I found myself in Orlando last month serving as a mentor and representative for IBM to the HENAAC conference. The conference just happened to be stationed at Disney’s Coronado Springs resort, which is right in the vicinity of Disney World.
I say ‘in the vicinity’ because Disney World, if you’ve never been, is as massive and encompassing as you might expect – or if you were like me, way more than you’d expect. The place has its own highway system with exits for Epcot, Animal Kingdom, MGM Studios, Downtown Disney, and the Magic Kingdom – this doesn’t even touch all the resorts (like Coranodo Springs) that are sprinkled here and abouts. The place is basically a city in itself, and by the end of my 5-day trip I still didn’t quite have it all figured out.
The first few days I spent going to conferences, hearing students talk about their research projects, and giving just-about-to-graduate college students advice about job interviews, resumes, and picking the right employer. I’m proud to tell you that our future is in good hands, friends. I talked to these bright minds about research they’ve done to develop methods that’ll help broken bones heal more quickly, help purify water more naturally, and spot cancerous cells more reliably.
Even though I was just outside Disney World, I wasn’t even sure I was going to go. In fact, I viewed Walt Disney World in the same vein us Austinites view Wally World. A giant, excessive, pillar of commercialization. But, I’ve never been to Disney World, and I knew I might not ever be so close again. Millions of people plan their dream vacations around this place, people were getting married and having honeymoons at this place. It seemed too hoity-toity and arrogant for me not to go. So I bought a ticket on my last night there, and took the shuttle to the Magic Kingdom – bringing along my camera and leaving behind any preconceptions I had before.
And friends, I’m here to tell you I’m really glad I did. Right when I entered through the gates there was an Electric Parade marching its way through the park. Beautiful floats emblazoned with LED’s and all the Disney character’s you’ve grown up loving as a kid dancing and smiling on top of them. I was touched almost immediately at the overwhelming sense of happiness and joy from the kids of all ages.
I walked through the park heading towards its center marked by a giant familiar castle. People where crowded around and getting themselves in position for the fireworks show that happens every night – because each night at Disney is somebody’s first night at Disney, just like it was for me this day.
At this point I kicked myself for not bringing a tripod to capture things, but I made do despite the oversight. Soon music started, and when a voiceover from Gemini Cricket reminded us to “Wish upon a star” one shot across the sky right on cue.
What followed was a spectacular fireworks show that with the medley of character voices, and dramatic Disney music brought me…to tears. It really was amazing, and I took my eyes away from the viewfinder quite often to relish the moment. The splendor happening right before my eyes.
This moment set the mood for the rest of my Disney evening. As I walked towards Splash Mountain I noticed 30-year olds holding hands and skipping their way through the park with beaming smiles. I noticed parents sharing moments of laughter and amazement with their children. There really was Magic in this Kingdom, and I felt like if I looked in the mirror it’d be like that final scene in the movie Big. Just me…a kid…standing in oversized adult clothes. You really are never too old for Disney.
I’m going to leave you with a song from Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros. I actually had the good fortune to see them at ACL Live a few weeks ago and this particular song struck a cord with me. When describing the song, Edward said he sees “Om Nashi me” which he said means “Amen, destruction” as a destruction of his outer shell, parts of his old self breaking off and revealing the glorious new soul within. I’m glad I broke out of my shell on this night and saw the magic with my own eyes.