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Finding Disney: Seeing Others Experience the Magic

Extraordinary Magic in Everyday Life

As much as we all love to experience the Disney magic for ourselves, in certain moments it’s more magical to Fab Fourobserve it in the eyes of those around us. We may have seen Fantasmic a dozen times, but then get to experience it for the first time all over again when we see the surprise and glow of the preschool-age family member as Sorcerer Mickey ascends the mountain. Riding Splash Mountain may have become a routine checklist item for us, but nothing beats riding with a first-timer as they experience the thrill of Chickapin Hill, whether that person is family or a complete stranger.

This same fun factor—of watching others’ reactions to things we’re used to—also translates to life at home away from vacation, in the form of movies. Watching Disney films is, for many, the first introduction to what Disney is all about, and the vast library of classics easily defines childhood for multiple generations. Daniel wrote a great blog post here on WDW Radio last week about the power of Disney movies and the special connection many people have with those stories, and today I’d like to elaborate on the flip side of the movie-watching experience: not the movie itself, but the watching.

I’ll be honest: For a while, I preferred to watch movies by myself if I could help it. I tend to laugh more, sniffle more, and just overall feel more immersed in the story when I watch it by myself. Just leave me alone so I can watch my dang movie. And though I still enjoy occasionally secluding myself for a solo Disney movie marathon, now if given the choice, I’d much rather experience the movie with a room full of people.3

It was Toy Story 3 that first did it. I had never been so excited for a new movie in my entire life, and the anticipation in the sold-out movie theater on opening night was tremendous. The audience was the most responsive group I’ve ever seen: roaring with laughter, hiccupping with squeaky cries, and thundering into applause on more than one occasion. I was sold: it was more fun watching movies with a full house.

Toy Story 3 was one of those films that everyone on the planet saw (and wanted to see again and again), so I had the pleasure of seeing lots of different reactions as I watched it with different sets of people. My church’s children’s ministry, my school magazine staff, and my school graduating class all had individual, set-aside times to watch Toy Story 3, and it played like a different movie for each group: lots of giggles from the younger crowd at church, plenty of appreciation of hidden Pixar details and references with the magazine staff, and a ton of sentimentality with the graduating class. It’s just really cool to me how the same movie can mean such different things depending on who’s watching it—and yet still be adored by each and every group.

My sister was the best, though. She came to the theater with her brand-new Lotso plush toy. We had seen him in the trailers and thought he looked like a great new character. She tucked him in her arms as the movie began, so excited to see his debut. Well… when Lotso’s true colors were revealed, she promptly thwacked that toy right to the ground!

As I delve into college life, it’s been fun having some Disney movie nights and gauging how students respond. A few highlights:

  • Finding Nemo gained a lot of nostalgia as people returned to 2003 for a brief moment in the midst of their studies and embraced one of the best films of a generation.
  • One friend could not believe how many celebrity cameos were in The Muppets… because, as he said, “It’s a puppet movie!”
  • Everyone loves The Lion King.
  • Even in college, Cars 2 is a hard sale.
  • Following a campus screening of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, one friend couldn’t go five minutes without saying “IT’S DIP” a la Jessica Rabbit for a whole week.
  • Wreck-It Ralph is a runaway hit. I dragged some pals to see it when it came to campus. They didn’t King Candyexpect much out of it at first, but liked it so much they insisted we see it again the next night. And now, “Have some candy” is a frequent part of everyday vernacular.


I just really enjoy seeing movies I love through the lenses of other people. Their responses allow me to see the story in a way that I might not have before. How about you? Has there ever been a time when the experience of watching a movie was just as fun as the movie itself?

Before we go, a big congratulations to Elaine, the winner of a WDW Radio Mystery Ticket! Elaine left a comment in last week’s Disney Memories post and was randomly selected as the winner. Her creative ways to pass the time on the long drive to WDW are great ideas. Be on the lookout for future opportunities to win an ever-elusive WDW Radio Mystery Ticket (or come to a meet-up in the parks and get one in person!).


Blake is a college student focusing on Creative Writing 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 @blakeonline, or at BlakeOnline.com.