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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Day after Tomorrowland: Magic in the Disney afternoon

    A sweet 7-year-old girl named Emily came to the Magic Kingdom with one goal in mind: to meet Tinker Bell. Her big brother Aaron, however, was not playing along. When I first met her, Emily was wiping away the last of her tears. Her mother told me that Aaron had just told his sister that Tinker Bell wasn’t real. This wasn’t the first time I’d heard a heartbreaking story like this. This time, though, I was determined to fix it.

    At the time, I was working as a PhotoPass photographer during a 7-month-long internship at Disney World, taking professional photos for guests in front of different icons and characters in the park.

    In PhotoPass, we have a special program called magic shots. In these photos we pose the guest in some silly way and then, as if by magic, a special Disney surprise shows up in the photo.
    One of my magic shots was Tinker Bell.

    “You know, Tink owes me a favor,” I told Emily. “She’s very busy bringing spring to the mainland, but I bet she could spare a second.”

    The little girl’s face lit up immediately and she yelled, “I wanna meet Tink!”

    I explained that Tink had been taking fast-flying lessons from Vidia, and she wanted to practice.
    “Emily,” I said, “can you make a landing pad with your hands?” She did and I told her to focus her eyes on her hands and wish hard.

    Snap!

    “But I didn’t see her!” Emily protested.

    “Just be patient,” I said. I walked the family over to the PhotoPass view station, pulled up the photo and watched as Emily’s jaw dropped.

    “It’s her! It’s her! Mommy, I saw Tinker Bell!” Emily turned around, leapt and wrapped her arms around me. Her mother leaned over and whispered “thank you” in my ear.

    This is why Walt Disney World is the most magical place on earth.

    If you think it’s possible to forget your experience in the Disney College Program, waking up three months later and finding pixie dust on your pillow will quickly change your mind — and bring memories like Emily and Tinker Bell rushing back.

    I was at Disney World for thousands of birthday celebrations, anniversaries, marriage proposals and family reunions. I was there the first time little Hayden met Mickey Mouse. I was there when 96-year-old Martha was responsive for the first time since her Alzheimer’s diagnosis five months earlier. I helped make a million memories over the course of seven months. While not all the guests may remember me, I will always remember them.

    Was everything as perfect as it is portrayed in the commercials? No. But despite the Code Vs (for vomit), excruciating heat and long — I repeat, long — lines for everything from ice cream stalls to restrooms, my time at Disney World was better than I could ever have imagined.

    Since leaving the program, everyone asks me the same thing: “Did doing DCP ruin the magic?” This is hard to answer. I remember reading a composition in senior English that described backstage Disney as a glitter-rimmed trash can.

    This metaphor rings true, and yet it’s also obscenely false. There were moments when I was ready to tear off my costume and name tag, knock over my tripod and hop on the next monorail out of there. But for every moment I spent pitying my poor unfortunate soul, there were a hundred more where the magic was almost overwhelming.

    I remember working with Cinderella one day when a little French girl arrived in full ball gown and slippers. The parents began to explain that the girl only spoke French and offered to translate. Cinderella politely said that every girl speaks princess. She then taught the little princess to waltz, curtsey and say “dreams come true” in both French and English.

    With all the beautiful moments like these, there was no such thing as a truly bad day. Despite what was happening on the outside, as soon as I walked through the train station entrance and saw the glittering spires, reality faded away.

    How do you walk away from an experience like that and forget?

    You just don’t.

    Jessie Webster is the assistant design chief. Follow her @jessiewebster15.

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