By Audrey Brown
I admit, I spend a disproportionate amount of time in Orlando’s theme parks. But to be fair, I have the excuse of saying that I’m there for work reasons. This is a luxury I don’t take lightly, as I know how many people (Especially those who read our magazine and watch Orlando Attractions Magazine -The Show) would love to live here permanently. But no matter how much time I spend in the parks, I always find some small moment of enchantment to savor. Cheesy as that sounds.
A few weeks ago, my husband and I decided to spend an evening at the Magic Kingdom. Because we live so close to the parks, we’re able to go for specific reasons instead of feeling pressured to spend an entire day there. My workload had been heavy, stress was creeping in and I needed a dose of that Walt Disney populism and optimism that used to keep me going when I was a graduate student in the frozen wastelands of Muncie, Ind. So we settled on the idea of a Fantasyland date.
My favorite rides tend to be the adventure-centric ones. I love the Jungle Cruise and the Enchanted Tiki Room, Pirates of the Caribbean and Revenge of the Mummy at Universal Studios Florida and especially the Indiana Jones Adventure in Disneyland. But I needed something more calming than that. So we drove to the Magic Kingdom, hopped the ferry at sunset and set our sights on Mickey’s PhilharMagic, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and maybe a quick round each of Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom. We did all that, and just as I thought, I felt a bit refreshed by the end of the night. But my husband had one more ride on his list. The brand new Dumbo’s Flying Elephants, which we hadn’t gotten around to seeing yet. Then, on the way, we saw posters with characters who will appear in the new Storybook Circus area. One character in particular caught my eye … the long-forgotten (by some) Humphrey the Bear.
When I was a kid, Humphrey the Bear was one of my favorites. On an old VHS tape, I had a Disney short called “In the Bag” (embedded below) that starred Humphrey. With it’s classic orchestration, hilarious voice work (When all the bears “talk” at once, I still roll with laughter!) and carefully crafted hand-drawn animation (Layout done by legendary Yale Gracey!), it felt like a work of art to me. It shared tape space with Dumbo, Lambert: The Sheepish Lion and Mickey and the Beanstalk. All cartoons that I consider to be representative of a truly special era in the history of Disney animation.
Just walking by Humphrey the Bear’s face that night at the Magic Kingdom instantaneously brought back such happy memories of those cartoons. How even as a kid, I used to consciously choose that tape to give me a break from the worries of my reality. Back then, it was not finishing my math homework or worrying about getting made fun of at school. Today it’s deadlines and scheduling, but the effect of Humphrey the Bear is the same. And that’s one of the things that I love most about theme parks. Those little pops of joy that can rattle you out of your own grumpy adulthood, if only for a moment.
I had a revelation about theme parks that night that repeated itself while I walked with visiting family out of Universal Studios later. Theme parks themselves, while I love them, are not why I do what I do. It’s the fact that theme parks bring us closer to each other. It’s a special place for families to go to together where you know you are safe. Even if it’s just for an afternoon. And though I’m guilty of constantly checking my e-mail on my phone, even when I’m in the parks, that effect still lingers. Theme parks bring us physically into the movies, movie music and cartoons that had some kind of a psychological impact on us growing up. And they give us a place to spend quality time together. It’s sort of like ducking out of reality for a moment and focusing on what’s really important … each other. (I know! The cheese factor is off the charts! But it’s how I really feel.)
I know, I know … you don’t need theme parks to spend quality time with your family. But there’s nothing like making a memory in a theme park with the ones you love. That first night I saw that the Magic Kingdom was going to highlight such a classic and hilarious character, we also hopped on the new Dumbo ride. As we waited in line, the fireworks show Wishes began and by the time we boarded, it was the grand finale. Talk about an end cap to an already special evening …
We’ve just put out the first hour-long episode of Orlando Attractions Magazine: The Show and I’m excited for you to see it. If I can get really honest with you for a moment, there’s some skepticism that floats around in the world of theme park media. It’s easy for those of us based in Orlando to take our little mecca of entertainment for granted. I hear the grumpy rumblings of bored reporters at media events sometimes. But here at Orlando Attractions Magazine, we genuinely love what we do. I know you’ll see that when you watch the episode.
Until next time … Have Fun!
• Audrey is the Show Director for Orlando Attractions Magazine – The Show. She’s also a freelance writer and voice over artist. Her work has appeared in “Geek Monthly”, “Animation World”, “Haunted Attractions”, “Orlando Attractions Magazine” (print edition) and more. You can read more of Audrey’s writing at her blog, Born For Geekdom. She is currently pursuing her MA in creative writing in the midwest. She moved to Orlando last year, but would take up residence in the Haunted Mansion if she only could.