If you know me personally, you know that I’m a Disney addict. I made a new friend in my 30s and he asked me what the deal was with Disney. I replied “It makes me happy” and then I paused trying to think of how to explain it. He said “that’s enough”. He’s right; it is enough. Still there is a story there….
My parents met in 1967 at Expo 67 in Montreal. The short story is that my dad was working with animals and my mom had a season’s pass that her grandmother bought her. Boy meets girl (I’ll save that for another blog post…perhaps a guest post) and 1968 finds my parents living and working with animals in California. Unbeknownst to either of them (or so the story goes), my mother was pregnant with me. If you’re familiar with Disney parks, you know there are warnings on some of the rides that you shouldn’t ride if you’re prone to motion sickness, back problems or are pregnant. On a trip to Disneyland, my mother rode the Matterhorn and I like to think that explains it all.
Fast forward to 1976, when the Styles family takes its first trip to Walt Disney World. I acquired several dresses with Mickey and Minnie on them and a big sun hat but I would not set foot near a character. I have made up for that over the years.
We were not one of those families who went to Florida every year. My next trip was in the 7th Grade. I think that my next trip was the definitive Disney trip for me though. In 1984 Walt Disney World held a parade in honour of Donald Duck’s 50th birthday. In this parade, there were a number of ducks that accompanied Donald on his float. Eventually those ducks were donated to zoos around the U.S. and to one Canadian zoo ~ the Metro Toronto Zoo (as it was known back then). At that time, my father was in charge of Public Relations at the zoo, so he was very involved with the ceremony in which Donald Duck came to present the ducks to the zoo. I didn’t get to go but I did get an autographed Donald Duck hat among other things. That year, we took a trip to Walt Disney World and got the VIP treatment.
I’ll share two of my big memories from that trip. The first happened at Magic Kingdom. We found out where Donald was going to be at a certain time and I approached him and said “Did you get your Metro Toronto Zoo t-shirt?” What happened next was probably the most exciting thing I had happen up to that point in my life! Donald Duck pulled me backstage at the Magic Kingdom. I was being “abduckted” by Donald Duck. His Cast Member handler didn’t know what was going on. Eventually my parents and I were backstage talking to Donald Duck!
The other big excitement for me was that I got to visit Epcot accompanied by the Walt Disney World Ambassador. It’s now a team of people chosen to fulfil the roles but back then it was one person. Her name was Susan and it turns out she still works for Disney all these years later. It was the month that the Morocco pavilion opened but it was all new to me. We had lunch “on the mouse” (Mickey Mouse was on the company credit card!) at Alfredo’s restaurant at the Italy pavilion and the person next to me had little baby octopus in their pasta (I can’t remember what I ate but I’ll never forget those little octopus!)
It was on that trip that I decided I wanted to apply to be part of the Walt Disney World International Program and that became my obsession until I finally did in university (and didn’t make it in). I finally became a Cast Member in April of 1993 when I was chosen to be part of the opening team of The Disney Store at Square One.
This story is the precursor to a future blog post on how I became obsessed with runDisney events. Stay tuned….