August 9, 2012
Thursday Treasures: A 30 Year Dream Come
True At Walt Disney World
By Pedro 'Pap' Hernandez
What do Cinderella, Aladdin, and Rapunzel have in
common? Their dreams lied in a magical castle in the distance, close
enough for them to experience, yet too far away from their reach.
For over 30 years, this is how I've been feeling. My castle was
Cinderella Castle, far away in Walt Disney World. You might think it
is weird that someone as passionate about Disney as I am had yet to
do a Disney vacation, but it's true. From the moment I learned of
Walt Disney World's existence as a kid, I knew it was a place I
needed to visit at least once in my lifetime. But sometimes life can
be rough on even its youngest dreamers. I grew up watching other
kids at school and relatives talk about their trips, and a teacher
even told me once to stop believing in my Walt Disney World dream.
The worst part? I actually believed what she said for the longest
time in my life! I felt that Walt Disney World was the impossible
dream everyone has in life, and in several moments of frustration I
declared the park to be shallow and overrated.
But then some amazing friends of mine made me
realize something... just because a dream has yet to become a
reality it doesn't mean that it will NEVER happen, and they were
right! All my life I've seen many dreams come true, and all of them
have taken their time to become a reality. Cinderella's Fairy
Godmother once said, 'Even miracles take a little time.' That is
because fate sometimes works really hard for a dream to happen at
the right time. And once it does, the wait will have been worth it.
The right people are with you, and the stage has been perfectly set
for you to shine. With this new and meaningful piece of knowledge in
my heart, I decided to keep the dream of going to Walt Disney World
alive, knowing that even if it doesn't come true soon enough it WILL
happen, and when it does, it will be a poignant moment in my life.
As Princess Tiana would say, making a dream come
true also takes a lot of hard work and courage. At the start of the
year I was offered a teaching job that paid me really well. I
realized that this is the opportunity I have been waiting for, I
could take my earnings and use them to make my Walt Disney World
dreams come true. So with that in my mind, I worked really, really
hard, made plenty of sacrifices, and made sure I had everything set.
By the end of May, the miracle had happened... My
Disney Resort reservations were all paid off and I had bought a
plane ticket to Orlando! I was going to Walt Disney World! In the
days prior to the trip, there was a lot of excitement in the air,
but also a lot of doubt. I have been waiting 30 years for this to
become a reality. In that time, I've learned how Disney works, seen
some of the attractions online, read about the urban myths and
legends among many other things. I kept wondering... 'Will the magic
still be there for someone that perhaps may have become too jaded to
its legacy?' As the weeks turned into days, and the days later
turned into hours, the excitement grew larger in scope, as well as
the anxiety it all caused.
On July 15, 2012, I was at the Orlando International
Airport, riding the Magic Express bus to my resort. When we entered
Disney property, all the anxiety was gone. I knew that I was in for
the time of my life. From this point on, I would be experiencing
different moments, moments that have defined this vacation for the
rest of my days on Earth.
These moments are as follow...
Moments for the senses: Life is always worth
experiencing, no matter what. There is a reason we have been gifted
with the power of the senses: it is to make life that much more
significant. The warmth of someone's hug, the tender touch of a
kiss, the solidarity of a handshake, our senses can make our lives
much more enthralling. No other place in the world knows this better
than Disney. You could take high definition videos of a show or
attraction. You can have the best pictures of Cinderella's castle.
Heck, you could even imitate some of the Disney food dishes at home.
But nothing, NOTHING compares to actually being there experiencing
it all for yourself. Rides that seemed very slow and basic became
enjoyable once you were there. Whether it is something big like a
spray of water during Toy Story Midway Mania or a hug from Mickey
Mouse, the senses can make the vacation even better.
Moments of fear: In all the greatest Disney
stories, one of the things the characters must face are their fears.
Like Simba's fear of being accused of being Mufasa's killer and
Belle's fears as she sees Beast's castle for the first time, later
to become its prisoner. In my case, some of these small fears
involved going on the big thrill rides. Those that rode with me know
that in some cases I had a deep look of concern and worry. I am not
a big amusement park attraction rider (they are very rare around
these parts), so I worried about the 'dangers' we could experience.
Yet, I still braved on because this was a 30 year dream in the
making, I wasn't going to let my fears put a damper on my trip.
Doing this was worth it as my looks of concern quickly became ones
of joy and happiness. Yes, going backwards on Expedition Everest was
intense, rushing in the dark on Dinosaur was scary, and even going
down the drop on Splash Mountain gave me chills, but once they were
all over, I was happy to know that I faced and conquered my fears at
Disney, and made me go 'LET'S GO ON IT AGAIN!'
Moments of silliness: It is a guarantee that
once you are at Disney, you will be smiling and laughing your day
through. This is all thanks to these moments of silliness you will
encounter in many ways, shapes, and forms. In my case, one of these
was by taking silly pictures in the rides, making fun of my friends
as we waited in line, and even making fun of some of the
attractions! One of my favorite moments of silliness was with Mr.
Incredible and Frozone on Hollywood Studios. Prior to my meeting
with them, Frozone was making fun of Mr. Incredible's belly as he
lacked the abs Frozone has. When I met with Mr. Incredible I told
him that I had muscles too, just that they were more round that
usual, which sent everyone into hysterics. Mr. Incredible was more
than happy that day, I think.
Moments of friendship: My philosophy has always
been this: no matter where you are and where you go in life, the
journey will ALWAYS be better with friends. I have tested this
philosophy in the past, and I can assure you that it still stands
today. One of the best things I got to do at Disney was meet up with
some of the most amazing friends a guy could ever have. It is even
better when those friends are as passionate about Disney as you are.
It tends to make attractions more interesting as you share facts
back and forth and make fun of said attractions. Yes, I had a blast
exploring some of the parks by myself, but with friends it all
became much more magical. And speaking of which...
Moments of magic: It wouldn't be a Disney
vacation without magical moments happening throughout, and on this
trip, there were a ton of them. For example, winning the animator's
drawing of Pluto at the Animation Academy on Hollywood Studios gave
me a lot of joy. Meeting Cinderella for the first time sent my heart
a flutter thanks for her beauty and charm. Meeting Mickey Mouse for
the very first time in my life was also something that filled me
with joy. Seeing Fantasmic!, especially its finale, was so moving I
actually ended up in tears by the end of it all. Which leads me to
the greatest moment of magic on this trip...
On July 17, 2012, I decided to make this the day I
visited the Magic Kingdom for the first time. After the great
opening show, my best friend Kelvin Cedeno and Sunday Brunch article
writer Reuben Gutierrez met up and decided to make an event out of
my first time seeing the castle. We boarded a Main Street vehicle,
making sure I had my face down the whole time. When the time came, I
looked and watched the castle for the first time ever. In that
moment, all 30 years of my life went flashing through my life. All
the laughter, tears, anger, the hard work, patience, EVERYTHING that
led up to this moment, and it all materialized into a beautiful
castle off in the distance.
For some, this might seem like a silly thing:
tearing up over a fairy tale castle, but let's us go back to what I
said earlier about Cinderella, Aladdin, and Rapunzel. Cinderella
went to the ball and her life changed for the better. Aladdin
visited the castle and not only did he find love, he learned to
appreciate himself for who he is. When Rapunzel visited the kingdom,
she found the true home she didn't know existed. In my case, when I
visited the kingdom I learned that ANY dream can come true if you
have the will and courage to pursue it. It may take days, months,
years, decades even. Yet, life can be so kind that it WILL let you
experience a dream made real.
Not a moment of good bye, but of farewell: My
last day at Disney was on July 19, 2012. I did feel very bittersweet
about it, but I decided to enjoy my last day at the Magic Kingdom,
which turned out to be one of the absolute best. I got to meet the
characters I missed on my first day, see some shows and parades, and
most importantly, hang out with my best friends. When the time came
to say our good byes, something amazing happened. As I was walking
my way down Main Street to catch my bus back home, the 'Move it,
Shake it, Celebrate It' street party was ending its day down on Main
Street. While it made its way back, the song said the following:
'It's the time of your life! So many reasons why, you don't want
to stop! It's your chance, live it up! Everything you do, celebrate
you! Come on, make the party last! Forever, and ever, have the best
time you ever had, and go break free!
This song struck me really hard. It truly did
capture everything I enjoyed about this trip. I had the time of my
life making my dreams come true and hanging out with some of the
best friends ever. And the song is right, everything I did
celebrated me, who I was, who I am, and who I might become in the
near future. When the parade kept moving down Main Street, I
couldn't help but wave good bye to all the characters and
performers. I felt that it was no coincidence that the parade was
happening just as I was returning home: it was Disney's way of
letting me know that I had a home in Disney, and that no matter what
happened in my life I should never stop believing, and to always
keep celebrating, because life is one big celebration worth
I want to thank EVERYONE who I encountered, not just
in my trip, but in my whole life. I want to thank my family who
believed in my dream alongside me and supported me before, during
and after the trip. I want to thank everyone I met during this
visit. Your presence made my trip even more memorable. I want to
thank the friends I have encountered online through various Disney
forums who supported me and my dream, and always offered words and
advice of friendship before and during my trip. I want to thank my
travel agent, whose patience, wisdom and kindness made this trip one
of the smoothest ever. I want to thank Brent Dodge, owner and author
of From Screen to Theme, for inspiring a spark of imagination that
was once dormant in me. Most importantly, I want to thank Walter
Elias Disney for dreaming up some of the most incredible places in
the world, and his older brother Roy Disney, for being an incredible
brother and completing Walt's dream.
All of these people helped make a 30 year dream come
true, not an easy journey but a journey filled with many lessons and
magic. And the greatest lesson of all... Walt Disney World is not a
shallow, overrated place. It is a labor of love for Walt Disney by
and for Disney fans all over the world.
Kelvin Cedeno edited two videos of my trip. The
first video is that of a handful of meet and greets at Disney
(specifically Disney's Hollywood Studios and the Magic Kingdom):
The second video includes several moments from my
trip, including the biggest one of all: the reveal of Cinderella's
Castle at 33:41 (though if you have the time, watch the 45 minute
video to get a better feel of the whole journey):