It’s no secret that I love Disney and everything the mouse has to offer. I’ve seen every animated movie multiple times and can still sing along to with all the songs. I have a “shrine” in my office – the walls are littered with prints, posters, collector pins, stuffed animals, toys, and figurines. The only thing I’m missing is a Disney tattoo and I’m working on that. The crown on my Disney obsession came in August of 2011 when I went to Disneyland with a group of friends, all of whom had an annual pass. They knew of my Disney craze and decided to gift me with my very own annual pass. And the tradition of going to Disneyland, a place I have all but worshiped since I was 5, monthly became a reality.
Every time we get back from a break at school, my students ask “Did you go to Disneyland?” The answer is usually yes. Last year, I went 8 times, which is more than I have ever gone in a single year before. And while there, I have stopped taking pictures and started to just look around. That’s the beauty about having an annual pass: I’ve seen the castle and have so many pictures of the castle that I can put the camera down and just focus on the magic of Disney. Here’s what I’ve learned, in no particle order:
1) Details Matter
Next time you go to Disneyland and you’re walking up Main Street, U.S.A, look around you. I mean, really look. The buildings are all different, down to the material they are made out of. Walt wanted it to look like a small town main street and he wanted it to be realistic. There are store names written over some of the second story windows. If you take a trip back to the lockers, there are sounds of pianos playing and a man visiting the dentist. There’s even a small pouch with a rocking chair (prime parade watching area if you can get it). Nothing is out of place. Head over to Adventure Land, and you’ll find the same thing. There are cracks in the bazar walls, making it look older. The open air fruit stand has packing crates and faded paint.
Even the rides pay attention to detail. Let’s jump on Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. The que line has old machines and generators running in front of the temple. The status out front are of giant cobras and snakes. The rickety bridge leads you up to the entrance, which take you down through a network of caves (watch out for bats!) and booby traps (don’t step on the wrong brick!) until you come into the temple itself. There, you see vast murals painted on the temple ceiling with scaffolding for the archeologist to use. Nothing is left out. If you look really close, you can even spot a hidden Mickey or two.
Details matter and Disney knows it. Somethings it’s the smallest detail that you didn’t think about that ruins the experience, no matter what that experience is. It’s a lesson that I’m applying to my own work and life. I often find in lesson planning that there is a small detail I did not think of that makes the work that much harder for my students and for me.
2) Whistle While You Work
Disney has a special name for all employees: cast members. You are not an employee of Disneyland, you are a cast member. It makes a little difference. As a cast member, you are supposed to be on stage, ready to perform for the audience, aka the customers. Disney cast members, for the most part, always seem happy to be there. They smile, they wave, they chat politely with you. You rarely hear cast members complaining about their jobs while they are “on stage”. And the few times I have, it’s honestly ruined a little of the magic for me. I have openly complained to cast members when I hear them ragging on their jobs. I understand that all jobs have their bad side (I’m a teacher, after all), but I see no reason to complain about it in front of the very people who are helping to pay your wages.
But that’s not the point. The point is most cast members seem to really enjoy their jobs. It’s an important lesson to be learned. There are lots of things about jobs that annoy and bother people, but I think people should at least act happy to be there while they are “on stage”. Complain behind the scenes all you want, but show the customers a smile.
3) Scream Like You Mean It
It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve been on Space Mountain, I still scream every time. It’s fun to yell out loud as the roller coaster races through the dark. I do the same for all the roller coasters at Disneyland. Actually, I do the same for most of the rides at Disneyland (except Small World, I just sing along then). To me, Disneyland is a place to let loose, to sing along, to dance in the streets, and to scream like I mean it. I’m not worried about what other people think because I don’t really care what other people think. I’m having fun and that’s all that matters.
It’s harder for me to live like in this every day life. I have to care a little about what people think about me (naming my bosses). It’s also helpful as a teacher to have your students like you. It’s not required, but it makes the classroom run a little smoother. That doesn’t mean that I can’t be “me” though. I can tell bad puns and be silly and enjoy life rather than just going through the motions. Not only do I scream like I mean it, I laugh like I mean, cry like I mean, love like I mean it.
4) Believe in the Power of Imagination
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a scientific skeptic. Basically, I don’t take much on faith, I want to know the science behind it. I don’t believe in ghosts, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy The Haunted Mansion. I know the anatomy of insects, yet I still love Bug’s Land (probably my favorite of all the areas in Disneyland). Just because I like science and want to understand how the world works doesn’t mean that I can’t also enjoy the magic of Disneyland. That’s what Disneyland is all about! I wave and smile and love getting my pictures with the characters because, when they are in that costume, they are the characters from my childhood. I’m going to a character breakfast where I will be the youngest person in our party of 4. And I’m super excited about it!
I can never understand the people who can’t immerse themselves in the story. It’s the story that makes Disneyland the happiest place on Earth and my own personal laughing place. And I’m excited that I get to keep going back.