A little over a year ago, I was in Disneyland with my boyfriend. We had been dating for 2 months when I dropped the D-bomb and told him I wanted to visit Mickey that Summer. Luckily he was into the idea and not much later, we drove to Paris in order to meet all my favourite characters. And what a ride it was. I felt like a little girl again as I walked inside the castle and sang along to Let It Go during the Frozen Fun Parade. And it is not just the park that has a special place in my heart. I also still tear up when I see Disney films. Every time Mufasa dies, I still cry. I want a library as big as Belle’s. And I still think Hercules is the most underrated animation film there is.
And I am not the only one who feels this way about Disney. I am not the only one who felt like a 5-year old when Goofy waved at me. A lot of my friends who are also in their 20s or older and still enjoy the Disney phenomenon. Some of them visit the parks all the time. Others collect limited edition merchandise or wish they were Ariel. And some just dream away while watching the films.
I know why I still love Disney. Just like with going to concerts, it’s a way of escapism. Most of these fairy tales originally had very dark endings, but Disney made them happy. And while I’ve gone through a “DISNEY IS TOO JOYFUL” phase, I now appreciate the joy because in real life we don’t get happy endings that often. And sometimes I do think the original princesses are just chicks waiting for a man to take care of them, but the recent films have shown us that princesses can kick ass and don’t need a man (hello Frozen! Brave!). In general, I think it is nice to just put on a Disney film and not think about real life for a moment.
Disney makes you forget everyday stresses
I asked Lauren, who is a regular visitor of Disney World and a Disney fanatic, why she still loves Disney so much. “I love Disney for a variety of reasons but ultimately it comes down to the effort that is in everything that Disney does . Everything in the parks has an intricate story and is there for a reason. Not an inch of space isn’t decorated and I appreciate the thought that is put into the backstories of every character, ride, restaurant, etc. You can enter a Disney park and suddenly everyone is care free. You can forget stresses of everyday like and enjoy a place that was created just with the intent to make its patrons happy, and I think that is rare to find these days.”
Deb, who works for the Disney fansite Allears.net agrees: “The theme parks… well, they are an escape in a way. They allow me to play, and shut out the big, bad world outside. The streets are clean, the people are pleasant and I can pretend like my biggest concern is whether to have ice cream for breakfast or not. I also love seeing how families enjoy their time together, and seeing little kids’ faces as they meet their favorite characters — it sparks their imagination and just watching them makes you feel good. Not everything is perfect, of course, but it’s a fairly safe and happy place.”
And that is what I experienced too when I went to Disneyland. In the park itself, everybody is happy and joyful. Outside there were soldiers walking around because of the terror threats. It is impossible to find a bigger contrast than that, yet I forgot all about it the moment I set foot in the parks.
Disney teaches what is good and bad in life
“I like Disney because it teaches you a lot about growing up,” another friend, Niko, told me. “It teaches you what is good in life and what’s bad and that you should not be a bully. Things you don’t understand as much as a kid but you do when you are an adult. I like the stories and the characters and I have great childhood memories thanks to Disney.”
Deb told me about why she liked the films as an adult and a mother. “The movies appeal to me even as an adult simply because of the storytelling. The stories are usually layered, and highly relatable. For example, Finding Nemo had several important messages for me as a mom. It was about learning to take a chance, and the importance of knowing when to let go.”
I had to agree with this too. As a child, I watched the films just because I liked them. I liked the happy songs and the vibrant colours. But when you rewatch the films as an adult, you look at it in a different way. You understand the puns and jokes and grasp the message that they are trying to tell. And I guess part of why we’re all still so into Disney is because it is a huge part of our childhoods and we became adults who could never quite let Disney go.
Disney gets even better when you get older
“So Disney has always been a huge part of my life. I can’t remember the first movie I watched or when I decided Ariel was my favourite princess because I’ve always been surrounded by Disney. People say Disney is for kids but they’re so wrong, it just gets better the older you get; more stories, more sequels, more songs, and more magic. You can just watch them again and again and they’re never not fun. When you watch a Disney movie as a kid you pick your favourite characters and who you want to be, you want to have the magic powers and everything, then you grow up to realise magic isn’t real.
But watching it as an adult you realise there’s so much more to it. They’re full of inspirational stories like how Pocahontas defends nature and her land but also her peaceful attitude towards preventing violence and misunderstanding. And Frozen definitely deserved the recognition it got. How Elsa sacrificed her whole childhood to protect her sister from her powers. I love how she’s a strong independent woman who doesn’t need a man. And Anna never gave up on her sister the whole time, she didn’t give up on her beliefs and literally sacrificed herself for her sister because she believed in Elsa more than Elsa believed in herself and you just need someone like that in your life. And with such relatable story lines like you kinda realise the magic’s really inside of you,” my friend Rebekah added.
Disney gives us characters to identify with
Besides, we all identify with a characters even when we’re older. I mostly identified with Alice and Megara from Hercules. Alice because I am too curious about the world around me and sometimes confused about growing up. Megara because she showed me you can be tough on the outside but soft on the inside and change your life if you want it to. I knew a friend of mine, Daniel, loves Belle from Beauty and the Beast and I asked him why he specifically liked her so much. “I think a good story is something you have to get into right away. You have to be carried away by the story and I think that is easier when you identify with a character. For me that was Belle,” he said.
“Belle is an outcast right from the beginning of the story, but she’s okay with that. She gets lost in her books and dreams of escaping her town one day. As a child I felt the same way. I was the only one in my family who read, something I loved doing, and often I hoped to go through the same adventures the characters went through. Every time I looked at Belle and saw how the people in her village treated her, I admired her for not caring about them. I wanted to be like that.”
“Belle’s personality only gets better when she sacrifices herself for her father and gives the beast and honest chance. That taught me that everybody deserves a chance, no matter what someone looks like. The film gave me hope that I would find love someday, despite all the pitfalls. She was no princess that was woken up by a kiss or lost her shoe. It was a girl that was friendly and that’s why she got everything she wanted.”
“I still love the film because of all the lessons it taught me because it gave me hope and because it made me dare to dream. That’s what Disney does for young and old.”
Disney is Magic
Disney is magic and no matter how old we are, we all need magic in our lives. Our day to day lives need a spark now and then and Disney provides that. Plus, wouldn’t life be so much better if all of us would burst out into song whenever something emotional happens? I mean, Hakuna Matata and keep experiencing the magic.