Not too long ago I was given the wonderful opportunity to guest blog at a Disney fan site: The Disney Driven Life. I was grateful (if not daunted) to have the impetus to finally put into words the way Disney has shaped my life and my career in art. Since crafting the post took a fair amount of sole-searching and some cathartic reflection, I’ll just let it reprise it’s purpose and speak for itself…
Salutations! My name is Becca “becsketch” Klein, and I have an obsession with Disney and shoes.
Disney obsession? Well, sure – You, me, and the rolling generational masses of people that feel their souls’ squee at the opening strains of “When You Wish Upon A Star”- but shoes? Let’s start with Disney (cause, Disney.), but stick with me, I’ll get back to the shoes (Part Two) later.
“Disney” for me has become synonymous with wonder, inspiration, and that warm snuggly chest dweller, Nostalgia. It’s been the (appropriately sparkly) thread that runs through my treasured experiences, with my favorite people, and across the years. If credit can be given for my Disney obsession though, it belongs to my mom.
When I was little, I was thoroughly convinced my mom was Mary Poppins. She was the spit spot-ing image with short dark hair and a cheery disposition. She whistled like a song bird, sang to us every night, and had rather ingenious ways of finding an element of fun in any job that had to be done. She imparted her love of books, screwball comedies, classical music and art to me- but best of all she welcomed me to the Disney side.
She introduced me to the The Ugly Dachshund, The Gnomemobile, Babes in Toyland and Blackbeard’s Ghost; the songs of Ludwig Von Drake; and her memories of watching “Uncle Walt” on The Wonderful World of
Color (…Black & White, even Disney couldn’t update individual household television limitations). A yellowing collage of Disney characters she and her siblings cut out representing each member of their family sits in a place of honor above the Disney family tree we created a generation later in similar fashion. Our TV cabinet was chock full of the white plastic-cased goodness that was the pantheon of Disney Home Video and I inhaled it all, captivated.
I watched (and watched, and watched and re-watched) a countless number of the existing Disney animated line-up sprawled out on the floor of our family room, but The Little Mermaid was my very first movie theater experience. I remember the nervous anticipation of the dark, popcorn-smelling space, and the bounce of our folding seats. My heart caught when the familiar star leapt over the materializing “Walt Disney Pictures” logo- promising magic.
Seeing The Little Mermaid unfold before me on the big screen established a new breed of kinship to Disney. Instead of catching up to the awesomeness of their past masterpieces, or living vicariously through my mom’s Disney memories, here I was experiencing first hand – and in real time – Disney magic being made. I was enchanted by Ariel, wary of Ursula, transported under the sea, and at the ripe old age of four- I became irrevocably reverent to all things Disney.
For the next three years, my mom cultivated a magical amount of anticipation leading up to our first family trip to Walt Disney World. We had planned and readied ourselves from the book guides and fanny packs, to the These-Make-Us-Tall-Enough-To-Ride sneakers and the endurance-building post school walks. Passing through those gates to a tangible Disney I could touch, smell, and absorb at age seven opened another cascade of Firsts. It was my first plane ride; my first Mickey hug; the first time I stood before the Ruby Slippers, and the first time I realized creating art could be a “job”.
I was a voracious doodler as a child and I learned to draw copying the Disney VHS covers. As I pressed my little Florida tanned nose to the glass at the Magic of Disney Animation tour I had an epiphany: Each Disney animated movie I loved was made up of hundreds of thousands of “doodles” and here before me, were the artists and animators working on that feat.
Not only did Disney create magic and memories– they employed and cultivated Doodlers! Mind duly blown, in addition to wanting to grow up to be a mermaid, I knew I wanted to work for Disney. My inner seven-year-old understandably geeked the heck out decades later when I had the opportunity to illustrate my favorite princess for Disney/ABC’s season three Once Upon A Time special feature, “A Tale of Ariel”.
Going back to Disney World became our family aspirational adventure – Hoarding all of our spare cash and loose change into our Family Fun jar let us return every four years to Disney World to experience and relive the envelopment of Disney in person. At 15 we had my favorite trip to Disney in 2000, to celebrate Gram and Papa’s 50th wedding anniversary.
Dressed in coordinating handmade tie-die t-shirts we were a seven-ladies-plus-Papa cloud of elation drifting through the Happiest Place on earth. Papa rang the triangle with gusto at the Diamond Horseshoe Jamboree, and Gram took stock, regrouping each family member (one, two, three, four…five…six…seveneight –ok now we can go) after each wonder wander led us out of sight.
Typical Papa Charisma or supercalifragimagic, it’s still unclear, but Papa sure picked the right guy to chat with while he waited for his gaggle of girls filtering through Magic Kingdom. By the time all of us had reassembled, the cast member (who was serendipitously the Parade Coordinator) had become twitterpated by the story of their 50 years of marriage, and we were all offered the epic opportunity be Grand Marshalls of the Magic Kingdom parade. All eight of us queued in awe-ful anticipation with the floats, characters and cast members backstage and then piled into the lead car – specially personalized Mickey hats donned. At the end of the parade route when our cheeks were blazing with Florida heat and ecstatic exhaustion from smiling, we were greeted by the Main Street Barbershop Quartet. Still flush from the rush of fervent waving and drunk on Disney magic another swell spread through me as the harmonies of love songs of bygone years wrapped around Papa and Gram.
Disney had so expertly captured and heightened so many feelings of exhilaration and excitement from the moment we walked through the gates till the last brake of the parade car, but in that moment – seeing Papa and Gram arm-in-arm in a supremely sweet moment, the culmination of a half century of a life lived together – Disney transformed into something grander and more special than any animated fairy tale or expertly immersive ride. Disney became the palpability of love, family, hope and belonging and it continues to be the symbol of those gooey feelings for me.
On to Part Shoe (Two)!