I’ve wanted to go to Disneyland for as long as I’ve been aware of such a thing existing, and the same is true for Walt Disney World too. Being in America only seemed to add to the magic: they were literally in a land far far away. So I contented myself in watching the movies, singing along to the songs, and imagining what it would be like when I one day got to go to the magical kingdom.
You see, theme parks aren’t really a thing here in New Zealand. We don’t have the population or tourist numbers to really support anything too big. (Besides, when you come to NZ, isn’t the entire outdoors is your adventure park?) When I was a kid, there was Fantasyland in Hastings, which became the water park Splash Planet, and Rainbow’s End in Auckland.
(Rainbow’s End, a quick Google search has informed me, is about a quarter of the size of Disneyland. When I went to check what it was in comparison to Walt Disney World, I learned WDW is the size of the city of San Francisco and promptly gave up.)
If you were one of the lucky kids, your family would go to the Gold Coast during the holidays and you would go to Warner Bros. Movie World, Sea World and Wet ‘n’ Wild. Unfortunately for us, the closest my sister and I got to Movie World was watching home videos of the neighbours’ trip to the Gold Coast, complete with footage of the Batman ride and cheap blue screen effects turning the kids into Superman. My parents chose to take my sister and me whale watching, to the Waitomo caves, and walking on a glacier, amongst many other things. Looking back on it as an adult I really do appreciate all of it (especially since people pay a fortune to come here and do them) but when you’re still in single digits you just really wanna go meet Bugs Bunny like your friends.
The closest I ever got to a Disney park was back when I was at university. A wonderful friend of mine lived in Germany, and she invited me to stay with her for a while. We discussed going to Disneyland Paris for my birthday, but that never happened. Instead we went to the much closer Phantasialand. It was a lovely day, albeit cold (and because it was the winter season, some rides were closed). The thing that sticks out in my mind about that day was the wild west themed roller coaster called Colorado Adventure. Mostly because of its full name: Colorado Adventure – The Michael Jackson Thrill Ride. Yes, you read that correctly. The Michael Jackson Thrill Ride. I don’t know exactly why it got that name, but Michael Jackson did ‘officially’ open it back in 1996. It was one hell of a ride, I will give it that.
On that same trip to Germany I did get to see Die Schöne und das Biest in Oberhausen. /musical nerd
I’m now very much an adult, but I still imagine going to Disneyland or Disney World, especially now that Hogwarts and the rest of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter are so close. Only now my imagination is supplemented by tales of former Cast Members on Reddit, videos on youtube, and oh so many books on the history of Disney. Not to mention all of the guides to the parks, holiday planning and how to make the most of your trip to the Magic Kingdom.
Because one day, one day, I am going to stand in front of that castle in that land far far away.
And I’m going to cry. I just know it.