My family and I just returned from a fairly last minute trip down to Florida to visit Disney World. It's our second time going and sometimes I wonder if I get more out of it than my 8 year old, but it's been 4 years since she had gone and it seemed like the right time for a return visit while the magic is still alive. But frankly what I realized while I was there was that the magic of Disney defies age boundaries completely.
Sure, there's probably a difference between believing that the person that is waving to you from a float is actually Belle from Beauty and the Beast and just being in awe of how well all the details are put into motion. But there were plenty of moments where during the midst of a ride I could so easily allow that reality distortion to take hold and transport myself that it is a true testament to the creative powerhouse Disney has become. I think I also just love many of the messages that are present throughout the parks and attractions, themes of creativity, imagination, hope and believing in yourself. It's a positive atmosphere that is playing to all of their strengths, and boy do they have strengths. Here are some highlights for me:
- My long standing favorite attraction at Disney is actually a quite old one, the Carousel of Progress. Walt introduced it at the 1964 New York World's Fair and the idea is that you are seated and the building rotates around each scene which is home that advances with technology through the ages. What you realize is that every era from the 1900s and 1920s to today is marked by notable advancements that make life better and that it's hard to imagine what is on the horizon. "It wasn’t too long ago we had to carry water from a well. And thanks to progress, we’ve got a pump right here in the kitchen."
- A highlight for me was visiting Animal Kingdom for the first time and seeing Pandora, the World of Avatar they have created there. I hardly know how to write about it, you have to see it to really understand. The detail with which they have recreated a fantasy universe is just incredible and the ride they built was the most immersive simulator I have ever ridden. At one point in the simulation we were flying through a forest and you could smell the rainwater, that is the level of detail at which they have taken things. Just incredible.
- Disney's mobile app is the most modern take on planning a vacation I have ever seen. Not only is everything you booked on the web available immediately there, but every change made on your partner's device is replicated and pretty much everything can be done from the phone. I'm talking realtime updates to all wait lines, booking reservations for dinner, passes to get into certain rides, realtime bus wait times to transport you to your hotel and back to parks, it's all in there and accurate. It's a good reminder just how hard it can be to maintain battery life during a trip like this (of course the Mouse will sell you a rechargeable pack that you can trade in at various kiosks for fresh packs throughout the day, monetization is after all another common theme present everywhere, lol)
- We closed out the final night of our trip at Hollywood Studios with a water and fireworks show called Fantasmic. It's at an outdoor theater that seats 8,000 people and they fill up every night. Parts of the show involve Disney characters but this mountain is surrounded by water and at different parts the water would spray out into a fan in front of the audience and they would project onto it to tell parts of the story (the water also caught fire as Maleficent transformed). It was such a unique way to approach storytelling and the show was a lot of fun, a perfect end to a great vacation.
So enough gushing on my part, I'm sure for certain folks a post like this induces nothing but eyerolling as there is plenty to criticize Disney for from all sides. But I can't help but be entranced by the magic and wonder of the place when I go there no matter how old I get and the way they continue to push the boundaries of creativity is endlessly inspiring.