I am in the bedroom of our Holiday rental house in Orlando Florida. Its a funny house, clean, spacious but it feels knd of unlived in.The limited cutlery, plates, pots, pans and general equipment strongly suggest the majority of people who rent this house spend all their time out of it! Indeed, as we did yesterday. Spending over 12 hours a twenty minute drive away from here. Doing, what I guess most people do when they rent this house, visiting the Walt Disney Theme parks. We went to Disney Worlds Animal Kindom to make good on my promise to my son that if he tried hard at school I would take him to see the new world Pandora at Disney.
I can feel every hour of those 12 hours in my aching muscles. God knows how my eighty two year old father managed the endless walks between attractions, the getting lost, the standing in line, the clamboring on to trains, trucks, the sitting on narrow low benches, but he did. And, he confessed quietly to me when my two beloved teenage children were bickering about some ride, he was really enjoying it. I know its true.
I think you either buy into Disney Magic or you don’t. Either somehow you are transported into this fantasy world where you let yourself believe you are really meeting Donald Duck, or flying on the back of a Banshee on the moon of Pandora , or watching the animals from the lion king, Samba and the others, brought to life or you don’t.
You see someone dressed up in a bulky duck costume, a motercycle seat in front of a 3D screen inside a building in Florida, giant remote controlled models of jungle animals.
But I’m not that person.
Yesterday, I did visit Pandora, explore its amazing geography and plant life, I did fly on a Banshee and float down the river to hear the Na’vi Shaman of Song sing to me.
And all that before 8.30 am! Go early, really early, skip breakfast and you will skip the queues!
Pandora really is amazing but only Avatar fans will really appreciate the incredible achievement of bringing that world to life. But at night anyone would be spellbound. I am so glad we fought tiredness to see it transformed in the dark bringing back the anaxing scenes in the film where the forest lights up at night with bioluminescent plants and animals. It was stand-quietly-and-look beautiful. I know my mum, a huge Avatar fan (it was the only movie she paid for and downloaded to her iPad) would have delighted in that spectacle.
But in truth Disney has always been more of a Dad and me thing. He first took me my mum and brother here to Florida over 30years ago and we were breathtaken by the technology that created Peter Pan’s Flight and the Pirates of the Caribbean boat ride. My mum,I remember, was more particularly taken with the Frozeb Yoghurt something you don’t really get in the UK. Well certainly not then. But I think, overall, Disney was too regulated and conventional for her. She did not like crowds or commercialism. She liked to buy her vegetables from stalls outside peoples gardens and her sculptures from the artist themselves. There is too much distance from craft to art at Disney.
My Dad however has magic in in his eyes. He lived the world of artifice in television and film. He is the audience member who is waiting, willing and working to be transported. He greets rides with enthusiasm and his dogged determination gives him the stamina you need for a theme park. He is a perfect theme park companion because his absorption and joy helps yours.
Its why I have always visited Disneyland with him. This is our 5th visit together. Our 2nd was the memorable time my sister entrusted her 5 year old daughter to my Dad and I at what was then called Eurodisney. My oldest neice also has magic eyes, and amazing resilience and the three of us had a wonderful weekend meeting Princesses and watching Rodeos.
We took her again, with my sister and younger neice. But though it was lovely to be together as a family, my youngest neice quickly revealed her view of Disney when, aged only 5, she started pointing out and identifying all the hidden speakers that create the magical sounds and music in the park – rather shocking those next to us in the queues!
My dad came again with me, when my husband and I took our kids. An experience so memorable – for him – that he still has as his screensaver on his phone his picture of my two kids aged 6 and 5 meeting Hollywood Mickey mouse (all dressed up in White Tie) standing next to his limousine.
The kids never forgot that time either and a big goal for them is to go back and do the rides we took them on in Paris. Rides that I first did with my dad so long ago, Peter Pan and Pirates of the Caribbean. They are both believers. My son particularly loved meeting all the characters when he was small, especially Goofy. My daughter likes the thought of most things. especially those her friends have described. But her challenge is that she is not keen on the dark, or being confined, strapped in or being surprised or shocked. Which poses a problem with many of the actual rides. But she is brave and determined.
So now my lie in is over. I must rise for another day of disney magic.
I’m excited. Today we go to Epcot. Somewhere we planned to visit in 1981 when it was brand new but ran out of time declaring we would come back and do it another day. Its taken a while, but today Dad and I will keep that promise.