Reliving Fond Memories
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This Time, It Opens For You
By David Mink
The monorail speeds high over the low-lying brush. The land is flat in all directions. Clumps of ragged trees reach for the balmy sky. In the distance, poking through the endless green canopy are the dove gray spires of the Castle. Acting as a lighthouse, the castle beckons all traveling by monorail or by road.
Cinderellas Castle is the spiritual heart, beating and animating not only the Magic Kingdom, but also all of Walt Disney World. Of four theme parks, water parks, golf courses and nightclubs, the Castle remains the undisputed symbol of Disneys hold on the popular imagination.
Being born and raised in Southern California, naturally I grew up on a steady diet of Disneyland. I had the albums, the hats on the hooks, and books on the shelves. Every Sunday night on TV, after Wild Kingdom, I would see the spires of a new castle on the Wonderful World of Disney. I was so excited. My eyes were spinning in my head. If the Disneyland I knew and admired was cool, how much cooler would another park be on the other coast?
30 years later, I would know. I usually dont take "commercial" vacations, but this time I thought it was time to visit the "other" Magic Kingdom. It was mid-May, off-season, between Spring Break and Memorial Day. The brass ring presented itself and I grabbed for it.
I had grown up with Walts park, and wondered how I would react to Roys park. Friends told me I wouldnt really understand how large it really is till I was there. 47 square miles of recreational muscle. I read the many online discourses on the resort, whats there, and what to enjoy, but it all is just data and well-meaning tips until I was actually ferrying across Lake Buena Vista towards the Train Station flags fluttering in the breeze. Walt Disney World is simply something that has to be experienced to be appreciated.
I am not trying to do a side-by-side comparison. To me, as a historian and Disney enthusiast, I want to appreciate and understand the aesthetics of the two parks. I am not going to argue over whether size is an issue. For me, the only point is simply the success of the quality in the design and execution of the parks, and how they hold up. Disneyland is that first note sounded, the beginning of a beautiful song. I am interested in tracing that song, and see how the sound vibrates through time.
Writing for Disneyland and Disney World is difficult. The experiences of both are so subliminal, a swim through the collective unconscious of America. Now I try to leaf through my mental scrapbook for snippets of memory, aroma, and taste, to stitch together a Disney experience.
Though they are twins, Disneyland and Disney World are different animals. There are important differences. Obviously, it is scale. Disneylands charm is based on a miniature, fantasy feel of place and time. Intimate like a dream, equipped with a built in sense of deja vu.
Disney World, on the other hand, is massive. Everything is full size, and designed to impress. That it does. The first look down the heavily detailed Main Street to the towers of the castle is magnificent. Cinderellas Castle is huge, ornate, and very French. I just stood there, staring up at it through the watery Florida sunshine. This was another type of fantasy. This is the Spielburgian, slap-your-face kind of dream, far from the Midwest hospitality of Disneyland. I knew I was going to enjoy myself immensely.