An editor’s defense of Disney

Pictured above: the epitome of Signal Editor-in-Chief Caroline Russomanno’s happiness. (Photo courtesy of Amato Russomanno)

There are many recognizable things in The Signal’s basement lair. There are the pictures on the walls of people who are lost in the annals of Signal history (translation — we have no clue who they are), there’s messages from past editors telling us to get out while we still can and there’s more newspapers strewn about than you could shake a stick at. Then there’s the people and their quirks: Jeff and his dancing, Emily and her lion, Jamie and her word jumbles, Katie and her hats and Matt and his music. And then there’s me. Carrie and her Disney.

Not that I hate the brand of being the token Disney fan. I love Disney, and I’m proud of that. But too often, people who love Disney become a punch line. Why? People who love sports intensely are passionate. People who are obsessed with their hobby (painting, writing, sculpting) are committed. So why do I always get such weird looks when I start to wax poetic about Disney?

And then it hit me: Most young adults my age can’t see Disney the way I can. They reach a certain age and the magic is gone. Most can’t keep on loving the movies, parks and music as much as I do. Is it because of societal norms? Maybe. Or it could just be that they’ve “grown up” and don’t care anymore. Some like certain aspects (like the movies or music), but can’t embrace the entire package. Even I don’t like everything Disney does (the Disney Channel has really gone downhill in the last few years), but it’s close. But any company that has a character as fun-loving and loyal as Mickey Mouse can’t be bad.

Let me tell you why.

First, Disney movies. Many people like Disney movies when they’re little, but there’s so much more to enjoy when you’re older and watching these movies. You can appreciate the art more in the animated features, the sarcasm (I never would have understood the point of “Enchanted” and Disney poking fun at themselves as a child) and the storyline. There are the movies of our childhood, like “The Lion King,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Hercules” and my all-time favorite, “Aladdin.” There are the Walt Disney classics like “Cinderella” and “Sleeping Beauty.”

But the new movies are excellent, as well. I don’t care what critics and movie-goers said about “The Princess and the Frog” — it was a great film with awesome music, fun characters and the strongest female role model Disney has ever produced. “Tangled” was equally awe-inspiring. First of all, it was hysterical. The music was enjoyable (though not up to the standards of “Aladdin” and “Beauty and the Beast”) and the plot was one of the best Disney has created in a while. Don’t be afraid to see these movies just because they have the social stigma of being Disney.

Disney has recently announced that they will be creating no more musicals or “fairytale” films. Many lauded this. I died a little inside. Disney is never better or more magical than when there’s a song in the characters’ hearts and “once upon a time,” no matter the year on the calendar. I can only hope this is remedied soon.

Music ties in with the movies. Disney, admittedly, has had some of the best musical minds collaborate on their songs (the Sherman brothers, Elton John, Alan Menken, Randy Newman), but that’s because these people wanted to produce music for one of the most influential companies in the world. Who doesn’t love classics like “When You Wish Upon a Star,” “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” “Circle of Life,” “Colors of the Wind,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Zero to Hero” and my personal favorite, “A Whole New World”?

It all comes together at the Disney theme parks. I will admit I’ve only been to Walt Disney World (but I’ve been about eight times and am going my ninth right after I graduate), but it is one of my life goals to visit every Disney park.

This is perhaps the element least appreciated by our generation. It’s all a marketing ploy. They just want to make money. It’s only perfect in every way because they want your money. Well, they are a company and thus need to make money. But no company provides the experience Disney does.

It is truly a one-of-a-kind trip, and if everything isn’t perfect, let a Cast Member know, and it will be before long. The people who work for Disney are only human, so there are occasional slip-ups (like the employee who yelled at me for trying to get in line with my parents during the holidays), but most Disney Cast Members are genuinely nice, friendly people who really enhance the experience. The rides are the best in the world, with the best themes in the world. It’s a totally immersive experience, and it’s so easy to forget real-life worries and problems while there. My heart swells the moment I pass under the “Welcome to Walt Disney World, the most magical place on Earth” sign and hear “Welcome Home” at our favorite resort, Wilderness Lodge, and it breaks the moment we have to check out.

If you don’t believe me that Disney is truly one of the best companies in the world, here’s my favorite Disney memory.

My favorite character is Hades (the villain from “Hercules”). When I was 10, all I wanted was any souvenir with Hades on it. After searching every store all over the “World,” I finally found one statue of the god of the underworld, but it was chipped! The employees of the store, who’d been helping me look for a good hour for Hades, assured me they would send a undamaged statue to our room.

When we returned to our room the next day, the statue was there and he was unharmed. But there was something among our bags we were pretty sure we hadn’t purchased. We opened the box and inside was an expensive Mickey frame with a certificate inside that read, “This moment was certifiably magical: Caroline for Searching for Hades.” All the Cast Members from the store and even Hades himself had signed the sticker-covered certificate. The frame was mysteriously absent from our bill, as well.

Another marketing ploy? Perhaps. But it filled a 10-year-old’s heart full to bursting and still brings tears to my eyes now at the memory of how it made me feel. And isn’t that all that really matters in the end?

Caroline Russomanno can be reached at russoma4@tcnj.edu