–Karen Burns, WDW Radio Team
The spirit of EPCOT’s world showcase — where diverse cultures come together as one — was felt around the world when people from across the globe expressed their sadness at the recent passing of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.
Although there are varying opinions of the British monarchy here in the UK, it was heartwarming to witness the country’s collective demonstration of respect, appreciation, and mourning for the Queen who sadly passed away at the age of 96 on 8th September 2022 at her Balmoral home in Scotland.
The re-telling of classic European fairy tales with kings, queens, princes, and princesses is a core element of the Disney brand I remember growing up. Ornate Rococo-inspired castles, magical fairy godmothers, glamorous ballgowns and snow-white horses pulling gilded carriages completely fascinated me as a child, so much so that my interest in the historical aspect of the monarchy has followed me into adulthood.
I have vague memories of the buzz of community street parties when I was 3 years old and we celebrated the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. It felt very special to be part of such a momentous historical event when she celebrated her Platinum Jubilee 45 years later, having served as our Head of State for 70 years, the only British monarch to have done so.
Queen Elizabeth did not visit the Disney parks during her lifetime, but her grandsons, Prince William and Harry, the Duke of Sussex, enjoyed time in Walt Disney World with their mother, Princess Diana, in August 1993. The Queen’s meeting with Winnie the Pooh was, however, captured in Disney’s animated tale Winnie the Pooh and the Royal Adventure which was released to celebrate the Queen’s 95th birthday in 2021.
Disney also pays homage to the British Royal Family in various ways throughout the parks. There is of course the Crystal Palace for example, inspired by the Victorian Great Exhibition of 1851, a project that was the brainchild of Prince Albert, the King Consort. And for another luxurious dining experience, guests can visit Victoria and Albert’s at the Grand Floridian resort hotel.
In the UK pavilion in EPCOT back in June they marked the Queen’s jubilee with a specially designed snack – the Platinum Jubilee Trifle – which could be found at the Rose and Crown pub. A traditional trifle is layers of sponge, jello, custard and cream with flaked almonds on top. I’m hungry just thinking about it!
It was a touching mark of respect when flags across the parks were flown at half mast in memory of Queen Elizabeth and Disney released the following statement:
“We join with those mourning the passing of her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and our thoughts and condolences are with her family, the people of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.” –The Walt Disney Company
I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself a staunch royalist, but it does feel like a loss. I think it’s a bit like the way people felt about Walt Disney. You mourn their passing because although you didn’t personally know them, it feels as though you did. They had a significant impact on your life and they created a legacy that will continue for many years.
My name is Karen Burns and although I am based in the UK, I have been a lifelong Disney fan. For a little girl growing up in London, this magical place was a distant wonderland I could only ever dream of visiting. But it finally happened in 1990 when I was 16 years old.I have since been back to Walt Disney World with my husband and then again with our two daughters, and I have also visited Disneyland Paris which has my favourite Cinderella castle. Fast forward to the present day when I found Lou’s podcasts and then my excitement when he asked for contributors to the WDW Radio website. To write about my happy place is truly a dream come true.