Disney’s World: Part I

The following piece illustrates two particularly fascinating components of the human memory: the power that images and artistic works have on the individual’s perception of the real world, and the significant role that the age of the individual plays in his or her ability to form and retain memories. This is Part One of a two-part article addressing the effects that exposure to different artistic mediums have on the individual’s future perception of various artwork.

Swirls of Tea Cups
Swirls of Tea Cups

“It’s called the ‘Happiest Place on Earth’—and I was about to step into its magical utopia, just past the heavy-looking, wrought iron gates. Excitement and anticipation bottled up inside my stomach and fizzed its way into my heart as my older brother skipped alongside of our mother, who was holding my hand rather tightly, amongst the crowds of people. Moments before, the four of us (including my grandmother) had exited the world famous monorail that transported us from our fairytale hotel to the land ‘where dreams come true.’ As I pictured my favorite princesses, dancing in frosting pink gowns and tiaras, my grandma called my name abruptly, ‘Elle!’ I quickly looked up, and to my surprise found the very princess I had been imagining kneeling down before, smiling softly. I had finally arrived in Disneyland.

I was at the young age of four and a half, but I can remember the days as if it were my own name. Because my family lived somewhat close to Anaheim, California, travelling to Disneyland was kind of like visiting the Space Needle for those living in Redmond—only bigger in acreage, and more enchanting to a child.

Before I was awarded the privilege of experiencing the park, I spent my days playing with doll-like replicas of numerous Disney characters and watching their movies. For some reason or another, I thought that Belle, from Beauty and the Beast, was the most genuinely charming person I had ever seen (even if it was only on a screen). My mom was always buying me the costumes of the characters I showed an interest in, which subsequently resulted with a large personal collection of Belle dresses, complete with gloves and delicate slippers. I desperately wanted to meet her someday.

That day came during the summer of 1994; the exact month and time never solidified as a memory in my toddler brain, probably due to my lack of knowledge pertaining to those adult matters. My sixty-something grandmother had decided it was a perfect day to drive up to Disneyland, and thusly booked a few nights at the park’s acclaimed resort. Snippets of scenes seem to flash across my memory every time I try to remember the details of the 45-minute drive with my grandma, my mother and older brother, Andrew. All I can recall though was daydreaming about Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and The Little Mermaid, each of whom I desperately hoped to meet during my journey through the park.

Instantly, according to my memory’s warped sense of time, the four of us began walking down a steps leading to a large concrete walkway that was filled to the brim with people making their way to the same destination. The music from Aladdin enveloped my tiny skipping strides as I remained close to my source of identity and comfort (my mom) in this strangely familiar, new place. Clicking belonging to the ticket booths, short lines of people and other children clutching stuffed animals or wearing Mickey Mouse ears seem to be the last mental photograph I have before entering Disneyland’s fantastical grounds.

I cannot picture the minutes that connect, or even lead up to, the specific instances that are carved so poignantly within the precious lines of my childhood memories. These instances remain less tangible than a dream, but more real than the ordinariness of yesterday’s events: the swirling of pastel-colored teacups so large in size compared to my pink and white sneakers; the mysteriousness of an underwater lagoon tour, complete with real plants and a shy mermaid; the delicate wooden-models of children representing each culture across the world singing the song, It’s a Small World; the unmistakable smell of coconut and mist belonging to The Pirates of the Caribbean underground river-ride. And finally, I was introduced on Disneyland’s Main Street to the real-life Belle, who I could not stop curiously gazing upon in pure fascination of her human beauty.

Some stories that we’re told by others of our first years of life were never captured by our developing minds, and thusly forgotten through the passage of time. Others, however, are much more than a spoken story made up of the words used to describe it but instead, exist as a collection of personal images imprinted within the mind, undistorted by the innocence of youth.” (Author: Elle Discolo)

“I don’t want the public to see the world they live in while they’re in the Park. I want to feel they’re in another world.” – Walt Disney.