Like a magical Disney World vacation, Disney Obsession Week must sadly come to an end.
We do have one final guest writer, though–my wife, Gilly Rosenthol (who also created the header and helped with the design of this very site).
What, you don’t think I’d spend the rest of my life with someone who doesn’t share in my obsession, do you?
My first trip to Walk Disney World was in 1979, when I was ten, with my grandparents and my little sister. It was before any of the other Florida parks were even open, so it was just Magic Kingdom. My memories of that trip are pretty blurry — I have just a few flashes of memories, like dragging my grandparents on “it’s a small world” over and over and over, the magic of flying high over Neverland on Peter Pan’s Flight, and being afraid of the giant squid in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
After that point, while I was an enthusiastic Disney aficionado, going to see all of the movies and shopping at the Disney Store for clothing, it never really occurred to me to go back to Disney World. It didn’t seem like the sort of place to go alone, and the topic never came up with anyone I would travel with. But when Aaron and I first started tentatively dating in 2011, he almost immediately started talking about bringing me along on a trip to Florida to visit his grandmother and go to Disney World.
It ended up taking us another year to get there, but when we did, I fell instantly in love with the parks. First of all, I’m a graphic designer. I can spend hours wandering through Frontierland and drooling over all of the gorgeous wood type in their signs, or admiring how the fonts in Tomorrowland implies both the past and the future at once. And their amazing design work goes so far beyond typography. There are so many little details that help to enrich the atmosphere and make this magical world seem real. For example: on most of the conveyor belts when you exit a ride there are painted footsteps that show you which way to walk. But exiting Pirates of the Caribbean, the tracks are one footstep… and one little circle from a peg leg. Or looking down at the ground in Animal Kingdom you’ll find the prints of plants and animals that don’t belong in Florida.
And these details aren’t there just to be funny or decorative — they’re there in service of the story. The heart of Walt Disney World, and I think what makes it so special to me, is their storytelling. You’ll never find a plain ol’ roller coaster there — you’re suddenly deep in a science fiction story, hurtling through the black of space, or in the old West riding a runaway mine train, or flying in an airplane with the world’s least competent barnstormer. Their fireworks shows aren’t just pretty lights in the sky, they tell the story of the power of wishes, or take you around the world. And Disney wants to hear you share your story, as well. When we went on our honeymoon and wore our Happily Ever After buttons, we had characters in a parade step out and stop to mime their excitement for us, and a clerk in a shop set up a personal phone call from Mickey and Minnie and then ushered us out into the street to have everyone around cheer for us.
Disney uses those stories to bring people closer together. In a way, it takes that small-town look of Main Street in Magic Kingdom and makes it real, by making us all neighbors and friends. Strangers chat in line and smile at each other. It’s common to find strangers going out of their way to make someone else’s day a little more magic, in a way I’ve never seen anywhere else. It’s the world as we want to believe it can be. Yes, it’s expensive, and it can be hot and crowded and full of overtired children (and their parents) — but it’s still the most magical place on earth. And I can’t wait to go back.