“Disney World is the Happiest Place on Earth” is a slogan as recognizable as any I can think of. To some this merely clever marketing. Disney’s sneaky PR that was test marketed, or maybe even go so far as subtle brain washing. While I know Disney is a massive billion-dollar corporation that does a fantastic job manipulating its audience and tugging on heart strings with its ads, it is so much more than that for my family. The internet is full of memes, photos, shirts, and slogans about how magical the kingdom is for millions of fans and families. Yet many people just don’t understand the fascination.
Yes, we are unabashed and unapologetically Disney fans. We don’t have a ton of knickknacks and tchotchkes we have bought at the parks, we don’t wear a lot of Disney clothes. We don’t have curios full of collectibles. We have all the movies and a sizable music collection on iTunes. We have my daughter’s toys and the creations we feature on this blog. I would like to start this section of our blog delving into why we love Disney, especially Walt Disney World, so much.
As for a little background on my experiences (cough…obsession…cough) with the Walt Disney World resorts and parks. As I child I only went to Disney World once, that is the way it was when I was kid, we went one time, and I thought I was the luckiest kid in the world. It was rare to go to Disney World where I was from, and to go more than once was unheard of. We headed down in our Chevy Astro van for the fifteen hour drive, we stayed in a Holiday Inn in Kissimmee (a city near Disney just south of Orlando), and ate that Denny’s in the parking lot each night. When I got older my wife and I went there for our honeymoon. We did not go there because we were Disney crazed, my wife had also only gone once as a child. We simply got an amazing deal to go in January because it was the off season and saving money sounded great to two kids just out of college. We thought Epcot could seem like a world tour if we used our imagination. Our true passion for the parks started when we took our daughter when she was four years old. As her interest in Disney and the parks grew, so did ours.
Now as adult I have stopped in for one-day visits while in Orlando for business, and we have taken seven-day family trips. We have stayed off property and at every level of resort on property. We have stayed at value level hotels in places like the All-Star Sports and Movies, moderate level resorts in places like the Coronado Springs, and deluxe level resorts in places like Contemporary, Grand Floridian, & Polynesian. We have even stayed in the villas and condos used the Disney Vacation Club (although we are not members, if you can believe that!). We have used the dining plan, and gone without it. We just love going there. It is our preferred vacation, we just love how we feel when we are there, and the memories we make each trip.
It is not just the rides, although we have ridden them all and thoroughly enjoy them. It is not just the food; however, we do eat in the parks, and have dozens of favorite restaurants and dishes. It is not just the resorts, though we usually stay on property, and plan a day to relax at the resort (side note: our favorite resort is the Wilderness Lodge). It is not all the exclusive merchandise, albeit we do pick up a few things. Honestly there are more thrilling rides out there, there are finer restaurants, there are more luxurious hotels, and there are easier ways to buy collectibles. It is not value of each part, is the sum of them all filtered through that magical Imagineering design lenses, and what is without the doubt the best and most comprehensive customer care service I have experienced. They make magic. This magic is in part a piece of a corporate policy for their employees to go out of their way to make you feel special. We will discuss the dozens of things Disney staffers have done for us over the years in a future blog topic. But, it is also more than just the carefully planned pre-arranged magic. There is a spontaneous magic that occurs when you are there. Maybe it happens because you are looking for it, or maybe it is just coincidence. One of my favorite such experience was on our first day of our first visit as a family. On the way, my daughter, who was four years old at the time, was asked while the monorail who she wanted to meet most. She said Pluto. We walked off the monorail, down the ramp, in the gate, and who was standing there to great us? Pluto. We obviously didn’t plan that for her. What are the odds of all the characters and all the places they stand that he would be right there? Her eyes widened, jaw dropped, and she somehow managed to smiled from ear to ear. That image stays with me and that feeling as a parent cannot be expressed in words.
Each time we get on that monorail and hear “Por Favor manténgase alejado de las puertas” we just feel relaxed and soothed. As odd as it sounds it feels like going to our second home and it is like we are the best versions of ourselves there. Maybe we have been brain washed, maybe all those artificial smells they pump in are working, maybe those songs they play on repeat are beaten through my psyche, but maybe…just maybe it is something more than that. We are entering a place where all your needs will be met by workers trained to be so nice and cheerful. You don’t have to get your bags at the airport, you don’t have to fight with traffic, you don’t have to lock your cars, or find a place to eat, and you don’t even really need to wait in line for an attraction (Magic Bands!). Each time we look at a building, walk down a path, ride a ride, eat a meal, or meet a character the experience is compounded by every previous visit. I see my family in front of me, but I simultaneously see and feel so much more. I see my wife of almost twenty years with me, but I also see my newlywed bride on our honeymoon. I see my daughter, who is growing up so fast, as the young woman of today, but miraculously that wide eyed four-year-old holding Pluto’s hand at the front gates also appears. And me? I am just overjoyed to be in this place that means so much to us, with these people I love so dearly, and truly grateful for the life we have together. I am compelled to be conscious and aware of the passing of time, to appreciate the times we have had and the times we have left, and I do it in magical place where I don’t have to worry about work, or the world, or stress. I just need to be present, to have fun, to make more memories, and to enjoy the magic.
Until next time…
The Imagine Ears features the DIY projects, adventures, and thoughts of a father and daughter who use a shared love of all things Disney to create memories together through encouraging her interests in architecture, design, Imagineering, while exploring history and science.