Dear Sylvie and Felix,
Last week we went to Disneyworld. It’s not really my thing. We weaved through the colorful, plastic buildings and dodged the colorful, plastic crowds, spun and sailed and watched and walked and walked. Then we came back to the hotel, slept nine hours, and began again. I don’t know how much you’ll remember, more than a sparkling zoetrope of anticipation and dissatisfaction and fatigue, disembodied smiles, darkened tunnels, turns on shoulders.
One thing you won’t remember, at least not in this context, is the phrase “Hakuna Matata.” It was everywhere – on the buses, on the matching T-shirts of every other family, pumped over the loudspeaker. The Lion King has risen to become, a quarter of a century later, the purest distillation of the Disney ethos. It’s not really my thing. The movie’s fine, among the canon of movies you make me watch too often, but the structure is an odd one – a hero’s journey that spends more than a half an hour on “the hero rejects” and maybe ten minutes on the journey itself. But it’s that middle third that captured the heart of the Disney fans, and its theme park.
It makes sense, in a way. “No worries” is a perfectly acceptable mantra for a vacation spot, a place to get away. But the cracks in the colorful plastic, its disturbing 1950s veneer, start to show when you think too hard about it, and I always think too hard. The material mixed into the concrete of Disneyworld’s foundations is magic, and it’s magic defined specifically by its undefinability – the purposefully vague and positive sentiments of “never giving up your dreams” and “believing in yourself.” Pinning down the Disney magic, the act of analyzing it, destroys it – and so it demands a certain type of unthinking faith, almost a Religion Lite. Which is fine for you right now, since that’s half of what parents do to protect their children from the world. I guess it’s that the parents that get me, the way people get mad when adults bring gloves to ballgames. There’s being a kid, and then there’s being a kid.
The funny thing about Hakuna Matata is that, in the context of The Lion King, it’s a failed philosophy. Simba (and even Timon and Pumba, who go to war with him) have to reject their childish freedom and go to work, assume their responsibilities. Somehow, we forgot to take that away from the movie. We all do have to grow up – you will too, someday. But not yet. So Disneyworld is fine for what you are, and I hope that the magic of it, undefinable because you aren’t ready to define these things anyway, sticks to your memories and colors pastels into your dreams for a while.
But I also hope that when you come back in thirty years to continue the ritual, I hope you don’t love it too much.