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!”

 

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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.

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.

Bright Like a Diamond, Or… Happy Birthday, Disneyland!

A friend of mine posed the following question last night, on the eve of Disneyland’s 60th anniversary:

“Can you imagine what might’ve and must’ve been going through Walt’s mind 60 years ago, the evening before his Disneyland park would open?”

While many would probably answer that he was nervous, perhaps questioning what he had gotten himself into, I can’t help but think a bit differently.

I think Walt had complete confidence in his park. He was a man used to taking new risks, building on new experiences. So this new idea of a theme park? I’m sure in his mind there was little to no doubt. Sure, there were nerves at play – I mean who wouldn’t have butterflies on the eve of such a grand unveiling? However, I liken him to being more like the boy (or husband, for that matter) in this classic Disney commercial:

 

 

I can’t help but think he was giddy with anticipation. He couldn’t wait to show his park to the public. To prove the doubters wrong (mind you, after headlines declared a disastrous opening day, this one would take a while longer!). To tell everyone who came to that happy place, “Welcome.”

 

He certainly looks excited to show off his park!

He certainly looks excited to show off his park!

 

Disneyland was a dream, yes. But it was a product of hard work and determination. It came from the mind of a man who knew the public in ways other analysts and business insiders today can only dream of. It was built by people who believed in this man’s vision and insight. It was visited by throngs of tourists, locals, and dignitaries, who all wanted to see what Walt had built.

60 years later, Disneyland is still going strong. People are still traveling from all over the globe to visit Walt’s original park. Attractions and events come and go, but Walt’s vision still remains, as does his presence. I see it as I exit Fantasyland at Sleeping Beauty’s castle, as the “Partners” look out over the guests pouring in down Main Street USA. I feel it as I ride “It’s a Small World,” Walt’s anthem to the world and our likenesses. I sense it as I’m leaving the park at night, turning to see the light in his old apartment over the Fire Station, still shining brightly, knowing he’s still there in many different ways.

Today, we wish Disneyland a happy birthday. You’re shining bright like a diamond, and continue to be a source of happiness for many generations. We thank not only Walt Disney, but countless Imagineers, construction workers, and Cast Members, who have worked tirelessly both behind the scenes and onstage to bring us Walt’s vision. Here’s to many more anniversaries to come!

 

Walt, We Are Forever Grateful.

Walt, We Are Forever Grateful.

 

A Running DisNerd, Part 3: Finishing in Never Land

Note: This is the third (and last… for now…) part of a series about my experience being a first time runner attending my first RunDisney event. I hope you’ve enjoyed, and if you have yet to read them, click to read part one and part two.

3:00 AM came early on race day. Sure, we had gone to bed relatively early the night before. Disneyland had closed at 7:30, and we headed back to the hotel shortly after that. Nonetheless, when the alarm went off, all I could think was, “What kind of crazy people get up at 3 in the morning to run? ”

Apparently, the answer was us. We were that kind of crazy people, along with roughly 4500 other crazies.

However, any feeling of being tired was forgotten as we walked through Disneyland’s front gates with race bibs securely fastened to the front of our shirts. 4:30 AM, and Main Street was alive with music and lights as runners made their way to the starting corrals.

20150508_043821Even after arriving half an hour early, we were moved into Corral B, the second starting position for runners. We were entertained by emcees, a DJ,  and a visit from Wendy Darling. Suffice to say, it was not an uneventful wait. Surrounded by other runners, both experienced and novice like me, I felt a genuine excitement to get moving. Instead of being insecure about being able to finish, I felt inspired by all of the people ready to take their shot at the race as well! After an early morning National Anthem and a visit from Tinker Bell…

20150508_050209…. We were off! At least, kind of… You see, with over 4,000 people taking off from the starting line, even one corral at a time, it definitely takes a few minutes to get moving. However, once we were moving, I knew there would be no stopping – at least not until we saw characters on the run trail or other photo ops!

I have to say, the folks at RunDisney really know how to make a run, even a simple 5k, a fun and inspiring event. As we began the run, The path was lined with cast members clapping and cheering us all on as we set out on our journey. They continued to cheer us on wherever they happened to be stationed that morning. Mechanics working on ride vehicles backstage, people from their office windows in the TDA building, security guards working the Cast member entrance… they were all enthusiastic and friendly!

We were also told to keep an eye out for Peter Pan’s shadow, and to give our best Peter “crow” whenever we saw it. This led to some quite enthusiastic yelling and screaming in the hour before dawn.

Crow with me!

Crow with me!

I’d also like to add, the running crowd was quite fun as well. Lots of green tutus and wings, costumes (The DisNerd Family ran as peter, Tink and Wendy), and themed teams as well. I wish I had more pictures to share of some of the runners, but being that we were involved in a run, we had to keep going! This included when the rain started coming down somewhere around Mile 1. Fortunately, although it was a steady, constant rain, it was not a torrential downfall either – just enough to get us wet and make many of us cold!

Even with a cloudy sky, Peter's shadow could still be found!

Even with a cloudy sky, Peter’s shadow could still be found!

I’ll be honest and say, as much as I worried about the amount of running I could actually pull off, I found myself wanting to run more! There were points where the path narrowed, and you could only move as fast as those in front of you. Also, with mile markers and characters out, stops were sure to happen. I mean, who could resist stopping to take advantage of this picture opportunity with a little running Wendy?

"I have the strangest feeling I've seen that ship somewhere before..."

“I have the strangest feeling I’ve seen that ship somewhere before…”

I did keep my promise to myself though. I started running (Once I was in a clear enough space to do so), and I finished running. Do I plan on doing more running in the future? You bet. I may never make it to a half marathon, or even 10k, but this event has inspired me to even start looking at local 5k events here in Arizona to see what else there may be to do! Speaking of 10k and half marathons, my hat goes off to all runners in any running event, RunDisney or otherwise! You have my repsect.

As do you, dear readers. I appreciate all of your encouragement and well wishes. I felt your support as I ran, and was even encouraged by a couple readers (and old high school friends who happened to be running other events that weekend) who happened to be there and cheered me on as I passed! It was truly a memorable event, and one I would recommend to anyone, especially fans of Disney, regardless of whether it’s your first or 51st running event. Disney magic, and getting in shape? What can be better?!?

 

You bet I look like a bit of a dork... but this DisNerd finished his first 5k, even in the rain! It's something I'll always remember, and will always feel the support I received from my friends and readers!

You bet I look like a bit of a dork… but this DisNerd finished his first 5k, even in the rain! It’s something I’ll always remember, and will always feel the support I received from my friends and readers!

A Running DisNerd, Part Two: A Walking DisNerd?

This is part two of a series – A Running DisNerd, in which I discuss my desire to prep and run in a RunDisney event. In this case, it’s the Never Land 5k, in conjunction with the Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend. Being my first 5k of any kind, I’m going in not really knowing what to expect, but sharing with you, friends and fellow DisNerds, as I go. You can read A Running DisNerd, Part 1: I Don’t Run, here.

Well, the past month has crept on me, and I still feel as though preparations have not gone as well as planned. Now, this isn’t to say I’m not doing the Never Land 5K. I promise you, I will be there on Friday, May 8th, and I will give it my all. I don’t give up. But, I may be walking a bit more than running.

But I’m actually okay with this. You see, this is my first running event anywhere. It’s a push to a personal realization that I do need to be in much better shape than what I currently am. I’m using this realization to keep me going forward and doing this 5k, even if I’m going to do a portion of it walking.

Because it beats sitting still.

And what better way to do this than with the aid of Disney? I’ve already been supported by friends and fellow DisNerds – your words of encouragement have definitely inspired me! I have also talked to others who have run in these RunDisney races, and have heard that, for a starter, there’s no better race to run for support and fun. I’m definitely approaching with the fun factor in mind, as is the rest of my family. In fact, the Little DisNerd (7 years old), the dancer in the family, has informed us that she plans on sashaying through the entire run, unless she sees Peter or Wendy, because, you know, Peter and Wendy. Speaking of, we’ll also be doing a little bit of dressing up. What’s the fun of running a Never Land 5k if you’re not being part of Never Land in the process? I’m definitely focusing on the fun – I’m running through Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, so that will help! I will finish the race. If nothing else, I plan on starting by running and crossing the finish line running. There aren’t many opportunities to run through Disneyland without security asking you to walk safely, so we might as well take advantage of the opportunity! If I walk more than run, so be it. I will still be taking those first steps to getting in better shape, and enjoying the magic of Disney in the process!

 

If you're going to run, might as well run through the Happiest Place on Earth!

If you’re going to run, why not run through the Happiest Place on Earth?

 

I’m just a few days away, friends. I appreciate the well wishes and support. Over the weekend, I plan on posting and sharing pictures of not only the 5k experience, but of the parks and goings on as well. Make sure you’re “liking” Confessions on Facebook, as well as following on Twitter and Instagram. You never know where something may show up! Once I’ve returned, I’ll be blogging my views on the entire RunDisney experience – I look forward to sharing more with you!

Diamonds and Surprises – A DisNerd’s Thoughts on #Disneyland60

I’m sure like me, many of you were up last night glued to Twitter feeds or various Disney news sites, looking for updates on the media event and announcements for Disneyland’s upcoming Diamond Celebration for its 60th anniversary. As I scrolled through the Twitter feed searching for the latest news using #Disneyland60, I noticed a common theme amongst other users: excitement. Rumors had been swirling for months now, and after an event last year that revealed the Diamond Celebration logo, fans were hungry for more. When Tom Staggs took the stage and introduced Steve Davison, boy, did we ever get some exciting news!

We get a new World of Color Show with “World of Color – Celebrate! The Wonderful World of Walt Disney.”

World of Color, Picture copyright The Walt Disney Company

World of Color, Picture copyright The Walt Disney Company

Both Sleeping Beauty Castle and Carthay Circle Theatre will be decked out with a diamond touch!

Sleeping Beauty Castle 60th Anniversary Concept Art, Picture copyright The Walt Disney Company

Sleeping Beauty Castle 60th Anniversary Concept Art, Picture copyright The Walt Disney Company

 

Carthay Circle Theatre 60th Anniversary Concept Art, Picture copyright The Walt Disney Company

Carthay Circle Theatre 60th Anniversary Concept Art, Picture copyright The Walt Disney Company

 

We’ll see a new nighttime light parade in the form of “Paint the Night.”

 

Tinker Bell in "Paint the Night." Picture copyright The Walt Disney Company

Tinker Bell in “Paint the Night.” Picture copyright The Walt Disney Company

 

And we’ll also get a new firework extravaganza, complete with digital mapping projections and experiences throughout the park with “Disneyland Forever!”

 

"Disneyland Forever" Concept Art. Picture copyright The Walt Disney Company.

“Disneyland Forever” Concept Art. Picture copyright The Walt Disney Company.

I have to say, this all looks amazing, and I can’t wait to see it in person. Add on the fact that “Disneyland Forever” will feature a brand new song – “Kiss Goodnight” – by legend and one of my Disney heroes Richard Sherman, and I am in DisNerd heaven!

However, the most exciting news of the night for yours truly came from Tom Staggs (Chairman of Disney’s Parks and Resorts division), who said, “Of course we want to leave a few surprises…”

Why was this my favorite part? Glad you asked.

I feel in this internet age of instant gratification, we sometimes feel as though we need to know everything, and know it as soon as we possibly can. We’re four months away from the 60th anniversary kickoff, and we find ourselves wanting to know what shows will be added, whether there will be any special promotions or merchandise, if there will be changes to rides with long refurbishments. I do get the fact that many of us will be planning our trips based on this information,  and it’s good to know we definitely have new things to look forward to. Of course, one of Walt’s favorite words to use was “things,” and when he said it, it was more in reference to what cards he had yet to show. He would talk about Pirates of the Caribbean and say, “Of course there’ll be pirates and things…” Of course there would be pirates in a pirate attraction. But what other “things” was he talking about? Well, these were the “things” that made the attraction magical. The surprises around every corner. The amazing technology of audio animatronics. X Atencio’s rollicking “Yo Ho, a Pirate’s Life For Me.” Things that were meant to be experienced, not just talked and written about. If you ask me, we need more of these little “things,” surprises we’re not expecting.

I know many of us (myself included) tend to search for and scour over every piece of news regarding changes at the parks as much as we can. But some things need to be seen with the eyes, to be heard with the ears, to be taken in from every angle that words on a website can’t describe. For a long time, it’s been rumored that the much elusive Hatbox Ghost will be making a return to the Haunted Mansion. We’ve begged Disney for an announcement on the matter. But how amazing would it be if it were to just be put back into the attraction without notice? That a guest could be on the ride, and just… see him standing there, head in hatbox and all? “Did we just see….?” Imagine the surprise! I realize the word would spread fast, but what an awesome way to experience it!

When it comes to the 60th, I’m glad to know plans are being made. I’m genuinely excited for what’s been announced. But what I’m most excited for is being able to be there and see things for myself. I want surprise when I step through the gates. I want to be wowed by something I haven’t read about.

As my friend and fellow DisNerd Debi told me, it’s definitely a balancing act. “What is announced has to be big enough to draw the crowds (not a critique – Disneyland is an expensive park to run) while saving enough to keep us surprised, delighted and satisfied with our experience.” Disney, if you’re reading this, I’m sure I can speak for more than just myself when I say, we would be more than delighted for these surprises you have yet to reveal!

How about you, fellow DisNerds? What are you looking most forward to? Do you want to be surprised by some “things” as well? Sound off below, and feel free to share!

 

Season’s Greetings From Confessions of a DisNerd!

Although it’s been said many times, many ways…

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Whether you celebrate Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Solstice, or any other holiday… May this season be joyous and happy for each and everyone of my fellow DisNerds. I thank you for your continued support, and wish each and every one of you a very happy holiday!

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See you in 2015!!!