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Wednesday, January 1, 2020

a decade of disney magic

today we entered not just a new year, but a new decade of pixie dust and innovation.

First things first: Last week, the Disney Alumni Association was kind enough to send me a gift through their Pixie Dust Giveaway Program, which made me all the more excited for my upcoming Program!  If you're a successful Program alumni registered through the DAA, be sure to make an account on disneyalumni.com so you can learn more about these giveaways!  The new platform for DAA will help you connect with other Alumni and allow you to stay in the loop for upcoming Program applications & events.

Thank you so much, Disney Alumni Association Team!  See you real soon!

Speaking of "see you real soon," I cannot believe that one month from today, I'll be giving my tearful goodbyes to my family and flying into MCO for seven months.  These next few months are going to be insane with professional development, new friends, and fun.

I just wanted to take a minute today to say Happy New Year to all of you!  2019 was a fabulous year for Kaitlyn & tinkerkait.  I grew so much, made so many new friends, and prospered with new job opportunities and leadership roles.  I am honestly a little sad to see 2019 go, but 2020-- and this new decade-- has given me so much to look forward to already and I am genuinely so excited to see where I'll be by 2030.

As we enter the roaring '20s again, I can't help but reflect on the '10s and how this past decade has had a specific influence on me as Disney Parks fan.  Our first family vacation at Walt Disney World happened at the turn of the decade, July 2010.  We spend a week at the Contemporary Resort, exploring a Park that was brand new to us.  The World we knew in 2010 looks much different than it does today.  Not to be a Boomer or anything, but: the Main Street Bakery wasn't a Starbucks and Mickey's ToonTown Fair was still on life support.  Downtown Disney had closed the gates on Pleasure Island, but things were still going strong at DisneyQuest and La Nouba.  During our Hollywood Studios visit, we ran to get our paper FP+ from a machine for Disney's newest attraction, Toy Story Mania.  Our Epcot visit included a boat ride with our favorite Maelstrom trolls, and our Disney's Animal Kingdom visit ended with a ton of pictures with friends at Camp Minnie-Mickey.  iPhones were sparse and "My Disney Experience" was nothing but the title of your thread on the Trip Reports section on DISboards.

As someone who only started getting involved in the Disney fan community halfway through the decade, I no longer even recognize the Magic Kingdom in the background of this photo.  But for many Disney fans, including some my age, this pre-MDX era evokes nothing but blissful nostalgia.  Everything was simple before Disney brought in new technology to "simplify" family vacations.  That mad-dash to the FastPass kiosks was just part of the fun!  Crowds were lower and characters were more prone to freely roam around the Parks.  How can your heart not melt like butter when you go through those faded Kodak prints from vacations past?

Simplicity seems to be the only way I can describe the joy and beauty of Walt Disney World in this era before Instagram filters.  Through pictures and stories, I can get piece together the sheer magic that the Disney Parks brought to families in this era.  Even though our 2010 vacation fades from my memory more and more every year, those precious moments that cling to my mind are remembered only with the fondest regard.

I thought about writing a whole post about how MDX and the social media influencer scene changed the landscape of Walt Disney World dramatically this past decade, and how all of that effected me when I was in high school and college, but honestly: I have been working on something huge these past few weeks, and all of my creative energy seems to be drained right now!  Please be on the look out for a new and exciting announcement from me, hopefully before the Fall/Fall Advantage 2020 Applications drop.

What I will say is that in the past 10 years, Walt Disney World has become an entirely new resort.  We saw so much growth this past decade.
  • In 2011, for the first time ever, Mickey has a voice at Magic Kingdom.  Mickey talks to guests and creates unforgettable memories with families from 2011 to 2018.
  • New Fantasyland Expansion becomes Magic Kingdom's biggest park expansion ever
  • Starbucks is introduced to the Parks.
  • My Disney Experience and MagicBands roll out, including the FP+ program, changing Walt Disney World Resort forever and ending the era of the legacy FastPass system.
  • Frozen comes out in 2013 and instantly has a massive influence on the Parks.  Anna & Elsa are brought to the Parks, Maelstrom closes for Frozen Ever After, an entire section of Hollywood Studios becomes Frozen-themed for like a year, a Frozen sing-a-long show opens at DHS.  The Norway Pavilion is now basically a Frozen-themed land to Epcot purists' chagrin.
  • The Festival of Fantasy parade debuts at Magic Kingdom in 2014.
  • The Downtown Disney area is rebranded into a new, beautiful shopping district known as Disney Springs
  • Pandora: the World of Avatar opens at Disney's Animal Kingdom, becoming the first IP-inspired land at Walt Disney World Resort.
  • Disney's International Festival of the Arts debuts at Epcot.
  • After 14 years, the nightly Magic Kingdom fireworks show Wishes was retired and replaced by an all new show, Happily Ever After.
  • Hollywood Studios says goodbye to an opening day attraction, The Great Movie Ride.
  • Toy Story Land opens at Disney's Hollywood Studios
  • Mickey and Minnie turn 90!  We celebrate with World's Biggest Mouse Party through 2019.
  • In one of the most anticipated land openings of all time, Star Wars comes to Walt Disney World Resort on August 29, 2019 with the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge.
  • The Disney Skyliner Gondola system opens up, giving guests a whole new way to travel around the Resort
  • Disney's Grand Destino Tower and Disney's Riviera Resort open to guests, offering two new resort hotel options.
  • The Epcot Forever fireworks show debuts at Epcot, ending the 20-year run of its predecessor, Illuminations.
And that list is not even all of it.  I would have to spend hours upon hours to document everything that has changed in the past 10 years alone.  I'm so grateful to have experienced all of it in real time thanks to the social media community of Disney fans.  It has truly been an exciting decade for the Parks, and while I shed some tearful goodbyes when we lost some beloved shows and attractions, I am always amazed at what the Imagineers come up with.  This has been an era of innovation and pure Disney magic and I can't wait to see what's next for the Disney Parks.

My family and I have made so many incredible memories this past decade!  This was not only the decade we started exploring the Parks: it was the decade we joined the Disney Vacation Club and Annual Passholder families.  This year, we were fortunate enough to attend our first DVC event, Moonlight Magic.

When we returned to the Parks in 2014, we saw New Fantasyland for the first time and got some warm hugs from Anna and Elsa!  It was a truly magical vacation.

In 2018, we were blessed enough to be in Magic Kingdom for Mickey's 90th birthday, celebrating the day with the big cheese himself!

During that same week, we explored Toy Story Land for the first time.  There are simply no words that can fully capture my sheer joy the first time I rode Slinky Dog Dash.

Together, we have made hundreds of memories thanks to Walt Disney World Resort.  From the very first time we saw Cinderella's Castle together to our most recent vacation as certified Park experts, Walt Disney World has truly brought our family closer together.  I will be forever grateful for the chance to create and share these memories with my family thanks to this amazing, magical resort!

In 2016, my life changed forever when I got this email.

I wasn't prepared for my first Disney College Program.  Fall 2016 was truly the most remarkable 5 months of my life.  I got to explore the Resort for events I previously had only dreamed of being able to see: Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, the Epcot Food & Wine Festival.  I was a Cast Member, and I got to be part of the magic that makes this Resort what it is.  And through it all, I could only smile with tears in my eyes and think, "This is where I'm meant to be."

That doesn't mean I didn't struggle.  I was living on my own for the first time, working 70 hours a week and getting yelled at by guests every day.  Not every minute was picture perfect, and I cried throughout most of the Holiday season.  But when I got out of that Program, I got to take a step back, look at everything I had done, and for the first time in my life, I felt capable enough and strong enough.  I have not been the same since my first Disney College Program and I can't wait to return.

Today, with my degree behind me, I find myself poised to begin my next Disney College Program journey.  I woke up this morning to an email in my inbox reminding me that my Program would begin in just one month.  This week, I'll continue packing my suitcases and prepare to register for a Disney Programs seminar-style class.  I'm ready to enter the next phase of my life, and I can't wait to see where else 2020 brings me.  

Hopefully, all the roads I take this decade will lead to the same Castle.

Thank you so much for supporting tinkerkait!  I wish you all the happiest and healthiest of New Years.  Onto the '20s!


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