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When you first walk into a Disney park, one of the first things you see is The Castle. Feelings of excitement, hope, magic, possibility, and pure happiness sprout up, and some people start crying, others laughing, and others shouting for joy. All these feelings are not from The Castle itself, but rather, the memories we associate with it. Typically memories associated with childhood.
Remember back to your childhood, sitting down for a family movie night. Snuggled up with a blanket and some popcorn, the familiar notes of "When You Wish Upon A Star" sing out of the speakers. A smile sits on your face as you settle into the couch to watch your favourite story come magically to life.
Those feelings aren't limited to children. Walt Disney said that, "I do not make films primarily for children. I make them for the child in all of us, whether we be six or sixty."
He created Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first-ever feature-length animated film, and it captivated audiences globally. The art and technology advancements were a large part of it, yet, Snow White was able to show that hard work, being friendly and positive leads to a happily ever after in the end. Regardless of what era or age you are, that is a message that we can all take to heart.
Think about other Disney films...
The Lion King with "hakuna matata" and "...the past can hurt, but the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it," encourages us not to take ourselves too seriously, while still trying to grow as individuals.
Peter Pan: that it's okay not to want to grow up (and in reality, aren't we all just pretending to be adults, anyways?), while Moana demonstrates that you can be your own hero, princess or not.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame with the concept that there are many different kinds of love (including unrequited) that make up who we are, and that it is important to stand up for yourself and those who can't.
Even think about the clever jokes that you didn't understand as a kid, such as "someone call I-X-I-I!" from Hercules or Baymax's explanation of puberty.
The list goes on and on. These films inspire hope, optimism, imagination; they bring you to a simpler time, where good prevails and everything is as it should be. They allow us to be vulnerable, to rediscover who we truly are. They teach us guidelines about character, about choices, about having dreams. And there is nothing wrong with liking them.
I remember talking to a cast member at Walt Disney World, her nametag gleaming in the lights of the Emporium, inspirational ragtime music playing overhead. She absolutely adored Dumbo because of his resilience and bravery. Dumbo was ostracized, looked-down upon, and felt lesser because of his differences that he had no control over. Yet, he was able to succeed and discover invaluable skills that only he was capable of, pushing past his fears and achieving new heights (literally). This chance for society to see usefulness in differences, gave her the hope that her two mentally-handicapped sons will also achieve and be valuable in the eyes of society one day.
These characters give us something to relate to. Everyone has a favourite (or multiple) for a reason. There is nothing childish about having passions or emotions or dreams. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise, for these characteristics are what make us human.
It is okay to want to be a princess or a hero. It's okay to believe in a Happily Ever After. Disney movies are for everyone, not just kids.