Once Upon a Time...
Sometimes you never know the true value of a moment until that moment becomes a memory. Having lost a loved one in an untimely fashion, these words resonate with me on a level like no other. February 16, 2000, my mother lost her two year-long battle with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma cancer; I had just turned four years old. At four years young I experienced the worst day of my life, but instead of dwelling on the moments I didn’t get to share with her, I cling to the ones I did.
Unlike most children, my favorite time of the day was bed time. It was our time; I didn’t have to share her with anyone else. Every night, 8 o’clock pm on the dot to be exact, my mom would crawl into bed next to me with a book in hand, but it wasn’t just any children’s book- it was always one of the many Disney classics. I remember it like it was yesterday: she would wrap me in her arms, my back pressed against her chest so I could see the pictures, and read to me as if her degree was in entertainment instead of teaching. In ninety percent of the memories I have of my mother, Disney was always there, no matter the form. Disney was our thing and when I lost her it became my life line to her. Disney, and all it represents, will forever be a constant in my life because it’s one of the last connections I still have to her.
It's a Magical Place
To Walt Disney a theme park was a place that should evoke other times and placed, whether real or imaginary. He dreamed of creating a place where people could find happiness and knowledge; a place where the older generation could recapture the nostalgia of days gone by. He dreamed of creating a utopia and so he did. July 17, 1955, Disney opened the first Walt Disney World Theme Park titled Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Upon its opening Walt stated, “To all that come to this happy place: Welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America…with hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.” Then on October 1, 1971, Disney opened its second Theme Park titled Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Disney’s Theme Parks were the first, “that sought to place all park visitors, or guests in Disney parlance, directly into the story by creating a controlled space full of attractions, restaurants, and shops that all have connection to the Disney theme, by shutting the outside world off from the overall experience.” (Utopia, page 3) Through the success of these parks and the stories which inspired it, Walt Disney changed the lives of those who knew him and those who did not know him; he changed my life.
When you wish upon a star it just might come true- with Disney; the magic, the fantasy and the wishes are a very important part of the Disney aura, its brand persona, and its point of difference. Described as ‘The Happiest Place on Earth,' Disney’s Theme Parks fill the hearts of those willing to experience it with love, joy, laughter, and a lifetime of memories. For some, Disney is just a place which allows its visitors to hug their favorite fictional characters; whereas for others, it is a lifeline to a late loved one; Disney is the bridge which connects me to my mother. It allows me to relive memories so vividly: I could swear it was just yesterday that I was in her arms listening to her angelic voice read to me. But in the words of Winnie the Pooh himself, “We didn’t realize we were making memories. We just knew we were having fun.”
Photo/ Video Citations
“5 Amazing Things You Can Do With Your Magic Band at Walt Disney World.” DisDining.com, www.disneydining.com/5-amazing-things-you-can-do-with-your-magic-band-at-walt-disney-world/.
“American Experience.” Entertainment Weekly, www.ew.com/article/2015/08/03/walt-disney-anti-semitic-pbs-american-experience.
“Disney Company Mickey Mouse Cloud.” w-Dog.net, w-dog.net/wallpaper/disney-company-mickey-mouse-cloud-mickey-mouse/id/334364/.
“‘The Idea of Disneyland Is a Simple One. It Will Be a Place for People to Find Happiness and Knowledge.’” Disney Parks, disneyparks.tumblr.com/post/126098699993/disneyland-then-and-now-entrance.
Meaganadams10. “Happiest Place on Earth - Disney World Vacation.” YouTube, YouTube, 13 June 2014, www.youtube.com/watch?v=987QT59Xh54.
Hobbs, Priscilla. Walt's Utopia: Disneyland and American Mythmaking. Jefferson, NC, McFarland &Amp; Company, Inc., Publishers, 2015, Google Books, books.google.com/books?id=8r3wCQAAQBAJ&pg=PA50&dq=disneyland+memory&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjFgdem257QAhXD5oMKHfjJBWkQ6AEILTAD#v=onepage&q&f=false.
The portion of this book which captured my attention the most was its focus on Walt Disney’s purpose for building the theme parks and the amount of detail and science his crew put into bringing his vision to life; the statement I gravitated toward the most was, “ Disney land was the first that sought to place all park visitors, or guests in Disney parlance, directly into the story by creating a controlled space full of attractions, restaurants, and shops that all have connection to the Disney theme, by shutting the outside world off from the overall experience.” The source continued to explain that a theme park was not a simply a place of amusement which relies on thrills, but a place which evokes other times and places, whether real or imaginary. Once the purpose for the theme park was established the book changed topics and discussed the science behind the Theme Parks’ construction; the builders used forced perspective and utilized cinematic technique to control the guess experience.
“I Believe It's Weird and Nonsensical for Adults to Love Disney.” Change My View, 2013, www.reddit.com/r/changemyview/comments/1kyo6o/i_believe_its_weird_and_nonsensical_for_adults_to/.
Blog / Podcast
This blog post caused me to have many mixed emotions. Upon reading the writers criticism to adult, Disney fans “being bizarre,” I instantly felt my guard come up. The author’s opinionated statement is as follows, “I'm just saying that adults who are obsessed with Disney seem slightly "off" to me. Why would adults go to Disneyworld? Wear clothing with Mickey Mouse on it? Watch Disney movies? I am aware that taste is really subjective, but even the comeback, "It's magical!" seems like bullshit to me. We are adults and we KNOW there's some underpaid dude sweating under that Jiminy Cricket outfit or whatnot. Now, to be clear, I don't question adults that bring their children, I'm talking about adults going and adults collecting Disney figurines or whatnot.” However, their point of view was corrected by a fellow Disney fan when they responded to the post by stating, “Disney isn't just for kids. There are adult themes that you only appreciate after you've grown up. Love them for the childhood wonder, keep loving them for the layers of meaning that develop over time.” The content of the source enlightened me on the subject of how others outside the Disney community perceive those within and how those who identify as a Disney fan will stand up for their chosen community. Reading this source just solidified why I chose to write on this subject; I want my readers to know that adult, Disney fans aren’t just “bizarre” and there is emotional depth behind the fandom. But no matter how many times I explain myself there will always be those who see Disney fans as weirdo who don’t know how to grow up.
Jackson, Kathy Merlock, and Mark I. West. Disneyland and Culture: Essays on the Parks and Their Influence. Jefferson, NC, McFarland &Amp; Co., 2011, Google Books, books.google.com/books?id=8r3wCQAAQBAJ&pg=PA50&dq=disneyland+memory&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjFgdem257QAhXD5oMKHfjJBWkQ6AEILTAD#v=onepage&q&f=false.
This source explains how past memories play a role in the way we perceive theme park experiences. Since this book is a collection of Essays it is a good source of multiple research opinions and incite on the topic; specifically the source states, “The psychic echo of our memory plays a central role in the modern theme park visits. We all bring to the parks the eidetic imagery and iconography of other times and places sorted and codified in our memories from myriad sources… These memories, imperfect and derivative to begin with, are colored by time and emotion.” The authors of this source describe in detail the creation of modern theme parks and how the architectures in charge of construction some of “The Happiest Places on Earth” take memories of the views into consideration. This book visits each Disney Park in detail; the authors explain how everything from building scale to the color of the light poles influence emotion derived from memories.
Klingmann, Anna. “Architecture as a Product.” TransID, 3 June 1998, pp. 3–6. www.klingmann.com/img/research/publications/articles/7/7.pdf.
Within in this reference, the architecture of Disney was again analyzed. The architecture of Walt Disney’s Theme Parks communicates with its visitors on a multitude of levels, from the overt to the subconscious. It works on the emotions first and intellect later. It affects us subliminally first and then much later we begin to perceive its more obvious attributes. Disney was convinced that it is the experience of architecture that takes hold of us, the fiction of it not the fact.” I utilized this quote because the visuals are what draw us into the park and captivate us and our emotions/memories are what keep us there and/or coming back from more. “When myth becomes the inspiration for architecture, almost anything becomes possible.” Disney approached its architecture with the idea, that it didn’t have to be boring; Walt and his team sought to express the “under-acknowledged scenographic” aspect of architecture as well as its symbolic dimension.
Lamia, Mary C. “Emotional Memories: When People and Events Remain With You.” Psychology Today, 6 Mar. 2012, www.psychologytoday.com/blog/intense-emotions-and-strong-feelings/201203/emotional-memories-when-people-and-events-remain.
Blog / Podcast
“Most emotional memories are the result of cued recall. Anything that is connected to your senses may be a cue that can ignite emotional recall: walking past the perfume counter of a department store you may remember someone who smelled delicious, a certain place may evoke a memory of being there in the past and the pleasant or unpleasant emotions attached to that experience, visceral responses to a particular song may be a reminder of the emotion you felt toward someone with whom it is associated.” This source, although unrelated to my Disney topic, provided solid evidence for my original argument. Disney is full of emotions cues; the sole purpose if its construction was to resonate with its visitors and cause memories to resurface. Although some cues are more effective than others, they all serve their purpose. The emotions that are activated by a cue triggered memory may not be felt as intensely as the actual experience; the recall can be just as enjoyable or painful.
Leav, Lang. Memories. Kansas City, Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2015, Google Books, books.google.com/books?id=oLHMCQAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=memories&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi6xsmNrsrQAhWDPCYKHfO0DpcQ6AEIGzAA#v=onepage&q=memories&f=false.
Memories is a collection of new material and previous poetry and prose from Lang Leav writings. Although this source did not add evidence to my original argument, it did add another of layer of depth to my writing. “I have always thought of memories as fragments, like colored glass shards in a kaleidoscope. It is the source of great beauty in our lives, yet the cause of such heartache. It remains the bridge between our past and present – it gives weight and dimension to our very existence.” I love this quote and it fit perfectly in my essay. My memories are all I have left of my mother. They are the bridge between my past with her and my present without her; within that bridge, Disney is the planks of that bridge which I travel across. Without them or more so it our connection is not fully severed, but weakened.
March, Ryan, editor. “Disney Files Magazine.” Disney Files Magazine, 2016.
This source is a melting pot of random information surrounding all things Disney. Readers of this magazine can become educated on everything from animal species which surround the park to personal encounters within the parks themselves. In an article Melissa Whitman confessed, “When I pass under the train station at Magic Kingdom and see the castle illuminated under the firework show, I experience the magic of the infamous Disney feeling.” The magazine always reserves space for personal Disney content in addition to Melissa’s confession, it also showcases pictures and stories of fans that have made Disney part of their home decorating. Also, this edition of the magazine dedicated its back cover “to the playful purpose of turning Member memories into editorial exclamation points.” I look forward to receiving this magazine every season because it keeps me in the know of all things Disney; this particular edition assisted in enhancing my Advocacy Project because it is an extremely reputable source from Disney itself containing firsthand information.
O'hagan, Andrew. “The Happiness Project.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 16 July 2015, www.nytimes.com/2015/07/17/t-magazine/happiness-project-disneyland.html?_r=1.
“Walt Disney didn’t just build a theme park for childhood fantasy. He created a world we believe in, and a journey to the land of the better self.” Within this article, the author discusses his views of Disney’s Theme Parks when he saw them for the first time. He writes on his opinions of the parks and his own personal experiences. He wrote, “With Disneyland, Walt Disney felt he was giving America a better version of itself: “The idea of Disneyland is a simple one,” he wrote in a prospectus for the park. “It will be a place for people to find happiness and knowledge. It will be a place for parents and children to share pleasant times in one another’s company; a place for teacher and pupils to discover greater ways of understanding and education. Here the older generation can recapture the nostalgia of days gone by, and the younger generation can savor the challenge of the future.”
Robb, Brian J. A Brief History of Walt Disney. Philadelphia, PA, Running Press, 2014, Google Book, books.google.com/booksid=8mscBQAAQBAJ&pg=PT153&dq=the+history+of+walt+disney+parks&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjrienLwdbQAhVMxYMKHUhADq4Q6AEIRjAH#v=onepage&q=welcome&f=false.
As its title suggests, this book is a record of the life and times of Walt Disney. Fortunately for me, it was not simply a biography of the man who created the beloved Mickey Mouse; it is a history of the company that bore his name and the everlasting products it created. The source detailed the July 17, 1955 opening of Walt Disney World Theme Park titled Disneyland in Anaheim, California and the October 1, 1971 opening of the second Walt Disney World Theme Park titled Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Upon the opening of Disneyland Walt stated, “To all that come to this happy place: Welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America…with hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.” The authors of this source provided me hard facts about the parks which helped explain them as a whole and how they came to be.
“Walt Disney Confessions.” Walt Disney Confessions, waltdisneyconfessions.tumblr.com/page/2.
Blog / Podcast
This source is a very personal, anonymous blog for all those who, openly or secretly, identify as a part of the Disney fandom community. In the about me of the blog, it states, “Welcome to Walt Disney Confessions! Here people can confess their innermost Disney thoughts. This blog seeks to unite Disney fans and have them connect over shared experiences or feelings they may have had through Disney. Who knows, someone may be keeping the same dark secret as you.” There are over 2003 confessions in this posting board and out of them all the one confession which stuck with me the most was, “If it weren’t for Disney, I would be dead. They gave me a dream, a reason to live. I’d love to work there one day and make movies, but at the same time, I’m not sure if I qualify…” This confession broke my heart, but on the other hand it made me happy because Disney and all its Magic saved that person’s life.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so why am I having such a difficult time developing the words to describe photos that I cherish most in this world? Disney, titled one of the “Happiest Places on Earth” is a community of believers who take myth/fantasy and mold it into a reality for all who wish to embrace the Magic; I am a part of that community. My mother introduced me to all things Disney, and when she passed away from cancer, it became my lifeline to her. It’s not just an ordinary community to me. Every aspect in my life that is worth remembering involved or will involve Disney: time with my mom, my engagement, and eventually my wedding. Disney takes the sadness away; I mean the smile on my face says it all- I am at my happiest when surrounded by the Magic of Disney. Disney and all it stands for reminds me that when someone you love becomes a memory, that memory becomes a treasure.