Our love for Disney changes as we grow older. As children, we fall in love with Disney because it reassures us that someone really understands the way the world works. Somewhere in the stodgy world of grown-ups, someone understands how to release the magic we know is everywhere. As adults, we fall in love with Disney all over again because it reassures us that we do not have to stop believing in magic. We know all too well that dreams rarely come true, and princesses and heroes don’t often pay mortgages, but Disney lets us remember what it is like to believe. It gives us a back door to our responsibilities and reminds us that we don’t have to choose dreams or success – the two can go hand in hand. Disney reminds us that, no matter how old we are, believing dreams come true has the potential to unlock wonderful things, and that is something easy to love.
But loving something doesn’t always mean you can have it. As 2012 draws to a close, and I look back over my Disney pictures and memories from the year, I find myself shaking my head. Life got in the way this year, and although my love of Disney magic never faltered, there were precious few opportunities to indulge it, at home or in the parks. A premium annual passholder, living less than 2 hours from Orlando, I still only made it into the parks with friends and family a handful of times this year. Something, some block or difficulty or responsibility was always in the way. And, even when I did make it to the parks, there was always a price, always something nagging to be done when I got back. Overall, 2012 was not a magical year.
So was there no magic? Oh no, 2012 held its moments, and perhaps the difficulty of the year made them even more poignant. This year was a year of responsibility, a year without the sense of safety and security I think of as “home.” So when Disney gave me those moments, it was pure magic. Looking back over the year, there were two Disney moments that encapsulated that wonder:
1. D23’s Epcot celebration - EPCOT Center was the Disney of my childhood. I have few memories of the Magic Kingdom as a child, but, oh, do I remember EPCOT! From its opening year, my family visited regularly; my parents were firm believers in a better future and the “coming thing,” so EPCOT Center was a place where they gave me free rein. Sitting in the dimly lit D23 event, listening to the words of the men who created EPCOT Center, who dreamed with Walt and turned those dreams into a reality that shaped my life so deeply, was pure magic. Leaning forward to catch every word, my butt going numb from hours in the seats as I scribbled notes for later, I felt as though I had sneaked into some special exclusive corner of wonder…it was special.
And then, of course, there was the panel on Journey into Imagination. Of all the attractions in the EPCOT of my childhood, none so deeply touched me as the Imagination pavilion. I spent hours in the playground; I memorized the ride. And Dreamfinder was the first Disney character I willingly approached. As a child, I was afraid of everything (I thought the talking heads on the wall at the Country Bear Jamboree were terrifying), and I was quite unwilling to approach Disney characters when I couldn’t see the cast members’ faces. But Dreamfinder and Figment were different. Dreamfinder was fatherly, trustworthy, and when I first saw him at EPCOT, I shocked my mother by making an unhesitating beeline for him. He was a friend, and I knew that with the unerring instinct of a child. Seeing the two men who had played that amazing character, was pure Disney magic for me. And hearing Mr. Ron Schneider “do” Dreamfinder’s voice at the end of a virtual “ride through” of the original attraction? That was “home” for some deep bit of my soul. I cried, and every tear was Disney magic.
2. Dinner at Be Our Guest - The second highlight of 2012 was getting to dine at Be Our Guest in the New Fantasyland, courtesy of Tables in Wonderland. I had already been traumatized by “technical difficulties” in the Disney system for both Be Our Guest reservations and Fantasyland Preview registration, so I had given up on the new expansion and on finding magic there. Thanks to D23, I had previewed the new Fantasyland, and it was beautiful…but oh so small.
Be Our Guest, however, lived up to every Disney dream. Beauty and the Beast was for me, as for nerd girls around the world, a special film. A book loving dreamer who fell in love because she saw a prince beneath the surface of a beast…a prince whom only she could see? Of course Belle is my favorite princess, and a chance to step into the environs of the film seemed too good to be true. There was no way the imagineers could do that effectively, right?
Oh, but they did. I found myself forgetting to breathe as my prince and I were seated in the ballroom of Be Our Guest. The forced perspective was perfect, and the room transported me back to the film I saw in the theater more times than any other movie of my lifetime. We were seated exactly where I had dreamed – beside the floor to ceiling glass windows, outside which digital snow swirled with breathtaking realism. And just outside the glass? The exact urn and plant from the film. I kept forgetting to eat because I was so overwhelmed by the place itself.
The food food at the restaurant was, in my opinion average, and it was far overpriced. But the experience…being able to live, even for a brief time, inside one of my favorite Disney films…was pure magic beyond a pricetag.
Looking forward to 2013, I have high hopes. Among the many things Disney, both man and franchise, has taught me is that if one if to survive, one must believe in a better tomorrow. I’m wishing for a new year filled with hope, wonder, and magic. But, like every Disney hero and heroine, I have to remember that without troubles and hard work, dreams lose their meaning, hopes become casual rather than passionate, and it is only when you wish with your heart or dare to raise your eyes to wish upon a star that dreams come true.
So I’m clinging to the magic of 2012 and wishing with my heart for more magic next year…because I do believe that dreams come true. And my wish is the same for every reader. May you have the courage to follow the wish your heart makes, keep your eye upon the stars, and find magic in the coming year and the years that follow.