When you wish upon a star: Te Aitanga a Pōkai Whenua 7

One of my happiest memories is sitting in our lounge room at 110 Tay St, Invercargill on Sunday evenings. Mum would get us saveloys in white bread with tomato sauce, and we’d sit on our orange and brown lounge suite and watch Disney. I was enraptured by the Disney castle and I loved Donald Duck. I would be briefly disappointed when it wasn’t cartoons but was something like “That Darn Cat.” I was seven.

I dreamed of going to Disneyland. As I got older, as priorities changed and as I got more cynical, I thought I never would. Yet this week, I went to Disneyland with my eldest daughter, Miss 11.

Part of me sincerely wanted to come away with a prepackagd sermon on the fading facade of the evils of captilism. Perhaps even a short piece on Baukin’s concept of carnival. I wanted to be untouched by Walt Disney’s claim to have built the happiest place on earth. Not because I am ass (I may be), but because I am an adult and I know that the resources, the money, the people power that goes into a hedonistic exercise like Disneyland is part of the reason that our climate is changing, children are starving, war is raging and lands are burning. Our Minority World largesse disgusts me, and I didn’t want Walt to make me a fool.

When I went through the gates, everywhere I looked were the symbols of my childhood. I knew this place intimately: Tomorrowland with Space Mountain; Frontierland with the Mark Twain steampaddler and the Pirates of the Carribean; Adventureland with Tarzan; It’s a Small World. I’d forgotten, but I know now that if you had asked me to describe what I would see in these places, I could have done it in quite accurate detail. Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Pluto and others are everywhere. I closed my eyes and listened to the ever present music, and I was seven again. The songs are imprinted in my memories.

Disneyland is held together by a perfectly oiled machine of staff. There is no detail I can remember being left out. Every staff member, from the poor bugger cleaning up vomit to the chaperone for Mickey has a smile and word for you. They are persistently happy. I once read a blog by a person who worked there, and he said they are all true believers. I think he was telling the truth. The one’s in character can do it all; they can dance, they have the mannerisms, they can sign the signature. They transcend the mask.

Then there was the gift of being there with my daughter. My wife and I have worked hard to protect our children’s innocence. We have stood guard so they can have a childhood, not be ruined too young by over-sexualised and violent media. To see Miss 11’s wonder at Disneyland made it all worth while. It is a special moment as a father to walk hand in hand with your daughter down Main St, and everywhere there are characters waving at her, people smiling at her, and she is safe and happy and loved. I don’t need to ask to know this will be one of her memories of when I was a good father and we did a special thing together.

The fireworks start at 9.25pm. Miss 11 and I got a place on the rope in front of the Disney castle. A huge crowd gathered as they do every night, the lights dimmed, and the fireworks started. Tinkerbell and Dumbo flew on high wire and I have never seen anything like it. I stood there, a grown man with my daughter and I cried because I was so happy. I was overwhelmed by beauty, by wonder and by hope.

For this one day of my life, I was transported back to my best times as a child, and I believed again for a moment in time that when you wish upon a star, every dream comes true. I believe I may just have visited the happiest place on earth.

Disney castle, from Main St, Disneyland
Disney castle, from Main St, Disneyland