Cory and Ashley – Happily Ever After

Some of the best Disney stories are stories about how much Disney is just a part of our lives, and looking back on how significant of a role it plays throughout. Today’s story comes from Cory, who tells us of how a connection started with Disney being just one of the aspects, but played a very important role as a relationship progressed.

“Though my wife Ashley and I don’t live and breathe Disney like so many wonderful super-fans, Disney has had an important place in every major step in our relationship.

We met through our workplace. I am an educator in a museum and she began at the same museum as a member of the security team. That was when I first took notice of this beautiful, curly-haired girl who looked like she just stepped out of a Medieval painting. She moved on to the education team, and we discovered in the course of our first conversation that we both had a lot of love for the Middle Ages, fantasy and fairy tales, and for Disney films in particular.

After a year of resisting my charms, she condescended to date me. A few months thereafter, we took our first trip together, to Disneyland U.S.A. I had been to Disneyland twice before, as well as Paris and Tokyo, and she had been to Disneyland Paris herself. This, however, was her first trip to the first Disneyland and her birthday, so we pulled out all the stops. There wasn’t a tour or a dessert party we didn’t do. We even finagled a trip to the Disney Studios! Most importantly, it proved that we were able to travel together and further cemented what a good match we were.

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Another year and a bit later, we took a trip together to Paris which, naturally, included Disneyland. At one point, Disneyland Paris even came to our rescue: we accidentally boarded the wrong train in the city of Tours, and could have ended up at either Bordeaux or Disneyland Paris. Thankfully it was headed in the right direction! More importantly, it was at the end of our full, planned day in Disneyland that we got engaged.

I planned to propose to Ashley at some point during our trip, as everyone including herself guessed I might. I just didn’t know when that would be! But after the evening performance of Disney Dreams, as the crowds filtered out and we sat on the edge of a fountain, admiring the castle, the conversation turned and I knew that was the moment. I presented her with a ring inside of a tiny pumpkin carriage, slipped to one knee, proclaimed her my fairy tale princess come true, and asked for her hand. She replied with ‘hold on a second’… and then presented me with a ring of her own!

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Of course, some of our friends and family thought it odd that, with all of France at our disposal, we would have gotten engaged at Disneyland. Those who really knew us knew better. It couldn’t have been more perfect. Besides, you couldn’t visit the Eiffel Tower without tripping over a couple getting engaged. There wasn’t enough room for us!

Our wedding just over another year later was fairy tale themed. We didn’t have the money for a Disney destination wedding, and would have balked at the idea anyways. Instead we “settled” for a meadow overlooking a valley in the Canadian Rocky Mountains near our home and a fairy tale themed reception. Each table had a centerpiece themed to a different story like Alice in Wonderland, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Little Mermaid, Wizard of Oz, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and guests first had to figure out their table from the page of the story they were given. Then, each table had to guess when it was time to head to the buffet when the song associated with their story was played. “The Unbirthday Song” and “Heigh Ho” were easy… I was frankly surprised that anyone knew “Whale of a Tale”! The song for our first dance was “Beauty and the Beast”, though I’m not sure what that says about me.

 

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Our honeymoon was spent at Walt Disney World, in our first trip there for either one of us. That we went at the beginning of September was a climatic oversight for a pair of Canadians, but we still had a wonderful time!”

 

13875016_10157342603260454_1453763255_nCommon bonds. Magical destinations. True love.

Cory, you and Ashley are living your own fairy tale, and we at Confessions wish you a very wonderful “Happily Ever After.”

Cory is the author of the wonderful blogs, Voyages Extraordinaires: Scientific Romances in a Bygone Age, and Yesterday, Tomorrow and Fantasy: An Unofficial Guide to the World Beyond Disney (co-authored with his lovely wife, Ashley!). Make sure to visit these sites for hours of fascinating and highly recommended reading.

Do you have a “Disney story” you’d like to share? Confessions of a DisNerd would like to hear from you! For more information, please contact us at COADisNerd@cox.net or send a direct message through our Facebook page.

Riding the Train With Jake

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Jake loved trains.  As his mother Patty put it, “Thomas the Tank Engine was his right hand man. He was a train fanatic.” The trains at Walt Disney World were no exception. “They were his jam,“ said Patty. “He loved to ride the trains there.” It was this love of trains that would later provide Patty comfort during a trying time of life.

Patty was born in southern California, and has early memories of frequenting Disneyland. When friends or family came into town, she noted, Disneyland was often the destination, as it still is for many SoCal tourists. When the family moved to Texas, the frequent Disney trips stopped, but Patty was still a “Disney girl” at heart. As fate would have it, Patty met and married a fellow Disney fan, and after ten years in the Army, her husband was choosing between two different civilian jobs: one in Pennsylvania, and the other in Orlando. As Patty put it, “Disney World… or snow?” The answer was an easy one. Patty had always dreamed of being able to visit Walt Disney World on any given day; this move would give her the opportunity to do so with her two young boys, Jacob and Luke.

Patty took the opportunity to visit Walt Disney World often, many times meeting up with friends for playdates in the park. As stated before, Jake was a huge fan of the train, riding it every opportunity he got. In addition to the train, they spent a lot of their time in Fantasyland, with one notable exception: Jake hated the Winnie the Pooh ride. “Absolutely hated it,” recalls Patty. “The Heffalumps and Woozles were just too much for him.” Obviously, the Pooh ride was one they didn’t ride as much. Nonetheless, they all enjoyed their many playdates at Walt Disney World.

Jake was also a heart transplant recipient; sadly, he passed away at the very young age of four. After his passing, Patty and her family moved back to Texas to be nearer to family, namely her mom, as they recovered from the heartbreaking loss of their oldest child. The chance for daily visits to Walt Disney World were no longer an option, but Patty still remembered those opportunities with great fondness, and the park remained very dear to her.

A year after their move, Patty and her family decided it was time to take a family trip back to Orlando and visit Disney World once again. Patty recalls, “Everyone talks about how they get overwhelmed and overcome with emotion when you walk down Main Street. I was okay,” she continued. “I held it together. It was excitement, it was happiness… until the train went by.” As the whistle blew, the tears started. “My husband and I looked at each other, holding each other in the middle of Main Street. I just knew Jacob was there with us. It was in that moment I knew I was home. This was where my entire family could be together, even though we were missing one member of the family.”

Another significant moment for Patty was when her family rode Winnie the Pooh. Luke, who was about a year younger than Jake turned to his mom and asked, “Mom, why are we riding Jake’s least favorite ride? He hated this ride!”

Said Patty, “It was really cool, because Luke had memories of Jacob. He was really young when Jacob passed. I thought he wouldn’t have many memories of Jacob, but he remembered his brother from being at Walt Disney World.”

After this trip, Patty started running. She became very involved in participating in RunDisney races, as this was a way to get back to Walt Disney World on a regular basis; to visit a place where she felt home, where she could remember Jake. Over ten years later, “I still have that same feeling every time I walk into the park. I have that feeling every single time I get on the train, and I always get on the train at Disney World and take a trip around, and think about him.” She rides for Jake. She rides with him.

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That’s the beauty of Disney. So many memories are created in visits to a Disney resort, through singing along with a favorite Disney song, in watching the latest animated feature release with the family. These memories last a lifetime, and many last beyond that. They help us to remember with fondness the people we love – even after they have left us.

Thank you, Patty, for the honor of allowing Confessions to share your story.

Patty is a mom, wife and blogger. Make sure to visit her wonderful and inspiring blog, No Guilt Life for great posts on wellness, running, being a mom, and of course, Disney!

Do you have a “Disney story” you’d like to share? Confessions of a DisNerd would like to hear from you! For more information, please contact us at COADisNerd@cox.net or send a direct message through our Facebook page.

Fond Memories of the Past – Promise of the Future

Jake has always been a Disneyland devotee. “Disneyland has always been that ‘second home’ to me. As a native Californian, it’s been basically my backyard wonderland to go to,” he told me. “I’ve celebrated most of my birthdays there, many family events, and most recently, wrapped up my honeymoon there. The Happiest Place on Earth has always been there, changing slightly through the years, but always remaining magical.”

Jake recalled one of his most vivid Disneyland memories from the summer of 1998. “I was six; my dad had just turned 30. My mom surprised him by flying his dad, stepmom, and step brothers out from Pennsylvania. We did a whole tour of California: central coast, Sea World, the mountains, and of course, Disneyland. Even at six, I was a seasoned local, dragging my grannie all over the park, knowing exactly where Pirates of the Caribbean was, and what time we could meet Belle and The Beast (her favorite characters from her favorite film). I still have a photo of us with them.”

On this trip, Jake had a realization. “I think for the first time I started to see what impact the park could have on people. I still vividly remember their faces as they walked around the magic kingdom,” he reflected. “My grandma was a kid again, in constant awe of what Walt’s original park was. I started to understand that this place has an effect on people. It entrances them, spellbound by the worlds of fantasy, frontier and adventure.”

As time went by, he continued to frequent the park as often as he could. However, on his most recent visit, things were a little different. “Usually, this wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for us, however this time, we were waddling around the park pregnant.” They continued enjoying the park as usual; of course, this time Jake’s wife Hailey wouldn’t be able to ride every attraction as she had been used to. But aside from that, this was another regular Disneyland trip for the two of them.

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Toward the end of their last night at the park, Jake came to a realization. “As we were watching Disneyland Forever, it struck me that this was the last time I was going to be there without being a dad. Then, when the show ended, hearing that beautifully written Richard Sherman song, ‘Kiss Goodnight’ as we were walking down Main Street, I started crying. Not out of sadness,” he continued, “but because this was the closing of just me and my wife going to Disneyland, and the opening of our family of three now going to the park. The dynamic of the two of us, or even our families coming with us was now added by one. I get to take my son to Disneyland now! I get to be a dad and show him my love of a place that’s been a part of my life for so long.” But that wasn’t all of it, Jake said. “I get to experience a place I’ve so dearly loved in a whole new way. I get to experience Disneyland by seeing his reaction when we meet Mickey Mouse on Main Street.  As Paint the Night rolls down the parade route, I get to see his eyes light up with wonder. Or hear him giggle as he rides his favorite attraction, whatever that may be.”

Jake had the realization that so many parents have already seen. “I have what I love about the park, but now I have the honor of seeing what he may love about the same place. It’s humbling and absolutely amazing that this is a new experience for all of us. As time goes on, I can only imagine what memories will be made, what experiences will become of our expanding family, and just how magical this place will be!”

I agree with you, Jake. Seeing Disneyland through another’s eyes, whether it be a child or a child at heart, definitely helps you experience the place in a brand new way. When we took my daughter to Disneyland for the first time, I watched her more than I did attractions at times. It definitely made me see everything in a new light, and appreciate the simple wonders of a leisurely stroll through the park, or even riding the same 4 rides over and over! Here’s to many happy trips with your new family!

On Monday morning, July 11th, Jake and Hailey welcomed their son into this world. Here’s wishing them the best on a new adventure as a family!

Do you have a “Disney story” you’d like to share? Confessions of a DisNerd would like to hear from you! For more information, please contact us at COADisNerd@cox.net or send a direct message through our Facebook page.

Making Walt Proud

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.

Today is Walt Disney’s birthday, and in honor of such, I simply wanted to share a bit of what this man has done for me in my life, much of which I am certain you will heartedly agree with. I have never met Walt Disney. I will never meet Walt Disney. My knowledge of him only extends so far as the knowledge his closest associates have shared. Yet in learning more of this “man behind the mouse,” I found a man who helped to create my dreams, and then taught me how to make them come true. He taught me, and still teaches me, of imagination, optimism, spirit, and ingenuity. Walt Disney has inspired me and will continue to inspire me.
At the end of each and every trip to Disneyland, I sit myself on a bench near “Partners”, the commemorative statue of Walt with Mickey Mouse. I sit under the twinkling lights in the trees, with tired guests walking past me for one last photo of the castle. Many families stop and look at Walt and Mickey, and many small kids have turned to their folks to ask, “Mom, who was Walt Disney?” Their answers never fail to bring tears to my eyes. “He was a magical man who made Disneyland,” some say. “He was remarkable, he had so many dreams.” “He’s who you have to thank for the wonderful time we’ve had at Disneyland.” I stay on that bench until security asks me to leave, but until they do, I have little conversations with Walt. I report back on my dreams. It’s a tradition of mine I’ve been doing since I was 12. I make sure I am doing him proud. And to all of us dreamers, hoping to carry on ol’ Uncle Walt’s legacy, I’m sure we’re doing him proud.

Disneynature’s “Bears” – a Review

Note: I realize this review may be a little late, as “Bears” was released into theaters on April 18th. However, with no opportunity to preview before the release day, I still feel the need to share with anyone still deciding whether to see this movie or not.

DisneyNature's "Bears"

DisneyNature’s “Bears”

 

“Disney” and “Nature.” Two things I absolutely love in this world. The beauty of outdoors, and the fun and memories of the premiere entertainment company for many.  Combine the two, and this should be a match made in heaven for this DisNerd, right? Up until now, I’d have to say, sadly, wrong.

Don’t misunderstand me, I think highly of Disney for attempting these beautifully shot wildlife documentaries released annually around Earth Day. The fact that every year they donate proceeds from opening week to conservation funds? Even better. But, unfortunately, I’m a bit of a wimp. I find it difficult to see animals encountering hardship and perhaps even dying when faced with the elements. Yes, Mufasa explained the great circle of life quite well to me, but that doesn’t mean I can stomach seeing it happen. As amazing as Chimpanzee looked to me, the harshness of a chimp being orphaned made the subject matter hard for me to want to watch, even more so with a little one next to me. I know many have loved the movies, and I’m grateful for that – to see Walt Disney’s “True Life Adventure” legacy carried on in some form is something I’m genuinely happy to see. To raise awareness of animals in their natural habitat is wonderful and definitely to be admired; it’s just not something I can always emotionally handle. Apparently, this has been passed down to my child as well – which, given the fact that she’s six, is quite understandable.

So it was with a little trepidation, Mrs. DisNerd and I decided to take the Little DisNerd to see the latest offering, “Bears,” this past weekend. We did our research beforehand, reading plenty of reviews as to the family-friendliness of the new DisneyNature film.

 

Definitely ready to enter the world of Bears!

Definitely ready to enter the world of Bears!

 

I’m pleased to report that not only did we emerge from the film psychologically unscathed, but we also left with smiles on our faces and a love for all things bear.

Set against the backdrop of a gorgeous Alaskan wilderness, “Bears” follows the first year journey of Sky, a mama grizzly, and her two cubs: “mama’s bear” Amber and the mischievous Scout. Emerging from hibernation, they begin their harrowing journey from their mountainous den to the waters far below in search of food – namely salmon – in order to nourish themselves and fatten up for the next years hibernation. Along the way, they face danger in the form of avalanches, wolves, rising tides, and yes, other bears – mainly in the form of two male grizzlies, Mangus (the alpha male) and Chinook (the exiled, haggard, desperate bear). Of course, the biggest danger lies in not finding enough food to fatten up for the coming hibernation season. If Sky can’t get enough food, she may not be nourished enough to provide for Scout and Amber through the next winter. Looking out for two youngsters make a regular journey much more harrowing, as usual spots can become unsafe due to overbearing males or other predators.

This journey is perfectly narrated by actor John C. Reilly, who combines informational narrative with storytelling and humor, namely in his voiceovers that delve into the insights of the curious and adventurous Scout.

We found “Bears” to be adventurous, humorous, educational, and overall, heartwarming. The story of changing priorities and ambitions is one parents can relate to: when you have little ones, it changes the way you do everything when parental instinct kicks in. And kids? Kids will love the adventures of the cubs, as well as learn something. Our little one, who loves playing in character after seeing movies came home wanting to be “Bear friends.” This consisted of calling each other by the names of Sky, Amber and Scout, and consuming lots and lots of imaginary salmon dishes. I would definitely recommend this documentary for the whole family.

On one last note – we saw this opening weekend, and I was saddened to see we were three of nine in a rather huge movie theater. What kept families away? Was it the documentary nature of the film? The possibility that true life may be too graphic for some? The lack of animated characters that kids so love to see on the big screen? Whatever the reason may be, I truly hope more moviegoers give Bears a chance – it’s truly a movie for the whole family. Plus, if you can see it in its opening week (which is through April 24th, 2014), the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund will make a contribution to the National Park Foundation in honor of those who were able to see the movie.

This Earth Day, I encourage everyone to see Disneynature’s “Bears,” tell others about it, and support great movies and features like this in the theaters. Have you seen “Bears?” Do you plan to? Feel free to comment below, or share this review with others, and let’s fill the theaters for this one!

P.S. – Be sure to stay through the credits to see footage of the film crew at work, getting these breathtaking shots at some rather “too close for comfort” distances!

A Bench in the Park

THE Bench. Or at least one of them. There were a few around the carousel at Griffith Park. Photo courtesy Mr. Twitchy

According to Walt, it’s important that we all remember one thing: that it was all started by a mouse. But when it comes to Disneyland, I also can’t help but think…. it was all started by a bench.

As has been repeated over the years, I’m sure by now we all know the story. Walt would occasionally take his daughters on a date to Griffith Park for a day together. As the girls would ride the carousel at the park, Walt would sit and watch, eating popcorn and thinking. Thinking about a park where parents could enjoy themselves as much as their children. Where entire families could have fun instead of someone being relegated to a bench. This bench proved to be a catalyst for Disneyland – a theme park that far exceeded those expectations.

Therefore, it was somewhat both fitting and ironic, when asked by a friend where my favorite spot in Disneyland to just “hang” was, that I responded with “a bench.” But not just any bench. While there are many places to take it easy and rest in the park, there’s one location in my opinion that has the others beat.

Simple, unassuming… and the perfect spot. Photo Courtesy of Mr. Twitchy

While not as exciting as an attraction, nor as appetite satisfying as a restaurant, there’s something incredibly amazing to me about sitting on a bench at the base of Main Street Station, looking out at Main Street toward Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. As one sits on one of these benches, especially later at night, one gets a true feeling of how amazing the park can really be.

Imagine sitting on a bench, listening to turn-of-the-century style music, hearing conversations between cast members and guests, seeing guests hurry into stores to make last minute purchases. Observing other guests as they leave the park for the day with children passed out in strollers. These same little ones who started the day with such energy and excitement are now reliving the adventure in their dreams. While sitting it that spot, you get a whiff of the popcorn from the nearby stand in Town Square, beginning to contemplate giving in and getting your own box. Keep a sharp eye out and you may see a feral cat scurry by amidst all the hustle and bustle, causing you wonder how it feels to be a small feline living in a land of over-sized mice.

If you look further down Main Street, you can see, against a backdrop of a European castle, the outline of a man and a mouse smiling at all the happy guests. At that moment, you turn to look to the fire station and see a light on – indicating that the same man’s spirit lives on…

Yes, that bench is the ultimate “just hang” spot for me. And perhaps that’s the ultimate beauty of Walt’s original Magic Kingdom. With so much to enjoy for the whole family, the benches placed throughout the park give us a view to such an amazing panorama of everything that makes it truly magical.

With that being said, now I ask, dear readers and fellow DisNerds – Do you have a favorite spot to just relax and enjoy within Disneyland or any of Disney’s theme parks for that matter? I’d love to hear from you as well!

On a side note – this weekend (Feb 21st-23rd), Confessions will once again be at Disneyland, including participating in Dapper Day festivites! Make sure you’re following on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for updates and pictures from the park!

So Long, Diane

Griffith Park Carousel

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.

Walt Disney shares a story with his two daughters, Sharon and Diane.

Walt Disney shares a story with his two daughters, Sharon and Diane.

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.

Diane Disney Miller, standing in front of one of her greatest contributions to the DIsney legacy: The Walt Disney Family Museum.

Diane Disney Miller, standing in front of one of her greatest contributions to the DIsney legacy: The Walt Disney Family Museum.

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.