The magical power of Disney

I’d imagine nearly everyone understands how powerful a great film or series can be. That consuming, engrossed feeling that takes over when you’re drawn in by a story. Since lockdown, it feels like binge watching thee latest on-screen trend is one of life’s great pleasures. Documentaries are on constantly in our house, looking in detail at the evidence of a murder enquiry in the USA, the creation and distribution of pharmaceuticals, what it takes to sell a million dollar home, and even how to make a great butter scone.

It seems anything can distract you if it’s produced well.

For your mental wellbeing, a great distraction (as I keep saying) can be one of the best ways of managing stress. Movies and TV series are the ultimate and most accessible way to losing yourself in the moment, and leaving your troubles behind.

In the name of wellbeing, I’ve been looking closely and one of (if not THE) most successful distraction businesses of all time…

Animated about animation

There’s one business that’s been doing it for years and evolving perfectly as the time has gone by. A successful business whose fruits were enjoyed by my mother, her mother, my daughter and me. Four generations getting escapism from the same source.

Disney know what they are doing. They are the cornerstone of animation and amazingly, even the oldest of their cartoons is happily enjoyed by a kid today.

To give you a few facts…Disney was founded in 1923, making it nearly 100 years old. The first feature length animation was ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ – it was the first feature length animation in the WORLD and, in around 1986, it was the first Disney film I watched (and loved!). The first Walt Disney World Resort was opened in California in 1955. More than 650 million visitors have been there in the 67 years since it opened.

Disney isn’t just an animation business, it’s a way of life.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve put on one of their films at a time when I’ve needed comfort. The Little Mermaid was released in 1990. I was 9 years old and completely captivated by the film. I got the VHS for christmas the following year and must have forced my parents to watch it every day before I returned to school.

I imagine they couldn’t wait for me to go back.

That film, like so many of the other Disney classics, had the power to whisk me away to a fantasy land that was utterly real and hugely desirable. The world within the ocean created for TLM was bright, beautiful and full of unexpected surprises.

Then there’s the emotion Disney creates. Bambi, a film I’ve mentioned a few times on this blog, was my mothers favourite Disney production. Weirdly, she hated it in equal measure, and couldn’t bear to watch after the first viewing upset her as a child. The scene where Bambi loses her mother is probably one of the most memorable for us all. It’s also one of the most harrowing.

The songs in the movies are some of the catchiest tunes in memory. ‘The Bare Necessetities’, ‘Under the Sea’, ‘Circle of Life’ and of course, the modern classic ‘Let it Go’. I knew that song BEFORE I’d seen the film!

How do they do it? The lyrics, the rhythm, the animation in parrallel – it’s captivating, and somehow, you catch on to them every time.

I hope the people at Disney who write the themetunes (and sing the themetunes 😂) are getting a princely reward. They are geniuses.

Fast forward from The Little Mermaid a couple of decades and things have really changed for Disney. The world wants new technology to drive animation – drawings on acetate are no longer in fashion.

Enter Pixar – Disneys computerised animation branch, who sprang the business into the 21st century with the arrival of Toy Story. In my opinion this was a movie for adults just as much as children, with hidden humour and cheeky quips at every junction, as well as the classic Disney heartwarming theme and story embedded throughout.

Buzz Lightyear was the most difficult to source toy in 1996, with parents desperate to find one to ensure expectant children were satisfied by what Santa had tipped from his sack. Everyone wanted one. But even Disney Stores themselves ran out of stock within 20 minutes of opening, some reports claim. I was in one of those queues on a freezing Saturday morning. Like so many others, I failed on my mission. I’m still bitter I didn’t manage to get one.

Disney was back and bigger than ever.

The resurgence brought on by Pixar almost forced Disney full-circle, and the old animations we’d loved as children were once again desirable. Suddenly a family would enjoy Monsters Inc one Sunday, followed by Dumbo the next. Multiple generations from a family watching (and enjoying) multiple generations of Disney.

Disney and me

Disney arrived at a time in my life when home wasn’t particularly pleasant, like so many other kids of divorce. But I’d find a Disney film I hadn’t seen for a few days, let the VCR gulp it down, fast-forward through the adverts I’d already learned by heart, and relax to my bones as the Disney Castle appeared, signalling the start of an hour-long daydream.

The real magic of Disney (for me at least) is it’s ability to span those generations with ease, remain relevant and highly popular, and still interest everyone, whatever their usual cinematic preference.

I was releived the first time our daughter managed to hold her attention long enough to watch one of their animations in full. I chose Frozen because the other kids had been talking about it at school, and consequently she knew who ‘Princess Elsa’ was, with no context whatsoever.

When I put the film on, this time via Disney Plus, I found myself bouncing my attention between the film and my daughter repeatedly. Her face lit up when the first song started, and she knew the chorus words to ‘Do You Want to Build a Snowman?’ by the end. She was hooked. Finally. And my opportunity to start a different relationship with Disney, as a parent, began.

I’ve been lucky enough to visit Disneyland Paris in the past and the engrossing wonder you get with a film is multiplied a thousand times when you spend time there. It looks like a place made for kids, and it is, but an adult gets carried away by the excitement just as easy. I was 21 when I visited, and there wasn’t a moment I didn’t enjoy, nor a moment when I cared about the outside world and my adult-life concerns. I was in Disneyland. Nothing else mattered.

As a 40 year old woman I will never be ashamed to lay back and allow the escapism of Disney to take me on another journey out of the daily bullshit I try to ignore. It’s a distraction that works every time and even if the film is only an hour, it’s an hour I thought about nothing else but an elephant and his desire to fly.

I can’t believe there’s anyone out there that hasn’t tried it, but if you’re looking for a distraction I can’t recommend anything Disney highly enough. You’ll be taken on the journey of a lifetime without even leaving your sofa, and you’ll be desperate to take that same journey over and over again through the years.

Yes, it’s one of the best Creative Coping Strategies, thanks mostly to the songs that force your toes to tap and you vocal chords to visit places previously uncharted.

As they say in Aladdin, it’s a whole new world.

The Picture

Obviously I chose to draw The Little Mermaid.

I’ve drawn many Disney Princesses over the years, but Ariel and Flounder are 2 characters that probably have the biggest chunk of the Disney section of my heart. I had to try, but I’m a million miles from doing them justice.

Having a go was fun though, and it’s one I’ll probably try again another time.

Published by stephc2021

Hi! I'm Steph, an amateur writer and illustrator specialising in Mental Health and being a self-confessed Spoonie. My website is home to any successful fiction I create, with stories that have won so far covering difficult subjects such as baby loss and mental health in grief as well as some funny and heart-warming tales when I get the inspiration. Every drawing and picture on my website was created by me. I spend a lot of time coming up with illustrations to accompany all of my posts and pages. I try to create original content across all of my channels, whether I'm writing about my own fiction or just generally musing on mental health or my own issues. I want to be part of the change because I believe the understanding of MH in the UK is getting better, but has a very long way to go. By being honest about my own struggles and symptoms I think others will relate and hopefully it will encourage them to talk to someone and get the help and support they need. Long term my goal is to help children too, help them understand their own mental health and how to help with the mental health of those around them. I live in the UK with my partner, daughter and dog, I swear frequently and I adore a well made, traditional, gooey, chocolatey, delicious brownie.

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