It All Started With a Mouse: How Disney World Changed My Life

My first--but not last--ride on Prince Charming's Regal Carousel.


One year ago today I visited the Magic Kingdom for the first time.  Well, there was that ill-fated fifteen minutes back in 1990–when my 10-year-old self had a nervous breakdown in line for Pirates of the Caribbean and was quickly ushered back to the hotel–but I don’t think that counts.  On November 18th, 2010, I spent what I thought would be my only day in the Magic Kingdom.  I lingered even after my husband exited the park, wanting to see the castle lit up at night and thinking this would be my only chance. After all, why would I return to Disney World over and over when there are so many other places on earth to visit?  Famous last words.

One year later and I’ve returned three times, once on my own, once with my mother, and once on an extended research trip.  I’ve been on every single ride and watched almost every show.  I’ve visited the majority of the resorts, dined in thirty-four of the restaurants, and experienced all three fireworks spectaculars.  I’ve made Disney friends.  I’ve purchased one Disney necklace.  I’ve even made my mom a Disney fan–she bought into the Disney Vacation Club on her last trip.  I already have a fourth trip planned for three months from now.  And I have drafted the first 20% of the book I’m working on–an educational guide to Walt Disney World.

Famous last words indeed!

I found out today that my first Disney experience coincided with a very special day–Mickey Mouse’s birthday.  But while I was out running this morning, I tried to wrap my brain around what, exactly, constituted the birthday of a fictional character.  So I looked it up.  November 18th, 1928 was the the date that the cartoon Steamboat Willie was first released.  Thus, I have to respectfully disagree with the idea that today is Mickey’s birthday.  If anything, today is the anniversary of Mickey’s first big success.  Definitely a milestone worth celebrating, but not a birthday.

You see, Mickey Mouse wasn’t born on November 18th.  The moment Walt’s pencil touched paper and doodled the frighteningly self-portrait-esque rodent, Mickey was born.  He was brought up in a fashion similar to child-rearing–through much effort and hard work on the part of Walt and his business partners.  In fact, November 18th isn’t even the anniversary of Mickey’s debut–by November 18th, 1928, he’d been featured in two different failed animated films.  That’s right folks–Mickey Mouse was rejected.  Twice.

How’s that for humbling?

This, to me, really is the magic of Disney.  The idea that dreams really do come true isn’t just a load of crap or a line from a song or a theme for a parade.  In Walt’s world, it was a reality.  He had a dream.  He worked at that dream.  He failed–and nearly went bankrupt–several times.  But he persevered–and now his dream is the dream of millions of children and adults across the world.

How’s that for inspirational?

And so, I continue to work on my own dream.  Will my book become a reality?  I hope so.  Will I meet road blocks, be rejected, suffer failure?  I’m sure.  Hell, if Mickey Mouse himself failed twice before becoming a success, I would be surprised if I didn’t hit a dead end or three along the way.  But I have a dream–and I believe it can come true.  And for that, Mickey, I thank you.

A very merry UN-birthday to you!






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