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MousePlanet Mailbag for April 22, 2004

We receive considerable feedback regarding our site. Although we cannot publish them all, the following may be of interest to our readers.

In today's mailbag, Mike shares more of the tremendous amount of feedback he got from his article “The Disney Zone,” which ran on March 19. Mike says it's set a record for the amount of feedback he got (and so much of involves readers sharing their personal experiences), and this is just a fraction of the comments he got.

Feedback for Scoping the Parks – Mike Scopa

Michelle writes:

My sister and I treat each other to Disney trips whenever we can find any excuse to go. Our “zone” is the Epcot entrance plaza. We can't help but dance as we pass under Spaceship Earth. It's transportation not away from life, but to where life takes on new perspective. We've celebrated our families there, made life-changing decisions, and we've mourned the loss of life. For those who go to take everything they can, they will walk away empty. For those who go to give their appreciation and thanks, they walk away filled.

One year while in our 20s, we sat on the curb waiting for the parade beside two beautiful white-haired ladies. We could tell by their conversation that they were sisters and after talking with them, found that they were. We watched them walk away that night hand in hand. I looked at my sister and without saying a word we knew. Years and struggles would not keep us from each other and this place. We need it much more than it needs us.

Thank you for your article.

Michelle – What a wonderful letter. You have pointed out that as guests we should recognize that there are other visitors who also share the same passion as ourselves.

When you come to think of it our old pal Walt has overachieved. He has not only created places where families can enjoy each other but also a place where we can meet our extended family.

The next time I'm under Spaceship Earth and see two people dancing I might just have to walk up and say, “Hi Michelle!”

Jeremy writes:

Mike – Just wanted to let you know that I couldn't agree more with what you wrote regarding the Disney Zone. I'm younger than the group you talked about (I'm 26, so I didn't grow up seeing Darby O'Gill as a first-run), but I grew up with Disney having a special role in my childhood.

In the years since my first trip with my parents, I've gone through college (twice), figured out my way in the world, and ended up working a high-pressure IT [information technology] management position. And every time I go back to Walt Disney World, I'm the little kid who saw the castle from the ferry for the first time.

All the responsibilities and cares of adult life—student loans and deadlines, office politics and development cycles—suddenly don't matter. WDW lets us be kids again, for a few days at least. The biggest thing we have to worry about is getting to a priority seating on time—and if we're late, it's OK. That's why I keep coming back, and I think why a lot of people keep coming back.

Thanks for articulating it so well!

Jeremy – You're absolutely right. The draw that keeps bringing us back is the knowledge that when we do return once again our everyday responsibilities, deadlines, concerns, and cares are checked at the gate.

What do you get when you do that? You get a very happy child… that's what we all remember, and that's why we keep coming back.

Heidi writes:

Hey there, Mike. I enjoyed your ponderings on the “zone” and its possible origins, but I have one item of contention: You suggest that a majority of people in the zone grew up in the '50s and '60s. You failed to consider that the children of the Disney [baby] boomers would also grow up to zone out in Disney parks, during Disney movies and here on Disneyana-loving Web sites.

Many of my friends that grew up '80s had parents who attended or longed to attend Walt's first park in Anaheim. So when WDW opened, the boomers took my generation of zone-heads to the park. And we went back again, and again, and again—heck, my family is going back next week, but having blossomed from 5 to 15 members, we're creating a third generation in the zone!

Those same boomers that witnessed the rise of Disney on television via the “Disneyland” show in its many guises later pounced upon the premium Disney cable channel when it was first introduced. I still remember the day the cable man came to install it—the whole family gathered together to watch it.

The zoners of the '80s were at a prime age when the canon of films were released on VHS—we were able to see, at our leisure, all the films that so affected our parents, and in turn affected us. And that includes Darby O'Gill and the Little People.

And finally, when the studio started putting out its best work in years, the children of the 1980s were the target audience for the film that issued in the second golden age—The Little Mermaid.

If you need evidence, look around the parks… twenty and thirtysomethings are everywhere. Even those of us without children. We collect, we visit, and we pass on the love of the brand that defined our parents' age and our own. Don't forget about us!

Hi Heidi – Excellent points. What I meant to say in the article is that the exposure of the baby boomer generation to Disney on television marked the beginning of the nurturing of the Disney Zone Generation.

I have created my own “zone-heads” in my family and hopefully future generations will continue to enjoy this phenomenon.

I agree with you that the Disney Zone is something for all generations. There is no denying that.

I think, however, that the seeds were planted in the '50s.

Carlos writes:

Hey Mike – Long-time reader, just never written to you before. Your article on the Disney Zone actually carries a little of that magic, too. As I read, the things you wrote got me a little misty eyed because I know exactly what you mean and I long to go back and experience that magic. I was there three weeks ago, and before leaving the Magic Kingdom for the long ride back to Miami, I stood underneath that train station, and did kinda the same thing that gentleman did.

As my family went about getting their things out of their locker, I walked away for a second, found a penny-pressing machine, and pressed my penny with an image of Mickey riding a locomotive. I walked out toward the flagpole. Main Street was deserted, everyone had left and I felt as if the castle, the twinkling lights in the trees, the music, were all for me. My “penny” is still in my wallet as a symbol of the magic of that moment. I think I may have started a new tradition for myself, and I've been going to Disney for 27 years. It's never too late to start a new tradition at Disney. Keep up the good work. Disney Magic lives forever!

Hi Carlos – I have a confession to make. That gentleman you refer to in my article is actually me. That particular moment occurred the first time I visited Walt Disney World with my family.

I was very appreciative of the memories that were borne on that vacation, and was very moved by all that happened.

Also, your description of being in the Magic Kingdom with few people around and the feeling of it all being for you is something that I long to experience on every visit.

Mary Jo writes:

I felt like you were talking directly to me when I read your article. I waited a long time for my first visit to WDW. I was one month shy of my 40th birthday and I counted down the days for nearly a year and as it got closer to “the” day I drove my co-workers, friends and husband crazy with my neverending planning and discussions and hopes for my trip. I found out later that most of them secretly felt I would come home disappointed; that this “amusement park” (their words) could never live up to this 40-year-old's long-time expectations.

Well, on our first morning as my husband and I crossed over to Magic Kingdom on the ferry boat (it had to be the ferry boat—I needed to see that I really was finally going to this happy place), I broke down in tears. Then my husband, seeing me so happy, nearly started crying—and then we were laughing to hide our embarrassment. I'm sure everyone else on the ferry thought we were crazy!

Well, that was in 1990, and since then, we have made eight more trips and I have cried eight more times on that ferry boat watching the beautiful castle come closer and closer, and knowing that for the next few days I will be completely immersed in Disney magic and pixie dust and all those things that make dreams come true!

Hi Mary Jo – I was talking to you. It seems that way because you understood what I was saying and you recognized the feelings that I was describing.

Your recollection of the ferry trip from the Ticket and Transportation Center to the Magic Kingdom made me recall my first trip to WDW back in 1975.

I remember being so anxious to see the castle. For many of us, the castle is the icon and the symbol of what WDW is all about. To this day is there anyone who does not immediately look to gaze upon the castle once they've emerged from under the train station at the Magic Kingdom?

You realize, of course, that from now on every time I take the ferry from the TTC to the Magic Kingdom, that I'll be thinking of you and thinking, “I wonder when Mary Jo is making her next trip to Orlando.”

Rob writes:

Mike – Last year, I took my parents to WDW along with my wife and two kids (age 5 and 3). They had not been to the park since about 1980, while my family and I have been there annually for about nine years (yes, my wife and I went before kids, too).

Something that my mother noticed, that, in hindsight I realized too, was that the place is just chock full of families. And not just families being together, but families having fun, enjoying the place together, and not worrying about other things. It's a place where a father is just as likely to wear a silly hat as the young kids, and teenagers are not worried about being “trendy” but just want to have fun.

I know that my parents truly enjoyed the trip with my family (and watching their grandkids act like they own the place—yes they are very familiar with WDW), since they have booked a trip for this year with just the two of them.

They obviously saw that there was plenty for two retirees to do and enjoy. Plus, I think they'll spend a fair amount of time just sitting and watching all the happy families enjoy themselves.

Hi Rob – This is so true. As many will find out when you visit WDW as an empty nester you tend to observe young families and remember the good times you had together.

This is not to say that you will not still feel like a child again.

It just means that your Disney Zone may be a bit different than others.

Susan writes:

I, too, entered the Disney Zone every time I went to Disneyland (lived near there for five years and went every weekend) and every time I venture to WDW (about three times per year). It never ceases to amaze me how we can leave all our cares behind and enjoy the “magic” that is Disney.

Yes, I believe it relates directly to childhood, as I remember three generations of my family sitting in front of the TV on Sunday nights watching the Wonderful World of Disney and I would just be so excited to see Tinkerbell go across the television—it was magic! Of course, we had to watch 60 Minutes with that darn stop watch ticking, and then The Sonny and Cher Show right afterwards!

Going to Disney brings back great memories of my grandmother, who watched those shows with me and passed away when I was 12—leaving a huge hole in my heart and whom I will forever miss—but I know she is with me all the time. And when I see Tinkerbell fly from the castle before the fireworks, I especially think of her and it brings tears to my eyes.

Now, as for the folks that aren't mesmerized by the Disney charm—my husband included, who stays home while I meet friends on trips to the World, and my parents, who wonder “Why do you always go there?” when they were the ones who brought me there in 1971 and 1973 and I have been going back ever since—who knows? I don't get why they don't get it, and they don't get why I get it! I will stick with my side of the story and keep going! Thanks for a great article—MousePlanet is such a great site!

Hi Susan – Not only is there a bond of understanding between those of us who have experienced the Disney Zone, but there is also a bond of frustration that we feel in trying to understand not only why others do not “get it,” but what we can do to help them “get it.”

Maybe someday we'll figure it out.

David writes:

Hey, Mike.

I just finished reading your article on the Disney Zone. It's excellent. I'm 48 and I agree with your “connection to childhood” theory. I always looked forward to watching Walt on TV every week.

And I've always considered trips to Disney parks as a trip away from all of my “worldly troubles”—a vacation from life.

I really appreciate your article because it puts into words the connection that I could never explain—it was just there. My family, who didn't grow up with Walt, doesn't have the same connection I do.

Keep up the good work.

David – Thanks for the kind words.

I think you phrased it best when you said a trip to Walt Disney World is a “vacation from life.”

I wish I had said that.

Elizabeth writes:

I just loved your article! I had to e-mail my sister to tell her to read it. You pretty much hit everything right on.

I was born in '68. I can remember being a little girl and having to ask my mom if I could stay up past my bedtime to watch The Wonderful World of Disney. I can also remember watching, with my mom, some of the old episodes of The Mickey Mouse Club.

And I have fond memories of my parents taking my sisters and me to Disneyland for our family vacations. I can't remember how often we went, but it seemed often. I can remember not being allowed to drive the Autopia cars because I was too short. I always had to be a passenger with my oldest sister driving.

I also have another memory that I will never forget. I was very young, and my family and I were standing in line for the Haunted Mansion. Well, I guess my parents knew I wouldn't like the ride (now my second favorite ride. Pirates is still #1 to me). So when I asked my mom what we were waiting for, she said, “Oh, this is a model home.” My mom was big on going to look at model homes.

Well, I bought that hook, line, and sinker. I screamed the entire time I was on that ride. Right after that we went on It's a Small World. Well, I feel sorry for anybody riding in our boat, and it you are out there reading this I do apologize—I screamed the entire time!

Oh, I just thought of one more memory that always gets me choked up. Late in the evening, my mom all of a sudden comes to a stop. We all tell her, “Let's go. What are you waiting for?” She says, “Ya know, we've been standing in lines all day, I feel like just standing here and pretending that we are in another line.” About five minutes later, TinkerBell was flying above us. Just thinking about that specific time has me all choked up right now.

We still went to Disneyland even in my teen years. I still have a big pin and free pass I won from the 30th Disneyland Anniversary. The only reason I won that was because I got stuck carrying everybody's jackets into the park and I had fallen behind.

Another childhood memory. When my son was 4 years old when we took him to Disneyland. My husband and I couldn't afford it, so my dad had given us the trip as our Christmas present. It was a nice time, but it wasn't quite the trip I had hoped for with my son.

Well, last year, with my son now being 13 years old, we took a wonderful trip back down to Disneyland. He didn't want to go to “Kiddieland,” as he called it. We stayed at the Grand Californian Hotel. What a wonderful place. I even had my oldest sister come along (I even let her drive me one time, for old times sake, in the Autopia cars). We had so much fun!

Once we got back home, my son said he had fun, but that I wasn't allowed to tell anyone. He said, “Teenagers aren't supposed to enjoy that.” I don't quite understand his thinking on that, but I was thrilled to have him tell me he had a good time after all. Before we left on vacation, I started calling my son Grumpy. I still call him that, and it has basically become an affectionate nickname that he seems to enjoy.

We are going back again this year, sister included. And we are going back again the following year for the 50th anniversary. This group will include my sister and husband, and my nephew, and nieces and their husbands. New memories to make. I have to tell you, I wish TinkerBell was still flying.

This last time at the park, one night I just stopped. Everybody was wondering what I was doing. I said, “If we wait a few minutes do you think Tinkerbell would come out?” Do you know how hard it was to convince my son that she really did that? I have a 35 Anniversary book about Disneyland and they have a picture of her flying. I think he still doesn't believe me.

The Disney Zone is definitely in me. When we were at Disneyland when my son was 4 they had the Lion King Parade going on. For whatever reason, that parade really choked me up. The song at the beginning of the movie… whenever I hear it I get all emotional. I can't even explain it. My sister won't even open her Holiday Haunted Mansion CD because she says just hearing it will make her want to jump in the car and head down to Disneyland. I tell her, “Don't forget to pick me up.” Apparently she has it, too.

I think a lot of the Disney Zone does have to do with childhood memories. My husband does not have the Disney Zone in him. I think my husband had only been to Disneyland once as a kid, and his first Disney movie he ever saw was after we were married; Cinderella came out in theaters and I took him to go see it. I felt so sorry for him that he had never seen a Disney movie before. He was either 23 or 24 at the time. That's just sad to have to wait that long to see your first Disney movie. I'm hoping to get it in my son, though.

I recently bought the Disney movie Robin Hood on DVD. My son was very pleased that I bought it. He said, “I like that movie. I remember when I was really little you woke me up at night because it was on.” He was so little. How can he remember that? My son just informed me that I also did that with Alice in Wonderland, too.

OK, getting choked here. But he is right; we watched it together, just the two of us. He remembers me and my husband taking him to see Snow White and Aladdin in the theater. Oh, and who can forget the first time he saw Old Yeller. We both cried. I think I've planted the seed.

I'd tell ya about my son's favorite Disney character but he would kill me. Ah, but I can tell you this. My son's favorite character is also, I just found out recently, my dad's favorite character.

So sorry I rambled. Once I got going I couldn't stop. All the memories started flooding back. And it's not very often somebody lets me talk “Disney” with him or her.

I love your articles and Web site. I visit your site everyday! Keep up the good work.

Uh oh, here I go again. When we were planning our last Disneyland vacation, my son kept asking what was the big deal about Disneyland. My husband and I told him that this is the happiest place on earth. It lets us old people (we are in our late 30s but our son still considers us old) be a little silly, 'cause in the real world we have to always be grown-ups. He still wasn't getting it. Well, I think he gets it now. Also, I am happy to say, my son no longer calls it “Kiddieland.” He now calls it “Disneyland.”

Elizabeth – I think your letter is proof regarding how memories are made forever as a result of the Disney Zone. I love the story regarding your mom and the Haunted Mansion… pretty cool. I remember seeing Old Yeller in an old movie theater in my home town. I remember holding my breath when Tommy Kirk shot that rifle.

I think I was either 8 or 9 years old when I saw that movie.

It sounds like your son has found the Disney Zone, and I believe that you've most likely helped your husband catch up to it as well.

Maybe your son had something there. Instead of “Kiddieland,” maybe the appropriate name is “Childrenland.”

Hmmmm.


Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Mike here.

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