Editor’s Note: The WDW Radio blog-writing team gathered once again for the holidays to think back on great Disney-themed gifts we have received. We thought we would share with you OUR favorite Disney presents ever! Please enjoy our stories, and then share YOUR favorite Disney gift in the comments below.
On behalf of Lou and all the members of the blog-writing team, I wish you a happy, peaceful, and MAGICAL holiday season and blessed 2013.
Fran Cassano: “The best DISNEY-themed gift I ever received is still the Space Mountain floaty pen from a trip my family took to Walt Disney World in the summer of 1989. It is white and it has Mickey in a space suit, on a rocket, floating through Tomorrowland, with Space Mountain in the background.
My family knew all I wanted to do was ride Space Mountain, which I had never been able to do on prior trips to Walt Disney World. It was our last morning. We had just enough time to squeeze it in before we head back on the long road trip home. At 13 years old, I was showing my parents how responsible I was becoming during this vacation because I wanted to start babysitting that fall. They didn’t want to ride Space Mountain, but my sisters wanted to try it. The ride had an hour-long queue. My sisters wanted to wait with me. So, my parents went to grab a snack at Pinocchio’s Village Haus and then would be at the exit to meet us. This was long before FastPass, and after a fidgety 15 minutes, my little sisters did not want to wait any longer. So, I got off of the line with them. My parents could not believe I gave up the queue just to bring my grateful sisters to them instead of making them stay. My father was so pleased, he took me into a nearby gift shop and bought me the first Space Mountain souvenir he could find, which was this pen. Then he took me back on the long queue and decided to ride the ride with me. It may not seem like it was that big of a deal, but to the 13-year-old me, it was. And I started babysitting the month after we got back.
I just took my pen out to look at it again. It reminds me of a favorite ride, togetherness and a most special family vacation.”
Blake Taylor: “My favorite Disney gift remains to this day much more than just a trivial present. When I was 11, I lost my autograph book that I had been collecting for several Disney trips. As you can imagine, a lot of time had spent getting all those character signatures over the years! Unbeknownst to me, my grandmother called Disney and asked if the book had been turned in to the lost & found. They said it hadn’t, and my grandmother figured that was that. Well, what a surprise when a package from Disney arrived on her doorstep a few weeks later; she wrapped it as a Christmas present to me, labeled, ‘To: Blake, From: Lots of People!’
Of course I was a bit confused and very curious as I opened the gift, and what was inside sums up the very reason behind my Disney enthusiasm. Inside was a hand-written letter to me from Mickey Mouse. It said, ‘Dear Blake, Heard you lost your autograph book the last time you were here. I’ve asked my pals to help get you started on a new one and we can’t wait to see you again real soon! Your pal, Mickey Mouse.’ Attached was a new autograph book filled to the brim, cover to cover, with Disney character signatures, a lot of them being super rare or having some sort of personalized message. (Growing up watching The Lion King twice a day, I was blown away when I saw Simba’s name.) To me, this story is the essence of the Disney Difference, and the primary drive that makes me aspire to work for The Walt Disney Company—to make that kind of magic for families, the kind that goes above and beyond, at no expense of the Guest, to create a magical experience they’ll never forget. ”
Happy Keller: “I have been fortunate enough to receive many Disney-themed gifts during my life, which is pretty natural (I think) when my name is ‘Happy,’ and I am always wearing a Disney watch on my wrist (as well as some Disney clothing). My gift was an experience and not an item…I cannot think of it without choking-up. Back when I was a young (Disney) punk, I was doing a training ride on my bike when I was hit by a car whose driver thought a STOP sign was a suggestion. The results were not good. I woke up in the Hospital, and spent the next year recovering. When I could finally leave under my own power (with the help of a cane), my Great-Grandparents had a surprise for me – they handed me some plane tickets, some money, and a brochure for the Disneyland Hotel. They then directed me to a waiting cab which took me to the airport. When I arrived at John Wayne Airport in Orange County (California) I took another cab directly to Disneyland. I purchased my tickets, headed through the main gate, and hobbled under the train station and onto Main Street USA. To my joy, Mickey Mouse was greeting guests near Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln (featuring The Walt Disney Story). Even though I had no camera or autograph book, I waited in line with many young kids waiting to see Mickey. When it was my turn, I moved towards Mickey and just lost it – I threw my arms around him and sobbed uncontrollably…I was just so happy to have survived, to be able to walk (with help), and to be back a Disneyland. After a couple of minutes where I told him the story of how I got there that day (including all of the events that led up to it), Mickey took me over to a bench to sit down, and made a gesture which I interpreted to mean ‘wait here.’ I did. After visiting with several other families, Mickey came and took me by the hand leading my towards a ‘Cast Members Only’ area. He stopped me there, made the same “wait here” gesture, and disappeared behind the facade. Several minutes later, he returned with a Disneyland Tour Guide (who had a wheelchair for me). Mickey gave me another hug, and turned me over to the Tour Guide. The Tour Guide wheeled me around the park, taking me anywhere I wanted to go. It was one of my best days ever at a Disney theme park, and I am so thankful on so many levels to have received the ‘gift(s)’ bestowed upon me that day!”
J.J. Harvill: “My favorite Disney Christmas gift was given to me back in 2010 when I received my first D23 membership. That same Christmas morning, I also found out that I would attend the 2011 D23 Expo in Anaheim with my dad (and spend a day in Disneyland). Those two gifts paired together will resonate in my mind and heart because they stand as the beginnings of a new chapter. I look back on the 2011 D23 Expo as a truly life-changing experience. I realized on that trip what I wanted to do with my life – work for the Walt Disney Company, whether it be Imagineering, park management, or film. I came into my own shell on that trip and returned home a different person. My confidence level boosted because I saw that I was not alone in my adoration for Disney. Doors opened on that trip; without even meeting face-to-face beforehand, Christy Viszoki contacted me after the Expo and gave me the incredible opportunity to write for this amazing blog. To add to it all, I met Lou for the first time – one of the friendliest and most genuine guys I’ve ever met!
That Christmas present from my parents stands out to me (and will continue to do so) because the vacation that came with it shaped me into who I am now, and I could never thank them enough for loving me so much as to want to help me pursue my passion.”
Angie Carriero: “The best Disney-themed gift I’ve received is the best because of what it means to me. My boyfriend Kevin gave me Beauty and the Beast on blu-ray –”just because”–one day when I got home from a long day at work. It is my favorite Disney movie for a variety of reasons, and I just started collecting Disney blu-rays. We watched it and all the special features that night, cuddled on the couch. That movie makes me tear up and get chills all at the same time. Since we watched it, Kevin will always do the thing that the Beast does when he transforms back to a human, where he is facing away from Belle then turns towards her super fast with the most intense face ever. It would be my favorite gift even if it were just for that last thing.”
Makena: “The best Disney gift that I have received was a trip to Walt Disney World in 2008. It was our first time going down during the holiday season, so I was very excited to see all of the decorations and visit Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. My brother and I found out we were going the week before Thanksgiving, so it gave us plenty of time to be excited. We had a fabulous trip with many new experiences. We saw the gingerbread house in the Grand Floridian lobby and spent a day ‘resort hopping’ so we could see all the different trees and holiday displays. We stayed at Pop Century and came back home with a bunch of Christmas themed merchandise, like Mickey and Minnie Santa hats. It was the most MAGICAL gift that anyone could receive, and I was lucky enough to get it.”
Richard Bernato: “Well we already know what my favorite Disney-themed gift was! For those of you, probably all of you, who weren’t born back in the Davy Crockett days (and by those days I don’t mean the ACTUAL days when Davy Crockett lived, I mean the mid-1950’s) you need to understand the hysteria around that show. It was part of Sunday night in most families, even if they didn’t have a color TV and I don’t know anyone who did, where Uncle Walt himself would introduce American children to all manners of Disney offerings. These ranged from recycled movies, to behid the scenes descriptions about how the Disney animation classics were created, to original series.
One such series was Davy Crockett, played by Fess Parker, who would later play Daniel Boone in a TV series suspiciously similar to Disney’s Davy Crockett. The series was meant to glamorize an authentic American hero and his exploits in the western frontier, which by the way, was NOT the American West we usually associate with cowboys and railroads and wagon trains and such. This show was about the “frontier” of an America that was gradually expanding westward and in this case was about Tennessee and Kentucky and such. The series described the tales of Davy as he helped open this not so westward frontier. Some of the “adventures” had Davy tricking Indians, outsmarting bears, out-marksmanshipping just about anyone. Add in that there was a very snappy song that I won’t pretend to try to sing even in print, and you had a hero with great appeal to the Baby Boom Boys out there.
And then there was the coonskin cap, and no I don’t have it anymore, which I suppose today is not politically correct, that Davy wore. Well no one looked as heroic to this day in such haberdashery! And there wasn’t a red blooded American boy who didn’t want a coonskin cap for his own.
And I was no exception! What made matters worse was that my parents were on a very limited budget and certainly didn’t deem my having one as a family priority. Compound this with the fact that my best friend to this very day had one to add to a very unhappy little boy. And then Grandpa came to the rescue. Went to visit him and there on Grandma’s kitchen table was the hat! They had gotten it for me after I guess my mother had told of my plight!
You get older, you get past things that meant a lot to you at one time and sometimes you forget what really was important to you when life was much simpler and Disney tales were what drove you.”
Caitlin Corsello: “Hands down the best Disney gift I ever received came on Christmas morning when I was eleven years old. Sitting under the tree I was going through the tradition of tearing through all of my presents when I came to one that seemed odd. Inside a box, I found a bathing suit that I was pretty sure I already owned. Digging a little deeper I uncovered a Beanie Baby fish which I also was pretty sure I already owned. At this point I was completely confused and not understanding what the gist of the gift was. After being prompted by my parents to dig even deeper, I found a piece of paper from the Disney Cruise Line! My parents had gifted all of us a one week cruise the following February in the Caribbean! We went on to have an amazing vacation (eating way too many chocolate chip cookies in the process!), and now every year I secretly hope there will be a Disney trip tucked inside one of the boxes under the tree! I don’t think anything will ever beat that Disney gift for me!”
Christy Viszoki: “I have been blessed with so many wonderful Disney gifts over the course of my life–from my parents, sisters, husband, students, and friends. The one Disney gift that stands out in my mind as extra precious is one given to me by a member of the WDW Radio family. Simon Phipps, the man behind the 365 Mickeys project, sent me one of his 365 Mickeys. It was his model for a painting he did for the 40 Hour Show online auction back in October 2011. The pencil sketches he had sent me via email had brought me to tears, as he captured so majestically the spirit and vision of the Dream Team Project. When he sent me the painting for the auction, I found his master copy of the painting enclosed, with my name. In it, he had a note saying he wanted me to have it, as he knew how much I had enjoyed it. The picture sits on my “Disney desk” now, where I sit as I blog. It reminds me of the true gift of the Disney spirit and the amazing warmth and optimism of the WDW Radio Family. I count myself truly lucky to be part of this amazing team. Merry holidays, dear friends.”
What is your favorite Disney-themed gift you have ever received? Share your thoughts in the comments below.