Friday, January 26, 2007

On the Phenomenon That Is Disney...

As I prepare to launch into the planning of yet another vacation to Walt Disney World, the question that keeps coming to mind is "Why?"

Why WDW?
Why a place I've been to repeated times* before?
Why some place I know, a place I've nearly memorized my way around?
Why a place that some say is 'just for kids'?
Why spend my vacation money sustaining a huge (some even say immoral and brainwashing) corporation?

I've been asked those questions and, admittedly, have definitely asked them of myself more than once before.

So, now to try to address them in writing - mostly for myself, but in part to hopefully give my friends some sort of a semi-logical explanation.

I think I'll start with the short answer of what Disney gives me:

  • 1) Fantasy
  • 2) Escape from reality
  • 3) Unmitigated fun

Now the long answer.

1. Nostalgia

I was raised in a JW household (and I will get into the full implications of what that means some day, I promise). The point is that Disney was an intrinsic part of my childhood - and probably that of a lot of JW kids.* The first movie I ever saw in a real movie theater was the re-released Cinderella. (I loved it.*) My memories of movie watching with my sister in our family basement include countless viewings of "old" Disney classics like Robin Hood, Lady and the Tramp, and Peter Pan.* As we grew up and stopped watching Disney movies at home, this transitioned to Disney movies being one of the basic ingredients of family events. Our large, Ukrainian, all-JW family would get together at one of the aunts' homes for a big family dinner. With six kids and their spouses and children this usually meant a pretty large dinner party. And of course, no family dinner was complete without perogies, cabbage rolls, and don't forget - KFC chicken. After dinner there would almost always be a Disney movie (or The Princess Bride!) on in the background for the little kids to watch. The grown-ups would sit in the dining room talking over their cake and coffee, the teen age cousins would be in the basement playing video games and the two groups would drift back and forth, in and out of the family room where the little ones would be watching The Little Mermaid for the umpteenth time - catching bits and pieces of it, pausing for a funny part, stopping to see the ending yet another time.


Moving along...

When I think back to my childhood between the ages of 5-10 years, I remember two incredibly cool things in particular that my parents did for my sister and I. The first happened one summer when my mom had taken Karina and I out to the cottage at Grand Beach. We were eating supper one evening when my dad pulled up in the car outside, having driven out for the weekend from the city. We ran out to greet him and there, hiding in the back seat, were our cousins Wade and Candace! They'd come down for a visit from Ontario with their family. Since they only came out to Winnipeg once a year their visits were pretty important to us all. And the fact that my dad had surprised us with them, when we hadn't even known they were coming to Winnipeg, was such a huge deal to us at the time - the thrill! the excitement! There was much fun and sand castle building to be had that weekend...

The second cool thing was a trip to Florida which included a visit to Disneyworld. They told us about their plan right in the dead of winter (always the best time), showing us the brochures and a video about the Magic Kingdom. I remember by the time they were through discussing it with us we were so excited we printed off little calenders and taped them to our bedroom wall; each night we would X off a day that had gone by, counting down to the day we'd leave.

That first trip is mostly a blur now (I remember toting my raggedy old teddy bear around everywhere with me so I must have been quite young). We evidently had fun though because when we got back we started planning another vacation to WDW - this time with our grandparents coming along. All in all, we made (as I recall) 5 trips to Disney as a family. Sometimes just the 4 of us, sometimes with our grandparents or an aunt, uncle, and cousins coming along.

Of course, the family trips stopped when my sister and I stopped being JWs.

So in 2005, we made our own solo trip there. Just the two of us and one of our best friends. It was pretty neat to go to a place we'd only been as children, now returning as adults (*cough*) with all of the freedom that entailed. There was some sadness of being in a place with so many memories, but in a way I think we made that trip to start over with some new memories.

Okay, sorry, enough nostalgia!

*phew!* Its after midnight, I have a paper due (mine is on Gandhi), a UNICEF training session tomorrow, and a birthday sleepover party for lux to prepare for!

Next up - Disney's amazing ability at creating escapism (a.k.a the fantasy of the American Dream).

To Be Continued...*

* Trip #7 commences May 5, 2007
* The basic reason behind this being that Disney movies met the high standards JWs have for entertainment - they were G-rated, 'wholesome,' family movies, usually with little or no violence and certainly no promiscuity or profanity. Of course, they were almost always full of magic - a fact that was usually ignored by most JW families. (And this from a religion that was anti-Smurf!)
* In case you were wondering, my all-time Disney favorite is Beauty and the Beast.
* However, as a true PP fan, I don't view the Disney version as the real deal.
* Yes, I know - I've said that before and then forgotten. I offer up the following in my defense: "I have read but little lately. Experience has overshadowed prose." (Emily Dickinson)


Elliot said...

Eh, the Smurf craze started with evangelicals and jumped over to JWs. It was a weird 80s panic that happened to hit when we were kids, not a long-term policy.

Your story is very sad.

Anactoria said...

Its not all sad.

After all, I *am* going to Disneyworld in May! :P