Remembering the Magic of the First Time
by Zamgwar, ALL EARS® Feature Writer
This article appeared in the December 24, 2002, Issue #170 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
Disney World. The Realm of *The* Mouse. Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney-MGM Studios. The Animal Kingdom. Remember your first time?
Perhaps you went grudgingly, a mere passenger on a vacation that you wished was at some other destination. The only Pre-Mouse World thoughts you had were, "For this kind of money, we could have gone to Europe, for Pete's sake."
Maybe you first went as a teen with your parents, and you thought you would prefer a week of listening to your stereo, and hanging out at the mall, over a trip to "DorkeyWorld" in Florida.
Or you went as a parent, who finally yielded to the nagging kids.
If you're like me (not that I would wish that on anyone!) your first trip to Disney World actually began long before it was built. It began as a child's daydreams, in front of the neighbor's big new RCA *color* television set ("Don't sit too close, that darn thing has radiation!") on a Sunday night. Walt himself guided you through each attraction at a truly wondrous place called Disneyland a zillion miles away.
In those days, everything was further away, the world (the Real World) was a much larger place. A trip from the suburbs of Manhattan to the "Pocono Mountains" of Pennsylvania required weeks of planning, packing the Packard with provisions, and leaving before sun up, in preparation for crossing the mighty Delaware Water Gap.
California was a place you went to only if you were a movie star, a Rockefeller, or a military man going to southeast Asia. If you were an east coast kid in whatever your version of Washington Street in Mount Vernon, New York, was, you weren't going... ever.
Until, that is, Disney came to the other side of the country.
Whatever your reasons for first going to Disney World, there are very few who are not in some way moved by what they see, feel, smell, and hear in their first trip to Mousedom.
With that thought in mind, I'd like to attempt to offer this holiday gift to those who have never been, and for those who have been too often to admit. If work, the kids, or the never-ending preparations for the holiday season have somehow become too much, may you enjoy this, a return to your first time at Disney World.
A hum from outside the right side of your car causes your to heart to skip a beat. Up to this point Disney World has only been vacation pictures belonging to someone else and commercials on TV. Suddenly a gleaming silver monorail passes on the right. You can't take your eyes off it. You laugh as you realize you have to remember you've parked in "Goofy 6", and you board your first ride: a tram to the Ticket and Transportation Center.
From the rail of the ferryboat, you see Donald Duck water skiing by, as Smee waves from the tow boat. The castle looms larger and then completely disappears! Somewhere in the distance a band is playing ragtime music. A whistle full of boyhood fantasy splits the air as a mighty red steam engine pulls into a perfect postcard setting of colors and flowers. You've already shot 16 pictures, have only three rolls of film left, and haven't even gotten into the park yet! The smile on your face is so large it actually hurts.
Welcome to Disney World and the Magic Kingdom.
Emerging from beneath the Victorian railway station your eyes and mind are not fully prepared to take in the show that has opened before you. Mouse-eared balloons glisten in the morning sun. The red pavement of Main Street USA makes the sky seem so blue you can almost touch it. Everything is even more colorful than the images that clicked away so long ago, as you sat with your eyes pasted to a heavy, black 3D Viewmaster. A street corner band is playing Dixieland. The buildings themselves seem to sing out "You're someplace special." There's a loud "ah-ooo-ga" from the horn of a passing antique motor car. The clang of the horse-drawn trolley. Another whistle from the train. Yet with all that is happening around you, your eyes, as if in a trance, are locked on what lies directly before you.
Cinderella Castle at the end of Main Street USA rises in all the glory of a storybook fantasy spun on your mother's lap as a child. You're drawn to it like a mouse to cheese. The gold leaf of its spires sparkles in the sun like Tinker Bell herself. Standing in the castle courtyard, you're at the very heart of childhood dreams. Tomorrowland is to the right, Adventureland is to the left, Fantasyland is straight ahead, and work, school, and life are one million miles behind.
As you make your way from attraction to attraction, the years seem to peel away. Your laughter is now coming from deep inside. From a place where only children laugh from.
Can there really be such a thing as the fabled Disney Magic?
You start to discover "little things". Perhaps a Cheshire cat appears grinning in the mirror of a hat shop. The Cast Member who's helping fellow guests to into ride vehicles for Snow White, points out a Hidden Mickey on the clothesline. The chimneys of the Haunted Mansion are all chess pieces. You begin to believe perhaps *this* is the most wonderful place on Earth.
Physically, your body calls for rest, but fear of not seeing it all drives you on. Your very full day ends watching fireworks explode behind the Castle, and perhaps brushing back a tear brought on by a flood of youthful memories. You linger and stroll beneath the sparkling lights of Main Street, thrilled in the knowledge that this has only been the first day.
As each morning flies by, your amazement only increases. At Epcot, Spaceship Earth looms like a planet descended onto the soil. Every now and then the background music plays a small snippet of "When You Wish upon a Star..." The pavement at night twinkles like jewels. A water fountain talks! You find yourself trying to catch an airborne water ball that's leaping like Mr. Toad from one "blop-blop" fountain to another.
As you make your way though Future World, World Showcase unfurls before you like some long-forgotten World's Fair. Independence Hall from Philadelphia and the Doges Palace from Venice are ahead across the lake. The Eiffel Tower is on the right. China is on the left. No matter where you turn is a picture waiting to be taken.
You start to think you'll have to get a second job just to develop your film.
Animal Kingdom's rope drops to the opening motif of the Lion King, sending chills down your spine. This park embraces you with its rich lushness and detail. It's incomprehensible that 10 years before none of these plants or buildings were here. After a short walk through a narrow path in the forest, the Tree of Life looms in breathtaking majesty. With each step its bark begins to yield the reason for its name. You might not have planned to stop until reaching Harambe and the Kilimanjaro Safari ride, but you find yourself calling the names of each of the tree's hand-carved animals.
In the Disney-MGM Studios you find yourself overusing the word "again." After exiting Muppets 3D: AGAIN! After falling from Tower of Terror: AGAIN! After going from zero to 60 in the blink of an eye, while the music of Aerosmith fills your ears: AGAIN! And, after Star Tours, just because you want to really enjoy the robots in the queue: AGAIN!
At the conclusion of a first trip to Walt Disney World, you're absolutely convinced Michael Eisner himself must have been in the parks the same time as you. That could be the only explanation for the brilliance of IllumiNations. The enormous variety of live performances. The extreme congeniality of the staff. The perfectly refreshing taste of a citrus swirl. How clean everything was in spite of the tens of thousands of vacationers who shared your week. How "practically perfect in every way" each day seemed.
It isn't until your second trip that you realize, Walt Disney World is like this every single day, and every single day no matter how many times you've gone, someone is there feeling all those emotions for the first time.
We as humans often forget how we felt at the "beginning" of so many things in life. How thrilled you were about getting the job you now hate. How excited you were when you first moved into the house that now drains your bank account like a silent partner. How your heart pounded, when you first held hands with the person who now leaves socks around your house.
If you can recapture all those "first time" memories in life as easily as you can grasp your first visions of a place that The Mouse calls home, both Disney World and the "real world", will never lose their magical excitement for you.
On the behalf of the entire staff of ALL EARS® and all its contributors, I wish you a Merry Christmas, a belated Happy Chanukah, a joyful Kwanzaa, a super Solstice, a blessed Ramadan, and a happy, safe and healthy New Year.
Whatever your holiday may be, may it be filled with Magic.
That's My2Cents. What's yours?
John Office of Holiday Cheer The Zamgwar Institute
Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.