Real Character (Or, How Peter and Jake Made Wendy’s Day Perfectly Darling)

As Confessions moves into 2014 with new ideas and stories, I’m also taking a moment or two to reflect and share a few memorable experiences my family and I had during 2013. This particular instance comes from a trip to Disneyland in September, and serves as an open letter to those who made a possibly sad experience absolutely wonderful.

Dear Residents of Never Land (aka, Peter Pan and Jake the Never Land Pirate),

I write this letter as a long overdue note of thanks for making a five year old’s day at Disneyland so incredibly magical by small acts of kindness that were, in essence, incredibly huge in her eyes – and ours, too!

You see, as I’ve mentioned in the past, Peter Pan and Never Land are huge in our household. While there are other aspects of Disney from day to day, depending on which characters we are “playing” at a particular time, Peter is the constant. Any time we’ve met you at the park, Peter, you’ve always been a highlight and we’ve been excited to see you. So, it was with great anticipation on this trip that our daughter wore the Wendy dress her grandmother had recently made her in anticipation of meeting you.

That day in the park, September 9th, 2013, we arrived and looked for you in the locations and attractions we had met you previously. The early morning yielded no results, although one cast member had mentioned seeing you around Dumbo. Yet, in asking a character handler at the Tangled meet & greet, we were informed that no, you had not made it to the park today. Later, however, we were informed by a cast member at another area of the park, “Peter should definitely be around today!” Being that there was quite a bit of confusion among cast members as to your whereabouts, I ventured to Main Street to chat with the character handlers there to see if I could get a definitive answer. Although I cannot remember the handler’s name, I can tell you what a wonderful help she was. After explaining our situation to her, she stepped back and made a call to the back. Upon her return, she sadly explained that you had some troubles in Never Land that morning. Hook and his fellow pirates were being extra feisty, and you were needed there to reign them in. Sadly, you would not be at the park that day until Soundsational parade time.

While we understood – I mean, these things happen, pirates being how pirates can be – we were nonetheless a little sad. Here our little Wendy had one wish, and that was to meet you and show you her dress, Peter. But being the trooper she was, she held back tears as we went to plan “B.” While she was reluctant to meet Tinker Bell (I guess Wendy and Tink have a bit of a past…), she was more willing to venture across to Disney California Adventure in hopes of meeting Jake (the nice Never Land Pirate) and return to Disneyland later to at least wave to you as you passed by during Soundsational.

Jake, this is where you came in. When we got over to Californina Adventure, you were not out, but were told you would be arriving shortly. The short wait was worth our while, as you instantly recognized Wendy and took her on a magical journey through the streets of Hollywoodland in search of the ever elusive second star to the right. For a full five minutes, the two of you were in your own world, walking down one side of the street and up the other, eyes peeled for any sign of Never Land.

He must be here somewhere!

After finding evidence of a possible path to Never Land (a star in the window of the Animation Building), it was time for you to move on and meet other guests waiting for you. But Jake, you put a smile on that little girl’s face – the biggest one we had seen that day.

At least, the biggest one we had seen so far.

Later that afternoon, we traversed back to Disneyland in order to catch the only showing of Soundsational that day – at park closing. Still unsure of meeting Tink in Pixie Hollow that day (I mean, she HAD wanted to shoot Wendy down, you know…), we made our way to the back of the park for a ride on It’s a Small World. After that, we sat down for a spot at the end of the parade route. As the sun began to set and the parade started, our little Never Lander waited with anticipation to wave to you, Peter.

Waiting For Pan…

Soundsational is definitely a great parade. The music, the upbeat tempo, the cast of characters… this time was no different. Very much worth waiting for. However…the main event was coming up – would you see Wendy and wave back?

Hi, Peter!!!!

Did you see her? Did you ever! Not only did you wave, but you made her feel like the most important person in the world for 15 seconds. When you spotted her, you ran over, got down on her level, and….

“Wendy!!! Where’ve you been? I’ve been looking ALL OVER for you!!! I’m so glad you made it today! I have to get back and catch Hook, but I’m so happy to see you!”

As you ran off to fight those pirates once again, and our little one squealed with glee, you took a moment to point back and tell Tinker Bell she was there. And yes, even Tink was happy to see her!

As adults, many seem to forget the magic of meeting a favorite character in the park. We tend to be the ones gasping at long lines to meet a mouse, a princess, or a boy who never grew up. We scoff at meet & greets and want to get to the rides. But for many of us, we can look at the face of a little girl who just met her hero…

“He stopped the parade just for me!!!” – her exact words!

…and it’s the most important thing about being in a magical place.

So thank you, Peter and Jake. You made a little girl’s day by going above and beyond what many expect. And I am forever grateful for moments and characters like you.


A Dad Who Never Wants to Grow Up

My dear readers, I wrote this letter with the hopes that it would bring you happiness – to remember what it’s like to see Disney through the eyes of a child. I also did so in the hope that you would help me out with a small favor. See, I would love to see if this could make its way to the “friends” of Peter and Jake that were at the parks that day in September. I really would like them to know of the impact and impression they left on us that day. It truly was magical. Please feel free to share, comment and pass this on to anyone who may be able to get it to these wonderful people. Until next time, my friends, be blessed!

18 thoughts on “Real Character (Or, How Peter and Jake Made Wendy’s Day Perfectly Darling)

  1. This brought tears to my eyes. I too have a Peter and Never Land fan in the house, a 4-year old little guy. Meeting Peter at Walt Disney World is the highlight of every trip. Sadly our Christmas trip was Peter-less as only Wendy seemed to be doing meet & greets on our Magic Kingdom days. He is already counting the days until he can meet Peter again.

    Thanks for sharing such a sweet story, and a reminder of the true magic of Disney.

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed this! I have to admit, we’ve never been to WDW but can’t wait till we are able to make the trip – a main reason being we’ve learned that Wendy is out much more often there!

      Thanks for the wonderful comments and sharing your story – Never Landers unite!

  2. This is why I LOVE Disneyland! So magical and something she will never forget. Melt my heart and happy tears running down my face. Thank you for sharing =)

  3. BEAUTIFUL!! Write directly to Disney and tell them your experience including the days and times you met the characters and spoke with the character handlers. They will know who was where at those times. We also have a HUGE Peter Pan and Neverland Pirates fan in our house (She actually loves Captain Hook! She’s 4) Now if I can hunt him down for her to finally give him the treasure map she made, she would be in heaven!

    • Thanks, Janelle! There is not a day that goes by without some form of Peter and Wendy conversation in our house. And we were able to get this story communicated to the right people – the power of a story and the magic of Disney combined right there!

  4. Now that I’ve wiped the tears from my eyes, all I can say is, I wish I could have seen this in person! She looks just like Wendy in her dress, and I know how much she loves Peter! Nothing compares to seeing Disneyland through her eyes. Great story, Craig! Hopefully the cast members will find out what joy they brought to one little girl and her parents.

  5. I loved this. Got me misty eyed! She will have so many great memories from these character encounters and how great it is as a parent to be able to experience and see that joy through the eyes and heart of a child. As a fan of Peter and Neverland also growing up I have fond memories of Peter and I bonding together in the parks. It’s something you don’t forget because it feels so special when your heroes talk to you! Can’t wait to experience that as a parent myself one day.

  6. Excellent! And the best thing is that all this has happened before, and it will all happen again. This is what Cast Members at Disneyland do every day. The miracles we experience through their efforts are just another day at the office for them. I hold Cast Members like this in the same regard as I would hold an animator or an Imagineer. They are, sometimes one young girl at a time, helping hearts and minds to rejoice in a world where that is no small trick. A fine article, Craig. Thank you.

  7. This is the Disney I know and love. The reason I always wanted to be a cast member. This has circulated through the Disney employees and straight to Peter himself. Just thought you should know.

    • It warms my heart to know that others “get it!” It really is a magical, happy place. Thanks for letting me know – the little girl was happy to hear as well!

  8. Growing up I was a huge Disney fan. I learned english through watching disney films, and we would take trips to both Disneyland and Disney World often. It wasnt until my daughter and son were born, and the complete wonder and awe in their faces when they see cinderellas castle ot meeting mickey and minnie for the first time, did I realize just how incredible that place is. These stories are what make that place timeless.

    • Is it not amazing to see that look on the little one’s face for the first time? I love taking my daughter to the parks! Thanks for sharing your story, too, Chris!

      • I can easily recall the look on my daughters face while watching the wonderful world of color or my sons face during peter pans flight. Best feeling in the world when your children love the things you loved growing up. Being in the navy takes me away from them a lot but I have a huge library of oictures that I go back to when im down and lonely out to sea. Those are the moments that get ke through deployments. A question for all, what disney moment do you most often recall when thinking about your kids. Ive read a couple but I love reading these stories.

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