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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He must be here somewhere!

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

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

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

Waiting For Pan…

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

Hi, Peter!!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

A Dad Who Never Wants to Grow Up

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

Entering a Guilty Plea(sure)

As the father of a five year old, shows on Disney Jr are a mainstay in our house. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse? Meeska, mooska, mouske-check. Handy Manny? Si, yes. Sofia the First? We’re finding out what being royal’s all about. Jake and the Never Land Pirates? Yo Ho, let’s go! I’m sure we’re in the same boat with many other parents who find themselves watching these shows quite a bit more than they’d care to admit. Generally, we’re okay with this fact; the shows on Disney Junior teach great life lessons and application skills – even if you think you don’t really need to lay out three simple steps to take a drink from the drinking fountain, lessons (and values) are being learned. But as an adult, you do find yourself longing for a break from these shows. Sometimes, even a regular old Disney movie is enough to take a break from the kiddie set. Possibly you find yourself driving in the car by yourself, coming to the grim realization that you’re just so used to the music that you forgot the fact that the CD really does eject from the stereo. Yes, my wife and I are in that boat as well. But, here’s the thing; my confession if you will…

I think my wife and I are even bigger fans of Sharkey and Bones than my daughter. We discovered this when I bought the CD, only to have my daughter ask to turn it down as daddy and mommy were bobbing our heads in the front seat….

If you’re a parent of a youngster, you’ll know who I’m talking about. If not, you may be asking, “Who?” Sharkey and Bones (Loren Hoskins and Kevin Hendrickson) are the pirate rock duo responsible for little ditties at the end of every Jake and the Never Land Pirates episode. Over the top silly, yet infectious, this duo has earned a place on my Disney playlist with catchy songs like, “Aw, Coconuts,” “Bubbly Blue,” “Pirate Password,” and this one:

 

 

I’d call it a guilty pleasure, but at the same time, I’m not ashamed.  I plead guilty all the way – as I do with other Disney pieces that may be considered “less popular.”

In a conversation with a fellow Disney fan (Adam, author of the wonderful California blog San Magnifico) , we both came to the realization that we are fans of “Pete’s Dragon,” and not afraid to admit it.  Although it’s not quite the critical darling that other films from the Disney spectrum are, it still holds a spot very near and dear to some. For me, I have fond memories of reading along with my “See, Hear, Read” records and listening to snippets of “I Think I Saw a Dragon” over and over again. As a grown up, I still get the biggest kick out of watching Jim Dale and Red Buttons scheme their way through Passamashloddy.

 

“Watch the Profits Come Rolling In!!!!”

 

As well, I know many people who will tell you that the musical film “The Happiest Millionaire” isn’t worth your time. I, however, am not one of those people. In fact, the soundtrack for this film is toward the top of my list. The Sherman Brothers had a masterpiece on their hands with this one (at least in my opinion). From the silliness of “By-um-pum-pum,” to the incredible cheesiness of “Detroit” (maybe this one works for me as a Lions fan?), and the rousing “Let’s Have a Drink On It” number, there’s not a sour spot in the movie. Every time Tommy Steele is on the screen, the movie is even more fun.

 

I mean, anyone who babysits alligators has earned my respect!

 

I know I speak of the “Magic of Disney” an awful lot, but to me there is magic in the fact that some things, while not looked upon as great by many – be it kiddie show pirate rock duos, lower rated movies or less than popular theme park attractions – can still mean so much to some who gladly make their feelings known. And in that moment, we find others who feel the same way, and we don’t feel alone in our fandom.

What about you, fellow DisNerds? Do you have any “not so guilty” Disney pleasures that set you apart from others? Feel free to share here!