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by Pete Saroufim, ALL EARS® Feature Writer
This article appeared in the December 21, 2004, Issue #274 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
A few weeks ago, I received an email from a reader asking me what it is exactly that I love so much about Disney. It occurred to me that this is a very legitimate question, considering that my Disney fascination has led me down to the Sunshine State more than 20 times in the last 12 years. I figured the mouse in me would immediately kick in and start pounding key after key, yet instead I remained motionless. My fingertips were filled with a whole lot of feeling, but for the first time in my life I was having a hard time finding the words. Then I realized this was not at all my fault, but the fault of the English language and probably those Webster guys. They were missing a key word, a word that so many have searched for, but were forced to replace it with a toothy smile. A word one cannot learn, but only experience. A word which, on behalf of all my fellow Disney fanatics, I am taking the liberty of adding into the English dictionary: Disneyfied. I even came prepared with my own personal definitions.
Disneyfied is being at Whispering Canyon Cafon my 10th birthday and finding myself riding around the hotel lobby of the Wilderness Lodge on a wooden horse singing, "Happy birthday to me."
Disneyfied is bringing 15 high school students to Epcot on a school trip, parking them in the front row by the water, and watching their faces as they take in IllumiNations for the first time, throwing every thought of "too cool for Disney" right out the window.
Disneyfied is watching my brother gain an uncanny sense of pride as he dominates the "winners table" of air hockey at DisneyQuest for eight hours straight.
Disneyfied is having my hair cut at Harmony Barbershop with them using their creative gels to color it bright pink with a yellow Mickey Mouse on the back, and then walking around the park and enjoying the reactions.
Disneyfied is taking my eldest brother's best friend to visit the Mouse shortly after his little sister was diagnosed with leukemia, seeing him leave the reality haunting him back home behind, and even if just for four days, having the carefree time of his life.
Disneyfied is when I was a boy, walking out of Magic Kingdom with my mom as the park was closing, dodging the crowds and ducking into the bakery where she would purchase for me a chocolate chip cookie and hot chocolate. We'd then sit on a bench on Main Street, watching the crowds, the lights and the castle, and we were never closer.
Disneyfied is taking my aunt (who at the time was skeptical about our Disney ways) to the World for the first time, and after just a few amazing days, hooking her on not just the theme parks but onto my articles, too.
Disneyfied is entering Magic Kingdom to be greeted by a kind old woman in Victorian clothing handing out stickers. It's riding It's a Small World four times in one trip just because you're actually there. It's riding Buzz Lightyear with your father and uncle and watching them disregard their business personas and eye every target as if it were a threat to their lives. It's talking to Cast Members, eating cheddar cheese soup at Le Cellier and posing for pictures on Splash Mountain. It's spotting people you've known for years thousands of miles away from home, and it's meeting new people in the parks and feeling like you've known them for years. It's singing Disney songs with your brothers and cousins on buses and boats packed full with people, and despite the lack of tune, harmony and talent, being thanked by parents for entertaining their kids. It's riding Star Tours and Haunted Mansion, reciting every line like you've rehearsed for months, only to turn around and find three more people doing the same.
Disneyfied is when my family traveled in 1998 with my mom's 8-year-old goddaughter Cara, who had been to Disney once before a few years back. On her previous trip, Cara became obsessed with Chip, and on her last day before heading home, Chip wrote her a note saying, "I won't forget you." There we were, roughly four years later in Chef Mickey's restaurant, and Cara's much-anticipated first reunion with the chipmunk was about to take place. My mother talked quickly to our waiter about something that I couldn't overhear, but in a few minutes I knew exactly what it was about. Chip came out of the kitchen, locked eyes with Cara, sprinted over with arms wide open, hugged her and wrote, "I missed you, Cara!" on a blank page in her autograph book. Cara's ecstatic look of awe and happiness, where it seemed she could not decide between screaming, crying or just smiling, is what Disneyfied is all about.
Disneyfied is taking my grandmother to Disney World just a few years before she was diagnosed with lung cancer. When I remember my grandmother, the images that come to mind all seem to have one thing in common: their location. Some images are of my grandmother on Santa Claus's lap in Epcot, reciting her own wish list. Others are watching her face light up on Spaceship Earth, examining the audio-animatronics closely to be sure they weren't real. I even remember my grandmother and her sister talking to Minnie at dinner just like she was an old friend from their childhood, and then finishing with a big hug -- a picture that still remains up in my home.
Disneyfied is knowing that my grandkids will share the same fond memories with me that I was able to share with my grandmother.
The state of Disneyfied is one that we get sucked into for days, weeks or even months at a time. In those times, we live in a new world -- a world run by a mouse and inhabited by talking dogs, space travel and Aerosmith. There we all are, smiles aplenty and leaving the realities of life at the airport, making friends and becoming closer with those friends we already have. It's a world filled with excitement, happiness and most importantly, thousands of others who have been Disneyfied just like us.
That is why I love Disney.
Pete Saroufim is a high school senior from Boston, Massachusetts, and has been writing for ALL EARS® since he was 14. He began traveling to Walt Disney World when he was 5, and has visited more than 20 times since. When not in WDW, he spends his time playing basketball, soccer and volleyball, film editing, writing, and creating web pages.
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.