Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Column: Lend me your Ears: Why I think Disney is magical

Greensboro News & Record (NC)-
December 21, 2004
Edition: ALL
Section: LIFE
Page: D1
Personal adds

        "How was your vacation?"

        Let's see. One night, I enjoyed pan-roasted monkfish with "vegetables of the moment, crispy sweet potatoes and tomato butter sauce."

        It was paired with a glass of South African chardonnay.

        Another evening, my husband and I climbed into a horse-drawn carriage for a 30-minute ride through a nature preserve, sipping hot chocolate and cuddling under a warm blanket.

        One afternoon I spent relaxing with a spa pedicure and a treatment called a "mystical forest therapy," which entailed a Swedish massage and some reflexology.

        We then returned to our resort and relaxed on our balcony, watching two reticulated giraffes eating leaves from a tree while three Ankole cattle enjoyed some roughage left for them by their caretakers.

        The next day, we joined our two friends and jumped into a "super stretch limo" that propelled us forward from 0 to 60 mph in 2.8 seconds and then flipped us upside down three times while Aerosmith's "Dude Looks Like a Lady" was blaring in the headrests.

        Where was this exotic location?

        Walt Disney World.

        In this space two weeks ago, my colleague Mike Kernels disparaged the 47-square-mile vacation destination as "humanity at its very worst," lamenting the high prices, crying children and "decades-old strategy designed to sap you of your sanity and discretionary income."

        Is it expensive? Yes. My husband and I save lots of money to be able to afford the food, hotels and tickets.

        Is it worth it? Yes.

        While we were there, we saw it snow on Main Street, U.S.A. during a Christmas party, with Cinderella's castle illuminated in the background. Fireworks expertly choreographed with the music were launched over and around us as we oohed and aahed.

        I had no idea what time it was. I didn't care. I had no deadlines, no cell phone, no responsibilities.

        The hardest decision I made that day was what fun ride we should go to next.

        Now, granted, I'm now a Disney veteran. I'm the one people in the office come to when they're going. What should they see? Where should they stay?

        I'm also one of those people who talks about it with other Disneyholics on message boards. So, we're not trying to do Disney-or-bust in a day.

        We've still not seen every attraction or sampled food in every restaurant. After all, there are four theme parks, two water parks, a shopping district, a nightclub zone, acres of lakes for boating, fishing or parasailing, miles of trails for walking, and two miniature golf courses, not to mention several 18-hole golf courses.

        But the reason we return each year is simple: It's make-believe. All of it. From the time you drive onto Disney property, you are part of a carefully orchestrated production. The employees are even called cast members - all of them, whether it's Cinderella or the "mousekeeper" who brings fresh towels. Everything that happens where a guest can see it is considered "onstage."

        They even put on a show for the adults. We don't have kids, but we can still be playful with Pluto or Chip and Dale. One time I asked Mary Poppins where Bert was, and she told me he had "just popped into a chalk drawing."

        And in a world where violence, natural disasters and generally bad news surround us in a 24-hour news cycle, I don't mind paying someone to help me pretend, if just for a little while, that there were simpler times.

        We were able to enjoy each other and our friends while watching an edible, life-size, working carousel spin around and counting the "Hidden Mickeys" left by creative artists. We were able to take in the 30,000 synchronized lights in a canopy in Epcot. We watched as toy soldiers marched by in a parade, playing trumpets.

        So, Mike, next time you and your family plan a trip to see the mouse, ignore the high prices, the screaming babies and the long lines. Enjoy each other and the magic around you.

        I'll send you some pixie dust.

        Janet Brindle Reddick is assistant city editor in the News & Record's High Point office. But her dream job is to open a News & Record satellite office in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. You can reach her at 883-4422, Ext. 244, or jbrindle@news-record.com. She'll be the one in the mouse ears.

Copyright (c) 2004 Greensboro News & Record