The title of this blog brings back so many happy memories of that very titled Sunday evening show every week when I was growing up. Long before the days of videos, DVDs, and Netflix, my sisters and I waited to see what wonderful Disney movie was showing that night. I loved it. I loved every minute of it.
Lately I’ve been enjoying looking at posted photos of my friend, her husband, and their son on their recent trip to Walt Disney World. They looked like they were having a great time. Did I mention my friend’s son is 22-years-old and that she and her husband were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary? In Disney! Seems the magic of the Magic Kingdom doesn’t end when childhood does.
I’m lucky enough to have been to both Disneyland and Disney World. I visited the LA theme park with a high school organization when I was a senior and Smitty and I took Kristen to Orlando when she was younger (see photos below!) I’ve also seen the castle in Germany that inspired Cinderella’s castle, Neuschwanstein. Both Disney visits were so much fun, but I wouldn’t call myself a rabid Disney enthusiast or aficionado. I think I’m in the minority though.
I can only imagine how crowded Main Street is as I write this, as summer is a popular time for families to visit a Disney theme park. So, what better time to blog about all things Disney than now? Not so much a “how to see Disney on a budget” or “secrets to the perfect Disney experience” blog, this is more a “How cool is that?” essay on Disney: the man, the magic, the massive parks, and the myths.
In all, there are five Disney resorts: the original Disneyland in Anaheim, Orlando’s Disney World, and one each in Tokyo, Paris and Hong Kong. There is also a Disney Shanghai currently under construction. All of this would make Walt Disney himself shake his head and pat himself on the back. A common-sense Midwesterner, Disney was a self-made patriotic man who wanted to create someplace where people could “escape.” Needless to say, he was also a mastermind in his field and once Disneyland opened in 1955, the rest as they so eloquently say, is theme park history.
Although Anaheim lays claim to the first Disney theme park, Walt Disney World and its Magic Kingdom are undoubtedly the franchise’s crown jewels. When Walt first saw what was once a swamp in the middle of Florida, I don’t think even he would have ever predicted the place would welcome more than 50 million people every year and become the most visited theme park in the world.
“I would rather entertain and hope that people learned something
than educate people and hope they were entertained.”
Yes the parks are cheesy but they are also extremely clean and they encourage you to embrace your inner child. Who doesn’t love seeing Winnie the Pooh, Goofy, Arial, and the other hundreds of other beloved Disney characters up close and personal? Old and young can have a great time. If you don’t believe me, just ask my friend Margaret!
As anyone who’s visited WDW knows, the place is ginormous. In fact, it encompasses 40 square miles and takes days to take in. It also can seem larger than life and in some ways, is.
Walt Disney’s genius incorporated a type of optical illusion called “forced perspective” in planning the park. When you enter Magic Kingdom, the street actually narrows in the distance, creating the impression that shops go on forever and ever before culminating at the castle. In addition, when leaving the park and walking down Main Street, the same architectural trick is used to make the train station appear much closer than it is and buildings along Main Street appear taller than they really are because windows, awnings, signs and fixtures that are up high are way smaller than their counterparts on ground level. Then there’s the castle; WDW’s centerpiece. Although it’s a mere 189 feet high, it seems much taller because the windows, turrets, and bricks decrease in size as they go up and the top spire is half the size it should be so it all seems twice as tall.
All of this takes nothing away from the rides, the shows, and the live entertainment, which are not only savvy but satisfying. It’s not cheap though like it was back on opening day when admission was a mere $3.50. Today those three dollars won’t get you fairy dust. There’s something about the place though. Maybe it’s the magic. Maybe it’s the myths that surround it.
TRUE OR FALSE?
Is the scent of freshly-baked cookies really pumped in and around Main Street? Are the chirping birds really recordings? (The same rumor is said about The Masters golf tournament.) Maybe I should ask Kristen’s college friend Natalie who worked at Disney. She stayed with us for a few days one summer while she auditioned. She got the part and boy would I love to hear her stories today!
One rumor that is true is that of the underground tunnels. But, these tunnels are simply ways employees…um actually “cast members” as all employees are called…get around the park quickly and efficiently. You can see some of them if you pony up for the five hour “Keys to the Kingdom” tour on which many of the “hidden” Mickey ears are also revealed. Apparently the world’s most famous mouse’s ears can be found hidden throughout the park, including on bricks, vehicle tire treads, windows, gate scrollwork, and even plate arrangements in restaurants.
One thing that’s not a mystery is how clean and impeccably kept WDW is. Walt Disney expected nothing less and his unparalleled attention to detail thrives to this day. You’ll never find gum for sale in a Disney park and garbage will never pile up. Trash, come to find out, is actually sucked through huge tubes under the park and discarded accordingly.
Sadly Walt Disney never got to see any of this, as he died of lung cancer in 1966. He would be so proud of it all though. “It’s A Small World” would undoubtedly enchant him and “Tower of Terror” would perhaps scare him. Me? I’m not a scary ride kind of girl. I hate to go upside down and being scared is not a fun or exciting feeling to me. I waited outside while Kristen and Smitty rode the Tower of Terror but spinning I love! Dumbo and the Tea Cups are my faves as was Splash Mountain. I also loved the Boardwalks and having breakfast with Cinderella in her castle.
Then there’s Epcot, which is twice as big as the Magic Kingdom at a whopping 305 acres. How awesome to visit recreations of nearly 15 countries one day and the next day go on an African Safari in Animal Kingdom. The world is on display at Disney and the world loves coming to it. Amazingly, in the nearly 45 years it’s been open, Walt Disney World has closed only four times. Three times because of weather and on 9/11.
As you enter Walt Disney World, the sign reminds you that it is “where dreams come true” and one of Walt Disney’s most famous quotes was “If you can dream it, you can do it.” His childlike dreams became grown-up realities that generations continue to enjoy. Maybe he was right all along in that all we all need is just a little pixie dust for our dreams to become happy ones.