Walt Disney and Disneyland

a kate west reflection

When I first moved to Los Angeles, the first thing I did was visit Disneyland to see if it was every bit as magically wonderful as I remembered from my teenage years. It helped that I actually worked for Disney and could get into the park free. My brother and I used to visit my Aunt down here every Spring when we lived in the Bay Area and we usually took that mandatory trip to the Magic Kingdom so I couldn't wait to go every chance I had. And it was even better than I thought it'd be.

First of all, if you work for Disney, you get to start work at the Disney University in the studio lot during orientation (and all you jaded cynics can stop reading here). Yes it's cheesy (was that a mouse joke?), but if you're a Disney fan, it's also delightful. I know people refer to Disney as "Mauswitz" and worse, but at the time, I really bought into it and it's easy to do since you're surrounded daily by like-minded people. True, Disney can be intimidatingly strict, but they have a mighty product to protect and their legal department is fiercely loyal to that cause. As they should be. Besides, what other corporation has a department called Imagineering (where they plan and build for the theme parks)?

Secondly, you really get to know the inner workings of Disney and all about Walt's history, etc. And it's all fascinating. From the first Oscar-winning Animated film, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves" to the "Lion King", they've consistently been the best in their genre. Their success in animation eventually led to launching a theme park, something radically different from a boardwalk amusement locale. Whatever you may think of him today, Walt was a true visionary and wanted Disneyland to be something special and you can't deny that in that respect, he succeeded beyond expectation. You can't tell me our generation wasn't riveted by "The Mickey Mouse Club" or "The Wonderful World of Disney" on television every week.

Every ride is practically a cinematic experience and although the park has been through a lot of for-better-or-worse changes (like the ludicrous political correct attempt at messing with the Pirates of the Caribbean), it's still one of the most visited places in the entire world and children are still drawn to it like little consumer magnets. If you have any remote memories of liking Disney, you will thrive there, whether during a delightful stroll down Main Street USA or passing through the gates of Sleeping Beauty Castle. Your imagination will spark and there is room for every age, from Fantasyland's gentle rides for the very young to Tomorrowland's speedy rides for the braver and older kids. Adults will be happy everywhere (except maybe colorfully noisy Toon Town - that's a ten minute visit, tops). If you have only a short time, don't miss Indiana Jones, the Pirates, the Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain and maybe a few smaller rides. Don't bother with California Adventure since a mere few miles away you can see the real thing. But Downtown Disney is fairly diverting.

Nothing beats the original park though (or the even more developed Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida) and during the summer you get some pretty spectacular shows that may have you believing in Pixie Dust again. Work with me, you have to WANT to believe in it, which is the key to any happiness in life, right?

Backstage at the Park:
Walt Disney Treasures - Disneyland - Secrets, Stories & Magic

The Whole Alphabet:
Disney A to Z: The Official Encyclopedia (Third Edition)

The Nine Old Men:
Walt Disney's Nine Old Men and the Art of Animation

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