Things I Geek About: Disney

There are times in a writer’s life where the words just don’t flow easily; sometimes it’s because the well-spring of our imagination has dried up, and sometimes because our inspirational cup runneth over and the words spill over each other in their rush to simply be heard. My writing of late has been more of the former, but attempting to sit down for this week’s post has felt more like the latter—which has left me mentally scrambling and lead to much procrastination. Because, as promised in last week’s installment, I want to talk about my love of all things Disney; quite simply, the legacy of Walt Disney shaped the child that I was and influenced the person I have become far more than any other person or institution I have encountered, so there’s a lot of material to work with. But I suppose we should start at the beginning…

It is fair to say that I spent so much time out of my early years at Disneyland that it feels like a home away from home. Now remember, I was born in the mid-80’s, back when E-Tickets were an actual thing and annual passes were inexpensive enough that my Mom and her best friend were able to take me, my two siblings, and Dot’s two kids to the park practically every day after school. We’d pretty much go once on the carousel, maybe hit another Fantasyland dark ride, and then hang out at Coke Corner listening to Rod Miller play piano. We went so often that when I returned to Disneyland as a very young adult and got my first job there, Rod was still playing daily and actually remembered me and my siblings by name. It was like I had never left…

Even though it feels just a little like coming home every time I go back to the original park, my comfort does not in any way diminish the magic of the experience—especially when I go with my young nephews and get to see the awe and wonder on their faces every time we stand in line or when we leave a ride. And while it’s been years since I was able to go to Walt Disney World in Orlando, just the idea of going there sometime in the future gets my little heart racing. Because even though I’m sure to grumble about the price of food or gripe about the number of tickets juggled to get us all Fast Passes, I’ll also be the one bouncing on my toes along with the boys and making a bee-line for the next ride.

And though I have worked at Disneyland on three occasions and had three very different jobs—even though I have been a Cast Member and gotten to peek behind the curtain, gotten to see how the show is put together each and every day—the performance that is Disneyland still looks like the most spectacular and spellbinding of magics. If there’s one thing you should take away from reading this post: go to Disneyland at least once in your life. Everyone should experience that joy for themselves.

But most important of all, Walt left with me an incredible respect and love for a good story and, while it saddens me that the company has officially operated without him far longer than it did with him, it’s clear that he instilled this love into his employees and into the generation that has followed since. I’ll make no secret of the fact—my life’s dream is to go back and work for Disney again in some capacity; because for me, the greatest thing I can do is to follow my dreams—to write, to create, to entertain—and inspire and encourage others to do the same. To bring happiness to others and to encourage them to do what makes them happy, rather than what will make them comfortable or successful… this is what Walt taught me, and what I hope can one day be said of my own legacy.

 

Reasons to love Disney, Disney Parks, etc.

  • Walt Disney Pictures has produced some of the finest stories utilizing some of the finest talents around. There are very few films that I haven’t seen, and thanks to the Sing-Along tapes there are even fewer songs that I cannot belt out on cue. I remember seeing Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King all at least four times in the theaters when they came out, and my siblings and I wore more than a few VHS tapes into the ground (by the time I went to pre-school, I already knew that the appropriate use for a pencil was to help wind the spokes of the wheel in order to pull the tape material back into the cassette housing). And while many of the films are ostensibly for children, the positive messages contained within each one are as true today as they were when they were first written… Having the courage to be kind in the face of hatred and scorn; accepting the fact that different is beautiful; the power found in the love of your family, and that families come in all shapes and sizes; that dreams, once realized, do not mean that you should cease striving; having hope, even in the darkest of places and circumstances, can set you free; avoiding cliffs and heights if you have a penchant for scheming and monologuing… Trust me: the last one is just as important as the others! (Handy in identifying villains, my friends.)
  • Pin Trading has been around for quite some time, but it’s certainly a fun hobby for all ages. I recently unearthed some really old pins of mine from the depths of my closet, and during their last visit here I was able to introduce my two verbal nephews to the joys of collecting and trading, so this is particularly near and dear to my heart at the moment. It can be as serious or as casual as you want it to be, but it often gives you the chance to get to know a perfect stranger and make friends with a Cast Member. Some of my fondest—and funniest—memories of working at the Park revolve around Disney Pin Trading. It just might surprise you how much you have in common with the person who lives on the same street as you, or who lives on the other side of the globe.
  • The rides… Oh, the rides! What strikes me every time I go to Disneyland, versus going to another amusement park, is that the rides (and often their queues) tell you a story as you go. I think that some park corporations have final cottoned onto this, as a recent trip to Universal Studios revealed; but for most thrill rides, there’s very little to entertain, very little to distract you from the monotony of those long waits. The cynical—like my brother in law—will complain that going to the parks is just paying to stand in line… And if you want to get technical, then yes there is a bit of that. But Disney Parks do their best to tell a story and entertain you while you are waiting, and it’s actually really fun to look for those storytelling details. If you get a chance to go some time, do this for me: look at the ground; look at the art on the walls; look at any scenes or tableaux that have been set up inside the queues… You’ll be surprised and delighted at the level of detail (the Tower of Terror ride in DCA is particularly interesting, as is the Haunted Mansion; no detail is left to chance).
  • Be a kid again, in a totally socially acceptable environment. Disneyland lets you let loose, lets you feel simple joys and simple wonders if you let the magic work on you. And hopefully, you’ll get to take a little of that magic with you when you leave the park.

Again, I could wax poetic and go on forever, but I think you get the idea. Until next time, my friends… Geek on!  -J.J.

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