It Only Takes A Moment

Hello, DisNerds! It’s as great now as it has ever been to be talking with you all today. Midterm-week has tried its mightiest to swallow me up Monstro-style, but this little wooden boy and his water-logged conscience are trying their darned-est to stay on top of it all.

I have hopes to someday write up something a little more historical for you all. That day is not today. No, I’ve been impressed lately by the true genesis of my Disney experience, a topic rather emotionally-driven, less intellectually satisfying. Bear with me, folks, please, as what I’m about to discuss is certainly something we can all relate to.

An experience I had with a professor of mine is going to provide the central theme for today’s article. Most days I’m pretty easy to identify in the midst of the college-crowd; look for the tall kid with his Mickey Mouse backpack. Unless I haven’t done laundry in some time, (which I need to do as soon I finish this up, actually) chances are good I’ll be in some Disney-related wear, Disneyland t-shirts tend to be the weapon of choice. A professor kept me behind after class one day to comment on my shirt, which featured the attraction poster for Disneyland’s Matterhorn Bobsleds. She mentioned how she had just returned from a visit to the Magic Kingdom in Florida, and that her major souvenir purchase was ‘Poster Art of the Disney Parks’, a gorgeous coffee-table book that showcases hundreds of iconic Disney Park attractions’ posters. I asked if she had a favorite poster. She said she loved the early Fantasyland designs, and was hoping of purchasing smaller versions of such to decorate her soon-to-be newborn child’s bedroom with. She asked if I knew anywhere she could find them.

“Disneyland and Walt Disney World sell them at varying sizes and quality all throughout the resorts. I remember the first time I bought one…”

*cue flashback*

I remembered sitting outside the ‘World of Disney’ store in Downtown Disney, waiting and waiting, with my dad right beside me. I couldn’t have been more than 13 years old. My family’s 5 days at Disneyland had come to an end, and per usual I had forgotten to make a souvenir purchase that could have and should have been made earlier. It gave me and my dad an excuse to lengthen our Disneyland experience just a little longer, though, and we welcomed gladly any reason to keep us from having to leave just yet.

I could sense it then that something had happened that week. Something changed with my family, and something had changed with me. It was palpable. It was tangible. Something was different. I knew then, in a very deep and abiding way, that Disneyland was something entirely special. I knew that the man behind it was a man I needed to know more about. My greatest dream now was to work for this place that had left such an indelible mark on my heart.

I had grown up in a Disney-lovin’ household. Trust me, this trip to Disneyland wasn’t my first exposure to it at all. Disneyland was a once-every-other-year experience. A good portion of our movies were Disney. The kids’ favorites were absolutely Disney. We had a good amount of Disney collectibles. We had Disney toys. We were a family that liked Disney. Ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up when I was bout 7 years old? Not sure exactly what position I had in mind, but I would have told you I wanted to work for the Mouse.

So then what on earth had changed? What had I experienced that trip that I hadn’t before? Looking back on the years that have past since then, and what we’ve done in those years, you can’t help but wonder what went down. Disneyland trips at least 3 times a year (significant, for one of many reasons being it’s a 15 hour drive down from ol’ Idaho). I couldn’t stop reading about Walt Disney. We couldn’t stop day-dreaming about Disneyland. We couldn’t stop buying Disney collectibles. Disney music became to us as much background noise as our heartbeat. (My brother even claims his heart now beats to the bass-line of the Mickey Mouse Club March, a fact I’m only slightly suspicious of.)

There was so many magical moments that trip. I remember so many of them so vividly. When your life makes a definitive turn, you remember those moments, and you remember even the minutest of details. I share with you but a few.

I was about to walk out of the Main Street Opera House. Dusk was falling on Disneyland. Tears were still in my eyes, the lump still high in my throat, after having just watched “Disneyland: The First 50 Magical Years”. At the end of the attraction’s exit corridor hangs a portrait of Walt Disney. I stood looking at it for who knows how long. I couldn’t believe how a man of such humble mind and heart could create a place so magical. I walked out of the room, and onto the sidewalk of a picturesque Main Street U.S.A. The popcorn lights were shining, Mickey was out greeting friends, the music was floating alongside wonderful smells in the air. I saw happy people. I saw my family, together, smiling. I saw then what I think Walt Disney saw in his park. (Though I’m sure he saw things much better than I did; my eyes were still watering, I was still a little ver-klempt, mind you.)

You can imagine the experience I had sitting next to Walt and Mickey on our last night, just moments before we would walk out beyond the gates. (I have always been one to wish on stars, and the stars had never been wished upon quite so intently as they were that night!) I couldn’t stop telling that statue “thank you”. This was probably the instant that meant the most. This was when I knew in my heart that this place had room for me, that I could live a life that would surround me with this magic. I could, if I worked for it courageously and faithfully, even get so far as to leave my handprint in its history right along Walt’s and every other great Imagineer’s. I left the park, sad, of course, that the week was over, but I don’t remember my feet touching the ground.

Such an experience couldn’t be left unremembered. My dad was by my side, and away we went to Downtown Disney, to the World of Disney. I spoke with a cast member, placed an order, paid, and was told I needed to wait for the order to process. My dad and I went outside, sat down on a concrete planter’s ledge, and waited. Hours later, the cast member I had met with before came out with a smile on her face to inform me that my order was ready to go. The store by then was practically empty. She led us to the counter, and there it lay, in all of its 36 x 48 glory.

Aye, here she be in all her glory. This was the purchase that set sail to my Disney adventure.

Aye, here she be in all her glory. This was the purchase that set sail to my Disney adventure.

It didn’t matter how much it cost to print. It didn’t matter how much the framing was going to cost. This poster, as silly as it may seem, represents to me the beginning of my dreams. It hangs in my room still. There are certainly hundreds of other merchandise that accompany it now, but this bad-boy remains the original. My moment will forever be materialized by this print.

I cannot imagine my life without ever having had that moment. It was a founding, a time upon which every passing day of my life only builds upon. I knew then that I loved Disney. Like, LOVED Disney. And so, DisNerds, I turn the time over to you: when was your moment? What finally, dare I say, converted you to the Disney side?

4 thoughts on “It Only Takes A Moment

  1. Great read there!!! Thanks for sharing!
    I am not sure of which moment to choose as a defining moment. My parents have been taking us since we were in the womb. Heck, she was going since it opened practically. Anyways, I loved running around the park without parental supervision, (you know, back in the days that was still acceptable to give kids some responsibility) and meet up when the time was made to meet back up. I always had an affinity for the parks, shows, movies and the company. We grew up having the Disney Channel when it first aired. I was glued to that station everyday. And boy did I have a crush on Annette, even though she was already my mom’s age at this time, I wanted to time travel to her in the MMC days. All this aside, I remember the day I found out I was born on Walt Disney’s birthday and I must had been in the 5th grade or something, but my older brother had the Disneyland guide book. The souvenir one you could purchase with tidbits of info and pictures on Disneyland and Walt. Well in it it showed his birthday and at that moment my love now addiction, had skyrocketed. That would probably be the biggest moment that pushed the already made snowball over the edge.

  2. Likewise, I don’t think I had any one dramatic “conversion experience.” I did go through the phase of rejecting Disney in my Teens and early Twenties, and my return to it was a gradual process that worked on me from several directions over the course of about five years from its first stirrings to my first trip to Disneyland in 2005.

    One was “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” and its historic role in the development of modern Retro-Victorian Sci-Fi. Following along after that was “Atlantis,” “Tarzan” and “Treasure Planet.” And from there to “Island at the Top of the World” and “In Search of the Castaways” and basically any of Disney’s Victorian nostalgia. At first I was all “Disney virtually created this genre that I love? Eeww no.” But it turns out that “20,000 Leagues” is a really good movie and Disney consistently does some of the best stuff in that genre.

    Another was the Haunted Mansion. I got into Goth in my late Teens, and after a while I started getting into the classic Universal Monster movies and the Monster Kid culture of the Fifties and Sixties, of which the Mansion is an inescapable part (alongside said Universal movies, Vincent Price’s Poe movies, The Addams Family and Munsters, Famous Monsters of Filmland and so on). That led me to the Doombuggies forum, where I met a lot of really great people who nurtured my interest.

    That in turn led me to an appreciation for the Disney Villains, which led me to an appreciation of the classic animated films, since my being Goth by this point had some pretty strong undercurrents of capital-R Romanticism (nowadays I tend to identify more as a Romantic than as a Goth). Those fairy tale films echoed my love of the Pre-Raphaelites, Gustave Dore and Charles Perrault.

    A third was an academic interest in Disney themed design as a focus of my undergraduate studies in the field of museums and heritage. I was curious about how Imagineers did what they did and how that could influence practice in exhibit design and program delivery. That then led me to a general interest in Disney’s historical influence and original cultural milieu, all of which led me to both Disneyland the park and Disneyland the TV show, Davy Crockett, the Walt Disney Treasures DVDs, and a membership in the Disney Movie Club by which I’m semi-rapidly building up a collection of every film the company made while Walt was still alive (which began, at the start of this process, as me just buying $2 used VHS of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty because I couldn’t be bothered to spend real money on them).

    The last thing to click has been quite recent: my childhood experience of Disney in the Eighties was primarily on television, watching Ducktales, Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers, Welcome to Pooh Corner, and the original Mickey Mouse Club every day after school, Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday nights, and the Halloween special hosted by Hans Conried as the Magic Mirror. The films I remember seeing in theatres were the re-release of “101 Dalmatians,” “The Great Mouse Detective,” and the re-release of “Snow White” before I got too old for that Disney stuff. My fiancee, however, did grow up with “Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin,” and “The Lion King” and has been introducing me to them. Now I have a better appreciation for Disney stuff made after 1989 than I did before.

  3. From my first trip to Disney till now I have had a plaethora of moments with Disney. Watching all the Disney films at the El Capitan Thetre in Los Angeles to watching the Disney channel whenever we got it for free for a month cause we couldnt afford the cable, even going to all the Disney stores at the local mall was a event for me and my mom. But the moment that struck me the most was when my dayghter and I watched the World of Color on our last trip to Disneyland before moving…
    we stayed at the Disneyland resort hotel for 5 days and it was the perfect farewell before having to move out of California. It would be the last time we would go to Disney for my daughters b-day which became a traditiin from 2 to 6. Arriving at the hotel itself was a adventure, we had always stayed at surrounding malls but since this was our last month in Cali we decided to splurge. We got our room and were amazed at the beauty. We settled in and made our way to the park. For the next couple of days, a few moments hit me like a ton of bricks. Watching my son be amazed in Fantasyland, riding all the rides with my daughter, and watching the World of Color with her. We have been going to Disneyland multiple times a year, sometimes we bought 2 3day hoppers a year. Being in the navy you learn to take advantage of things as much as you can. That moment for me will replay in my mind for my entire life. Its the moment I go back to time and time again when im deployed. Im about to be deployed again and I will continue to refer to this moment again and again. Its good to know other people have been touched by Walt and his imagination as much as I have.

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