Disney then and now

Children will believe everything that you tell them as long as it is slightly believable.

Which would you rather go to?

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Take for example, my Psychology teacher’s daughter. Her husband has convinced poor little Elizabeth (their daughter) that if she covers her eyes with her hands, he cannot see her.

I will admit that Elizabeth is only 19 months old, but it proves my point. You can convince a child of pretty much anything, whether they are 19 months or five years old, a child is easily duped.

This is why the creation of Disney World is one of Walt’s most ingenious ideas.

Children love the idea of seeing the beloved characters of Disney Classics. For them, it is not a person dressed up in a costume; it is Elsa, Mooshu, Mickey Mouse, etc. The look of a child’s face when they meet their favorite character is unparalleled. There is nothing like it.

I remember feeling like this when I went to Disney with my parents for the first time. I was too young to remember the majority of the trip, but one memory that sticks out in my mind like a sore thumb is the day that I met the Queen of Hearts. (You know, the villain from Alice in Wonderland.)

We had waited in line for what seemed like hours. I could barely see over the rail, but I could hear the laughter of the children who had gone to meet her before me. I was beside myself with excitement, but when I finally got to the spot in the line where I could see the Queen, I had a little different reaction.

The Queen was hurting and torturing the poor teenager in front of me. She was tugging at her hair, swatting at her, laughing at her. It absolutely terrified me. I hadn’t realized that the Queen of Hearts was that mean.

I was so entirely afraid of her that I refused to stand next to her. My parents, a bit irked that they had just waited in line for me to see the Queen just to have me wimp out at the last minute, made me take the picture with the evil woman.

So in the picture, you see scared little Grace, frightened out of her mind standing 10 feet in front of the character, nervously smiling and presumably shaking in my proverbial boots.

For me, at the ripe old age of five, the Queen was not some random person dressed in a costume. She was the Queen of Hearts. She could chop my head off at any second for all I knew.

This trip was the first of many (and by many I mean 20 plus times) to Disney World. It is the go-to Elliott family vacation, and of course, the experience has changed for me over the years. I now know that the Queen of Hearts was just someone in a costume, and some would call this the “loss of the Disney magic”. However, I like to think of it as less of a loss and more of a gain.

Disney has become like a second home for me. I love seeing the little kids meet characters for the first time or finally being tall enough to ride their first roller coaster.

I did not lose any “Disney magic”. I see it and experience it every time I go, just not in the same way I used to. That is why Disney is never going to get “too old” for me. I will never be too old to go to Disney because I don’t see it as a theme park for little kids. I see it as the closest thing to magic this world has.

I still meet the characters, too. This past Christmas I had the distinct pleasure to meet Gaston from Beauty and the Beast.

I waited 30 minutes to meet him and I was so excited, much like I was with the Queen of Hearts. (He was also pretty attractive, so that wasn’t awful either.) When I finally got to meet him, I literally could not speak, and he quickly put two and two together. With my non-responsiveness and furious blushing, he knew that I was uncomfortable.

So, in order to help me get over my discomfort, he took me around “France” and yelled out to the townspeople “This is Grace and she is in love with me. Do not look at her because she is very embarrassed.” Loud enough for everyone to hear. It was quite beyond horrifying, but also one of my favorite memories I have from there.

Disney may have changed for me from five to 17 years old, but even though I knew that Gaston was just an attractive guy with a weird accent, I still had the same feeling of when I met the Queen: complete awe that shut me up.

Walt Disney World is simply the best place to be on earth.