As a young boy growing up in 1970’s France, Olivier S., NDD 263, had trouble understanding the power & attraction of Walt Disney World. It’s the story of how a young boy that lived overseas found his passion before the internet. What makes you an NDP? Have a story to share? Have your own Disney Fan Site or Podcast you want to share with the community? Send it to ndm130 AT thedisneydrivenlife DOT com. We just might feature your story here on Sharing Saturdays.
I am going to be 48 next September and as you can guess, I have a passion for the Disney Universe, with a focus on theme parks and especially Walt Disney World. The good thing is that I find that I am more and more telling it to people with pride!
Most of the time I start with “I have a dark side” (Star Wars pun that makes people wondering what awful sin I am going to confess) and then state: “I am a Disney fan”. Always funny to see the faces and body language I get with this…
Today, I’m fully comfortable with my passion, and The Disney Driven Life is no stranger with this happy feeling.
Go back almost 40 years. The mid-seventies. I was 10 and because my parents had a business contact in Florida, I was ready for my first trip outside France. Crossing the Atlantic ocean by plane to go to the USA sounded like a daring exploration mission. I knew that we were going to visit the Kennedy Space Center. Interested by astronomy and space, I was waiting for it. However, going to Magic Kingdom (the only park at WDW at that time) puzzled me. I couldn’t get why we should go there as I was seeing this as just a collection of merry-go-rounds with Mickey. Remember, in the mid-seventies there wasn’t any Disneyland Paris and the theme park concept that was developed with the original Disneyland or with WDW wasn’t very well known in France.
We started at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex and, of course and as I had expected, I was amazed by what I saw about the Apollo program (which back then was immediate history). The space shuttle was the next big thing to come: I left the KSC with the idea that I would surely go to space aboard this futuristic space plane.
The day after was my first visit to Magic Kingdom. At the Transportation and Ticket Center, the monorail wiped out my misconceptions about what to expect. A monorail? For me it was science-fiction! On top of it, one of the first attractions I rode was Mission To Mars (Stitch is there today). That was it: tomorrow everybody will go to space with the shuttle and, later, vacations will be on Mars. Being hooked by this futuristic side of Disney was rather logical given my personal interests. However, I immediately loved it all, be it Pirates Of The Caribbean, Jungle Cruise, It’s a Small World, 20,000 Leagues, Peter Pan and so on. When I am walking down Main Street or EPCOT, I feel like being home (I understood the reason of such a feeling by reading years later about the concept of “architecture of reassurance” envisioned by Disney Legend John Hench).
Luckily, my parents did continue their business, which meant going to Orlando (sometimes) twice a year. I remember seeing the construction of Spaceship Earth rising above the trees on one of the golf courses at WDW. When I first visited it, EPCOT became my favorite theme park. The year after EPCOT opened I met my future wife, Marie Ange (yes, I was only 17). In 1984 we took our first trip to WDW with my parents and she fell in love with the “vacation kingdom of the world”. Sharing such a passion with someone you love is simply fantastic.
Below you can see the Super 8 movie I made during that trip (some views are from the winter season, others in summer, you can see that by watching closely how people are dressed).
I was already reading books about the way Imagineers work, but getting such books was only possible during trips to WDW, as buying these was almost an impossible task in France (there was no Internet then).
In 1996 we experienced a 10 year gap : no WDW until 2006! Of course, there was Disneyland Paris since 1992, but although this park has huge qualities, it can’t match the emotional bond created with WDW. And it lacks EPCOT!
During this gap, I became a journalist specializing in space (blame it on the KSC visit and the Mission To Mars attraction). Thanks to the internet, I was able to get more “live” information and to buy books about Disney history, its movies and theme parks.
2006 was a turning point. We were invited by an astronaut friend to attend his launch in December (STS-116 space shuttle mission). And so we went with our 2 kids (5 and 7 then). And our kids just fell in love with WDW, even though they had already experienced Disneyland Paris (which by the way they jokingly call the “small one”). We came back in 2009 for another space shuttle launch, STS-127. Below is a video of the launch I filmed.
Then we came back in 2012 and 2013. Needless to say, our kids are very impatient to go back (well, that’s an excuse: my wife and I hope to be able to go there even if the trip is very expensive from France). The video below is a short clip about our magical 2013 stay.
Since 2006, I became more and more confident to be outspoken about my passion for Disney (from the beginning my wife was more “courageous” than me). During a trip, I discovered Orlando Attractions Magazine, later became a D23 subscriber and started to follow some Disney blogs. Being an avid watcher of the Orlando Attraction Magazine – The Show on YouTube, I found The Disney Driven Life by following JeniLynn Knopp on Twitter (NDM#1) who was presenting these weekly online videos with Banks Lee at the time. By reading The Disney Driven Life and other blogs, I discovered that I wasn’t the only one wishing to go to a Disney park at least every year. A lot were even way more “die hard fans” than I was. So, I had proof I wasn’t the only one fascinated by the huge artistic and technical work needed to construct attractions and immersive environments. Although Twitter and the internet are a great way to get Disney information, I wanted to share my passion. I sent an e-mail to Maria H. (NDM#130) and when she replied that she was interested in some articles I could write, I was, needless to say, very happy! When you have a passion, sharing it is a logical step.