Mouseplanet 5th Anniversary Article
[NOTE: The following article, reminiscing about my personal memories of associations with the magic of Disney was originally posted to Mouseplanet in August 2005 and is available here in its original form.]
Happy Birthday to MousePlanet!
I was inspired by the thoughts and memories of the MousePlanet staff on the occasion of your 5th birthday to put together my own recollections based on Alex Stroup's outline. I hope you can include this in an upcoming Mailbag or as a guest article.
Impressions of Disney – My earliest recollection of exposure to Walt Disney's creative talent was, at the age of 4 or 5 (1954-55), having my mother read to me the Golden Books version of Dumbo. I have a very vague recollection of the scene where Dumbo and his mother were separated and put on the train to go to the next circus stop. My mother sometimes still asks me if I remember when she read that story to me and I cried because I was sad that Dumbo and his mother had been separated.
I also remember watching the Mickey Mouse Club and Davy Crockett on our black and white TV set. Davy Crockett was a favorite of mine, and one Christmas I received a Davy Crockett costume, which I frequently wore. For a long time after, I would seldom be seen without my Davy Crockett raccoon tail hat. In later years, the various variations of the Wonderful World of Disney TV show always kept me connected to Walt Disney and his imaginative creations.
First Trip – Surprisingly, my first trip to a Disney theme park didn't come until I was 23 years old (1973) and already graduated from college. I invited my younger brother, Steven, to go with me on a 2-week vacation to Florida. We stayed with family friends in Miami and, among the other excursions, we went on a 2-day Grey Lines tour of the Kennedy Space Center and Walt Disney World. At the time, Disney World consisted of only the Magic Kingdom, but we enjoyed the park's many attractions and rides. Favorites were the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea submarine ride and the Jungle Cruise.
Most Memorable Visit – It would be almost 10 years before I again visited a Disney theme park. By that time, my wife, Helena, and I had been married 8 years and we had a 5-year old daughter, Selene. I don't think I can pick out one specific visit that was “most memorable,” but instead have a sense that our infrequent trips to Disney World and Disneyland represented or coincided with milestones in our lives. That first (1982) visit to Disney World with Helena and Selene was our first family vacation together off our home island of St. Thomas. Selene was at an age when she had just completed her first year of school (pre-kindergarten) and could appreciate the magic of the rides and other attractions at the park. That was followed, 3 years later (1985) by our first and, so far, only visit to Disneyland. On this trip, we had the opportunity to stay in the park into the night and enjoyed the spectacle of the Main Street Electrical Parade for the first time.
The summer of 1989 marked personal highs and lows for us. This trip to Disney World marked our first time staying on-property and added greatly to our enjoyment of the parks. But only a few months after we returned home, Hurricane Hugo struck St. Thomas, causing major damage to our home. That was a very traumatic event for Helena, Selene, and I.
By the time of our next (1992) visit to Disney World, Selene was a 15-year old teenager and beginning to develop a sense of her future career goals in an artistic field. So, we signed her up for a behind-the-scenes tour of the Disney Animation Studios at Disney-MGM Studios. This was also the first of our now-traditional Christmas-time visits to Disney World, and this added a whole new dimension to our enjoyment of the parks and their attractions.
Our 1997 visit coincided with another milestone in Selene's life, as she was then a college student studying for a degree in graphic design. Helena and I flew up to Orlando from St. Thomas, and Selene met us at the airport after her shorter flight from Ft. Lauderdale. To date, this has been our last visit to a Disney theme park with Selene, as she's now married and starting a family of her own.
However, Helena and I have continued to visit Disney World, enjoying Christmas-time at the parks in 2003 and 2004 as an “empty nest” couple. I'm planning to retire in April 2006, and Helena and I are considering a post-retirement trip to Disneyland in May 2006 to try to get in on the tail end of that park's 50th Anniversary celebration. Also, as I'm writing this in July 2005, Selene is (any day now) expecting our first grandchild, which opens up “a whole new world” of possibilities for Helena and I to visit and enjoy the Disney theme parks in our new role as retired grandparents.
On MousePlanet – It's been about 3 years now since I first found the MousePlanet Web site, and it has become an important part of my daily routine. During my workday lunch breaks, I catch up on the daily articles and trip reports as I eat my “brown bag” lunch and unwind from the stresses of the work day. Although I've never met and rarely corresponded with the MousePlanet staff of writers, they've grown to be long-distance friends who help me to—as Mike Scopa so aptly puts it—get into the “Disney Zone.” On weekends, with no new MousePlanet articles to read, I often put on a Disney park or soundtrack music CD to keep me in the “Zone.” Mike's contribution to your 5th anniversary article captured exactly why I've grown to be almost fanatically interested in the goings on at the Disney theme parks. As he put it, “…I knew that I had found the one place on Earth I could depend on to release me from the cares of everyday life.” While at Walt Disney World or Disneyland, you can forget about work, personal problems, health issues, and all the other cares of the everyday world. Like Mike, during the 10-day visit to Disney World that Helena and I enjoyed in December 2003, we completely lost track of what day of the week it was. All we were aware of was that we were having a wonderful time—we were in the “Disney Zone.”
The availability of MousePlanet has since helped me to make that realization. So, “Thanks!” to the MousePlanet staff, and congratulations on your 5th Birthday! Here's to many more years spreading the Disney Magic and bringing new people into the “Disney Zone!”
1996-2013 Arnold E.
van Beverhoudt, Jr.