Shanghai. Hong Kong. Tokyo. Paris. Anaheim. Orlando.
One by one, we watched as our beloved parks shut down. We held out hope that California and Florida wouldn’t close. But as mental images of people being evacuated from the Magic Kingdom 19 years ago, and black clouds swirling menacingly over Spaceship Earth while storm warnings lit up our phones, we knew deep down that closure would be inevitable.
The outside world had infiltrated our fortress.
It might sound dramatic, but that’s how it felt to many of the more than 170,000 Cast Members that work in Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, and surely to many others.
For as long as many of us can remember, Disney parks have been a happy, magical bubble where we could hide away from and ignore the horrors of the outside world. A place that would always be open, only closing in the most extreme of circumstances and never for longer than a few days. The sun never set on Disney parks.
I realize this sounds very privileged, as Disney is in no way an accessible thing. Many of us, myself included, only had this privilege because of our jobs, and would otherwise never have been able to find shelter in this bubble. It’s also the reason why so many of us held onto those jobs, good or bad as they may be. Because however bad they could be some days, in the end keeping that magic with us was worth it.
But even many of those who have never been fortunate enough to visit the parks, have one way or another experienced Disney’s magic through books, music, and movies. They have permeated every single corner of the market possible and have ultimately put us under their spell.
So to suddenly have our bastion of happiness surrender to forces larger than itself, to see the space where we once felt safe, unavailable…
We hunkered down, holding onto cherished mementos, resorting to blogs, old videos, social media, anything to feel closer to our land. Thankfully, pixie dust is something that spreads beyond any physical space.
It’s easy, especially during these times, to be cynical and argue about how the greedy corporate overlords just want to make money, but that doesn’t negate the way we feel about it all. When a prerecorded fireworks show can elicit such an emotional response, it’s hard to argue that they’re not doing something right, even if that something is having a stronghold over our emotional strings.
“Disney to me is a timeless world where nothing is impossible. It makes me believe, feel, be and do. It holds some of the happiest memories and serves as a constant reminder that magic is real indeed.”
“This is what I admire about Disney. How one person’s dream became the dream of thousands. How a single person changed generations forever. How the dream of a person that started with a mouse, became a whole world of magic with parks, characters, brands, articles, movies, series, record labels, television channels, etc. It amazes me how they have everything calculated and planned so that everything is related and the magic doesn’t die. Where am I going with this? That the animated character and the character you see in the park are the same, with the same personality, outfit, everything. It amazes me how someone forever changed what it means to be a kid for life. How someone changed what magic meant, from something dark to something beautiful.”
“Disney is a family tradition. My first trip to Disney World was with my maternal grandparents and the most beautiful memories of my childhood include something from Disney. As I grew up, my biggest dream was to work there to create those same memories for other families. After trying for 3 years I was finally accepted into the program. On my first day of work when I entered the pyramid of the Mexican pavilion at Epcot, in the background music I heard the song“Farolito”, one of my grandfather’s favorites. In that moment I knew that this was the place where I should be, and my dear grandfather was with me. Leaving everything to fulfill my dream has been the best decision of my life.”
“Disney means so much to me because it reminds me of one of the most incredible moments with my family (my parents and brothers). And with the passing of time, it became something that I share with my friends. You could say it gave me incredible union and memories with the people I love. Nostalgia.”
– Lorena E.
“For me, Disney is a place where I can be myself, find amazing friends and create memories and moments that last forever with the people that I love the most, my family.”
“I think we all grew up watching Disney movies all the time, and to think that there is a place where you can live those movies and truly get inside the Disney magic is unbelievable. For me, Disney has always meant a place where I can feel like a kid again, where I can relive my favorite movies and sing my favorite songs in a place where dreams come true every minute. Thanks to Disney I now have some of the most amazing people in my life and some of the most amazing memories that I treasure everyday. I love the fact that all of the things that Walt Disney wanted to represent (even with all this new technology) are still present in every corner and that you don’t really need pixie dust or a magic lamp to feel absolute happiness.”
“For me Disney represents my life: it makes me feel happy, it represents not only my childhood but my whole life. It is something that makes me feel at home, it keeps me alive, it keeps me the dreamy woman that I am. I love to think that dreams can always come true no matter how crazy they seem and Disney always reminds me that they can come true, you just have to put your heart and dedication into everything you do. It makes me feel at home, connecting with people the way you do in the parks at its attractions and even in its stores. It will always have a very special place in my heart and mind and I will never stop dreaming thanks to Disney.”
“Disney for me connects the past, present and future. It brings together generations with values, fun and more, which become memories for life.”
“When I think about the Disney parks, I think about my childhood; about my parents coming to school for me with the Splash Mountain soundtrack playing in the car, and the chant that we still sing “we’re going to Disney”. From that moment the magic began for everyone, everyone feels happy and at home. Of the times we’ve visited Walt Disney World I can’t help but remember the emotion on my family’s faces. From visiting Disneyland California I think of my parents’ nostalgia when saying what it was like to see the castle on TV. And of visiting Disneyland Paris I remember the first trip that I made with my dad for my 15th birthday. Disney represents a place where magic is latent, and that over the years gave me extraordinary people, where magic managed to reach far beyond Main Street, USA.”
“Why do I like Disney so much? It’s a very complex question. Since I can remember, Disney has been present in my life: first in movies and series; and then it was part of me and my lifestyle. The first time I visited Disney World, I was 14 years old,. Once I was surrounded by so much magic I said to myself “This is it. This is what I want to do. ” And I wasn’t referring to being some character or a dancer in the parade, but to maintaining Walt Disney’s legacy: creating magic. And, despite the fact that “magic” is a very bizarre concept, when you are inside a Disney park, it is more than clear. Because Disney magic is everything from a hug from Mickey to a smile from a girl who just got on her favorite ride. Having been a part of all this and talking about it only makes me want to go back, create magic and live my dream of maintaining Walt’s legacy. Disney is certainly a place where you can live in fantasy, no matter how old you are, where you can leave your worries behind because you know that in the end, everything will be fine; where you can be you, and nobody will judge you.”
– Ana E.
“I’ve always liked Disney movies, since they manage to immerse you in a world of fantasy and magic. I think a lot of my love for Disney comes from going to the parks from a very young age. There, you were transported to a place where it’s all more magical, and it has the same “cozy feeling” that the movies transmit but more inclusive and more real. I believe that this was what defined my love for Disney and especially the parks. Since then, I always wanted to work for Disney. I wanted to be part of that magic in some way. When I had to decide what I wanted to study, everything was focused on one day going to work for Disney. My options were animation, cinematography, screenwriting and in the end I chose tourism and hospitality with the same purpose of getting to work in the parks.”
“Disney to me means happiness and making memories with friends and family. At the same time, whenever I see a new Disney movie, or Pixar, Marvel, etc, I expect to be amazed and surprised because they never stop impressing, no matter what. The script, the animation, the CG, it’s all done in a way that you can tell they put a lot of effort into the final product. And being a former Cast Member, I know how much effort me and my fellow CMs put into making sure the guests had an amazing experience. Knowing that made me appreciate my park days and restaurant visits so much more.”
After almost four months that have felt like an eternity, little glimmers of hope have started shining. Music will be played on Main Street once again, with people there to listen.
All of this is far from being over, but the light at the end of the tunnel shines brighter every day✨
A huge, pixie-dusted thank you to everyone who contributed to this article ❤