbelievable. If you read this, do me a favor and think of what Disney means to you. Then realize that one man created all this and that name will continue through generations as it already has. Although, let’s not forget, it was all started by a mouse.
I know that forever, no matter my age, I will shout “MICKEY!!” whenever I see him coming up the path or in a parade or in a show and that smile will grow all over again. The true smile that we all keep inside when life is battering us down and forget to let the magic back in. And I thank Walt Disney for creating a world where we can forget and remember the innocence and wonder life can hold. It’s there in the songs, the movies, the parades, the fireworks, and the stories. It’s there in our imagination, always.
Yes, I did listen to my Disney Pandora station as I wrote this.