I was backstage at Disneyland, just behind the backstage entrance near “it’s a small world”. My high school marching band had just finished parading, marching down Main Street USA and beyond Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. With the gates now closed behind us, the band began setting down their instruments, taking off their uniforms, relaxing. I, however, was not. I was crying. I was happier than I had ever been in my entire life. I had just marched down Disneyland, an absolute dream come true. As I sat there backstage, alone and still crying, a hand patted my back, and a voice told me simply… “Walt would be proud.” (That certainly didn’t help stop the tears, if anything it brought on an onslaught of more, but only because it resonated so deeply in my sophomore-age heart.) Certainly, that sentiment seems fluffy and shallow, and if you were to think too much about it, you might be able to disqualify the statement entirely. But such meant so very much to me then, and still continues to mean so very much to me now.
One can only imagine the energy running through Walt’s head as he sat at on that “dirty” Griffith Park bench, watching his two daughters ride on the nearby carousel. Walt Disney claims this to be where his dream of Disneyland first began.
You wonder what sparked the dream.
Sure, Walt loved trains, and perhaps wanted a place he could showcase that love.
Certainly he thought his films and their stories were great enough to replicate in the third-dimension.
The idea of creating a theme-park had to have intrigued someone with the urban-developing and civil-designing mind that he had.
However, this author best assumes, from the stories I’ve heard told, that Walt Disney’s dream began not for any type of self-aggrandizement, but for his daughters. Watching Diane and Sharon ride around and around on that carousel, he began dreaming of a land, a kingdom where his two daughters could have all the clean, safe, imaginative fun that their hearts could dream up. Such a place was what Disneyland became. I see Disneyland and all other Disney Parks to be more of a “grand playground” for a man’s daughters than anything, a thoughtful gift from father to child, part of why I think those parks are so personally endearing.
Such seems to be the case with all of Walt’s creations. His dreams began at his home. His children had began reading these little story books about a nanny in England that flew around with an umbrella. His children loved them so much, he thought certainly he could bring this “Mary Poppins” character to life for them in a far greater way.
It’s my opinion, and you can hold me to it, but if it wouldn’t have been for Walt’s two daughters, I can’t imagine many of Disney’s greatest moments ever coming to fruition. They certainly wouldn’t have turned out the way they have. There certainly wouldn’t have been the same motives behind it. We have so very much to thank his girls for.
It hurts my heart to report that Diane Disney Miller, the oldest of Walt’s daughters, has passed away due to complications from a fall she had taken earlier, at the age of 79.
I can claim absolutely no close, personal association to Diane, or with anyone in the Disney family. I am merely an admirer of such. However, this news comes as such a hit to the heart to all of us Disney loyal. Diane was the last surviving member of Walt’s immediate family. Truly, she was the sole biological child of Lilian and Walt. As such, she had a way of catching my attention when I saw her on-screen in several various Disney documentaries. The thought was always, “I’m looking at Walt Disney’s daughter; can I see Walt in her?” You always could. That twinkle in Uncle Walt’s eye we’re all so very fond of was present in Diane’s. The simplistic joy she expressed as she relived stories of her growing up as the daughter of Walt immediately identified her as a Disney, her father possessing a similar enthusiasm for story-telling. Diane, thank you for helping to tell your father’s story, for being such “a fierce guardian” (as Bob Iger so aptly put it) of his name and legend. In doing such, thank you for sharing with us your own story, for showing us that the “Disney magic” wasn’t exclusive to one man.
Diane, we’re so very sad to see you go. With all of our hearts, we say “thank you.” My thoughts and prayers extend to the family and friends you’ve left here. I hope your reunion with your dear sister, with your father and mother, was as sweet and joyful as you’d ever have dreamed it to be.
– Hayden Evans
The author recommends reading THIS ARTICLE PUBLISHED BY THE LA TIMES for a more concise, informative post on Diane’s passing.
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…”
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.
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?
“Winds in the east, mist coming in, like somethin’ is brewin’ and bout to begin. Can’t put me finger on what lies in store, but I fear what’s to happen all happened before…”
So begins the tale of Disney’s Mary Poppins, as sung by Bert, Mary’s dear “jack-of-all-trades” friend who serves as a kind of narrator throughout this classic (masterpiece even) telling of PL Travers’ fantastical stories. It never ceases to amaze me just how well acquainted the world is with Disney’s Poppins. Everyone seems to know the multi-purposeful “Supercalifragilisticexpealidocious” (fewer know how to actually spell it, and even fewer go so far as saying it backwards). How many kids have leaped off a patio, opened umbrella in hand, hoping to float down as effortlessly as Mary Poppins can? Us DisNerds especially: how many times a week, day even, do you say that something is simply “practically perfect”, and any other Poppins-related remarks? Mary Poppins is so definitively Disney, in my opinion. (If aliens visit this Earth, and ask what one film best showcases Disney, I’m popping in Poppins. DOn’t ask me how they already know what Disney is.) The film is quite like Mary’s famous carpet bag; You may have just 2 hours or so of film, but it just keeps surprising you with the amount of magic and heart that it contains.
Gosh, I’m sure Poppins has been on your mind a lot recently. It certainly is on the tip of a lot of folks’ tongues as of late, DisNerd or not. With Disney’s “Saving Mr. Banks” coming to theaters later this year, no doubt you’ve seen its recently released trailer. (If not, enjoy the preview HERE!) We’ve talked Poppins a few times on this blog, and no doubt we’ll be talkin’ Poppins a lot more on this blog.
While all of you are discussing how close (or far) Tom Hanks’ actually resembles Mr. Disney, I’d like to bring up a side of Mary Poppins that I saw for the first time this July.
The winds were blowing in the right direction, and a trip to St. George, UT perfectly coincided with a local theater’s showing of Disney’s “Mary Poppins: A New Musical”. My experience with Disney’s theatrical productions have been few, but absolutely memorable. I remember seeing a touring production of Beauty and the Beast as a pretty young kid, and there are moments of the show that I’ve yet to forget. (“Be Our Guest” had me in awe.) Seeing a professionally performed Disney Broadway show always seemed like an out-of-reach dream for me growing up, not unlike my current dream of experiencing Disneyland Paris. (Mary Poppins touring production stopped in Salt Lake City, UT two years ago, but as stated in my previous blog posting, I was ecclesiastically committed to another project that had me unable to attend.) I discovered this past weekend, the same quality I’ve come to expect from Disney’s other endeavors stands true for its musicals.
The venue certainly lent itself to some incredible effects. Seeing Mary Poppins soar through this red rock canyon would be an incredibly fulfilling moment for any self-respecting DisNerd. You can imagine how thrilled I was to see Admiral Boom shooting off fireworks throughout the final bars of “Step In Time”, knowing fully well that such an effect was not a part of the original production. The cast was so enjoyable. They carried such an energy that had the audience in all-smiles from start until end.
Yes, I know, and you’ve probably already thought this as you’ve read this post, “This shmuck didn’t even see a legitimate Disney production!” and that’s true. I didn’t see Ashley Brown and Gavin Lee. I didn’t see any touring company. And I may have just invalidated any point I’ve been trying to make throughout this article.
I did get a neat t-shirt out of it all, and that’s gotta count for something. No? Drat. Well c’mon, watch the preview they made. You’ll see that what I saw wasn’t too far a cry from Broadway.
I’ll say this much… It was an incredibly magical moment to see a Disney classic brought to life. It was a wholly unique experience, oh-so different from the Poppins I knew before, and yet it all felt so familiar as well. In struggling to come up with some witty way to end this post with, here’s what I produced: I’ve got a fev’ah, and the only subscription is mo’ Disney Theatrical Productions. I so look forward to the next Disney show that I see. Here’s hoping the wind will blow you and in the direction of the Great White Way!
Take the time to enjoy this wonderful musical number, “Step In Time” from the Original Broadway Cast of Disney’s Mary Poppins. (What’s the best part? It’s free!)
So DisNerds, have you ever been to a Disney show? What shows have you seen? Any recommendations you’d make?
(PS: Kudos to those who sang the post’s title to the tune of “Supercalifragilisticexpealidocious”!)
Hey-there, Hi-there, Ho-there, DisNerds!
I cannot even begin to tell you how ecstatic I am to be featured here on this wonderful blog. English words fail to describe just how excited I am to see where this all goes. (Luckily we all love a world whose ridiculously imaginatory lexicon is only rivaled by Dr. Seuss, so I believe I can find some word to describe my feelings. Tigger-ific? Supercalifragilistexpealidocious? Point being: Disney is awesome and I’m infinitely-and-beyond happy to be on-board with this blog.)
So, I’m certain I’ll have the opportunity to explain more of my Disney-love (how I came to love it, how I live it, etc.) but I’ll just take this paragraph to at least introduce myself this much: I am Mouseketeer Hayden (“Hi, Hayden…”) I am 21 years old, and I’ve been a Disney geek for 10+ years now. (The first 11 or so was all training, mind you.) It’s interesting to see the variety of Disney geeks you stumble upon… Some can stump me on every single Mickey Mouse related trivia question we’d be asked, others seem to know an uncomfortable amount of information about Annette Funicello. Myself? Gosh, you’ll be hearing a lot from me about Disneyland, Disney Imagineering, Disney Animation, and the man Disney himself.
Craig spoke briefly of my life’s most recent grand adventure as he introduced me. In short, I returned this May from Seattle, Washington where I served as a full-time missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I’ll spare you two years worth of stories (though I’d be happy to share with any who’d like to hear them via private conversations) and explain this much: I served this mission knowing full well that I’d be away from family and friends for two years, my only contact with them being occasional letters and weekly e-mails (and I was allotted only an hour’s worth of e-mailing, mind you). I understood that I’d be asked to forsake all forms of “worldly” entertainment, including, but not limited to: movies, music (excluding sacred hymns, of course), radio, iPods, iPhones, computers, newspapers, television, etc. I knew that I wouldn’t have any “vacation” time; certainly no time to even think about Disneyland, let alone go to Disneyland. Such is the life of a Mormon missionary!
May 11th, 2013, I was reunited with my family. It was a wonderful moment. I can’t even begin to describe the emotion(s) of it all. Suffice it to say, I was with who I loved most. But I wasn’t “where” we needed to be quite yet.
May 28, 2013, I came “home”. Tears welled up in my eyes seeing the crest of the Matterhorn rise as we drove down the I-5. My heart was racing driving down Katella. There it was, I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. Disneyland was still there. Finally, my family was reunited with the place we loved most. They had gone a handful of times during my mission, but lamented the fact that the group was always an un-even 5. (I like to think they actually missed me, but I think they were more upset at the fact that 5 always meant someone was riding solo, missing the fact that 6 in a party leant itself to easier seating configurations… I jest.)
I felt absolutely spoiled; for the next 5 days I felt like Disneyland was putting on its best show just for me. The rides went smoother, the cast members were happier, the paint was fresher… I felt like it’d missed me, and that it was mighty happy to see me back. Thank goodness, too. I entertained the thought that perhaps I wasn’t as ready for Disneyland as perhaps I needed to be.
It was interesting to see the things that changed, yes, from major installments to minor details. Some sails and other various fabrics in Pirates of the Caribbean had been changed out. Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye certainly had its share of enhancements. California Adventure… I don’t think anything was the same there! A new entrance, Buena Vista Street, Cars Land, trolleys, shows, stores… What an experience that was, seeing for the first time! A water feature here had been repainted, a merchandise rack had been shifted there… But I was still walkin’ right down the middle of the same Main Street USA. I was still being followed home by the same pestering hitch-hiking ghosts. It’s just as small a world now as it was when those 2 years ago. Which was all sorts of wonderful. I found I needed to be at Disneyland for more reasons than to just satisfy a Disney geek’s cravings and yearnings. I needed to be there to remind myself of where I had come from, who I was, and where I’ve wanted to be going. It was here I felt a figurative “last piece of the puzzle” fall into place, solidifying all of the life lessons I had learned through my missionary service into my heart. I was I sure picked an eventful two years to take a hiatus from, I’ll tell you what! It was wonderful to feel that my two years away from the magic didn’t deplete me in anyway. It has very much so been a compounding experience; each passing moment finds me all the more prepared for the next. I was just as ready for Disneyland as I had ever been.
Now granted, that’s a very sappy and sentimental look at things. Perhaps another entry later I can provide a greater (and more factual) trip report. I’ll say this much:
Car’s Land? I watch a Youtube video of Radiator Springs Racers every day to remind myself that it was actually real. From Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree down the road to the Cadillac Range, it was nothing but extraordinarily delightful.
Buena Vista Street was far greater than I could have ever anticipated. I first saw it at nighttime, and I immediately fell in love. It provides such an incredibly immersive experience. It had me in awe the minute I scanned my pass and stepped in.
Ariel’s Undersea Adventure can be summed up in this question: Where can I get one of them Ursula audio-animatronics for my home? (I LOVE IT. I NEED IT.)
There are so many more stories to share, and yet today there is so little time. I hope you enjoyed this, and if anything I hope you take this from it all: I friggin’ missed Disneyland, I’m excited to be back, and I can’t wait to go again. And, if I might add… I am happy to be here, contributing to this blog! Have a Disney Day, folks!