I was a senior in high school the last time I went to Disney’s Magic Kingdom. I attended “Grad Nite,” the annual hormone-driven night full of partying, flirtation and for some, occasional promiscuity.
That visit doesn’t count.
I wanted to relive the day I spent as a spunky 8-year-old: the day I met Minnie Mouse and her hubby Mickey, the day I received Pluto’s autograph – the day I couldn’t stop smiling.
So when my father suggested going there for Father’s Day, I was enthusiastic. I was curious to see what it was like now and how things have changed. And I wanted to know if Disney had the power to give me that same experience 11 years later.
My father, brother and I arrived at the kingdom around 9 a.m., early enough to the catch good rides without an excruciating wait. We rode Space Mountain, which was a lot of fun. Like most other patrons on the ride, I screamed and laughed and enjoyed every second of it. My father, who sat right behind me, was silent throughout. I wasn’t sure if that was just his reaction, or if he was on the verge of fainting.
We went on a couple more rides before hunger struck. We ate hot dogs, pizza and fries – good ole’ American food.
As the day wore on, I began to see the bigger picture. What makes Disney so great? Many things do, but most importantly, it’s the small stuff. Every minute detail of the Magic Kingdom is orchestrated, from the employee uniforms, to the architecture, to the color of the mulch on the ground. As scary as all this aesthetic manipulation is, it makes a difference.
The three of us rode the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and afterward, found a perky girl standing by the exit, passing out badges.
“You guys were here at the right place and at the right time – take one!” she said as shehanded them out.
We read the print: “Dream FastPass.” For those who don’t already know, a “FastPass” is a badge of laminated greatness that gives you the authority to soar past normal people waiting in line, providing “V.I.P.” privileges. It’s what I’d always wanted at other parks, but was too cheap to consider buying. We were excited to use them, so excited, in fact, that we rode the railroad again, and this time our wait reduced by a good 40 minutes.
As the day continued, we went on more rides, explored stores and munched on snacks in between.
One thing I did not appreciate was how expensive everything was. Of course, who wouldn’t price everything ridiculously high at a place where every other kid is pulling at his parent’s arm, begging for something? Pure genius.
Another thing I didn’t enjoy about the park was how crowded it was. It was Father’s Day, and I naively predicted that there wouldn’t be as many people as on a regular summer day. Wrong. People were everywhere, and they annoyed me.
While my brother again embarked on Space Mountain, my father and I went to the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor. I was a bit skeptical; how funny could this be? I am 19 and find Chris Rock and Ellen DeGeneres funny. Could a green one-eyed monster make me laugh? He sure did. The show turned out to be highly interactive, where the monsters cracked on audience members and shared jokes. I had a good time. A couple of hours and countless rides later, my father and brother were exhausted. A day’s sweat and dust coated our bodies, and I could tell the end was near. Before we left, however, we entered a sweets shop and I ordered a root beer float.
While sipping on our confections, we watched the parade go by. Blonde Alice, who seemed stuck between reality and Wonderland, walked back and forth between sides of the street.
Aladdin sat on his throne, laughed cheerfully and informed us that his dreams sure came true for the umpteenth time. I watched small children gaze in amazement, eyes transfixed. I couldn’t help but join them. I was amazed at the costumes, the make-up, the floats and the great acting skills; they all took my breath away. Yet I wondered how long it would be before these actors finally snapped. Despite some instances of cheesiness, it was one of the best parades I’ve seen.
As we left, I reflected on the day’s happenings. There were many things that felt the same 11 years ago, such as the park’s authenticity and feel. It still felt real to me; I was in a magical place. Other things, such as the crowding and the occasional apathetic employee, pushed me back into reality.
The Magic Kingdom renewed my sense of being a kid. I was happy to have relived a piece of my childhood.