My Disney Top 5 - Ways to Keep the Disney Magic Flowing at Homeby Chris Barry, contributing writer
I typically write my MousePlanet articles sitting in my sunroom on my laptop. It's my spot. I'm surrounded by windows and plants. It's quiet. It's comfortable. It's one of my favorite spots in the whole house, so it makes sense that I love to write in here. Tonight, I'm sitting in that favorite writing spot and, to put it mildly, things are weird. We've been sequestered at home for the last two weeks as the coronavirus wreaks havoc throughout the country. We've got meat in the freezer, milk in the fridge, and a moderate amount of toilet paper, but the schools are closed and that means not only are my twin teenagers home, but so am I. My wife works out of an office in the house, so the whole family is here and we are more than likely going to be for some time. We've been stuck in the house before for blizzards and Hurricane Sandy, but this time just feels different. I guess it's the uncertainty of it all, but I don't have say this to any of you reading out there. You're all living through it as well.
So, the question bodes, "Is this the time to be writing and posting another of my Disney Top 5 articles?" One might respond that there are more serious things to think about right now. After all, I'm not curing diseases or calculating Pi or anything like that. I just write happy little articles talking about Walt Disney World. The answer, of course, is, "What better time is there to be writing a happy little Top 5 article then right now?" Those of us who love Walt Disney World and all things Disney have known for a long time that Disney is an escape. The parks, resorts and movies put us into a virtually impenetrable bubble, one that we retreat to frequently to leave the "real world" behind and experience a little bit of childlike innocence and magic. So, I'll press forward and I'll keep writing happy little Top 5's as long as long as you'll have me. I thought, though, considering all that's going on, I'd change the focus of this Top 5 a little bit.
Given the fact that as I write this, every Disney park in the world is shuttered and potentially closed down for quite some time, it didn't seem to make sense to keep going with my series counting down my favorite things about each and every attraction in the parks. I was about to finish off the Magic Kingdom and move on to Epcot. Considering the fact that everything is shut down, I almost feel bad writing about the place and getting myself and my readers all excited about our collective next visits because none of us is sure when that will actually be. I was supposed to be going to Walt Disney World this very weekend. We were headed down to visit a college in Winter Park for my boys. The light bulb went off rather quickly in my Disney obsessed brain that Winter Park is right next door to Walt Disney World, so rather than stay right next to the college, we booked three nights at Port Orleans French Quarter and were planning to shoehorn in a day at the Magic Kingdom, some resort time and maybe a visit to Disney Springs. Of course the college tours are all cancelled and Disney is completely shut down so we're home.
I'm shut in. You're probably shut in. Lots of us are homebound and we don't really know for how long. We can't go to our beloved happy little bubble, so how do we bring more of that much needed Disney magic into our crazy worlds right now? Let's take a look with my Top 5 ways to keep the Disney magic going at home.
5 - MousePlanet...and Friends
I had to put us at number 5 on the list to try and not look too self serving. After all, it would seem like some sort of a MousePlanet commercial to put us at number one. Considering the circumstances, sites like MousePlanet are going to help keep people distracted right now. The fact of the matter is, it's not just us. The Disney online fan community has consistently been the place to go to keep your mouse fires burning for a long, long time now. I'd like to think that Disney launched D23 and the Disney Parks Blog after seeing just what a following sites like ours had. Think about it, we were out here online well before they officially were. If you wanted to find Disney info you had to come to us. Those of us working behind the screens all love Disney and besides actually being there, we love nothing more than writing about it, discussing it, analyzing it, sharing our stories, our photos, our tips and tricks and just about anything else you could possibly imagine. There's dozens of sites, videos, stories, music and so much more online dedicated to keeping us all in the Disney bubble when we can't actually be there.
My laptop, my Mickey mug, Walt, and MousePlanet legend Jim Korkis sit in my sunroom awaiting my attention. Photo by Chris Barry.
That's why I write what I write. I like to think that my articles keep the magic and the discussions going and that makes missing the place that much more bearable. If you're home, you could catch up on my old Top 5s or my old Disney Stuff series. You could take the time and read Jim Korkis' in depth pieces about Disney history that we've been posting for years now. Jim's got such an enormous wealth of Disney info to share and I'm not sure if I've even read them all. There are attraction ride through videos out there, tours of the resorts, and videos of long forgotten parades and shows. There are sites dedicated to character sightings, specific resorts and Disney dining. You could even find music from the parks. Try putting the Main Street USA music loop on in the background while you go about your business over the next few weeks and see if your mood doesn't change. I have it on right now as I'm writing and it's doing the job.
4 - Disney Memories
When we first started taking my 21-year-old daughter to Walt Disney World 17 years ago, I brought along a small video camera and a small point and shoot camera. Remember those? Remember getting your pictures developed? I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that I have hundreds of Walt Disney World photos scattered across photo albums, boxes and drawers and they could use a little organization. In addition to printed photos, we've also got hundreds of digital images from our trips on memory cards, hard drives, laptops, desktops, phones, etc. This is going to be a good time to sort through all of that stuff. I'm going to enlist my sons and we're going to organize and hopefully reminisce as we do so.
Chip, Dale, Clarice, and the family at the Studios way back when. Photo By Chris Barry.
Video is another story. The camera we brought to Disney years ago used something called Mini DV, which was miniature sized digital video tapes. It's a dead format. The only way I'm ever going to see those videos is by using the camera itself as a player and connecting it to my TV. But what if that camera fails? The goal would be to digitize them into my computer so I can save them as video files for posterity. Luckily, I'm a TV Production teacher and have some old gear from 15 years ago in my studio to convert all of these tapes and store them on my Mac. I was lucky enough to save some of that gear from the trash heap and brought it home a few months ago with the intent of getting that project going. I just haven't gotten around to getting started. So, it seems like I'll be looking at some really amazing video memories of my daughter and my sons on their earliest Disney visits that I haven't seen in years. I can't wait to finally get into them.
3 - Disney Twenty-Three Magazine
I adore D23 Magazine. There's no better publication out there that completely encapsulates everything that there is to love about Disney into one place. The photography is incredible. The stories are in depth and informative. It's a beautiful magazine. Despite being an online writer, I still like physical magazines. I have a stack of D23 magazines that I've either skimmed through or read some of, but I'm way behind in really diving deep into their pages. I'm going to get through them all. That's the goal.
The most recent issue of D23 magazine arrived recently and I've barely cracked the spine. Photo by Chris Barry.
I sometimes like to think that I know everything about Disney. However, every time I pick up a copy of D23, I learn something new or see something from their archives that I've never sen before. It's time to advance the old Disney PhD.
2 - Disney LEGO
I have no problem admitting right here and right now, I'm still a big fan of LEGO. When my sons were younger they used to collect the LEGO mini figures. One of the more brilliant marketing campaigns out there has been the popularization and limited availability of the LEGO mini figures. Want specific mini figures? Sometimes you have no choice but to buy hundreds of dollars worth of LEGO sets just to get them. Quite frequently, my sons would get big sets from their grandparents for birthdays or Christmas. They'd open the boxes, dig out the mini figures and leave the building to Dad. Not that I was complaining mind you. I started to relish the time I would spend building their LEGO sets. I found it relaxing and extremely satisfying. And the end results were always very, very cool and very, very detailed. I recently finished the Steamboat Willie set that my daughter got me for Christmas.
I was beyond thrilled that they released a Steamboat Willie LEGO set. Photo by Chris Barry.
I just ordered the TRON lightcycles off of Amazon the other day…
I'm looking forward to my TRON light cycles arriving any day now. ©LEGO/Disney
but if I'm really going to be stuck in the house for a month or more, it may be time to pull the trigger on the LEGO Cinderella Castle. That ought to keep me busy for a while.
The ultimate Disney LEGO set, Cinderella Castle. ©LEGO/Disney
1 - Disney+
Now's the time to catch up on your Disney movies and series. Luckily, Disney has a service just for you. I've had Disney+ since it launched and I will admit, once The Mandalorian was over, I did stop tuning in for a while. Now, facing a significant time in the house, it's time to go back and start binge watching! My sons haven't watched a lot of the Disney classics since they were little kids and they probably don't even remember most of them. Even if they do remember them, if they watched them now, they would no doubt have a very different appreciation for them. One of my boys wants to get into the film and TV business and the other one dreams of being an animator. That said since they won't officially be in school for who knows how long, it's time to go to Disney University. Anyone even considering getting into the film/television/animation business needs to have seen Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs for example. I think we're going to start at the beginning and work our way through the classics. Couple that with The Imagineering Story and their college degrees will officially begin during our time at home over the next few weeks.
It's time to tune into Disney Plus. Photo by Chris Barry
But you don't have to have my ulterior motives. When's the last time you watched a masterpiece like Snow White? Sleeping Beauty? Fantasia? Peter Pan is my favorite Disney classic and I haven't watched it in years. Never saw all 22 Marvel films and don't understand how they're all connected? Now's your chance. And don't even get me started on all of you out there that haven't seen the original Star Wars films. (Start at Episode 4, watch 5 & 6, then go back to 1, 2 & 3, and then the newest trilogy. It's the only way.) Think you know a lot about the Disney parks? You probably do, but you'll get a whole lot of insight from The Imagineering Story about what goes into your favorite parks and attractions. Disney+ couldn't be available at a better time for me and for the rest of us Disney fans. I'm going to get my money's worth for sure. Well…actually, I have it free for a year, so I'm already getting my money's worth! The point is, Disney+ is going to be an omnipresent entity in my house over the next few weeks. Knowing my audience out there, I'm sure I'm not alone.
Walt Disney World is closed. So is Disneyland. So is every Disney park in the world. I can't go. You can't go. Yes, there are much bigger concerns right now than going to Disney. Back when we were in school, I kept telling my TV students that they are literally watching global history unfurl right in front of them. I don't have to tell any of you how serious this is. As someone who has an 80-year-old father with serious underlying health conditions, I can assure you that a big part of me is panicked about this pandemic. I want to take care of him and my mom and my wife and kids. I want all of my family, friends, and students to be safe. So, yes, being bummed out that my Disney weekend was cancelled is the least of my problems. And, no, writing happy little Top 5 articles won't change the world or cure sicknesses. But I hope sites like MousePlanet and my silly little Top 5's can keep your spirits up, help you pass the time if you're stuck inside and as the title says, help keep a little bit of the Disney magic flowing.
Thanks for reading. Take care of yourselves and, as always, I'll see you next time with another Disney Top 5.
As we posted in our March 19 update, Disney has partnered with the Khan Academy, an online educational organization offering free courses to students. Their newest course is Imagineering in a Box. I've only briefly checked it out, but essentially it's a course centered on designing your own theme park. It looks to be fairly in-depth in regards to designing attractions, the layout of the land, color, music, characters, costuming, etc. It seems to be chock full of Disney-produced videos as well as interviews with and instruction from Disney's Imagineers. Looks like an awesome tool to keep anyone busy over the next few weeks and keep you immersed in Disney magic. Make sure to check it out.