Where Magic Lives… in Us

by Amy Warren Stoll, ALL EARS® Guest Columnist

Feature Article

This article appeared in the December 30, 2008 Issue #484 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

(EDITOR'S NOTE: This article originally appeared in the December 27, 2005, Issue #327 of ALL EARS®, but we felt it was timeless and deserved to be read again!)

I'm sure this won't come as a big shock to anyone that many of us go to Walt Disney World in search of a little magic. After all, don't we use our Magic Your Way ticket, to enter the Magic Kingdom, to watch the SpectroMagic parade, enjoy Mickey's PhilharMagic, and take advantage of the Extra Magic Hours? Aren't we even magically transported from the airport to our resort by Disney's Magical Express? Okay, so maybe that last bit of "magic" is still up for debate … is the subject for another article altogether … and won't be touched by yours truly until my asbestos suit is back from the cleaners.

Anyway, I'm confident that long before the Disney advertising juggernaut spewed forth the notion that WDW is "Where Magic Lives," a great number of us already believed it. How else do we explain how Tinker Bell flies in the Magic Kingdom, how an entire audience can be shrunk in Epcot, or how we can enter our very own Twilight Zone at The Studios? What? You have an answer for that besides magic? Really. Well. Uh… hmm… er. La la la… la la la… I'm not listening. You go to the other room and wait until I'm finished. We'll have no practical, technical, or analytical explanations while I'm talking about magic. Be gone with you. Now, where was I? Magic, yes magic. Certainly we've all found our little bit of magic in every trip we've taken. Perhaps it was in the goose bumps we got as the drums sounded the beginning of IllumiNations, or in that "little something" in our eye as the music swelled and fireworks lit up Cinderella Castle, or maybe it was just in a simple hug from our favorite character.

In my years of lurking on Disney discussion boards, in talking with fellow Disneyphiles, and in reading the ALL EARS® newsletter each week it's become clear that countless numbers of us believe that there is magic to be found at WDW, and that when we find it, we want to tell others about it. How often do we arrive home from our trips to The World anxious to tell anyone willing to listen (and a few who are just in the wrong place at the wrong time) about our Magical Moments? We want to tell them about how our little girl was enchanted by a conversation with the real Cinderella, how we had the chance to sit quietly holding hooves with Eeyore, or how our grandfather got choked up (although he'll never admit it) when his whole family gathered for his birthday during his first-ever trip to Walt Disney World.

You should note that we don't call them "special" or "incredible" or even "really cool" moments. No, we call them magical, and we wouldn't have it any other way. But what makes a magical moment? Is it a special event that's been meticulously planned and engineered, perhaps with the help of a cast member? Sure it is. Is it a trip that's been anticipated for months or even years before finally setting foot in the middle of the magic? Of course it is. Could it be a forgettable day made unforgettable by someone seizing the moment and spontaneously making some magic? You bet it is. Or maybe it's a moment when everything stands still, when you see nothing but your friends or family and the expressions on their faces, and in that instant you know that there is nowhere else you'd rather be. Oh yeah, that's one of the most magical moments of them all.

We all know that the cast members at WDW go the extra mile in making our visits as special as possible. We all know that it's often that extra mile that keeps us coming back again and again. And, of course, we all know that without the cast members there could be no Disney magic. Looking back through the ALL EARS® archives of readers' Magical Moments, I read again and again of the memorable things that cast members have done for guests. Sometimes the cast member had clearly gone out of their way to create some magic, even commemorating it with a "Magical Moments" certificate. Sometimes they were going above and beyond trying to remedy a trip gone awry, and sometimes there seemed to be a little luck, or coincidence, or (dare I say it) a little magic that brought everything together in just the right way to touch the guest and spark what would be an indelible and unforgettable moment. But I also noticed something else. While most of the writers told us of magic that had been fashioned at the hands of a cast member, there were other types of magic that piqued my interest… and got me thinking.

I read several stories of guests actually creating magic for other guests. A few mentioned the simple act of fellow guests giving away their FastPasses, another spoke of a family sacrificing some of their park time to "stay-put" and guard the belongings of strangers when they realized the poor souls had walked away without their bags. And one related the incredibly sweet story of a husband buying an entire bouquet of balloons for his new wife just so she could give them away to the children around her! Goodness, tissue please.

As I read, I thought back to when I had been the "victim" of a random act of magic in April 2004. I was treating myself to a birthday lunch with the huggable characters at the Crystal Palace. This was one of my "me, me, all for me" solo trips, so during my meal I was enjoying my favorite solo-trip activity: starting conversations with perfect strangers. Throughout my meal I had the pleasure of chatting with the couple seated next to me — they were celebrating their recent wedding. Nearing the end of the meal, my server surprised me with a birthday cupcake, lit the candle and reminded me to make a wish. The couple and I talked a little longer then they wished me a happy birthday again, I congratulated them again, and off they went. I was still reveling in what I thought had to be a perfect meal when my server brought me another surprise. Another cupcake? No, even better. Better than cake? Hard to believe. My surprise was my check. It was paid in full! The couple had secretly bought my lunch. A birthday present from a perfect stranger! Well, I was dumbstruck by their kindness and actually started to cry. I had to reassure every server (and even a few characters) that there was nothing to worry about… that they were "happy tears" and that this birthday was everything I could have wished for.

So why would this couple have done something so kind for a stranger? Was it because they were filthy rich and did this sort of thing everywhere they went? Not likely. Was it because I was just so delightful that I needed to be rewarded for my wonderfully entertaining and riveting conversation? Even less likely. Was it because after a week of spending all their waking hours with talking mice and dancing donkeys they had gone a little loco? Possible, but let's save that discussion for another time. No, after hearing so many other examples of guests taking magic-making into their own hands, I'd like to think that spending a few days immersed in the magic of Disney makes us happier, freer, and gives us the idea to do those nice things that may not come to mind during the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives. Or maybe we just know that any kind or thoughtful act in that environment is a potential magical moment, and fuels the secret desire that some of have to be a cast members making Disney magic.

Another type of Magical Moment that intrigued me was the magic that we make for ourselves. I was delighted by the stories of parents surprising their children with a so-called "last-minute" trip that had actually been secretly planned for months and months, and of a family spending their entire day at the Magic Kingdom "chasing" Tinker Bell around every corner and going to great lengths (a.k.a. golden cake glitter) to convince the youngest in their party that Tink was just mere steps away. I was heartened by the story of the large family who took the time to let their "number one planner" know how special he was for making their family gathering at WDW possible, and was struck by the countless stories of those whose magical moments were simply the emotion they felt when they were finally in the middle of the magic, surrounded by those they hold dear, and seeing the experience through their loved ones' eyes. Hmm. I didn't throw away that tissue, did I?

I'm not sure if I know why the images of magic that people found in themselves touched me so deeply. Perhaps they reassure me that we carry imagination, wonder, and magic with us everywhere we go, that we're not dependent on others to create it for us, and that we have within us the ability to make special memories for ourselves and others. Of course, it's certainly easier to lend ourselves to magic-making when we're surrounded by others doing the same. So for that, we have to thank the hard-working cast members who put all the pieces together. They give us a place to gather, they welcome us with a smile, they entertain us with thrills and whimsy, then they wow us with spectacles of music, light, and fire. In all of this, I think they give us permission to suspend reality and forget many of the cares we have at home, to see the magic in the moment, and to delight in those people who are most important in our world. Then I guess it's up to us to recognize those moments, then remember them, relive them and share them when we return home.

So the next time we experience a magical moment, perhaps we should thank Walt for creating a place where magic indeed lives… in the stories, in the characters, and in the people. But the next time we create a little magic of our own, maybe we need to be grateful that Walt's dream is a place that inspires us to believe, feel, and know that magic also lives in us.


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.