Bryon and I first visited Disney in 1996. It was, coincidentally, the year I also went to Japan on a scholarship tour, so it was a good travel year all around. We decided we were going about six months in advance, and in order to count down, I drew little Mickey heads on each day of my calendar.

The Wonderful World of Disney had been a staple of both of our childhoods. Most likely hokey by today’s standards, and to some extent a prolonged infomercial, Disney showed us theme parks and creative, magic vision.

Now, I know. I know that many people dislike Disney. They see Disney as sort of a sell-out, or not so visionary, or corporately evil. It’s not my intent to step up and defend Disney. Disney does questionable things regarding copyright. While they have had low creative ebbs, they’ve also been incredibly innovative at other times. I can see the pluses and minuses to the company.

All that said, no one does theme parks like Disney. I’ve been to a few, and there’s no other experience like it.

When we went in 1996, we did the grand tour. We stayed on property at Caribbean Beach (Disney has moderately priced and value priced resorts, as well as the more expensive and traditional ones).

Because I’m the kind of person who saves what I like best for dinner to eat last, I methodically planned the trip so that the Magic Kingdom was at the end. I also figured that as an adult, I would no longer be as interested in the Magic Kingdom as the child in me was.

We visited Disney Studios first. It was a small park with a few interesting attractions, most obviously the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. The evening we arrived, we were hit with a furious thunderstorm. We stood under an umbrella together and watched fireworks. It was really something.

The other park to visit was Epcot. Epcot was very interesting. As someone who enjoys travel, I knew I’d like the World Pavilions. The other features were a little dated, but they were fine.

Coupled with visits to shops and restaurants, Disney was a fine vacation. Before the Magic Kingdom piece, I have to admit I wasn’t finding what four-year old me was looking for.

We should have gone to the Magic Kingdom first.

Continue reading “Disney”

Disney Mystique: Part 1

There was a time…

My life started out in the Navy. My father had escaped small-town Iowa by becoming a career sailor in 1959 when he graduated high school. He traveled around the world and ended up in Dunoon, Scotland, where he met my mother while he was stationed in the Holy Loch.

Life was pretty good up until about the age of four. I remember huge chunks of that life. My earliest memory is me, being whisked onto my mother’s lap while a camera takes a picture of the three of us. I was scooped up from a chair, my older brother was pulled in tight, and the flash bulb went off, embedding the episode in my gray matter forever.

We went from Maryland to Iowa (for a tiny sojourn, as opposed to the later exile), and off to Guam for two years, where we lived on a naval base. I had a Captain Crunch t-shirt, beautiful clothes from Sears (even then, the costumer lived), and a generally happy life in our typhoon proof home.

My father did two tours of duty in Viet Nam. It was the case then that after two tours of duty, a sailor rotated out for a tour, but Viet Nam was special, and Dad was offered a third tour of duty. This time, in a little 4-man boat going up and down rivers.

My dad decided in 1969 that his career with the navy was over. We went to California while he left, and then we returned to Iowa, where we reverted to the traditional dysfunctions of my mother and my father’s family. Upon retrospection, I see this decision as critical to my life thereafter. Things were very different pre- and post-Navy. Of course, my parents would have been my parents, regardless of where they were, but I see the Navy days as halcyon, my mother sane, my father that nice man who smelled of soap who visited sometimes.

But this isn’t about them. It’s about Disney. And I have to give you that background, so you can begin to understand my fascination.

As we left California and returned home to Iowa, I sat in the plane with my mother, Mrs. Beasley in my lap. I loved traveling. I loved the smell of diesel fuel, and the little trays of bad food, all of it. My mother pointed out the window. “Look,” she said. “See those lights down there? That’s Disneyland.”

There was a sea of sparkles and lights out the window as I looked down on diminishing California. I couldn’t imagine anything more beautiful in my four-year old’s experience. This was coupled with the fact that at that time, I couldn’t see (I would begin wearing glasses at five), so the whole thing took on a gauzy, fairy-tale experience.

“Some day we’ll all go there,” said my mother.

And of course, I believed that. Because everything my mother ever had told me had happened.

I wanted to be part of that. It ignited my imagination. It activated my wish circuit. I already knew Mary Poppins lived there. And Cinderella and Malificent. I wanted to be there too.

Continue reading “Disney Mystique: Part 1”

Amuse Me, Oh Mighty Theme Parks

My friend Mark posts his thoughts about our recent trip to Universal Studios, and I think he does a very complete job reviewing our trip.

A couple of weeks ago, Ferrett also weighed in on the HP part of Islands of Adventure.

And Julia Rios talks about Disney briefly as she journeys through California.


Behind every great man going into Hogwarts, there has to be a very sweaty woman.

I agree with pretty much everything Mark and Ferrett said.

I also realized that Disney has become my theme park standard. More about me and Disney next entry.