Dec 16, 2011

This Happy Place

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"You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world but it takes people to make the dream reality." ~ Walt Disney

I hear a lot of people say that Disneyland has lost its magic for them, or that because of x, y or z change it isn't magical any longer. I've heard people mention the behavior of someone else as destroying the magic as well. Is the magic really Disneyland's though?

I've thought quite a lot about this over the years. So many people believe that Disneyland is imbued with this ethereal magic that makes them happy or feel peaceful. I actually disagree with that. As Walt said on a number of occasions, Disneyland is just the stage. It is just facades and buildings and mechanical components. Set dressing. It is made from the same materials any old house is. Wood, bricks, fiberglass, mortar. None of these have any magical quality to them. It isn't in the painting, or the landscaping either.

The opening quote from Walt might lead you to believe that it must be the Cast Members, the people of Disneyland who make it magical. Again, I don't think they are where the magic is either. I also don't think that is what Walt meant by people.

I believe that the Disneyland Magic actually lives in each one of us, the park guests. We are what bring the magic to the park with us. It isn't in the park. Take away the guests and all you have is an empty shell of fake things made to look real. One of Walt's favorite stories was Peter Pan. Peter was the boy who never grew up, who always held onto his childlike innocence and wonder. In many ways, this was Walt. He saw the world through childlike eyes. The world was full of wonderful things to be curious about and to explore. You can see it in his eyes and his grin. He built Disneyland as a giant sandbox. A place for him to play. Disneyland was designed from the very start where that spirit of innocence and curiosity and awe could come and thrive. That spirit, that feeling, is in all of us. Sadly, most of us grow up and leave the nursery. We forget how to see the world that way, repress those childlike emotions and urges.

When we go to Disneyland though, we are in a place where it is safe to let that inner child out. You can let yourself believe you are flying over London in a pirate ship, or that you are deep in the heart of the Jungle. Pirates are real and a ghost may actually follow you home. That wide-eyed excitement and very simple, easy joy just come gushing out of people when they are there.

Walt, and J.M. Barrie both recognized the difference between being childlike and being childish. Walt built us a place where being childlike is encouraged, but in the end it is still just a stage. He knew that no matter how incredible a job he did making it without the inner child of the guests, it was just a stage without a play.

So if you're not quite feeling the magic like you used to, maybe it's time to let go a little and have a crazy adventure. Let the little kid out to play. Go and slay a dragon, discover treasure, and find your laughing place.

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