Confessions of a Disneyophile: How I Got HookedTheme Parks — By Betsy Villanella on July 16, 2011 at 00:12
Series by staff writer Betsy Villanella. Photos Copyright © Betsy Villanella.
I HAVE LOVED all things Disney since before I can remember.
I wanted to be Annette Funicello from The Mickey Mouse Club. When I got a bit older, it was Haley Mills from the movies on The Wonderful World of Disney: the original Parent Trap, Summer Magic, The Moon Spinners.
When I was five years old, my favorite movie became 101 Dalmatians. As soon as I walked out of that movie lobby I wanted a Dalmatian. I just loved Pongo, Perdita, and all the spotted puppies. Years later, in my adulthood, I finally owned two Dalmatians. They were great dogs! It’s still my favorite movie.
There was the parade of other Disney movies I fell in love with over the years. I was always amazed with Disney movies. They have storylines that make you truly believe that if you try hard enough, and believe strongly enough, anything is possible. Sleeping Beauty can find love’s first kiss to wake her. Pongo and Perdi can get their puppies back. All it takes is to try, and to believe hard enough.
Slowly and quietly my Disney obsession grew.
But it stayed in the background for a lot of years. I didn’t really acknowledge it, even when my boys were young. They were into the Star Wars thing and Disney hadn’t jumped on the Star Wars bandwagon yet.
Then I discovered WALT DISNEY WORLD!
Walt Disney World. Just an expensive amusement park? Well, yes, and no. . . .
It is expensive, and it’s a park with amusements, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a “theme” park. It’s the way Disney can set different moods within every park, or tell you a story within every ride.
But for me it’s even more than that.
It’s a state of mind, a relaxed feeling of not caring that you are happily hugging a giant duck named Donald (did you know his middle name is Fauntleroy?) or following Capt. Hook around, taunting him with tick, tock, tick, tock and hearing the children’s laughter with his reaction.
It’s exactly what I believe Walt Disney wanted it to be: the “happy place” for so many families.After several years of seeing TV commercials about Walt Disney World, my husband and I decided it was time to take the long trip south, from the cold Northeast, and see it firsthand. By then our sons were grown and starting families of their own. Mike and I have been to Disney World eleven times since 1996. It opened on October 1, 1971 with only the Magic Kingdom theme park, but by the time we got there Disney had three parks.
We decided to make it a vacation for our 23rd anniversary. We had a week, and Mike was not a fan of flying at that time, so we drove. It took a day and a half to get there, and we stayed three nights. That left a day and a half to get back, plus one day to rest before going back to work. (These last couple of years, what with the cost of gas and less time to take off from work, we have started flying to Orlando.)
We got our first sighting of Cinderella’s Castle that evening at the Magic Kingdom, standing regally above the trees that graced the center hub at the end of “Main Street U.S.A.” I was hooked! It was just as it looked in the movie Cinderella, made way back in 1950.
(The trees were removed years later when the “Wishes” fireworks display debuted, to afford a better view of the fireworks around the castle from the entrance.)
As we walked inside the Castle, we found ourselves in a passageway to Fantasy Land. The walls were covered with a mosaic mural of different scenes from the movie. I love this mural. It contains one million pieces of glass in 500 different colors, including some tiles made of 14-karat gold. Beautiful.
So here I am confessing to the world of blogdom that I am, indeed, a Disneyophile. I’m OK with that, though—and I hope that after reading this maybe someone else will discover how special the “World that is Disney” can be.
As Walt said: “To all that come to this happy place: Welcome.”
STILL AHEAD IN THIS DISNEY SERIES WITH BETSY VILLANELLA
See Related Topics (right under the feature photo at the top of this post) for more Disneyophile stories from Betsy
Our Disney specialist, Elizabeth Villanella has lived in the Montrose, Pennsylvania area most of her life. Betsy married her high school boyfriend in 1973. As an Air Force wife, she has lived in Texas, Italy, and Virginia. Between the two of them, her sons have given her fourteen grandchildren and counting. Betsy and her husband currently live with Albert K. Ninestein, a mini Schnauzer who’s as smart as his namesake. She loves to travel and wants to experience (and share) as many places in this world as she can! Betsy tweets as @betsy_v.