Of all the photos I took during our recent holiday to Disney World in Orlando, this one best sums up the experience for me. It comes down to three Cs: Characters, Colour and Commercialisation.
For 12 days, all five of us were completely wrapped up in the magic of Disney. As an adult, you want to pretend you’re above all this silliness and artificial cheerfulness. But there is something about Disney World that brings out the inner child in grown-ups. (Well, it does for me anyway.)
For some it’s about meeting Disney’s cornucopia of characters, from Mickey and Snow White to Mr Incredible and Elsa. For others it’s about the vivid colour and spectacle, from the rainbow palette of Main Street USA to the spectacular night-time shows.
In this respect, Disney World reminds me of Las Vegas. If you’re going to be gaudy and garish, go big or go home. But because it’s so over-the-top, it just works.
Of course, Disney is rampantly commercial too. No matter where you are, you are always within sight of a gift shop or concession stand. Disney is a well-oiled marketing machine, adept at parting visitors from their cash. Photo opps, souvenirs, dining experiences, balloons – the combination of Disney branding and your children’s wide-eyed wonder will find a way to open even the most tightly closed of wallets. It just is what it is.
I almost added a fourth and fifth C – Cheesy and Cynical – but that would be unfair. Yes, there’s an overwhelming sense of sensory overload and artificiality everywhere you look at Disney World. Yes, everything is eye-wateringly expensive. And yes, there is something inherently cheesy about a multi-billion dollar brand that was built on the back of a smiling, talking mouse with giant ears and a bunch of princesses seeking their one true love. But Disney pulls it off with such style and conviction that it is irresistible to both kids and grown-ups alike.
In all seriousness, though, we returned home with a plane-load of happy, priceless memories. And at least we got out of the Magic Kingdom without having to buy enough balloons to enable our house to fly like the one in Up. It was a small victory but you take them where you can find them.