Thursday, January 14, 2010

Magical nostalgia - Why I love Disney World.

When I was 5, my maternal grandfather died, and my family decided it was high time we started taking those fabled family vacations Americans were supposed to take. In January of 1991, while the aerial bombardment of Kuwait began, we went on our first-ever family visit to the Happiest Place on Earth (though I'm not sure it had been branded as such yet). I don't remember much, aside from this one image of my mom, totally drenched and in a peach colored windbreaker, standing in front of a sea of yellow Mickey ponchos that were omnipresent as soon as it started to rain.

I've been back a bunch of times since then -- 6 trips with family, 2 with my high school band, and once most recently with E this past year. We alternated Disney trips with other trips growing up, and I definitely want to continue seeing other parts of the world, but Disney holds a huge place in my heart and my imagination. Disney is ultimately about escapism. When E and I decided to go last year (his first visit in a decade plus), we deemed it our "starter vacation." It was our first big trip together, and we decided on Disney because I had been before and was familiar with the process, and because we thought it couldn't hurt to go somewhere where people are literally paid to make your days magical. We weren't disappointed. Everyone, from shop employees to bus drivers and ride operators, was gracious, enthusiastic, and friendly. One night, while we were on the Disney motor coach, we passed a security checkpoint at the entrance to our resort, and the security officer came out with one of those Mickey hand gloves on and waved at our bus with a big smile on her face. We were literally able to have a care-free 5 days in the parks, where we didn't have to worry about cooking, driving, or, of course, working. It was great!

My love for Disney theme parks, though, is rooted in the behind-the-scenes action. It is completely fascinating to learn about the creation of these parks, and to find out how these environments were thought up. There is something just so stinking cool about creating an immersive environment where visitors can suspend disbelief and have a great time. I love noticing little things like the thematic texturing of concrete surfaces in different areas of different parks, and reading about the logic in the placement of different elements and the motivation behind different attractions and storylines. I am definitely not blinded by the Disney brand, though. Part of the stuff I love is the gossipy, dirty stuff. I also realize that Disney is a giant corporation interested in capitalizing on nostalgia to suck my money out of my pockets. I am fully aware of the fact that they drained and destroyed acres upon acres upon acres of Florida wetland for Disney World, and California Orange groves for Disneyland. I get it. But they're also working to cut their carbon emissions in half by 2012 and are greening up for sustainability and cost-savings. Frankly, any time a traveler jumps on an airplane and stays at a tourist-oriented resort, they're expanding their carbon footprint in a big way.

And yes, Disney is about nostalgia. I do have wonderful memories with many important people in my life from our time in Disney, and I love that I can walk around the parks and be reminded of the time I accidentally tripped my dad on a bridge in front of Cinderella Castle, or standing in front of the massive clock/sculpture that is the front of it's a small world in Disneyland with my mom. I remember my older sister getting chased around by Goofy at a character breakfast, and going to a luau with my little sister on our first trip. On humid spring mornings I text my sister to tell her it smells like Disney World, and I loved going in high school with my friends and experiencing Disney as an adult. And, E and I made a ton of new memories this year, though mostly of rain and ponchos and my inconveniently injured foot and resulting wheelchair.

This video is a great look at the Magic Kingdom from morning til evening, and the style makes it almost look like a miniature. As corny as it is, there is something cool in knowing that even when I'm having the shittiest of days in my normal life, someone's having an awesome day in a Disney park. My sister, who used to work in a job where they closed at 9 pm, says that every night when they closed she thought about the fireworks show that was just beginning in Epcot. I know how it is.

And if you like that one, check out the video they made of Epcot. The Magic Kingdom one is my favorite, but the Epcot one has fireworks!

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