Do you believe in magic?
by Jill Effron
When I was a little kid, every Sunday night I would watch, The Wonderful World of Disney, on TV. Michael Eisner and Mickey Mouse would introduce the movie or special and then I would sit there mesmerized, either by the program or by wishing I was somehow involved with it. I have always been enchanted by Disney – be it World or Land.
When my daughter was born I couldn’t wait to expose her to all of my favorite Disney movies. Thankfully, she fell in love with Ariel, Peter Pan, Tink and Belle just like I did and still am. For her 4th, 5th, and 6th birthday parties I had the respective characters (mentioned above) come to entertain my daughter and her friends. I created a buried treasure hunt that Ariel took them on. I re-created my version of Neverland and had Peter, Tink and Wendy take the kids on a magical trip through the park, stopping at the second star to the right, mermaid lagoon, and so on.
And this year we invited my daughter’s friends to “Be Our Guest” for her princess tea party in the park. The setting was so perfect, and Belle was there to teach them the Waltz and how to act like a proper princess at a tea party. It just felt magical, like nothing else in the world mattered.
My daughter counted down the months, days, minutes and seconds until Belle arrived at her party. She even practiced her curtsey for Belle’s arrival. Then this happened: A gaggle of girls approached my daughter, “You know, Belle isn’t real, right? You know it’s just a girl in a costume, right?” My daughter, confused and a bit crestfallen, turned to me and asked if this was true.
She’s on her last day of being 5. She was still a baby in my eyes. So I did what any mother would do in my position: I lied. “Sweetie, Belle is real. She is en route on her faithful horse to come join you for a tea party.” My daughter looked at me, then back at her friends, and then back at me. “Where is she parking her horse?” she asked. “Next to the cars, of course.” Duh. Her friends, clearly beyond their years or just jaded, moved on.
“Look, I invited the real Belle to your party to teach you the Waltz and how to have a tea party, okay?” She nodded. She wanted to believe. And with the price of Belle, she better believe! Needless to say, she and a handful of girls eagerly awaited Belle’s arrival and the minute she showed up, my daughter and her friends were transposed into Belle’s world. Success. Little kids, even for an hour, believed in the magic of Disney.
I know not every parent agrees with how I feel about Disney. I have read blogs, had discussions about the problem some parents have with their daughters watching these films. “I don’t like that Ariel disobeys her father,” or “Princesses teach the wrong message, I don’t want my daughter to think she’s a princess,” or “I don’t like their themes.”
First of all, yes, Ariel disobeys her father, but I dare you to find any kid who hasn’t at one point disobeyed an authority figure. Am I concerned my daughter will run off with her friend to be with a guy in another world? Not really, because she’s only 6. Am I concerned she might do it later on? Well, sure, but I’m not going to blame Disney for it; I’ll blame teenage hormones. Am I concerned my daughter is going to mistake our home for a castle and think she’s a princess? Not really, because there’s discipline in the house. Do I believe she’s going to sit by the window waiting for her prince (or princess) to come? Sure, but find me a girl who hasn’t done that.
Hollywood has capitalized on that notion — it’s called the romantic comedy. Am I concerned about any of the themes in the movies that I’ve exposed her to? Nope.
At age 6, even though she’s bright, my daughter doesn’t walk away from these movies discussing plot points and themes. She comes away happy and entertained. And isn’t that the point of a movie — to entertain?
In the end, there’s nothing wrong with kids believing that an actual princess is coming to a birthday party. I worry about the kids who don’t believe. Because childhood is the one time in a person’s life when believing the magic is real is truly acceptable. As an adult I still believe in the magic of Disney and in the magic of movies. In fact, I would dare to guess that most writers believe in magic. How else would they be able to create such wonderful stories for you to escape into?Tags: Ariel, Belle, Disney movies, Disney princess, Disney themed birthday parties, Disneyland, Entertainment industry, Hollywood, Impact and influence of film on society, Jill Effron, Magic of Disney, Magic of movies, Mother-daughter relationship, Parenthood, Peter Pan, The Wonderful World of Disney