Thankful For “When You Wish Upon a Star”

Note: During the months of November and December, I will be posting something I am thankful for within the spectrum of Disney. With so much negativity in the world, I encourage everyone to be thankful and count their blessings.

Sometimes a song can take you away to another place, or help you believe that dreams come true. I know I’m thankful for songs like these.

There are memorable songs from movies – you know, the songs that you find yourself humming long after the film ended – and then there are songs that transcend movies. Leigh Harline and Ned Washington’s “When You Wish Upon a Star” goes far beyond the film it was written for. This is not in anyway a knock on Pinocchio. No, the movie is among my favorite Disney animated movies – quite possibly my favorite, depending on the day! It’s just that the song itself is so much more. It’s become not only a theme song for the Walt Disney Company in general, but one to dreamers everywhere as well.

Like a bolt out of the blue...

Like a bolt out of the blue…

The notion of wishing upon a star may seem silly, but the idea of dreams coming true? Well, this is something we all long for. Now, in the “real world” we realize we can’t sit back and wait for things to come to us. If Walt had simply wished upon a star without actively pursuing that dream…. well, I don’t think that would have turned out very well. However, the notion of dreams coming true if we have the courage to pursue them (hmmm… now THAT sounds catchy!) is a noble one. Throw in a wish on the evening star as well? Believe in your dreams, and you never know.

Every time my family goes to Disneyland, we always pause underneath Sleeping Beauty’s Castle to here Jiminy Cricket sing his anthem to passers by. Combined with the magical feeling that the park brings, that song means even more there. And I’m certainly thankful for the feeling it brings.

I feel it only fitting to close out this thankful post with the song itself – perhaps my favorite cover of “When You Wish…” Take it away, Pops….

Thankful for Disney Friends

Note: During the months of November and December, I will be posting something I am thankful for within the spectrum of Disney. With so much negativity in the world, I encourage everyone to be thankful and count their blessings.

We all have those special friends who “get” us, and in the Disney community, we’re thankful for that.

Say “Mickey Mouse” or “Disneyland” to people, and generally, you’ll get a positive reaction. However, say you’re going on your fourth trip to Disneyland in a year, and you may get, “Again? Don’t you ever get tired of that place?” from many. However, there are the friends who go, “Awesome! I Can’t wait for my next trip!” Those are the Disney friends. The ones who just get it. They’re the people I talk about when I post articles like “DisNerds, and Proud Of It.”

There are certain people in my life, consisting of friends and family that I can sit and talk to Disney for a long period of time to. Now, we’re not just discussing how much we love the mouse. Instead, we’re going in depth about new projects in film, stage, or theme park. We’re discussing the latest book, the newest Disney Legend inductees, what Disney Imagineering got right on the latest in park attraction, what needs work, what we’d like to see next. Others may look at us and shake their heads. We’re not exclusionary, just kindred spirits. Throughout my life, I’ve met quite a few who I feel I can talk to and share this Disneyfied feeling with. Some true friendships have developed from this that go beyond Disney as well. I feel blessed to be married to a kindred spirit in this sense (and many others), and seem to be raising one as well!

disney again

Of course, we should be thankful for all of our friends, even if we don’t understand why they don’t appreciate Disney the way we do.

As I’ve hit on in other posts, while I write on Disney, I believe we all have passions or fandoms that we embrace. When we find others we can share that with, we have reason to be thankful indeed.

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?

Ask a DisNerd – Toddling Through the Parks

Hello, everybody, and welcome to a special edition of “Ask a DisNerd!” Though normally posted on a bi-weekly basis, I’ve decided to answer this one off of schedule, because I think it’s such a good question to be addressed for families thinking of taking a trip to a Disney Park with little ones in tow. Confessions reader Lyndsey asks, “What are the best rides/shows/restaurants for families with toddlers? People say you shouldn’t go to Disney with toddlers and I have to believe there is a good plan for families with small children. Thanks!”

"I may be little, but I'm ready to find my way around a theme park!"

“I may be little, but I’m ready to find my way around a theme park!”

Lyndsey, this is a great question. Having been taking my daughter since she was 20 months old, I feel I have some answers for you. However, I feel I should note as well that what works for one does not necessarily work for others. This is just the opinion of one DisNerd (but others, feel free to join in the discussion in the comments section!).

To really answer the question, I’d start with the second part that’s more of a statement: “People say you shouldn’t go to Disney with toddlers and I have to believe there is a good plan for families with small children.” There is most definitely such a plan. It’s called going FOR the toddler. The instant you forget you’re taking this trip for them, you’re missing out on the reason you’re going. Your kids are going to move at a different pace than you. They may want to look at a fountain when you’re trying to make it to a ride, but remember: this is the first time they’ve seen that fountain. There’s childlike wonder in the little things that we take for granted; things that we only pay attention to after we’ve made it onto the newest ride.

My daughter's favorite attraction on her first trip may have been a cement slab in place for construction - but what fun it was!

My daughter’s favorite attraction on her first trip may have been a cement slab in place for construction – but what fun it was!

With that being said, remember they’re likely to be overwhelmed – I still can be myself when I walk through those gates! Great “first rides” would be Dumbo or It’s a Small World – rides that are relatively tame, but to a young one’s mind bursting with wonder and color. I learned the hard way after going with a friend and his three year old for the first time many years back that Pirates Of the Caribbean probably isn’t a great ride to start with on a child’s first trip! That comes later – IF you decide they’re ready for it. They may not be. The first trip we took, my daughter went on any ride we would take her on. However the next few times we went, she went on very few rides: It’s a Small World, Dumbo, Mad Tea Party, King Arthur’s Carousel and the Main Street Vehicles were some of the only attractions she’d be willing to go on. But that was okay. Mom and Dad may not have been able to ride everything they wanted to (Grandparents and single rider lines allow for some wiggle room), but we were able to have fun with our child, who absolutely loved meeting characters, watching parades and walking through stores. She was in her element, and we made some truly magical memories.

So what rides exactly would I say are good for toddlers? Having only been to the Disneyland Resort, I can offer up a short list from there. However, as I say, it’s different for all. Rides that may work (but not necessarily limited to) are:

Dumbo the Flying Elephant

It’s a Small World

Mad Tea Party

Casey Jr’s Circus Train

King Arthur’s Carousel

Peter Pan’s Flight (A great choice for a first dark ride experience)

Autopia

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

Main Street Vehicles

Mickey’s Fun Wheel (Non-swinging gondolas recommended for first timers!)

The LIttle Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure (Another good first dark ride choice.)

King Triton’s Carousel

Good shows include:

Mickey and the Magical Map

Disney Junior Live on Stage

Any of the street entertainment in Disney California Adventure

Soundsational Parade

Pixar Play Parade

As far as restaurants, the best I can say is it depends on your child’s taste, as well as how well they would sit in table service locations such as Carnation Cafe or Cafe Orleans. Also, if it’s their first time, I would recommend against making reservations for character dining until your little one has met characters. Some kids can be quite intimidated – add that to the child being strapped into a high chair as a giant fuzzy head comes toward them…well, it might not be so pretty!

This list is nowhere near complete – feel free to add yours to the list in the comments section!

For more great tips and ideas on this subject, I highly recommend the wonderful Babes in Disneyland blog!

Most important is, have fun! It doesn’t matter what age you take them. Just be prepared to compromise your expectations with your child’s experience. See it through their eyes instead, and I’m sure you’ll have a blast!

DisNerds, and Proud Of It!

I’ve struggled to write this article for a while now, because I was unsure of the tone I’d be setting in writing it. See, many of us get picked on for our love of things others just don’t have that much passion for. The constant teasing of, “You’re going to Disneyland AGAIN?” and, “Don’t you ever do anything that isn’t related to Disney?” can get to us, even if to others it’s just good natured teasing. However, I didn’t want to turn this into a “woe is me” type of article; not when there are so many “real world issues” that make hurt feelings over Disney seem so insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

Sometimes however, people do experience real hurt over being belittled for their fandom. It’s not easy to brush off when what you’re passionate about gets mocked. Or worse, you get mocked for it.

Take Confessions reader Kristen for example. Kristen met her future husband through a Disney fan site. Due to their love of Disney, as well as where many of their friends and family were located and able to travel to, she and her fiancee planned their wedding at the Disneyland Resort. Kristen says, “Even when the plans originally had nothing to do with Disney, I was still hounded about how I was being selfish, making everyone travel to OC and I better not do a ‘baby’ wedding with everything being Mickey themed. Ultimately it was going to be the same price to do the wedding everyone else wanted or to do a smaller wedding at Disney, which is what Jeff and I wanted. So that’s what we decided to do. I thought we could possible have a mini family reunion and spend some time together in the Parks, since it had been over 10 years since we were last all their together. My siblings freaked. At that point, I wanted to just elope because I was so tired of hearing, ‘If you want to get married at Disney, you are not old enough to get married.’ ”

Then there’s (Confessions contributor) Hayden. Hayden had a rough time in high school, being “that Disney guy.” Hayden shares this story:

“In high school, there was this one hour where I was a lone sophomore in a class full of seniors. I had a single friend, hardly any acquaintances; most of my classmates were complete strangers to me. It wasn’t uncommon that I’d wear a Disney-related t-shirt to school, and if there was downtime in class, more than likely I’d be drawing various Disney characters. I’d hum or whistle Disney tunes in the halls to myself. It wasn’t something I was trying to hide, but I certainly didn’t feel like I was over-broadcasting my fandom.

The teacher was out, and a nasty kid turned quickly around and shot out a vulgar, ‘Hey Disney boy. Look at you.’ I was wearing a Mickey Mouse t-shirt, and had been drawing Mickey as well. ‘What a f**.’

His surrounding peers shot around to see who the kid was shouting at, and soon many eyes were on me. I had absolutely no interest in flattering him with a response. Such a crass remark wasn’t worth my energy. Yet his words hit with a sting. He was a complete stranger to me, and for the life of me I could not think of what I could possibly have done to him to get such a rise from him. I sat in the corner! I never spoke! I kept to myself! I’ve never said ANYTHING to this boy, let alone rub my WED-lovin’ in his face. He kept coming with some pretty vulgar bites, and I stood my ground. I said, ‘Stop,’ as firmly as I could. He did stop.

I was more grateful, though, for what occurred immediately after. A friend of the assaulter stood up and said very matter-of-factly, ‘Dude, you rail on him now, but you wait. You give him 7 years and you’ll be paying to see what he comes up with.’ I’ve made it a mission in my life to prove that brave young man’s point.”

More times than not, however, what we fans of all things Disney hear is more along the lines of, “You’re going to Disney AGAIN!?!? (Side note: Let’s be honest, when someone says “Going to Disney” instead of being more specific with the destination, we realize we’re dealing with someone who just doesn’t understand…) Don’t you ever do anything else?” Or we hear, “Wait, you’re going to a Disney movie – without kids? WHY????”

Reader Chelsea finds she’s seeing more and more of the teasing happening as she gets older. “I’ve been known to bust out fun facts and my knowledge of Disney history and some may smirk or look at me as if to say, ‘Is this chick for real?’ The area I most get ridiculed is with the Disney Princess franchise. Some accuse me of thinking I’m actually a princess, tell me that I really am, or possess characteristics or the appearance of one.”

Confessions reader Tia says she doesn’t really get teased, but definitely got some confused reactions when she recently told people she was planning a trip to Disneyland by herself. “When I told people about flying to LAX to go to Disneyland for the day,” she says,  “I’d get confused looks, and a ‘by yourself?’ Or ‘no kids?’ ‘You are not going to Disneyland alone!!’ ”

Here’s the awesome thing, though: These comments, the snide remarks, the eye rolls from those that don’t get it… they do nothing to shame or dissuade us. We have found a joy in life. A joy that comes from watching a black and white anthropomorphic mouse outsmart a peg-legged cat. An innocence that helps us to believe in fairies. That dreams really do come true. A joy from riding a horse drawn carriage down a dream of Americana we’ve never truly known. A giddiness over meeting a five foot five version of a childhood memory. A happiness of careening down a mountainside in a log. Nothing others say tends to dissuade us. We’re proud of who we are.

Many of us feel bad for those that just can’t understand. As Confessions reader Crystal puts it: “ It makes me sad actually, that they will never understand the butterflies in your stomach, so excited you could scream, anticipation of walking into the main gates of the happiest place on earth. To me, it’s their loss for not letting go of themselves enough to be a kid at heart in the most magical place in the world. And I secretly hope that one day, they will understand the true bliss of taking their children there because I think everyone deserves to be as happy as my family is at some point in their lives.”

Or as Chelsea puts it, “….several people ask me, ‘Why? Why do you love Disney so much?’ to which I usually reply, ‘Do you like being happy?’ “

We do like being happy. And we’ve found at least part of this happiness in Disney. To some it may seem to consume our lives. To us, it’s just that it’s a part of our lives, along with everything else. A part that brings us happiness and memories. Ultimately, what’s wrong with that? It inspires us and keeps us moving forward.

Kristen’s wedding went off beautifully. She still may get grief from some, but, “Despite those times I feel like a freak, I’m proud of my fandom. I have a place that makes me feel magic and happiness and I have fantastic friends (and a wonderful husband) who are happy to share that experience with me.”

DisNerds or not, still an awesome couple!

DisNerds or not, still an awesome couple!

Hayden took the insults and made the best of them to fuel him to be the best he could be. Count me in as one of those who can’t wait to see what he comes up next.

After seeing stuff like this, I really am excited to see what the future holds for Hayden!

After seeing stuff like this, I really am excited to see what the future holds for Hayden!

I’ll close this out with another comment from him, as it encapsulates what I believe many of us feel when we’re given a hard time. And perhaps, with a little rewording, in the world outside of Disney, it sums up what those with passions that others don’t understand feel as well:

“My love for Disney helps me. It has taught me everything about believing in myself and realizing seemingly impossible dreams. It provides me with a constant smile. It provides a safe-haven from the stress that builds in my life. It unites my family. It gives me hope in myself and in my world. What harm am I doing by loving such a company? Do you seriously have things figured out so much more than I do that you need to go out of your way to tell me that I spend too many of my personal resources on something I’m passionate for?

Ask me why I like going to Disneyland so much. Don’t ask me why I don’t spend more of my vacation time elsewhere. Ask me why I like the Disney films I do. Don’t tell me Cinderella is just for little girls. Ask me why I consider Walt Disney a personal hero. Don’t tell me I’m naive.”

Well said, Hayden. I know a lot of fellow Disney fans who would agree.

Ask a DisNerd – Favorite Rides and Those Darn Cats!

Good morning, all! Welcome to a slightly delayed edition of Ask a DisNerd! This time around we have two questions to answer, so let’s get right to it, shall we?

First off, Confessions reader Andrew asks: “What’s your favorite Disney ride of all time?”

It would be easier, Andrew, to tell you what my least favorite ride would be, since, generally speaking, I love almost all! But if I had to pick one ride and one ride only, it would go back to one of the original opening day rides.

Peter Pan’s Flight – pretty much perfection in an attraction that has stood the test of time.

Perhaps it’s because of the fact that Peter Pan is among my favorite Disney stories. Maybe it’s the idea of being able to fly in a pirate ship high above London and Never Land. Possibly it’s because it’s such a popular (i.e. long-lined) ride that it’s near impossible to ride over and over again, that it makes each time I ride a special treat. Nonetheless, I am like a little kid each time I get on that ship to begin my journey to the second star to the right. I can’t help but hope each time the ride breaks down. That I’m stuck for an extra amount of time floating over Never Land. To me, that’s a sign of an excellent ride – one that you can’t spend too much time on. One that captures child-like innocence and wonder. To me, that is Peter Pan’s Flight.

“Straight on ’till morning!”

Our second question comes from Confessions reader Tanya, who asks: “Why would anyone name a cat after the devil?”

Tanya, your question stumped me for a while. I was wondering what that had to do with Disney until a little light bulb went off in my head. “Ding! She’s referring to Lucifer!”

Here, kitty kitty kitty….

While I don’t have an answer to that, many theories point to the idea that Walt wasn’t all that fond of cats. Pete the Cat, aka Pegleg Pete, was Mickey Mouse’s first nemesis. The Cheshire Cat, while not villainous, wasn’t very helpful to poor Alice in any way. And those Siamese…. oh, how they tortured poor Lady. But I’m not sure I’m buying this theory. It doesn’t explain cute (and a little mischievous) Figaro or the helpful  to dalmatians everywhere Sergeant Tibbs! Just like humans, there’s a fair balance of good and bad!

So, I was left with asking the final authority on why anyone would name a cat Lucifer: My five year old daughter.

“Well, you see, when they were making Cinderella, they really wanted to name him Luci, but that’s a girl’s name. So they had to come up with a boy’s name instead. They thought about how furry he was and named him Luci-fur!”

Probably not the answer we were looking for, but pretty much as good an answer as I could find!

Alrighty, fellow DisNerds, that should do it for this time! Hope you enjoyed this overdue “Ask a DisNerd” – be sure to keep those questions coming!

More “Long Lost Friends” at Disneyland

Today, the Disney Parks Blog announced the return of “Long Lost Friends Week” to Disneyland for the week of August 19th – 25th. Characters announced for this turn are as follows:

 

Hercules and Meg from “Hercules”

Merlin from “Sword in the Stone”

Tarzan, Jane and Terk from “Tarzan”

 

Of course, last time, there were a lot more unannounced long-lost friends that showed up in Big Thunder Ranch. I’d love to be there for one of these weeks – I remember feeling eight years old getting to meet Horace Horsecollar last year when he showed up in the Jamboree area, and I’m sure I’d feel that way if I got the chance to meet more!

 

Of course, every time I visit Disneyland, it’s like visiting a long-lost friend each time I enter the gates….