I went to see “Disney On Ice” with my sister over the weekend. The advantage of attending a show like that without bringing children along–besides the lack of pressure to buy overpriced souvenirs and being among the first people out of the parking lot when it’s over because you don’t have to worry about getting anybody into a carseat–is that it’s the perfect environment for people-watching and taking in the magical moments of total strangers.
We saw countless little girls dressed as Disney princesses, all sparkly from head to toe and brimming with excitement over, well, everything. Two sisters, about four and six years old, were leaning on the guardrail as they looked at the curtain and the ice, all lit up before showtime. Their dad was seated right behind them, taking a picture of them checking out the scene. When he said, “Turn around, girls,” they turned to face him and simultaneously smiled so he could capture their moment. I wondered what he would remember about their special day, years later while looking at that picture. Would he remember how they were getting along? Would he remember the little one’s oversized, dangly earrings that looked like strawberry-shaped gems? Or maybe he would just remember the special outing with his girls when they were little, and how time flies by so quickly that it’s a good thing he took pictures on that day, to help remember.
Then there was the little boy a few rows behind us who shouted his approval after every act was complete. Over the clapping, we heard, “Yaaaaaaaay! Yaaaaaaaay! Yaaaaaaaaay!” Occasionally he even shouted specific “yays” to the characters by name. He and his appreciation for the show were absolutely adorable.
During the “Brave” portion of the show, the skaters who played Merida and her mother, Queen Elinor, were standing on platforms at the corners of the ice rink while the other skaters in the cast did part of the number without them, and rather than just watching their castmates and waiting for their cue to step back onto the ice, they used the time to smile and wave back to the small children who were madly trying to get their attention. Their acknowledging the kids in the audience was something that I can imagine perhaps trumped the show experience itself for some little ones who would probably ride home in the car excitedly talking about how Merida and her mom waved at them specifically.
The ice show on Saturday reminded me of our family trip to Walt Disney World back in 1997. The boys, who were five and two at the time, thought all of the characters were pretty cool, but there was one that D wanted to see before vacation was over: Ariel. “The Little Mermaid” was one of his favorite movies at the time, and he was on the hunt for her the second we hit the Magic Kingdom.
As luck would have it, the “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” ride (that I actually rode in 1986, got motion sickness from, and still have not lived it down: long story) was replaced with “Ariel’s Grotto”, an area that was used for meet-and-greets with Ariel.
And so, we waited in line for a full thirty minutes of our day so D could meet his dream girl, er, mermaid. He was awestruck upon meeting her, but warmed up quickly as she asked him about his Goofy hat. He stood there chatting with her for longer than he probably should have given the size of the line, but she didn’t shoo him away.
(Please forgive these awful pictures. I snapped them with my cell phone and didn’t even take the page protectors out of my scrapbook first. You get the idea.)
There are lots of companies out there that are really good at providing magical moments but I have always considered Disney to be a leader in this area. That said, often all it takes to observe a magical moment in any situation is opening your eyes and ears for long enough. Memories are made every day, and sometimes all it takes to remember it for years is to stop and take a moment for that picture. It doesn’t have to be an actual picture with an actual camera, either; if you take the time and focus, your mental picture will be good enough. Trust me.