In celebration of Walt Disney World’s 45th Anniversary, the WDW Radio Blog Team members are sharing their Walt Disney World “love stories” about the moment they became lifelong fans.
This week we’re celebrating the 45th anniversary of the vacation kingdom of the world, Walt Disney World. As the Disney community remembers our fondest attractions, moments, and memories, as a WDW Radio team we’re reflecting on how the Disney magic first sparked for us.
I grew up on Disney, but the real magic for me began when I was 11 years old. Toward the end of our trip, I lost my autograph book. That’s devastating, right? You stand in hours worth of lines for those treasured signatures. Then, of course, there are the moments attached to those names that made them extra special.
Upon returning home, my grandmother called Disney to see if the book had been turned in to the lost and found. It hadn’t. We figured that was that, and honestly forgot about the situation. Well, low and behold, a few weeks later, a package arrives in the mail for me. No one in my family knew this was going to happen. This was not planned or set up. Inside the package, there was a letter that I have on my desk to this day. It read:
Heard you lost your autograph book 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!
Are you kidding me? Mickey Mouse wrote me a letter?! As if that wasn’t already the coolest moment my 11-year-old self had ever lived, beneath the letter was, as promised, a new autograph book… filled cover to cover with personalized signatures from Mickey and all of his pals. And I do mean ALL of his pals.
There were your more common Disney characters, with my name included making it extra special.
Then you had the more rare characters that you don’t see too often in the parks. Pretty cool!
And then you had the ones you didn’t even know existed in the parks. Woah!! Cloud nine.
To this day I don’t know which Pete this is. My initial thought was that it was Peg Leg Pete, Mickey’s nemesis in the classic cartoons. However, my current theory is that it was probably Pete from Pete’s Dragon, as I’ve never, ever heard of Peg Leg Pete being in the parks. Even though Pete from Pete’s Dragon is seldom (if ever) having a formal character greeting, we know he at least exists as a character in Main Street Electrical Parade.
Lastly, the cream of the crop was this, the final page of the book. Years before she ever was a meetable character in the parks, I had the honor of having Tinker Bell’s autograph, sprinkled with Pixie Dust.
This story was the most Disney magic I had ever experienced and have experienced since. On the surface level, from any way you slice it, this was just plain cool. My hero sent me a letter. Mickey Mouse mailed me a package! As I grew older, I of course came to understand the real magic behind this story was the little extra effort made by someone who will never get any recognition, all to make an eleven-year-old boy smile. What I love most about this experience is that, at this stage, there was nothing financial to gain from my family by sending this autograph book to me. We had left Disney property weeks before this package arrived. Our vacation was 100% over. The book was still sent. The effort was still made, which you can bet your Dole Whip made a lasting impression on us and made us want to come back. (And, inevitably, here I am sharing the story with you twelve years later.) That package sparked something in me that inspired my imagination now and inspires my work ethic today as a Cast Member. It was that intention to go beyond what was expected and create happiness for my family.
What’s your Disney story? We’d love for you to share with us in the comments as we celebrate the 45th anniversary of the place that has created happiness for millions of people around the globe.
(Images belong to author’s personal collection.)
Blake graduated Appalachian State University studying Electronic Media Production/Broadcasting and Film. He is currently a participant of the Disney College Program. Blake’s favorite attraction is the hub grass. You can find him on Twitter @blake_242 or at BlakeOnline.com.