BEFORE AUTOGRAPH BOOKS AND FASTPASSES, IT WAS JUST ME AND A MOUSE ON MAIN STREET USA!
In October 1971, decades before Fastpasses and autograph books, my dad became one of the very first visitors to Walt Disney’s iconic dream come true, Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. My Father, then only 9 years old, was entranced in the world Walt built and fascinated with the magic that defines Disney. Stepping into Disney World was, and still is today, like stepping into the imagination of a truly brilliant and special man. My parents first took me in 1988 when I was 4 years old, and I met a mouse named Mickey on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom and I’ve been a believer ever since.
Autographs, Queues and Schedules, Oh My!
While I absolutely love the continuing evolution toward growth and innovation that makes Walt Disney World special, there are a few precious memories I'm sad future generations will never experience. The thing I miss most is characters casually wandering the streets. Nothing will beat walking toward Toon Town and turning to my right and suddenly noticing Little John strolling and ‘giggling’ in step with me, trying to get my attention. While I may be close to 30 years old, I still wouldn’t mind an unexpected photo op or two with that dang mouse who is nearly impossible to find. But alas, characters freely mingling with their pint-sized paparazzi has given way to organized queues, scheduled times for appearances and the very time consuming autograph book.
To Infinity and Beyond
Disney World is one big, constantly evolving project that is forever one-upping itself. While I once thought nothing could beat EPCOT’s Mission Space, something did – Fastpass: the ability to get to Mission Space even faster. Now if I could only tell Lieutenant Dan I’m well aware of how to fly the ship and bypass the cadet training, we’d be in business. Disney is the best in the industry for coming up with new ways to fascinate guests. Anyone remember the Honey I Shrunk the Audience show being all the rage in the 90s? Well despite the introduction of the movie-set playground, that attraction is part of Disney’s history and forever a fond memory of mine. I have a feeling the next generation will remember Soarin' Over California or Mickey's Philharmagic with the same fondness I have for Honey I Shrunk the Audience.
Cinderelli, Cinderelli, Night and Day it’s Cinderelli!
Next to Mickey Mouse himself, the next most recognizable thing in Disney World, is Cinderella’s Castle. Clearly iconic, both the same and continually different, the castle captures everyone's imagination. I distinctly remember going right up to it and walking the hall looking at the mosaic artwork. The castle is less approachable these days compared to the 80s and early 90s. Maybe fame is too much for Cinderella but the front entrance to the castle is blocked off more than it's open. Several shows a day, plus parades make this understandably necessary; but sometimes I miss easy access to the castle and would enjoy taking my time to gaze at the mosaics once again.
Mother’s Knows Best, Take It From Your Mumsy
Now I must throw in at least one, “when I was a kid…” When I was a kid, a t-shirt with Minnie Mouse or Tink seemed more than sufficient as a souvenir. These days, kids require nothing short of an all-out princess or pirate treatment. If Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique had existed in the 80's, I surely would have rocked it but is it just me or do those tight buns and braids on the heads of little girls look more painful than princess-like? But alas most little girls want it and when my three-year-old Goddaughter demanded it, I quickly discovered my Fairy Godmother skills were not as impressive as Cinderella’s. So I booked in the princess-treatment for both of us at the local hotel and off we went glittered and pampered.
There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow
Walt Disney was always looking toward progress. Progress to him meant innovation in everyday life, giving one the ability to be more productive at work and freeing up time for leisure with the family. Yet as the Dad in the Carousel of Progress attraction points out, "Some things never change."
The Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue Musical is a never changing must-see as well as the Country Bear Jamboree and Small World. That's exactly the way it is with Walt Disney World. Just enough stays the same providing classic happiness and a secure sense of familiarity; while progress is continually made toward new and exciting things to do, see and experience.
Dreams Really Do Come True…
For me, growing up Disney was almost like being in a secret club. When you arrive at your hotel and are greeted with a “Welcome Home” from the gate keeper, there’s something truly magical about that. Walt Disney World is a strong desire in the hearts of so many children and I got to experience it not once, but many times. It will always be a regular part of my life and the magic, while different and always in motion, is still as wondrous today as it was when I experienced it first as a 4 year old.
"Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination in the world." -Walt Disney
Leah Rise is a Florida native and proud Florida State Seminole fan and the truest of Disney Geeks. A passionate traveler, Leah has visited over 20 countries and currently is splitting her time between Florida and Sydney, Australia. Trying to put her Spanish and English degrees to good use, Leah enjoys blogging in her free time and taking her wolfdog, Simba, to the beach when she’s home. You can follow Leah @Leahrise on Twitter or on Google+ to keep up with her latest blogs.