An Adult’s Journey to the Reclamation of Innocence…
With a concerned tone, a family member recently asked me “What do you think your Disneyland thing is all about?”. Artist friends decry the commercialism of the parks. Others refer to theme parks with disdain citing crowds and expenses. Most think of Disneyland as a place for just for kids.
I get it. It’s not for them. I refer to the bible quote:
“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became an adult, I put away childish things.”
To some this is a statement of fact. For others, it is a statement of conviction. But I believe it to be a statement infused with a touch of wistfulness and remorse.
Disney was very much a part of my life as child. Back in the days of one television per family, parents dominated the channel selections…until Sunday night. Sunday night, after dinner and dishes, we piled into the den and glued ourselves to the screen as Walt Disney gently guided us into fantastical characters like Daniel Boone, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice or real-life vignettes of amazing nature scenes.
There was an innocence in that Sunday night of Disney. But it was not without difficult life experiences. Anyone (like myself) who saw “Bambi” as a young child can attest to that. Disney believed strongly that children should not be sheltered from the world. But he also believed that by tapping into a child’s innate ability to see beauty, imagine possibility and create fantasy, he could help lovingly guide children to cope with life.
Now that I’m all grown up, I find Disneyland a vehicle for the reclamation of that childhood innocence. A way to re-familiarize myself with my inner fantasy, imagination and beauty. But as an adult, it’s also a place to be inspired. Inspired by an artist and visionary who constantly challenged himself and those around him.
Walt’s dreams are everywhere in Disneyland. From the park bench he sat on when he came up with the idea for Disneyland to the perpetually lit candle in his apartment above the fire house, Walt’s touches are reverently preserved. Star Wars was created well after Walt Disney’s death, yet it fits perfectly in Tomorrow Land. With slight updating, retro rides like “Jungle Cruise” perpetuate their timeless entertainment value. It’s a mosaic combining the best of the past with the bold promise of the future.
At the end of this divisive year of hate-filled world rhetoric, we saw the Christmas “World of Color” production at California Adventure Park. The finale was an incredibly moving rendition of “Let There Be Peace on Earth”. I saw parents tearfully hugging their children, others standing in stilled awe. It was Disneyland magic at its best – a profound statement of the power of individual hope in a seemingly hopeless world.
It still inspires, it still reclaims the best of childlike innocence. And I’m still a believer.