Helping a Family Member Capture the Magic of Disney

How we did it and how you can too…

Disney Wall Clock

Recently, I was at the dentist getting a filling in my tooth, not my favorite activity. But while I was laying there with my mouth wide open and unable to speak, I listened to my dental assistant describe how she and her husband were heading to Disneyland the next day.  She was sad that her husband felt it would be drudgery to go to Disneyland, and only agreed to go if they could also attend an Angels game. They’re newlyweds, and she has fond memories of Disneyland trips with her family, but his family didn’t vacation together, and he had never been to a Disney theme park, so he didn’t see the value in it. “Its stupid, its for kids” he complained. Oh contrare, my friend, Disneyland was created for adults and kids, that’s the whole point. And what’s more, most Disney offerings are for families, not just for children.

Does this husband’s complaint sound familiar?  I’m sure it does. Those of us who are converted to the magic of Disney have this conversation a lot. But the reason we’re converted is that we’ve seen how a Disneyland trip, done right, can bring a family together, forge great bonds, and create happy memories.  The question is, how do you help a family member catch the vision, and find their Disney passion? In the case of this young lady, how do you turn a hunting, sports fanatic, man’s man into a Disney connoisseur?

Funny you should ask, because I have two sons-in-law who married into our dis-nerd family.  Wonderful young men, who have blessed our family, but who were not Disney guys at the start. How did we convert them?  Here are a few things we did:

We shared our family culture

Our sons-in-law both come from close families, so they understand the importance and the benefits of close family ties. But we made sure to help them understand that we are also a family that values close ties, and that those don’t happen by accident, a family has to build and maintain that culture. The most important way we do that is thru sharing our faith. Another important way we do that is by having a shared passion for all things Disney.

Our family meets the Goof family

We shared our Disney culture

When we got together, we shared stories of our antics and exploits at Disneyland, every funny, weird, and magical moment. We shared pictures of our many trips, showing us with our arms around each other, and ear to ear smiles.  We talked about the Disney theme parks, especially Disneyland as our “home park.” We helped them understand that Walt’s motivation for building Disneyland was to create a place where families could have magical experiences together, and that’s why it was part of our culture.

Family calendar with lots of Disney smiles

We introduced them to Walt Disney

Even adults need inspiring role models, and Uncle Walt is one of those for our family. So, we shared inspiring details about Walt himself – his vision, his passion, his drive, his willingness to sacrifice and work hard to accomplish his dreams, his ability to build teams, his knack for seeing talent in others, and other great attributes that we try to develop in ourselves and instill in our children.  Don’t get me wrong, by all accounts Walt wasn’t perfect, but isn’t that even more inspiring to know that an imperfect human being can still do great things, even when starting out with only $40 and a dream? We think so 🙂

Walt and Roy in the Marceline News June 29, 1956

We watched the movies and read the books

We watched the movies, both old and new, and talked about the genius, passion, inspiration, talent, and innovation behind each one. We talked about our favorite movies, and characters, and plots, and music. And since guys tend to like the tech, we made sure to talk about the technological advances developed by Disney to allow him to create his movies and his parks. Disney was a master creator and was passionate about the advances the future would bring, and he made many of those a reality.

Some of our favorite Disney books

We introduced them to the wide world of Disney

There is much more to Disney than cartoons, and more to Disneyland than thrill rides. So we introduced them to the wider world of Disney by reading biographies, studying the fascinating history, joining online forums, collecting Disney ephemera, etc. We also introduced them to some of the things we do to enhance our time at the parks, like finding hidden Mickeys, pin trading, and discovering little known activities that most people miss.

Can you spot the hidden Mickey?

We kept the chatter going

We shared bits of interesting trivia in our family texting. We had little contests among ourselves. We texted each other pictures, and memories. We shared our passion on social media, and eventually we started this blog.

Family gathering

We created anticipation for our trips

We longingly planned for our next Disney Vaca by researching hotels, food, special activities, park updates, special deals, and tips and tricks to lower the costs (like most of you, we’re not rich) and infuse each trip with more magic. To discover some of the things we’ve learned, check out our posts about Disney family-friendly hotels or things to do at the park other than thrill rides, or our favorite Disneyland treats.

We made each trip special

Walt always tried to “plus” his movies with more and more gags, always searching for the absolute best material. We tried to do that for each trip, to make each one special. And we included everyone in the planning, so we got maximum buy-in. We hunted for Disney trading pins together online (authentic ones, watch out for knock-offs). We searched for the best family Disney T-shirts. We made family photo calendars from our previous Disney trips. And more.

Let's make sure to catch the new fireworks show this time!

And… We took them to Disneyland

Anticipation and buy-in are nothing without a great Disneyland experience to close the deal. So, of course, the greatest thing we did was take them with us to Disneyland.  Once they partook of a Disney family vacation, and saw how to do Disney the right way, they were hooked. We showed them how to ride the rides, avoid the crowds, have fun in line by playing Disney trivia games, find the best food, watch the parades and shows, appreciate the amazing attention to detail, how to suspend disbelief and become part of the story, how to rest and hydrate to extend the fun, how to tap into unique experiences like getting the “first pickle of the day” button, how to do pin trading, take crazy pose-pics, and “plus” the fun.

There is something for everyone

The message is that the world of Disney is so broad, there is something for each person to love. They just have to be exposed to enough of it so they can discover what that is for themselves. My wonderful sons-in-law are strong men, outdoorsmen, adventurers, and they found their passion for Disney.  For my son-in-law Lane, an athlete and state trooper, it was Tinker bell (yes, the amazing, beautiful, and plucky Disney caracter), trading pins, and making unique Disney golf shirts. He makes them for $5 when they cost $80 at the park. For my son-in-law Nate, an athlete and paramedic, it was making amazing memories with his wife and baby, and enjoying experiences that he didn’t have access to as a youngster.

Mom and Pops enjoying an early morning at Disneyland

Eventually my sons-in-law couldn’t resist our Disney enthusiasm and fell hard into Disney nerd-dom with us. They are now proud of their membership in our family Disney club, and have become so adept at Doin’ Disney Right that they are teaching us a few new tricks. And hopefully this post will help to inspire you in your quest to share your love of Disney with that special someone in your life.



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