Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween at Disney World

Marilyn, 77, Germantown, TN

Last year my family (six adults and four children) took a trip to Disney World for Halloween. At night, we all attended the Park's special Halloween party. Everyone wanted to go on Pirates of the Carribbean, but half-way through the ride, all the lights went out and the boats stopped!

A few minutes later, we heard singing and saw light. It was the Cast Members who worked the ride – they wore high boots and were carrying candles while singing pirate songs, talking to the kids, and pushing the boats back to the exits.

The lights were still out when we arrived at the exits, so our Cast Member led us to the main Park – as he continued singing and telling stories. When the lights came on, he gave us all FASTpass tickets for the rest of the night. We had a wonderful time and my great-grand kid asked if we could do it again. Only Disney could make Halloween such a special time that all the kids still talk about!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Halloween 2008

Christine, 48, Fort Mill, SC

Halloween 2008
We've loved visiting Disney World every year for the past eight years and usually go during the spring, around Easter. My daughter's 12th birthday was October 27, so this year we went to Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween with my four-year-old granddaughter. We had a wonderful time -- my daughter was Minnie Mouse and my granddaughter was Jasmine. They loved dressing up, meeting the Characters, and receiving their treats at each of the trick-or-treating stations. What a wonderful idea ... thanks for the Disney memories!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Walt Disney ... An American Icon

Pat, 57, Basking Ridge, NJ

Walt DisneyAs a sociology major in college, I was required to write a term paper about the person I felt had a major influence on American society – I chose Walt Disney. There are presidents, senators, athletes, movie stars, religious figures, and foreign heads of state that obviously have had major roles in the development of our society, but Walt's vision has impacted us beyond most.

The environment he developed transports us from our everyday lives into a place filled with fun. We can't help but lose ourselves in his fantasy world and just feel good. His foresight and creativity were unparalleled and I would bet there isn't a family in our country that hasn't been influenced by Disney ... how lucky for us!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Family Lives on at Disneyland

CJ, 58, San Clemente, CA

 I can remember going to Disneyland for the first time around age six. Wearing my coonskin cap, I was selected to lead the band down Main Street, U.S.A. What an everlasting wow!

Princess for a DayMy family, with Grandma and Grandpa, saved and planned every year and returned on the third Wednesday of August every year from 1956. The excitement bubbled and exploded as the time grew nearer. It was easier to sleep the night before Christmas, than the night before Disneyland. It was a day the whole family spent together, something that never happened unless we were going to Disneyland. Quality time, enjoying each other's company, sharing each other's joy. Breakfast at Aunt Jemima's, dreaming and hiking on Tom Sawyer's Island. And, oh, those Autopia cars, getting to drive a car ... another wow. Each ride had its own memory, each Land its own experience with the family.

Then in the 1980s it was my time to be the mom, and take my kids to the Happiest Place on Earth. The excitement of taking them was as big and bold as it was when I was a kid. And the dream never got old, the experience never died.

Today my grandparents have passed on – my mom too. Nobody lives in the same home, not even in the same neighborhood. Disneyland remains the only place I can visit to relive the wonderful memories of my childhood. To smell the smells, and touch the places where we all had such good and endearing times together. When I miss them, I don't visit a cemetery, I visit Disneyland. It still brings a smile to my face, and I still get that twinge of excitement as I enter the Happiest Place on Earth. Thanks Disneyland!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Fauna Boat

Jenny, 18, Redwood City, CA

FireworksOn my last trip to Disneyland with my family, I remember a magical experience. We went on the Storybook Land Canal Boats and had a "magical" time. The Cast Members directed me to sit on the step of the boat where everyone's shoes touch, so I just flat out said "I need to sit on the other side of the boat – I have O.C.D. and can't sit there." The cast member completely understood! She even said her brother has O.C.D. too. So we waited for the next boat – and it was the Fauna boat! Fauna is one of my all-time favorite Disney Characters.

The ride had to stop for the fireworks show, so we got to see them while in the boat. The whole time these little girls on the boat were making sort of a running commentary – it was really funny. When one of them heard the huge crack and booming noise of the fireworks she said, "I thought the Civil War was over!"

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Birthday Saved

Heather, 34, Viola, IL

WaltSince my husband was attending a conference in Orlando, we made plans to spend some time together at Walt Disney World. It just so happened that the conference was scheduled during my son's 8th birthday. Of course, we let him choose how he spent his birthday while at Disney. Out of all the attractions, he wanted to play golf at one of Disney's courses so we made reservations at Oak Trails. Unfortunately, our trip took place during Tropical Storm Fae – it pretty much rained the entire time we were there. Needless to say, the golf courses couldn't be used.

Although golfing was out, we didn't let the rain spoil all our fun. We went to Disney's Hollywood Studios and were on our way to see the "Star Wars" show, when a Cast Member wished our son a happy birthday (he had a birthday button on). He asked if we were going to Star Tours and we said we were going to watch the show first. He led us to a great spot to watch the show and, wouldn't you know it, my son was chosen to attend the Jedi Training Academy. He may not have been able to play golf, but another of his wishes came true – he got to battle with Darth Vader, something we couldn't plan if we tried. It was truly a wonderful birthday for my son!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Very Special 21st Birthday!

Michelle, 23, Santa Rosa, CA

Fireworks FantasyIn April of 2008, I celebrated my 21st birthday. I had been to Disneyland many times, and since I'm a huge Disney fan, my parents wanted to make my 21st birthday special and we planned a trip to Walt Disney World!

Just being there was amazing enough. We stayed in a beautiful Contemporary Resort Hotel room, complete with a balcony and a perfect view of the Magic Kingdom, where we watched the fireworks display many times. We visited all of the Parks, took in all the shows, and ate at so many amazing restaurants. On my birthday we ate at Cinderella's Royal Table – the restaurant in the castle itself!

I felt like a princess and was having the best time of my life. Thinking that the trip itself was the most special birthday gift EVER, I wasn't expecting anything else. Little did I know, my parents had a huge surprise in store for me.

After we finished eating dinner, someone from the restaurant came over to our table and started talking with my family and asking if we were having a good time. While we were talking with the man, our waitress came out singing Happy Birthday with a special dessert that my parents had secretly ordered. It was a chocolate mold of Cinderella's glass slipper filled with chocolate mousse, which sat on a slice of angel-food cake with strawberries and blueberries all over! Even the plate had "Happy Birthday Michelle" written around the edge in chocolate.

After the shock wore off, I noticed a ring box on the table. When I opened it, I was overwhelmed to see a stunning diamond ring. I started to cry because I was so happy. I couldn't believe they pulled off such a huge surprise. Thank you so much Cinderella's Royal Table, everyone at Disney, and Mom, Dad, and Joseph for making my birthday so special. It's one I will never forget!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Annual Trip to Disneyland!

Irene, 47, Los Angeles, CA

Thankful at Walt Disney WorldMy parents worked very hard all year to make sure we (I was the oldest girl with three younger brothers) always made our annual trip to Disneyland every summer. Mom would wake us up early and dress us in outfits she bought especially for the occasion. We made sure lemonade on Main Street was always our first stop.

My fondest memory as a little girl was watching Mary Poppins with her umbrella move across the sky – I was amazed and completely convinced she was real. And who could forget the fireworks that lit up the sky or watching the parade and naming all the characters? At the end of the day, our last stop was browsing through the gift shops ... those wonderful memories will live on forever!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Toontown Strengthens Family Pies

Christopher P., Sr. Staff Writer, Disney Online Studios, North Hollywood, CA

Driving through the desert, I'm a cartoon pig throwing pies at robots with my nephew, who is a cartoon dog ... hundreds of miles away. It may sound ridiculous, but that's the point – after all, this is Toontown!

My wife is at the wheel of the car, and we're heading home to Los Angeles. I'm in the passenger seat on our mobile laptop, playing Toontown Online with my nephew Hunter, age 10, who we parted company with hours ago back in Phoenix. Hunter and I had been playing Toontown together for the past two days, throwing pies at evil robot Cogs, racing karts, dueling on the mini-golf course, and playing Trolley games. When it came time for my wife and I to leave, Hunter and I didn't want to stop – and since Toontown is an online virtual world, we didn't have to. As my wife and I cruised down the highway, Hunter and I continued our fun, just like when we were together. And though we fought side-by-side against the Cogs, when it came to kart racing, he beat me handily. This is probably why, even though I work on the game, he has more Laff points than me.

Hunter and I still get together online to play, but there's been one big change – now we're joined by my wife and our niece Skyler, Hunter's sister, a family reunion of cartoon animals. It's a great way to keep in touch, because as we all know, the family that throws pies at evil robots together stays together!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Heart of Disneyland

Linda, 58, Dixon, CA

Sleeping Beauty's CastleI was 11 years old the first time I went to Disneyland. It was 1961 and Disneyland was somewhat different in appearance back then. Gone are the donkey rides down the canyon, the old Autotopia cars, the boats, and the original submarine ride with "real" mermaids.

Though there have been aesthetic changes to Disneyland, the "heart" of Disneyland remains forever the same. Since my granddaughter turned 2 years old, my husband and I have been taking her to Disneyland. This year was our third trip with her – she is now 4 1/2. It is amazing that she too feels the "heart" of Disneyland – just as Walt hoped that each child would. Our granddaughter feels the magic and wonder of Walt's vision, every time we visit the park. It is an incredible thing that, although it's been 47 years from the very first time I stepped into Disneyland, our precious granddaughter also feels those same MAGICAL feelings when she visits Disneyland. I'm certain she will pass the tradition on to her children and their children as well. Thank you for keeping the heart of Disneyland beating in every child and adult who passes through the gates.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Fireworks Fantasy

Eva, 48, San Jose, CA

Fireworks FantasyEach year, we travel the 400 or so miles to Disneyland to witness the holiday magic. This past visit in 2008 was a particularly special time. This year in attendance were my husband and me, our 26-year-old daughter, our son age 19, and Nathaniel - our 5-year-old grandson. Also along were my brother, and my sister's family — her four daughters aged 12 - 21, her husband Jay, and his nurse.

Jay has ALS. His muscles are atrophying, and his abilities are so very limited now. He is on a ventilator and confined to a wheelchair. He will most likely never make it back to Disneyland again.

We scoped out a great spot for fireworks viewing right in front of the castle with our entire family. Jay asked for my grandson Nathaniel to be placed on his lap. We carefully placed Nathaniel on the arm of Jay's wheelchair, draping his legs across Jay's lap. Nathaniel was amazingly compliant, and totally entranced by the fireworks display from his special seat.

Jay watched the fireworks, and he began to weep. Then he caught sight of Nathaniel's delighted reactions to the spectacular beauty, and a smile would break through. Nathaniel turned around and saw Jay's tears, and he patted Jay on the chest and then touched his face. For my sister and I, this was THE memory of 2008. This was the defining moment that marked the magic of Disneyland for us. The connection between this man and this child on this spot in this moment will forever be cherished by all who witnessed it.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Always Wanting More Disney!

Dena, 35, Bourg, Louisiana
Disney Princesses 
My 11-year-old son, six-year-old daughter, mother-in-law (65 years young!), and I have visited Disney World five times in the past two years. Seeing my daughter don her princess dress (made by her grandmother) and hear the princesses tell her how lovely she looks is the best part of visiting Disney. Of course, Ariel from "The Little Mermaid" is her favorite. We love Disney and visited in February 2009 with 18 friends and family members. We always find something new to do and have many great Disney memories – with more to come in the future. Thanks to Walt for creating such a great place!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

How Walt Changed My Life

Rick, 58, Phoenix, AZ

Walt DisneyI started going to Disneyland when I was 7 -- 51 years ago. I've been there, on average, once a year ever since. I have always been thrilled and in awe of the Park's attention to detail and remember looking at the lichens painstakingly created, attached, and painted onto the Swiss Family Robinson tree house and how everything was laid out, lit, costumed, and set up so people could get to and from everything as efficiently as possible. Every time I went, I'd look (and listen) for things I hoped were still there (like the jumping fish in the backway to Fantasyland from Frontierland) and marvel at everything that was either new, or I just hadn't noticed before. Sometimes it was very hard to tell the difference.

Today I am the technical director (and lighting/sound designer) for a theater here in Phoenix and the cadre of actors. Directors and producers who bring their work to my stage consistently report their sense of being taken care of, as if I were one of the performers on stage with them. They note my attention to detail and how much that all makes a difference. They always ask where I learned how to do it, the way I do, because it's so much better than their experience with other technical people. I've always said "I just paid attention" but you know ... seeing this invitation to muse on Walt's impact on my life, I'd have to blame him as much as any other single stimulus. And even now, at 58, I'd rather just be walking through Disneyland than almost any other activity I can think of. Thanks Walt!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Darndest Things Happen at Disneyland

Peter, 60, Santa Barbara, CA

The Darndest Things Happen at DisneylandI was at Disneyland with my family for their 50th Birthday celebration with California's governor and Art Linkletter. My three children, Alexander, Zoe, and Fiona, had always heard the story of how I was among the children "interviewed" for Mr. Linkletter's show "Kids Say the Darndest Things," but because I barely understood English (my parents only spoke Greek) I never made it on the show.

At the 50th birthday celebration, wearing our gold Mickey ears and stuffing ourselves with birthday cupcakes, we marveled at how Mr. Linkletter, then 93 years old, spoke extemporaneously, seemingly totally at ease in 90-degree heat and a dark suit. After the speeches were done, we walked around and a crowd of reporters approached us, surrounding Mr. Linkletter. And there he was—right in front of us! He stopped, looked right into my eyes, and said, "You look about the right age, were you ever on the show? I am sorry if I don't remember you."

Then he ignored the reporters trying to ask their questions, and he had a five-minute conversation with us, allowing my kids to ask him various questions. After spending so much time with us, he turned to my kids and said "Believe your father, everything he says about 'Kids...' is absolutely true." My eyes welled up. I shook his hand and thanked him profusely, and the last thing he said was "Call me Art."

Only at Disneyland! Thank you for always making it the Happiest Place on Earth.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Disney Magic and the Moon

Frank, 45, Palm Springs, CA

Disney Magic and the MoonI was a Cast Member working at the Disneyland parking lot during the early 1980s. One night while operating a tram that was leaving the Park to return Guests to their cars, things started running very slowly. I had already gone through the safety spiel a few times, and everyone was getting bored and restless.

Realizing a lunar eclipse was occurring, I decided to amuse the Guests with an impromptu announcement over the loudspeaker. "Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls! For your enjoyment, Disneyland has provided you with this lunar eclipse," I said while pointing to the sky.

Several Guests just laughed at my joke but, after a full day of Disney magic, some of them thought Disney could do anything – I had more than a few Guests asking how Disneyland did it!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Seeing Walt at Disneyland

Yvonne, 51, Gardnerville, NC

The Day I Bumped Into WaltLong ago when the world was a little different and I was just about 12 years old, my mother took my younger sister and me to Disneyland in California. We would be able to visit there often because we lived close enough, there was no such thing as freeway traffic and it was a great place to visit for a long day.

I recall walking into Disneyland, past the train station, and into the area where we would go to visit Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln – that attraction was always our first stop. One very special day, as we left the show and looked toward Main Street, there was a horse-drawn carriage coming toward us and Walt Disney was riding up on top with the driver and waving at the people passing by. It was one of the most exciting events in my entire life! He even waved directly at us! It will always remain in my memory. What a wonderful man with such a great unselfish vision!
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