The Magic is in the Moments
The wow factor of Disney never really goes away. No matter how many times we visit this place of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy, that intrinsic feeling of enchantment will always be present. Driving through the entrance arches will always prompt butterflies in our stomach. Tinker Bell flying from the Castle will always elicit chills. But sometimes, without even realizing it, what we once considered extraordinary becomes normal. It’s still special, but its greatness morphs into something we expect, not something we’re surprised by. We visit Walt Disney World so many times that we forget the euphoria we felt when it was all new to us.
Last month, I had the wonderful pleasure of going to WDW with three friends, one of whom was visiting for the first time. He grew up far from any Disney destination. He would go to the State Fair, close his eyes, and pretend he was in Disney. Well, if there was any hesitation in deciding to take this trip before I heard that, it was immediately gone. Get this boy to Florida.
Experiencing Disney through his perspective, with everything being entirely new, was a paradigm-shifter. Things that were commonplace to me were completely fresh to him, and as such my eyes were opened to different layers of the Disney experience that I hadn’t noticed before. He had no idea, as we waited for the Magic Kingdom® Park to open, that a flurry of characters was about to rush in on the train to open the park. He didn’t expect the detailed atmosphere that propelled each attraction’s story. He had no clue what was going on when the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror™‘s elevator moved forward instead of first zipping up and down.
These genuine reactions gave a very real authenticity to everything we did. Every character who approached us during the parade became an imprinted memory of meeting a lifelong hero for the first time. Each fireworks burst that soared across the sky became part of seeing a world-renowned theme park tradition for the first time. As the trip progressed with story after story of sharing the magic I love with people who mean a lot to me, these reactions really put something in perspective for me: The magic is in the moments, not the experiences. Walt Disney once said, “You can design and create and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.” That’s what gives these parks the special qualities that permeate our fondest memories of our visits there: the interactions. The encounters. The verbal, visual, and exceptional exchanges we have throughout our day. This includes Cast Members, but it also encompasses the people we share our memories with.
Imagine this scenario: You arrive to the Magic Kingdom® Park , ready for a full day in the park. There’s nobody there. No one. No guests, no Cast Members, no nothing. The attractions are open for you to enjoy all you please, and you do so. Everything is a walk-on, of course, and you’re able to do as much as you could possibly dream of experiencing. The only kick is that there’s no one else in the park. You come, a good while later, for your next vacation, and the same thing happens. You have the Magic Kingdom® Park to yourself. There’s not a soul in the place. Are you not going to have the exact same trip that you had on your previous visit? And the next time? And the time after that?
Without those moments, the magic is lost.
This idea ties with the message of the new Disney film Saving Mr. Banks, which closely parallels Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers’s father with the Mr. Banks character from her story (and the subsequent film). The notion of tuppence is integral as a motif for kindness in both films. The difference, though, is how each figure embraces that kindness. Mr. Banks changes his outlook for the better, transforming the people around him from a household to a family.
Likewise, in both park scenarios, the same product is presented: a park full of attractions. The point, though, is how it’s experienced, and who it’s experienced with. That’s not to criticize solo trips. Those can be magnificent, almost therapeutic. But at the end of the day, when all is said and done, what Walt Disney World exists to bring us are quality, fantastical moments that we’ll never forget with the people we value most. That’s where the magic lives.
(Image from author’s personal family collection.)
Blake is a college student focusing on Film and Media Studies. He enjoys making his family of six watch the parade on Main Street and then sprint to Frontierland in time to see it again. You can follow Blake’s random Disney ramblings on Twitter at @olddirtyblake, or at BlakeOnline.com.