A Sorta Fairytale

Before this month, the last time I was at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World was when I was in college.

The movie Aladdin had just come out. The Magic Carpet ride based on the movie had not yet been built. There was no Toy Story. There was no Monsters Inc. No Lilo and Stitch. And no rides based on them.

It was interesting revisiting the Magic Kingdom as an adult, and having a different perspective. It made me more aware of the magic of what Walt Disney had created, and the ways in which that vision is preserved and the ways in which it is abandoned.

The original version of Walt Disney World was a shrine to the power of story, and to optimism.

Many of the rides were less about the ride experience than about a story experience. Peter Pan, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. Others weren’t even rides, like the Tom Sawyer Island and Swiss Family Robinson Tree House. They simply gave you the opportunity to experience for yourself the world of the story. Other rides, like the Carousel of Progress and It’s a Small World, really weren’t rides so much as testaments to Walt Disney’s overwhelming optimism. And then there was the stuff, like the Hall of Presidents, that was just purely educational.

In an era when so much children’s entertainment discourages the use of imagination, Disney’s Magic Kingdom actually featured attractions that encouraged it. (An idea that is echoed by the Epcot ride dedicated to the theme of imagination.) The original Magic Kingdom also presumed a certain degree of literacy. Sure, Swiss Family Robinson and 20,000 Leagues had both been adapted into Disney movies, but Disney didn’t make its Tom Sawyer movie until 1995. When the Island was created, Disney was assuming visitors would be familiar with the book.

Today, you go to Tomorrowland, and ride through the world of Toy Story shooting bad guys. No imagination, no narrative, no optimism. Much of the original Walt Disney DNA is still very obvious in the park, but you can also tell where it’s starting to slip away in favor of a more “contemporary” approach.

Walt Disney entertained, but he didn’t pander. He believed that people are good and imaginative and smart and literate and heading toward better things. Thank you, Walt, for being so eager to believe the best of us.

View My Worst-Ever Haircut and Mull It

From a Plinky prompt: Show a picture of your worst-ever haircut.

david hitt high school photo mullet

My high school senior yearbook portrait

It wasn’t intentional, I promise.

To be sure, I went through a series of bad hair styles in late high school and through college, and, to a lesser extent, thereafter. Somewhere, there are probably worse pictures of the style in this picture, but it was the worst one I had handy.

In my defense, for what little defense it provides, I didn’t realize I was rocking a mullet.

I blame Jeremy Wells. Jeremy, you see, was my high school newspaper editor my sophomore year, and he was, to my young mind, awesome. He excelled at everything I wanted to excel at and more. And while he was a good writer, his main strength as editor was his design and graphics ability, proving that you could become a school newspaper editor on the skills I had instead of the skills I didn’t.

I wanted to be Jeremy Wells.

And that imitation extended to hair. I wanted long hair like Jeremy’s. So I decided to start growing it out.

Now, I did not want a mullet. To be honest, at that point, I didn’t even know what a mullet was. In fact, it wasn’t until probably a decade after high school that I really realized that I’d had one.

What did I want? Awesome long hair. Like hippie or rock star hair, but clean cut and respectable. That’s totally better than a mullet. Look, I was in high school, whadda you want? Shut up.

What I got was a mullet. That I kept for way too long.

And the irony was this. I was telling this story to someone recently, how I didn’t know I had a mullet and that’s not what I was aiming for, I just wanted awesome long hair like Jeremy’s. I pulled out the yearbook to show his picture to explain what I’d actually wanted.

And in that picture, looking at it again for the first time in almost 20 years, it turns out Jeremy Wells was totally rocking a mullet.


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