I have always loved Disney movies. Especially with my mom, these movies were something we could watch together and allowed me to connect with her more deeply. She doesn’t know English very well and my Vietnamese is unfortunately fading, but watching movies is something that penetrates this unfortunate language barrier. She’s fascinated with animation, music and storytelling. The morals and plots of these movies are not only simple enough for her to understand without knowing the language but also are beautiful to watch. It created a space for both of us to exist and enjoy spending time with one another.
I go back to those old movies often, sometimes to remember my mom while I’m away and other times to just ground myself when life gets busy and overwhelming. When my brain refuses to work any harder I’ll watch “Robin Hood” or “Winnie the Pooh” and remember that all that truly matters might just be kindness and friendship. I think we could all use this reminder — as we grow older and begin to carry more burdens, there are fundamental things to life that are just as important now as when we were younger.
There has been a recent spotlight on “Disney Adults” online, especially during and after the pandemic when die-hard fans of the franchise weren’t able to attend Disney theme parks and some were nearly brought to tears when they were reunited with their favorite place. Although it seems excessive to most, my recent trip has shown me that I can’t really blame these people for placing so much value and joy into a place like Disneyland. It acts as a sort of utopia within a frequently frightening and dark world that we are always adapting to.
I recently decided to go for three days. Disneyland was honestly full of pure bliss and childish wonder. I didn’t get to go to the park as a kid, as it was never something my family was able to afford, but now that I’m older, there’s a special sense of magic that I don’t think I would have noticed as a child. The most fascinating thing about the park to me was the way it felt like a completely different world. The colors of everything around me were so bright, there was always music playing and I’ve never seen people so happy. The park is able to create an atmosphere of nostalgia and awe that makes you feel like you’re in a movie, and there’s nothing you need to worry about except having a good time. This detachment from the things we associate with our outside lives, such as responsibility or deadlines, is comforting, allowing you to regress to a younger state of mind where you can just let yourself have fun.
The food at Disneyland deserves a post of its own. I think it’s such a big part of why the park is so enjoyable because they have so many different options that are typically presented in a way that makes me feel like I’m in a cartoon. There’s something exciting and fun about eating things in the shape of Mickey Mouse or dyed an unusually bright color.
I think the most special thing about the park is the ubiquitous joy that you’re able to witness. You hear people talking about how far they’ve traveled to visit, and feel the excitement of not only the kids but their parents too. People of all ages are mesmerized by the attractions, characters and production of the whole thing. There’s a sense of unity and mutual companionship in a place like this, with shared feelings of ease and pure enjoyment. I spent a day at California Adventure Park and on my way out, the fireworks at the other park, Disneyland, had just begun. A lot of people were heading out at the same time as me, but instead of leaving, many of us just sat down outside of the gates on the concrete and watched the fireworks. I looked around and felt this strange sense of warmth. We all had somewhere to be, I was exhausted and my feet felt like they were going to fall off, but we all chose to stay, sit on the ground and share this moment together. It reminds me of the simplicity of life — in the end we will always act collectively to experience joy and amusement with others.
I finally got back to the hotel and I realized that I didn’t have my phone. I was livid with my forgetfulness, but I sort of didn’t care. I was so removed from the world these past couple days, for the most part completely unplugged from my social media and lingering responsibilities that I didn’t really mind not having access to it for a while longer. This removal from all things hectic and demanding is peaceful, but not effective or rational. I understand why people come again and again to Disneyland, but at the same time there are things in the real world that require our attention too. We have things to be done to attempt to make the world as perfect as the park, in our own small ways. My phone was found later that day after I had already flown back to the Bay Area, soon to be sent back to me. I am glad to return to the real world, but thankful that this trip took me out of it for a little while.