Thanks, Walt

by Mike Scopa, contributing writer

Thanksgiving: Disney Style

I'm sure there are many of you who sometimes wonder about how those of us who have an opportunity to write about the Disney culture come up with ideas for our articles and columns.

In some cases there are just some seasonal topics that just write themselves and then there are those cases where an idea just hits you; one that you feel your readers may enjoy.

Then there are those times when out of the blue something blindsides you and you suddenly realize that there are topics, columns, articles that should have been written long ago but somehow escaped your radar.

Such is the case with this humble column.

I had originally written an article to tell you about a very special Walt Disney fan from Japan, a dear friend of mine, but that will have to wait until next time because there is something I'd like to address in this month of Thanksgiving that just seems so appropriate and timely.

I'd like to begin by addressing the phrase that seems to be used quite a bit these days. I'm sure you've heard it or used it yourself when you point at someone and say, "She gets it!"

It's that sense of what Disney is all about, the escape from reality, the total suppression of stress, and the sheer joy of just enjoying relief from our frantic lifestyles.

You've seen the term "Disney Magic" used many times. I need to plead guilty of overusing another term "The Disney Zone."

When Walt Disney first thought about creating an "amusement park" with rides for the entire family he probably never even imagined that his family of animated characters, staff of exceptionally talented and creative Imagineers, and most importantly, his ability to generate a positive spin on everything would be so far reaching.

But it is and for many of us we really don't understand just how far reaching it is and what kind of an impact it has had on our lives.

We all know what happens to us when we visit a Disney theme park, when we stay in a Disney resort, when we watch a Disney animated film, or listen to a well-known Disney song. For a brief moment, or perhaps several moments, we get that Disney Zone feeling and for that time period can cope with anything life decides to deal us.

That joy; that feeling; that wonderment is most felt in a Disney theme park.

We tend to forget however that the impact of the Disney Zone has no boundaries.

I thought I had figured that out years ago but as usual I missed the entire picture.

Of course that is until now.

Sometimes something happens that kind of flips on a light bulb over your head and you find yourself wondering how you missed it all along.

We've come a long way since that day that Walt Disney sat on a bench and started musing about an amusement park for the whole family. We've come even farther since that day he scribbled an image of a funny looking mouse on a sketch pad.

Much has happened since those two events took place so long ago. Maybe I should say much has been building since they occurred.

Let's fast forward to the present.

We have Disney resorts and theme parks around the world. We have Disney on television. We have Disney on the radio, and we have Disney on and off Broadway.

However the greatest impact to all of us is Disney on the World Wide Web.

Today there are more informed Disney consumers than ever before. There are countless Web sites like MousePlanet that provide Disney information, including advice on trip planning to any of the Disney vacation destinations.

If you prefer to listen rather than read about this Disney information then you can choose from one of the many Disney-related podcasts that will provide you with the information you require.

So the World Wide Web has certainly spread Disney information around the world.

However, it has also accomplished something that I'm sure none of us would have ever imagined and that is what is best described as "The Disney Connection."

So what is the Disney Connection? I'm sure you'll catch on rather quickly.

If you are one of those Disney fans who love to talk Disney with other Disney fans then I'm sure you have visited a Disney fan site that has a forum or a chat room and have joined in a discussion here or there and maybe even a chat.

For many of us, these avenues have opened up many opportunities for us to meet others, who like us, "Get it" and we share that common bond when we post, when we chat, and when we e-mail.

Essentially, we are all part of a Disney culture or a Disney extended family.

It's important to note that along the way some of the relationships may have become friendships, and some friendships may have become close friendships.

Have you ever thought about how many Disney friends you have today compared to how many you had a decade ago? You can only guess how many but I'm sure it is a huge difference.

Thank the Internet.

It's a wonderful thing. Friendships forged over the love of Disney have a solid foundation because of the values that are associated with the Disney culture. Those values are shared among Disney fans.

What comes with this package is also the realization that as we build our Disney family and share our joy of Disney we also may find that we also share with each other our struggles and tough times.

Obviously, the greater the number of friends you have the greater chance you will have of finding yourself supporting someone who may be going through some tough times.

What we have seen the Disney Internet community evolve to is a huge support infrastructure and that is one aspect of the Disney culture and the Disney Internet phenomenon that is very much overlooked.

This is not just a byproduct of the emergence of the Internet as a prime communication vehicle but essentially a combination of that and the popularity of the Disney culture.

Just the name Disney brings with it a happy connotation. When you say the name people smile and laugh.

Am I wrong to say that Disney generates positive vibes? Am I wrong to suggest that all things Disney look at the glass as being half full?

Those of us who drink from the Disney Kool-Aid tend to follow that pattern and thus when we support those who we have bonded with or connected with in the Disney internet community we bring that optimism to the table and it can work wonders.

So why do I mention all this?

It's very simple. During this month in which we give thanks for so much we should also recognize that Walt Disney launched a culture that down the road, in conjunction with 20th century technology, spawned a network of friends that, perhaps subliminally, echo the positive and optimistic overtones of the Disney company. We need to thank him for that.

I have seen this support in so many ways over the years.

More recently two of my dearest friends in the Disney Internet community each lost a parent and my heart goes out to these friends and their families. I know they have received much support from within and without Walt scribbling that mouse on that pad or thinking about that family amusement park, who knows if these friends would have received the support they received.


Because Disney brought us together. Those that "get it" are family. They know the Disney Magic, they know the Disney Zone, and they now can appreciate the Disney connection.

Remember how I mentioned: "When You Wish Upon a Star" as the banner song for Disney?

There is a line in that song that is repeated every night at the Magic Kingdom's Wishes show at Walt Disney World.

During the presentation we hear Jiminy Cricket say, "Just when you think all is lost, fate steps in to see you through.

Of course, it helps if fate is in the shape of friends, Disney friends that is.

While in a Disney theme park have you ever found yourself looking at an image of Walt Disney and whispering "Thanks Walt"?

I have but not for the reasons I am writing today.

It is time to thank him again. He has unknowingly delivered to us an extended family.

I guess I am reaching a bit when I say that by taking that pencil out and sketching out that image of a mouse and also for taking his daughters to that amusement park that day that he began a series of events that leads us to today.

But it is so true.

It has spawned Disney Magic, the Disney Zone, and, most importantly, the Disney Connection all of which contribute to the all important task of helping us all

... Remember the Magic.

Next Time: Traveling around the World to see "The World."

Class dismissed.