Sunday, February 13, 2011
"His dream was built on love, compassion, curiosity, stories, wishes, legends, magic, innovation, technology, imagination, friendship, family, joy, fantasy, desire, hope, inspiration, music, character, entertainment, and laughter..."
As usual, this post is the result of a number of moments crossing paths at the same time. When these things happen in a matter of a day or two, I usually recognize it, and so, here we are...
...Today my cousin called to say she is coming to visit, and would I like to join her family at the Disneyland Hotel, and a day in the Park?
...The Academy Awards are coming up. My first memory of them is when I was nine years old. I remember jumping up and down on my bed (I was supposed to be sleeping), with my fingers crossed, wishing that Julie Andrews would win Best Actress for Mary Poppins, a Disney film. When she did win, I was pretty sure I had magical powers.
...Saturday, February 13th, was the birthday of Abraham Lincoln. As a little kid in Canada, I knew who he was, but the first detailed information I got about him was a show we saw after walking through the gates to The Magic Kingdom. We walked into Main Street and sat on the firetruck. Across the square on the right was a theater. Inside was an animated sort of mannequin version of President Lincoln, full size, walking around a stage, sitting down and standing up, so real it was hard to believe it wasn't him. He was making The Gettysburg address..."Four score an seven years ago..."
...This afternoon, I was flipping channels and came across a wonderful documentary on Walt Disney. It tells of his journey as a young animator, through all the steps of his life. Very, very touching. It's called Walt: The Man Behind The Myth.
All of this reminded me of my first trip to Disneyland, the summer when I was eight years old. My parents put us all in the car and drove from Canada, camping along the West Coast. We saw amazing things, like sea lion caves in Oregon, and the giant Redwoods. I remember every breakfast stop; they let me order blueberry pancakes. We tried fast food. We kids were in heaven. We saw freeways, drive-ins, Hollywood and orange groves, finally ending up in Anaheim.
The day we went to Disneyland for the first time was, of course, beyond our imagination. Everywhere was something we'd never seen before. And even then, it was SO CLEAN. The entrance didn't have metal gates, they were just green and white wooden ticket booths. Behind them was a huge Mickey head made out of pansies in the garden. The train, the Matterhorn, A SUBMARINE??? Oooh, scary! Somehow there was ice cream every time we looked, hamburgers, life-sized Mickey and Minnie and Pluto, a ride in giant teacups, old fashioned telephones, pickle barrels, race cars, spaceships, log rides and Cinderella's castle. There we were. My parents, my sister and brothers, and me. We stopped for a break.
I had just finished some lemonade and dropped my paper cup on the ground, when I heard a man's voice. Gently, he said, "Please don't throw garbage in our city." I turned and looked up at a man in a light gray suit. I was embarrassed, and must have looked like I was going to cry, because he said to me, very kindly, "Come on, let me get you another one", then walked me over to the lemonade stand and said to the server, again, very kindly, "Can you give her another lemonade?" I looked back for my family. There they were.. Staring at me. My parents with their mouths hanging open. Turns out, it was the great man himself. Nice.
My life as a kid- like all kids of that time- was full of the richness of Mr. Disney's gifts to everyone. Sunday nights meant Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color. All of those movies, full of adventure and magic. I wanted to live in a tree house, like the Swiss Family Robinson. That was my first knowledge of tropical islands. There were Bambi, Snow White, Cinderella, Lady and the Tramp. All different, endless avenues into new places for my imagination to run. I loved all things Tinkerbell, especially her ability to fly and her mischievous character. I wanted to go to summer camp because of The Parent Trap. It was great.
Mr. Disney introduced fine art and classical music to generations, who didn't realize what was behind Fantasia, and countless other storytelling masterpieces.
We went back many times over the years. My Dad was a saint with those California trips.
They used to have a copy of Walt's office and drawing boards at Disneyland. Very cool. Art deco, lots of dark wood and glass. I don't think it's there anymore. There will never, ever be another like Walt Disney. His dreams were so big, and he accomplished so much. I wish I could go back to that moment of being the girl with the lemonade, just so I could thank him.
Now that the Disney brothers are gone, it's a corporation, rather than a company. I know they promote the products too much in the malls and cruise ships and even at the Park, but the thing is, there is still brand new magic and wonder in every child's face when you look at them in Disneyland. Nothing can change the shine and imagination that he brought to the eyes of all children, big and small. It's the same for them as it was for us.
If you get a chance, find the film. It's easy to find on Google, anywhere from $11.00-$39.99.
And next time you look up at the night sky, don't be surprised if you hear the words of Jiminy Cricket and find yourself wishing upon a star...that's probably where you learned it.