The Nostalgia of Disney; it’s Not Rocket Science, just Regular Science! 

by | Sep 9, 2019 | Disney Parks and Resorts

Have you ever stopped to wonder what has caused the influx of childless millennials in the Walt Disney World theme parks? How about the teary-eyed parents as their little ones exclaim with zeal at a Belle or Baymax meet and greet? As Disney aficionados, we all feel it, but do we really know why we can’t control our emotions when we get that first glimpse of the castle from the monorail? If you have ever felt like a basket case upon seeing your favorite Disney monument for the first time in a long time (bearing in mind that Disney time is equivalent to dog years) you’re not alone! 

I didn’t grow up going to Disney World, and have very few memories of my one or two trips to Disneyland as a tiny tot. Having said that, the first time I saw Cinderella Castle, I was, quite literally, jumping up and down with tears streaming down my face like a contestant on The Price is Right. I was also twenty-nine years old. Whether it was misplaced grief from a childhood I never had, or overwhelming avidity, I wasn’t sure what exactly could elicit such emotion. And while I have reined in the physical reaction a bit, the overall feeling of having my mind taken hostage by a gremlin hasn’t changed much. If I had to describe the feeling every time I book a Disney vacation, am driving to, or arrive at Walt Disney World, I think it would be best described as…coming home.


It is no mistake that the first two Disney parks, Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World in Florida, were erected in two of the sunniest states in the country! Of course, you could put Cinderella Castle or The Haunted Mansion in the middle of a landfill and I would still be making my 9 AM Fastpass reservation to tour with 999 happy haunts. But the fact that the beautiful warmth from the sun kisses (oftentimes, scorches, between May and September)  your skin, most any time of the year in Central Florida makes the literal warm fuzzies come out to play. 

But don’t take my word for it; science says so! Recent studies conducted on nostalgia show that not only does warmth elicit more of the happy nostalgic memories, but experiencing the emotion itself could actually cause your internal thermometer to kick up a few notches, So going with that logic,  if Orlando is 105, it could easily feel like 115 on Main Street U.S.A.! While this increase from the crowds and sunlight bouncing off the pavement could be useful come the end of the year, I would be remiss noting that it most assuredly works against us over time during the busy, oh so hot, spring/summer season. But, having said that, plenty of folks are completely capable of walking by the castle, enjoying their Mickey premium bar or PSL, (what have you), taking sniffle-less selfies, all whilst enjoying the extra heat the Disney warm fuzzies bring. The audacity.

All the Feels…

I don’t mean to ramble on about the Castle, as it certainly isn’t the only piece of Disney memorabilia that gets us weepy. I knew a woman who literally signed a petition to stop the Earffel Tower from being removed at Hollywood Studios, and I can’t imagine the gut punch it was, initially, when the Tower of Terror was replaced with Guardians of the Galaxy-Mission Breakout! in Disneyland’s California Adventure. But at the end of the day, we accept these changes, often hesitantly, and form attachments to the contemporary. Because we trust the creator of our nostalgia (and debt) and know that even though we are saying ‘see ya real soon!’ to our tried and trues, we are rolling out the carpet to that hearts and flowers yearning for the next generation. There are future Dis-lovers who will never know the cheese-tastic awesomeness of The Great Movie Ride, but will tell their grandchildren about standing in line for four hours to ride Mickey and MInnie’s Runaway Railway. What this does is create a circle of nostalgia, where our own stories of older, now gone rides entice the newer generations to have their own stories simply because of how we talk about them. They want to create their own traditions, or may even look back at their own childhood memories at Disney, standing in line for the first run on Slinky Dog Dash. That alone is enough, in my opinion, to warrant change because this change actually fosters nostalgia. Because we can’t go back to the Great Movie Ride, the test of time will -hopefully- remind us of the incredible experiences we had. 

Having said that, if there ever was any serious chatter regarding the removal of Cinderella Castle, suffice it to say, I would become Rocket-the-Trash-Panda  rabid, pretty quickly.

You are a Perfectly Normal Disney Weirdo 🙂

While every Disney fanatic experiences this sentimentality in some way or another, it can definitely be different for the individual. You may spare the dramatics during a trip to the parks, but find yourself in the midst of a violent allergy attack while watching Wreck it Ralph when Ralph exclaims “I’m bad, and that’s OK!” (gets me every time!). You’re not bananas if you are a ‘wear your heart on your sleeve’  kind of devotee and you aren’t Cruella de Vil if you are a cry on the inside kind of guy or gal. The Disney nostalgia and obsession seizes us and we react accordingly. We are at it’s mercy. 

Walt was many things;  an inventor, creative genius and empath, as well as being a savvy entrepreneur. The latter two being where the nostalgia factor comes into play. There is nothing I wouldn’t give to be able to  have a cup o’ Joe with the original mouseketeer and proverbially pick his intellect and artistry. But fortunately for us, he has left pieces of his wisdom scattered across the globe to elicit all the feels, from joy, heartbreak, exhilaration and even sorrow, to something that encompasses all of these, and perhaps the most powerful of all the emotions-nostalgia. 


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