Behind the cardboard: Evaluating the Disney magic

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Kim Pham

Students from Carlsbad High School's journalism program take a selfie on Main Street at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom on Nov. 12. The students visited The Magic Kingdom as part of their trip to the 2015 Fall JEA/NSPA High School Journalism Convention held at the Dolphin Hotel in Orlando, Fla.

Jake Hamilton, Opinion Editor

Growing up in Carlsbad, I was always within the blast radius of Anaheim’s Disneyland “magic.” Kids would brag about missing school days, driving up with their parents at the crack of dawn and waiting in line for the unbelievable imagination and unimaginable wonder of Disneyland. I just didn’t get it.

liked theme parks. I always enjoyed the rides and roller coasters. However, while others saw togetherness, I saw crowds; while others saw joyous anticipation, I saw boring lines.

While others saw “magic,” I saw a theme park.

So when I heard that we would be going to Orlando with its Downtown Disney, Disney Boardwalk, Disney Hotel, and Disney World, I was simply curious while others giggled with excitement.

My first impression of many of these new attractions in this new world, was that of an act. At first glance, stores, restaurants, and sometimes even employees seemed to be cardboard backdrops that would tip right over with a gust of wind. Fake rocks, fake snow, even a fake concert of Ariana Grande that they’ll claim was filmed on Christmas.

Yet with each new attraction–as people I’d met on the plane ride only a day earlier became close friends, as I laughed and joked, as I posed for a million selfies–that feeling of a cardboard world faded into the background. We ate Italian food, screamed through Thunder Mountain, shared ice cream, and lived through whatever story Splash Mountain is trying to tell. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the theme park, along with everything else: the Disney Hotel, Disney Boardwalk, and Downtown Disney.

In the back of my mind I’ll always picture some greedy businessmen making a profit each time these victim’s hunger makes them buy overpriced food, but maybe that’s not the point. I saw kids save the galaxy and defeat Zerg, sail the seas looting treasure, survive a haunted mansion. And as for myself, I had fun for ten hours surrounded by lands from my childhood and new friends.

I’m going to Disneyland in Anaheim for our senior day at the end of this year. I may not be so eager to drain my wallet again, but I am looking forward to it.

When you haven’t been to a Disney themed place since your childhood, it’s easy to remember the tangible qualities–high prices, massive crowds, long lines. It’s that feeling of joining with the act that I forgot. In the end, it’s not some phony trick to deceive you like the Wizard of Oz. The world may be cardboard but the feeling is real. There’s the magic.