Even though I grew up in Georgia, practically a stone’s throw from Disney world (compared to Wisconsin), I never visited the Magic Kingdom. Our vacations invariably seemed to involve family and not destination—except for the trip to the EAA Fly-in in Oshkosh, and I do remember a really cool underground lake in Tennessee when I was very small.
However, my husband had different experiences growing up, and one of them was Disney World. He still waxes poetic about his memories of that trip. Friends who have taken their young children also have told me, “Yes, it’s 100% commercial, but Disney knows how to deliver experience.”
When we entered the Magic Kingdom and were walking down Main Street, our daughter was chatting away—pointing out this shop or that person. Her dad and I kept trying to get her attention, to get her to look at Cinderella’s castle—the dominant feature of the landscape before her, but she kept right on with her chatty narrative about this or that little thing. Finally her dad grabbed her head and pointed her eyes in the direction of the castle.
She stopped. Her jaw dropped—mouth wide open; her eyes widened. A quiet, awed “oh” was all that could escape her throat.
The entire trip was worth that moment. It will be etched in my memory for the rest of my life as one of the times when Mom and Dad did something right.
Our trip had many such moments. We had lunch with five princesses—and never before have I seen my daughter so star stuck. Yes, her dreams were coming true.
She traded pins with cast members in the park, practicing her best manners as she cheerfully approached them, “Hi I’m—. Would you like to trade a pin?” She learned about animals and bugs, the chaos of building an energy-hungry city, and she had a blast playing in Figment’s imagination lab, while Mom and Dad enjoyed a little Eric Idle reminiscent of Monty Python.
She got a one-on-one sword fighting lesson from Captain Jack Sparrow, and her voice rang out beautifully as she cried “Look, there’s Blackbeard’s daughter!” Sort of an ironic twist, since she’s never seen a Pirates of the Caribbean movie. She got a special princess rose from Beauty and the Beast.
Our daughter laughed at clowns, marveled with open mouth and gaping eyes at the Cirque du Soleil and tried new foods at Epcot. She even danced the polka with her daddy in a German Bier Garden.
Yes, Disney does experience well, but it’s more than just rampant commercialism, which is why it works. There are no annoying flying insects at the parks (yet they have butterflies, ladybugs and spiders)—I’m still trying to figure out how they do that—part of the magic I guess. They do, as a company, work on being a good corporate citizen with horticulture research, sustainability projects, animal conservation, and water conservation, and as a biologist, I really appreciate that.
There were a few imperfections of course, but really only minor misses. The Disney experience was magical, and our little pirate princess had a grand time.
For that matter, so did I.
© 2013 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.