The Gift That Keeps on Giving

by Mike Scopa
AllEars® Feature Writer

Feature Article

This article appeared in the December 8, 2009 Issue #533 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

Mike Scopa It happens every December. I look back at the last 11 months and I reflect on what I most remember most over that time. My thoughts range from the positive (D23) to the forgettable (Stitch's Supersonic Celebration).

With every annual reflection I relive my visits to the Walt Disney World and fondly recall those special moments; moments which would have not been possible without the creative mind of Walt Disney.

It's sort of generic to write an "End of the Year" newsletter article and discuss all that had occurred for that year. Oh yes, I saw the demise of such and such and was introduced to this and that, and so and so went through a refurbishing... Yes, I know about such and such, this and that, and of course so and so. But this year, amidst the many comings and goings of all things related to the Walt Disney World Resort, I could not help but find myself reflecting not just upon 2009, but all my years of venturing down to Orlando and reminiscing about those special moments that did something that I would presume Walt had in mind when he first came up with the concept of a theme park.

My first trip to Walt Disney World was in the early '70s and as much as I had thought I knew what I was in for, I was not even close.

Sure I had an idea of what the "rides" were (I would not call them attractions until 1990), but I had no idea as to what the atmosphere was like, the environment, the sense of fantasy, and what impact the aura of a Disney theme park would have on me and my senses. It was that unique feeling -- that indescribable sense of relaxation that would continue to bring me back time and time again, for so many visits, for more than 35 years.
A businessman such as Walt Disney is a rare breed. As much as he was interested in growing his company and being profitable, what speaks to the success of his vision was his penchant for making people happy. In order for him to achieve this goal the mark he had to hit was more than an amusement park or theme park.

When I think back to the '50s and '60s, and as I watched Walt Disney as he performed in front of the cameras, I cannot figure out for sure if the dividends he was aiming for were in the form of dollar signs or smiles. However, if I were to place a wager on this question my money would go on the smiles because, let's face it, smiles beget dollars. It doesn't work the other way around.

The magical (I know, it's an overused word in a Disney context) environment that has been created by Walt Disney and his Imagineers has confounded me in recent years. About two years ago I started jotting down some notes about a column I thought that would make for an interesting exercise in writing, and more so for an entertaining and thought-provoking column to read. I was pretty excited about taking a stab at this topic and was curious about the feedback I would get.

The topic?

Well, I was hoping to write a column that discussed the aspects of just when guests to WDW might hit a saturation point with their Walt Disney Vacation visits. That is, what kind of signs or flags would one expect to find that would serve as signals that perhaps you have, in a manner of speaking, "hit the wall" with Walt Disney World?

To me this appeared to be quite a tasty little topic to have fun with. I thought of the wonderful time I would have thinking up clever phrases for all the various signs I would be listing.

Oh, was I in for a surprise. As I began to write, I found myself reaching for words -- maybe struggling is a better gerund to use. I found myself getting quite frustrated.

"C'mon Mike!" I found myself saying. "Let's get cracking!"

The problem was that I realized all too soon that if I were to write such a column that it would be nothing but fiction. You see, I, along with most everyone I "hang" with, "get it!" If you receive these weekly newsletters you know what I mean when I say you "get it!" Well, if you are part of this community that "gets it" then you not only find difficulty in finding such flags -- you may have realized that there are none, for you... for me... for us.

Wait. How can this be? Surely everyone has a saturation point for just about everything. Right?

Let's turn to Shakespeare. In As You Like It, Act 4, Scene I, Rosalind says, "Why then, can one desire too much of a good thing?"

Maybe she should be saying not, "Why?" but "How then, can one desire too much of a good thing?"

I think I have the answer.

Why do we go to movies, read books, play video games, and of course, go on vacation and especially to Disney theme parks? Well, I for one go to escape. To escape reality, my everyday stress, and my daily routine. I long to run, if just for a brief time, from all those things that wear me down day after day. A Disney theme park takes me away from all that -- helps me run, helps me escape.

I have often thought that when Walt Disney the animator had a vision to create a them park or an amusement park in which he could take his fantasy and bring it to a three-dimensional level, he knew -- he knew that what he was doing was creating a small portal, a portal that all of us from time to time could walk through and escape our fears, our troubles, and our worries.

If this is true then it's very easy to see that we are all looking at Walt Disney World as a means to escape from the everyday stress of life.

Let's face it, we never get tired of putting our troubles on hold. We'll deal with our troubles eventually, but from time to time we need to recharge and to pamper ourselves. We'll never get tired of this.

As I think back all the trips I've taken to Walt Disney World I can honestly say that each and every trip was therapeutic and I needed it.

So as I look back on 2009 -- sure, I think of the various additions, subtractions and refurbishments that have occurred in the theme parks, be it attractions, restaurants, or character Meet and Greets. But I also have discovered recently for myself that it really doesn't matter what comes and goes. I know that the staples will always be there for me.

There will always be Main Street, USA and a certain structure at the end of that street waiting to light up my heart. There will always be Spaceship Earth, Hollywood Boulevard, and the Tree of Life, all waiting for me -- waiting to flush my cares away, if just for a brief moment.

I understand now. I understand, at least for me, why I not only enjoy going back time and time again, but why I NEED to return to Walt Disney World as soon as possible after returning from each trip.

Walt Disney created wonderful environments for all of us, but he did something more than that. He provided us with a chance; an opportunity to escape from life's constant stream of worry.

Was this a conscious effort on his part? We'll never know for sure.

What I do know is that for this holiday season I have finally realized why I go back to Walt Disney World over and over again and why there is no saturation point for me. I now know that Walt Disney has given me a gift. He has provided me with the purest form of escapism and for that I am grateful. Now I truly know what is meant when I hear the phrase, "It's the gift that keeps on giving!"

Thanks to all of you who have faithfully been reading my gibberish all these years and I send you the most sincere best wishes for a wonderful holiday season.

Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah... and, in the words of late TV show "Seinfeld," let there be Festivus for the rest of us.

See you next year.



Mike Scopa has been a huge Disney fan for as long as he can remember. He first visited Walt Disney World in 1975 and has returned many times (how many? he's lost count!) since. Mike is a contributor to the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World and Cara Goldsbury's Luxury Guide to Walt Disney World, and has served as keynote speaker for the 2006 and 2007 MagicMeets. He is also co-host of the WDWTODAY Podcast and writes a regular blog, The View from Scopa Towers, for AllEars.Net:

Other AllEars® articles by Mike Scopa:


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.