It was late. I had Disney questions. I needed Disney answers, and I needed them now. The topic was very specific. I required details that only a seasoned Disney fan would know. The nature of the inquiries and the length of the expected responses necessitated a conversation–a live one. There was no way around it. I had to have the ebb-and-flow and efficiency that a real time dialogue provided, but I didn’t know who I could turn to with the specified expertise at such a late hour. That was when I was directed towards her–the one who held all the answers to my questions and did not mind the hour in which they were asked. Meet Heather Nichols (NDM#272).
Heather’s passion for Disney was nurtured at a very young age. Growing up in southern California, she was born into the culture that Walt Disney, himself, helped shape. Her family began to notice the impact of it in her life around the age of four or five years old. It was around that time that she consistently answered, “Disneyland!” when asked where she wanted to go. Not much has changed since then. Married for 21 years, her husband doesn’t ask where she wants to vacation anymore because he already knows the answer. He simply asks her when their next trip to Disney is scheduled so that he can plan accordingly.
Heather is a prime example of someone living The Disney Driven Life. Her car is stocked with Disney tunes to keep her spirits up during drives. Her ringtone is “Zip-a-dee-doo-dah” as a reminder that Mr. Bluebird is on her shoulder. Her co-workers are given a copy of Lee Cockerell’s Creating Magic. when she is assigned as their mentor. Her Twitter and Facebook accounts are exclusively reserved for Disney friendships. And her wardrobe is composed of only two categories: “professional outfits” which accommodate her job and “park outfits” which accommodate her frequent visits to Disney Parks.
Passion and admiration are the two tones in which she speaks of Walt Disney, the man. “He was a husband, a father, a marketer, a dreamer, a scientist, and a visionary,” she relays with a sense of awe. “He loved his daughters with great fervor, and he used that to fuel his vision. Out of it he created this incredible place where families could come together and connect. I often wonder how much further our society would be not only in the areas of technology and science, but as a whole if we hadn’t lost him so early in his life.”
Heather tries to carry Walt’s vision to others when given the opportunity. Her primary avenue for that is currently as a co-host of the podcast, Mr. Frank’s Wild Ride. Alongside her fellow NDPs, Frank R (NDD#24) and Margaret F.(NDM#151), Heather helps deliver Disney news, tips, guest interviews, and entertainment to the Disney community regularly through the sound waves of iTunes.
Her particular area of expertise is the oft-overshadowed West coast Disney Parks. Heather explains, “I love answering questions for people coming to Disneyland. It is a completely different experience than Walt Disney World. You can’t always expect the same policies. We do things differently here sometimes, and many people aren’t ready for the difference.” She brings this knowledge to the mic with every episode as she acts as the West coast correspondent, helping the “unfamiliar” feel a little more comfortable.
Heather’s twitter handle is Disneybigsis, and it is a very fitting title due to her nature. After only a few minutes with her it is apparent that she easily becomes the personal cheerleader of other expressive Disney fans, encouraging them to indulge their passion. Rather than feel threatened by their efforts, projects, and successes in showcasing the brand we all love, she readily acknowledges that everyone has talent. “There is no need to be a hater. This isn’t a competition,” she expresses, “Let’s all bring it to the table and help each other achieve our dreams.”
Heather is happy to do this because Disney has played a part in making some of her own dreams come true. From serving as a place that emotionally connects her to friends that have passed away to coordinating her husband when he pulled off a 20th anniversary “re-proposal” complete with diamond ring, Heather’s unforgettable Disney moments are abundant. There is one memory, however, that stands out because of its serendipity.
During the Year of a Million Dreams promotion, the Nichols family traveled to the East coast for a rare trip to the Walt Disney World Resort. Always the early birds, the Nichols arrived at the Magic Kingdom before rope drop, sporting matching family trip t-shirts that they had designed the previous night at Disney’s Design-A-Tee. The Nichols may never know whether it was their coordinating attire that caught the eyes of observant Cast Members, but they were pleasantly surprised when asked to be the “family of the day” and help open the parks.
Escorted behind the rope before the park officially awoke, Heather and her family were led on a special tour of Main Street USA and treated to a photo opportunity in front of the sleepy castle. The quiet of the empty street was something that Heather hadn’t anticipated. It was a hallowed atmosphere where stillness lent itself to meditation on the legendary people of the past and present that worked together to create a site of dreams, and she felt like she had been given a great gift. To her surprise, though, this was only the beginning of what Disney had in store for their “family of the day.”
The Nichols were put in a special vehicle and taken to the backside of the Magic Kingdom in Toontown Fair. There they were dropped off, once again, on an empty street, unsure of the reason for this destination. But before they could consider the matter too much, a whole host of Disney characters appeared for a playful time of general silliness. More pictures were a part of the program, but this time their family was joined by a colorful crowd of cartoon personalities who were ever so willing to jazz up the photos with their wild antics and whimsical locales.
It wasn’t long before one of the steam-powered engines of the Walt Disney World Railroad pulled into the Toontown Fair station, and the Nichols were asked to board the train along with Mickey Mouse. As they waited for the train’s departure, Mickey engaged Heather and her family by passing notes back and forth. Heather felt starstruck as if the actual animated drawing that Walt, himself, penned had leapt off the page and engaged them in audible conversation. Watching him kid around with her husband, daughter, and self in such a personal fashion with no one else vying for his attention touched her deeply, and she wondered if she needed to pinch herself just to confirm this was real.
Finally, the steam train pulled away from Toontown and headed down the track. It stopped at the Main Street USA station just as the opening ceremonies were reaching a climax. The Nichols, along with Mickey, deboarded the train to greet a vast sea of people, waiting behind the ropes where they had previously stood. All eyes were on them as they were invited to approach the lookout point. “Look at all the people, Mom,” Heather’s daughter uttered repetitively and squeezed the confetti she held in her palm. It was a surreal moment to be up on the stage in the middle of dancers, characters, and peppy music, looking down on a mass of smiling faces ripe with anticipation for the day that awaited them. A booming voice announced the Nichols as “the family of the day”. The crowd erupted into thundering applause, and the countdown for rope drop began. A sense of celebrity was felt as the Nichols became the center of the momentous event, tossing confetti in the air when the crowd was finally granted entrance into The Happiest Place on Earth. “It was a magical family moment that I won’t ever forget,” Heather recalls fondly.
Heather, at The Disney Driven Life, we want to express our gratitude to you for taking these magical Disney experiences and “paying it forward.” We also commend you for your ability to look past the differences that may occur within the Disney community and, instead, look for ways to unite us upon the common ground we hold. We are proud to have you counted and represent us as a Neurotic Disney Mom, and so we give you the title of Neurotic Disney Person for the month of August.