Okay, I admit it. I did get that excitable “ohmygod ohmygod we’re going to Disneyland!!” feeling that evening when our parents came bobbing excitedly into the living room with our tickets. It was kind of hard not to be excited as they’d printed the tickets out and placed them on a tray with Disney themed sweet treats, both of them wearing Disney hats (Minnie ears and a pink fuzzy Mickey wizard hat, obviously), singing “it’s a small world after all” over and over again. Yes, I did get excited. Yes, I did clap my hands and squeal.
I think the initial reason behind the squealing excitement was mostly that I was happy to have a holiday booked in. It also happened that Disney was booked for just a couple of days after I’d be getting home from Berlin so it felt like a double whammy of holidays. How lovely! Maybe, though, it was also a touch of childish delight that I’d be going to the place where magic lived. Maybe, just maybe…
My observations of the theme park – because that’s what it is, right? A theme park, not an actual magical land (sorry) – were very different to when I had last visited at around nine or ten years old. Even then I wasn’t as impressed as others, although that was probably because I was ‘too cool’ for the sentimental stuff at that age. It affected me deep down of course, beneath my cool grownup girl attitude that had nobody fooled.
This time around I actually watched the families as they passed us on Main Street. I saw the preteen kids crying because they were so overwhelmed and delighted. I saw toddlers bawling because they’d walked too much and had enough. I saw adults rolling their eyes. I saw couples kissing while holding selfie sticks. I saw parents picking up their children so they could see the parade better. I saw people my age taking Instagram snaps of the castle. Then I did the same.
Another change was my attitude to rides. I have always been a huge, ridiculous wuss when it comes to rides, always being the one who stayed at the entrance while my friends queued. I politely decline invites to group days out at Thorpe Park because I know it would be a wasted trip and a useless expense for me. However, Disneyland and Dreamworld (in Australia), are definitely exceptions to this.
The parks offer more than just rollercoasters and don’t just open for the thrill seekers. They have slightly less turbulent rides for the tiny kids (or the twenty-something wusses like me!), as well as a mountain of fun sights to see too. But, wait for it…the rides actually interested me this time! I was surprised to find myself wanting to try the roller coaster that was attributed to Crush – the epic Finding Nemo turtle, I went on the Toy Story army men parachute drop, and I obviously went on all of the ‘story’ type rides (Pinnochio, Snow White, etc.) However, I wasn’t quite convinced to give the Indiana Jones: Temple of Doom ride a go, though. That was too much, I still had a line…
The sound of screams didn’t shake me, either. I heard people going up and down in the old hotel building Tower of Terror, even stopping to watch what little I could see and finding it amusing! Ten years ago I would have cringed and run away from just the sound of that ride.
I still, however, freaked out most childishly when I saw the film characters roaming the place and standing in their allocated spots for meet ‘n’ greets. I hugged Baloo, I grinned at the moody Queen of Hearts, and I met the Genie. The latter may have been the biggest deal to me and I may have squealed with anticipation whilst queueing… then cried a little as I walked away from him post-photo. Come on, it was the Genie! The man himself! Oh, how we miss him.
I appreciated Disneyland as an adult, but in a totally different way. Sure, I saw an awful lot of nonsense that riled me quite a bit – for instance, the cafes that charge 3,40 euros for a sugared ring doughnut, or the restaurant that made us, a family of four, pay €100 for just a main course each. Oh, and the coffee in the park was shocking too. We had to make do with the basic espresso machine in our hotel room and rely on them restocking our little coffee pods when they came for turn down service at the end of the day. At one point we even had to plead with the housekeeping cart driver… it wasn’t a proud moment.
Despite a lot of silliness, I still appreciated the land of Disney. I felt the magic. But you know what? I felt it for others too. For my little sis, nearly eighteen and still a happy, gorgeous Disney-lover. For every kid on their dad’s shoulders gawping at the castle, or clinging on to mummy and begging for an Elsa dress in one of the many merchandise stands around the park. For the international students who snapped photos at every opportunity and ran everywhere like mad escapees. The atmosphere really does something to its visitors!
We had a lot of cute family moments that I’ll treasure as we hardly get time together these days, despite currently all living in the same house. My dad promised my mum he’d go with her on the Indiana Jones ride, then was quietly relieved to find that it was closed on our last day in the park. Mum and my sister danced with Thumper and Miss Bunny, while Dad and I took photos. We’d all unashamedly pile up our plates at breakfast in the hotel every day because it was one of the few freebies we were allowed. We cracked up laughing every time one of us accidentally swore in the hotel corridor or in the queue to meet a character whilst being were surrounded by children. There were definitely plenty of good times.
So yeah, even as an adult I am still a Disney fan. Still a Disney kid. For totally mature reasons, I promise…