I have to admit when my husband suggested Disneyworld, Florida for our annual summer holiday I was dubious. Not least because the pre planning involved, cost and traipsing around in several sweltering theme parks didn’t seem like much of a holiday. As the Mummy to 5 and 8 year old girls I am perhaps overly conscious of what they are exposed to and in particular the role models they have. One of the main reasons I initially went back to work after becoming a Mum was because I thought it was important for my girls to know that Mummy’s can earn money too and now after a change of career they have front row seats in watching me build several businesses. We often have in-depth conversations (as I am sure many parents do) about what they would like to do when they are adults and I am always secretly delighted with the list of careers they are aspiring to.
As a family we also encourage self belief, each year making a vision board together of the things we want to personally achieve during that year with the underlying message that if you want it, believe in yourself and are willing to work consistently towards it then you can absolutely have it.
Now I know these ideas are not to everyone’s taste but I am sharing them with you so you have a good picture of exactly why I may have been unsure about a trip to Disneyworld, where the story has a happy ever after and where every girl has a prince charming waiting to whisk them away to be a kept woman in a beautiful castle!!!
However, I told myself to chill out and allow my children to be children and experience the ‘magic’ that so many rave about. After all, Walt Disney is the author of one of my all time favourite quotes:
“ All Our Dreams Can Come True If We Have The Courage to Pursue Them”…. surely there is more to Disney than sickly sweet stories with happy endings???? You may be surprised at my verdict!
As a 12-year-old girl my Aunty and Uncle took me to Disney and although I remember it really well I was aware it had changed lots and that it would be quite a different experience going back with my own children. One thing I didn’t remember was just how huge Disneyworld is, it takes over most of Orlando with 4 huge parks, 37 official Disney hotels in Orlando alone as well as Disney Springs and countless unofficial Disney stores. In total Disneyworld, Florida is 27,000 acres, the size of San Francisco with only 35% of this land developed.
Upon arrival of our first park, The Magic Kingdom, it took an hour from arriving at the gate to entering the park. There were no queues but the main park is almost 2 miles from the car park and you need to first take a tram to the monorail or ferry boat which will then take you to the main park entrance where you will need to get through security and metal detectors.... it is VAST before you are even IN the park!!! Once inside the Magic Kingdom you are on Main Street and sitting at the end of Main Street in all its glory is the beautiful Cinderella castle. Even as a sceptic visitor this vision took my breath away and it was worth every late night sitting up advance booking restaurants and fast passes just to see my girl’s faces. My children are not Disney addicts or princess obsessed; they have probably seen only a handful of these films out of their own personal choice. Frozen is by far their favourite, which I am truly grateful for as the girl shuns the Prince (yay!!). They still loved the whole experience, the rides, the shows, the character dining and the parades. However, the defining moment for me personally, when I realised what Disney was all about was when we watched the Magic Kingdom fireworks display. The Main Street electric light parade is followed by a light display on Cinderella’s castle called Celebrate The Magic before the firework display called Wishes. I am not ashamed to tell you that by the time I was watching the fireworks I had tears streaming down my face.
The Celebrate the Magic show was simply phenomenal, not just because it is a spectacular show or because a lit up Tinkerbelle zip wires across Magic Kingdom in the pitch black dark making it look like she has flown but because it shows a little of the story of Walt Disney. One single man who achieved so, so much in 65 years and changed the world as we know it before he left. A man with a vision, determination and self-belief. A man who I now know was criticised by a teacher at school for lacking imagination (I know!!!) and a man who was turned down by 302 banks for a loan to start Disneyworld….the same Disneyworld that is visited by 116 million people globally a year! This man was tenacious, he had vision and he left a legacy, he was and is the role model we all need….not Belle or Snow White, Cinderella or even Elsa it’s the man himself we can learn so much from. In 1928 Walt Disney drew a picture of a mouse that started a revolution and now 88 years later I was standing amongst 27’000 acres of his park with tears rolling down my face at the realisation of just what is possible.
In my opinion, Disneyworld doesn’t need all of the characters to idolise when it has its inspiring creator who we could all learn so much from. Perhaps I should have visited the Walt Disney Museum instead, a tiny building in SanFrancisco that is free to visit!!!
The day after the fireworks I spoke to my children about the achievements of Walt Disney and how he was told by so many that his ideas weren’t good enough but he kept going as he had such belief in what he had to give. I asked them to imagine how the world would be if he allowed his challenges, failures and setbacks to get in the way and define the outcome. There would be no Disneyland or Disneyworld or Disney Channel or Disney Stores or Disney merchandise or Disney Films or Bibbiddi Bobbiddi Boutique etc etc. etc.. My youngest Honey said “ that would be so sad because Disney makes lots of people happy and smile”. Wise words from my 5 year old.
So it’s safe to say that Walt is our new role model, we love his quotes, we love his story and we are full of admiration for his achievements, many of which he never got to personally see as he died in 1966. 5 years before the Florida Disneyworld was opened…but what a legacy that he left, one that continues to grow and evolve today probably beyond his wildest dreams when he sat down to draw a picture of a mouse!
Part Two Next Week – Disney Contradictions
I wouldn’t be a true nutritionist if I didn’t do a blog on the good, the bad and the ugly of Disney Dining and to share with you how I returned home from the land of sugar weighing not an ounce more!