I was born in 1985, around the time Disney was just beginning its second “golden age” in animation. A time when old Disney movies were being rolled out on this new format called VHS. A time when “The Disney Channel” was still in its infancy and had quality programming the WHOLE family could enjoy and just about every Mcdonalds happy meal came with a nice little Disney toy. Needless to say, I was being primed for a lifelong obsession for all things Disney.
I was born and raised in New Jersey and as a “New Jerseyan” it was pretty much mandatory that during summer vacation you either went to 1 of 2 places, down the shore or FLORIDA. Well most of my mother’s family lived down in Florida so needless to say, I barely ever went down the shore.
For as long as I can remember, we would make the pilgrimage down to Florida every year, not once did we NOT go. We would always spend about a week or two in Miami, visiting family, and then spend about a week at Disney World.
I don’t remember much of those early trips to Disney, the things I remember are only because my dad would have the strength and stamina to carry around that huge heavy camcorder all day. So I have been able to relive those memories through old videos.
Going to Disney World every year was just the norm for us. I thought everyone went there. In talking to my classmates about it though, I realized I was actually one of the only ones who was fortunate enough to do so. It didn’t really bother me when I was younger, but as I got older I learned to hide my obsession with Disney for fear of being ridiculed, laughed at or called “a little baby” which is one of the worst insults you can receive when you’re in the 4th grade.
We would continue to go every year til about the time I was in 7th or 8th grade. By then, financial issues had gotten in the way and we were not able to take our yearly trips. I wasn’t particularly bothered by it though, I was starting to go through puberty and had more “important” issues on my mind.
Through my teenage years I rarely even thought about Disney. I was “too cool” for that. I was even fortunate enough to take a class trip to Disneyland my freshman year of high school, but even then I was more concerned about the girls on the trip then the actual place we were going to.
At the end of my sophomore year, after my father’s failed attempt to start his own restaurant. My family decided to move down to Florida to start fresh. It was a tough move to make. I had lived in Jersey my whole life, in the same house, surrounded by the same people. My brother had a girlfriend at the time so he decided to stay while me, my mom and my dad made the move.
Moving from Jersey to Florida is almost like a culture shock. The laid back Floridian ways are completely different from the hustle and bustle of city life in Jersey. Needless to say it was really challenging to try to make Florida “home.” It took a long time to get used to the place but after a couple of years we finally felt comfortable enough to really start enjoying all that Florida has to offer. One of those things was Disney World. By this time it had been years since I have stepped foot on Disney property. The place sure grew since the last time I visited, but the majority of it was still pretty much the same.
It wasn’t long before my brother ended up moving down to Florida and we started taking trips to Disney with him again. It was in those early trips with him that I rediscoverd the love and nostalgic fondness I had for Disney World. Being with my parents and him in a place where we had spent so many summer vacations together was like coming back to a place that I had long forgotten even existed. After so many years of change it was extremely comforting to go back to a place that still looked and felt the same as it did when I was a child.
Eventually we decided to become annual passholders , making the 3 hour drive up to Orlando atleast once every month for a weekend getaway. My brother and me would turn into little kids again every time we went. We had grown apart over the years so it was really nice to be able spend time together like that.
Going to Disney World now is our break from reality. Once you step into one of the parks its like you literally leave the real world behind and have now entered this perfectly idealized reality, where all the sights, smells, sounds and sensations are catering to your highest enjoyment. It’s a place where, as Walt Disney said in his opening day speech , “ Here age relives fond memories of the past and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future.” Disney is more of a feeling than actual brick and mortar place to me now. In an ever changing world, Disney feels like the only constant left. One of the few places that actually inspires me to still “make wishes” and dream for a “ more beautiful tomorrow.”
I am 25 going on 26 in a couple of months, and I now, more than ever have a deep admiration and respect for this place I call Disney World. It’s messages and ideals are what have nurtured the “good” part of my soul and kept it from falling into the pit falls of hopelessness that runs rampant in this world. I one day hope to have a family, to bring my own kids here and experience this place through their eyes, to create lasting memories with them in a place I created so many of my own with my family.
I am truly inspired by Walt Disney’s story. True, he was no saint, but he did manage to create an actual environment where grown men can turn into little children again once they walk through its gates. He created a place where families can spend time together and create memories that when looked back upon always bring a smile to your face. I am grateful for having a place like this in my life and I don’t care who ridicules me about it. I enjoy it, and probably always will.