(Note to readers: I was an invited guest to Disneyland as part of the Disney Social Media Moms conference. My opinions remain my own, as always. #disneysmmoms)
Disneyland is where millions of people go to play. But you can also pick up some valuable life lessons in the park. Here’s a few I discovered while racing between the rides.
1. We can all be kids again. Or princesses. Or whatever we want.
As you walk through the arches at the front of Disneyland, you walk under a sign that reads: Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy. We spend every other day being grown ups. Responsible.Reliable. Moms. Dads. Not always fun. But when you get to Disneyland, you get to be a kid again. Sure, it might embarrass your children, but why not give Mickey a kiss, right on the nose? Why not give Balloo a big ole’ bear hug? These are the characters you grew up with, sang with, pretended with. At some point, the world made you stop pretending. But when you step foot in this magical place, you get to put on the princess crown, walk through a castle and eat an entire turkey leg if you feel like it. And chase it down with a Dole Whip. Life is good. We sometimes forget that. Disneyland puts us back in touch with our kid side. Our #DisneySide.
2. ‘It’s a world of laughter, a world of tears.’
No, really. Every day, life can serve up some real doozies, and they can leave us laughing, straight from the gut, or crying tears that won’t stop. It’s something that unites us all, no matter where we live, what color skin we have, or what language we speak. But ultimately, ‘there’s so much that we share, that it’s time we’re aware, it’s a small world, after all’. So, we need to help each other when we can. As Disney celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the beloved ‘Small World’ ride, there are more opportunities than ever to give to others. The ride that started at the 1964 World’s Fair as a tribute to peace and hope is still bringing us together, still making people of all ages smile. The attraction can now be found at all five Disney parks on three continents. The anniversary was celebrated world wide with a singalong that included people in all five parks, along with singers at the spot of the ’64 World’s Fair (Queens NY) and even an appearance from the Space Station! You can go to www.SmallWorld50.com and upload your own singalong video or create your own Small World virtual doll. Disney will donate $1 for each to Unicef (up to $100,000).
3. It’s easy to be misunderstood
The story of Maleficent will show you we are not born bad, but sometimes life takes a turn that changes things. The soon to be released Maleficent movie is about the villainess and how she came to be bad. A ruthless betrayal made her heart harden, and now, she is very misunderstood. We’ve all been there, right? (Side lesson—free of charge: in life, it’s all in how you react. Don’t let the bad guys get your good.) The movie is set to be released May 27th.
4. You can always make things better.
Big Thunder Railroad was good enough before, or so most people thought. Disney officials have now enhanced the audio system and made updates to the train vehicles. Passengers now say it’s ‘faster and smoother’. That’s a good thing on any roller coaster ride (in my opinion). The original ride opened in 1979 but was shut down for refurbishment. Park veterans, who didn’t really have complaints about the way it was before, now say it’s ‘better than ever’.
5. Color is cool. Especially when you’re playing with water.
The World of Color show at Disney’s California Adventure is going to leave you breathless. I’ve seen impressive lighting displays before. I’ve seen dazzling synchronized water musical attractions. But I’ve never seen anything like the World of Color attraction at Disneyland. Images of various characters appear in the water as it shoots through the air, all timed perfectly with the story audio and music we love from our favorite Disney movies. At times, the water shoots so high it seems it could touch the moon. And sometimes fire appears, too, and you can instantly feel it warm your face. It’s an amazing experience that you simply won’t see anywhere else.
6. There’s no need to be afraid of a mouse. Or a bear.
Mickey and Minnie are mice. Let’s face it. Not everyone is crazy about mice. But how can you not love these two? They are the heart and soul of Walt Disney’s empire. And as iconic as they are, there are always more characters being added to remind you that what we think about certain creatures isn’t always reality. Even the newest release from Disneynature, ‘Bears’, shows these critters have to struggle to survive, facing bitter cold, escaping predators, and finding food. Through it all, it’s family togetherness that helps them survive. (Hmmm…there’s another lesson they snuck in on me.)
7. It IS possible to make a mountain out of a molehill. Or other materials.
The Imagineers (Disney’s creative geniuses) behind the Cars Land movie wanted to recreate the town of Radiator Springs for fans of the film, and boy did they ever succeed. When you step foot onto Route 66, it’s hard not to feel like you’re one of the local folks, sipping a shake at Flo’s V8, or racing cars through the mountain curves, just like Lightning McQueen. They had to literally build the mountains. And they did. And it’s phenomenal.
Pretty much everything Disney does is phenomenal. It’s a way of thinking for the company. And maybe that’s another life lesson. When I walk through Disney parks, or see a Disney movie, I am constantly thinking, ‘Only Disney would think to do that!’. Maybe that should be our mentality, too: find a way to always amaze and inspire. It’s the Disney Way.