Thursday, October 9, 2008

First Post

Welcome to Disney Fan Ramblings, another in a (perhaps) overcrowded selection of blogs about any and all things Disney. This being my first post, I thought I'd write about developing a love for Disney.

It was 1975 when I first visited a Disney theme park. Our high school band was invited to march in the mid-day parade at the Magic Kingdom, and being a 15 year old member of the drum section, I thought I was far too cool to pay much attention to the park itself. My friends and I were totally absorbed with chasing girls from another high school band from New York. Consequently, I don’t remember much about the experience, besides repeated rides on Space Mountain, which was pretty recently opened at the time, and was one of the coolest rollercoasters in the world as far as I was concerned.

Admittedly, my experience with amusement parks at that point in my life was fairly limited. We had been to Six Flags over St. Louis at least once as a family, and I had also gone to that park as part of my grade school band. As a younger child, we regularly went to a park in Addison, Illinois, called Adventureland. Other parks in our area included Santa’s Village (recently closed) and Kiddieland (still open). These parks were dwarfed by Marriot’s Great America, however, which was themed around areas of the United States, like "Hometown Square", "County Fairgrounds", Yukon Territory", and "Orleans Place". As the guests entered Great America, they were treated to the view of a huge double-decker carousel, which is the same view they get today as they enter the park. And the familiar Warner Brothers characters like Bugs Bunny, Tweety Bird, Sylvester the Cat, and Daffy Duck populated the park.

In the Midwest, specifically the northern part of Illinois, the climate is not conducive to running an outdoor amusement park year around, so someone came up with the idea of building an enclosed park near Bolingbrook, Illinois. It was called Old Chicago, and was in the center of a huge building with an enclosed mall all around it. It had a small indoor log ride, a couple of rollercoasters, one called the Chicago Loop, with corkscrew inversions, and many smaller rides. But it failed in the long run, closing its doors in 1981 after being open for only 6 years. It seemed like a good idea but was probably not exciting enough to compete with the bigger coaster park Great America in the good weather months, and not a big enough shopping mall to bring in money and business.

Even with the limited experience, however, I was too young and too distracted to note the Disney theme park as something special. I was not too young to be able to appreciate some other Disney products, however, like their family films and the weekly television show I grew up with. Watching Uncle Walt introducing each weekly episode was a highlight of my week on Sunday night. It inspired me. It made me want to write stories like those I saw on there. It brought out my creative side. It educated me.

And my favorite movies were Disney fare - mostly animated features like ONE HUNDRED AND ONE DALMATIONS and LADY AND THE TRAMP, though there were live action movies that grabbed me, like THE PARENT TRAP and THE LOVE BUG. I loved the music from the animated features. Songs like CRUELLA DE VIL and HE’S A TRAMP were my songs of choice in the 1960's and early 1970's, before I discovered rock music and abandoned Disney to a younger generation.

Finally, with kids of our own now, we have rediscovered the magic of Disney. The films of old are still wonderful and enthralling for my children and me. The music appears on CDs and I’d often rather hear an old classic tune from a great movie than something more current. And the new films, by Disney Studios and by Pixar both have provided fabulous new additions to the DVD library. But mostly we are enthralled by the theme parks. They provide the escape from the pressures of everyday life that I find I need. They provide the entertainment and relaxation that make our vacations special. And more and more they provide a sort of inspiration for me; to strive to do things than I have been doing better, to be more creative, to try to inspire my own children.

Inspired by my experiences at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort, I’ve dreamed of trying to develop a theme park of my own. It’s only a thought experiment, I know, but it’s fun to dream about. (And who knows? Maybe something will come of it someday!) In the course of thinking about such a development, I have read several books and frequented several websites about related subjects. I’ve studied a little about ‘imagineering’, the Disney term for their park and ride designers and builders. I have looked at the Disney company, the behemoth that it has become in the 21st century. And I have studied the men responsible for the company’s beginnings and its growth over the years - Walt and Roy Disney, two brothers who were as different as two people could be, but who knew that they could trust each other implicitly.

I have all but concluded that it would be next to impossible to do what they did. It is a different time and a different climate, both in business and socially. But the relationship between Walt and Roy is the most important part in the equation, and how can anyone duplicate that? More than trust went into it. Brotherly love and familial bonds made it special and probably beyond repeating by design. I doubt that Walt and Roy really understood how their relationship contributed to the success of the Disney corporation until they were already successful beyond their dreams, and maybe not fully even then.

I will try not to be so wordy in future posts. Thanks for looking in here.

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