It seems like another lifetime ago, even though it was just last week that we all came together from all parts of the county and Canada to be a part of the most magical week ever, the 8th annual Disney Social Media Moms Celebration and the first ever Disney Land and Sea.
This was in every sense a week that was “Once upon a dream” and one that I still can’t quite put into words. Disney has a way a doing that for people and really, just how does one even begin to find the words to adequately define something so indescribable?
We knew from the moment we first saw that pixie-dusted invitation in our email that we would all have the love of Disney in common and what a magical foundation that has been. But never could any of us ever have imagined the bonds that would be created, the instantaneous feeling of family and the memories that we would come home with that would be held in our hearts forever. During our all too short time of being together it was all about building on that foundation, conversation by conversation, memory by memory, and sharing our hopes, thoughts and dreams, and more importantly the laughter and love and yes, the magic created along the way.
I think Walt would have loved to be a part of this and we couldn’t help but feel his presence all around us in everything we did. It was the words of Walt that I kept coming back to as we learned for ourselves about all the things that Disney had planned for us not only for that day but also for the upcoming year and beyond. Here’s a look at some of my takeaways from that morning, and what you can look forward to in the days, weeks and months ahead.
First and foremost, this was a gathering of friends that quickly became family. It was about those first hugs for those that you had known online for so long that you forgot that you had never actually been able to hug each other in person until now. It was about the people that may very well live an hour from you that even though you talk every day, never get a chance to sit down with one another. It was about the new people who had come into your life in the weeks leading up to this that you knew you were destined to find one another and it was through the magic of Disney that you were able to do just that.
And it was knowing that you were a part of something that was so much more than yourself-to see people reach out to others in times of need, to see separate families become one family and to learn firsthand what real friendship is all about-to be able to laugh together, dream together, and share together. That is the real magic of being a part of the Disney Social Media Moms, knowing that if you needed a hand, dozens of people would reach out and be there for you.
The Disney Social Media Moms Celebration does not just happen without hundreds of people behind the scenes working tirelessly to make sure that we all had an experience like no other. It was in talking to them and getting to know them that I truly began to understand what Walt meant when he said, “…it takes people to make the dream a reality.”
It was all about the chance to sit down and learn the stories of these people that truly brought the event to life.
It was about knowing that our servers on the Disney Wonder had been there for 17 years and worked 7 days a week for 5 months at a time without a day off and it was clear that they loved what they do, and took pride in every moment.
It was about talking to Julie, a marine biologist on Castaway Cay who had lived on the island for many years and shared that it was finally becoming a part of the Disney family that let her know that she was finally home.
It was about taking the time to talk to the producer and director of the Good Morning America segment and listening to them talk about their 37 years of doing remotes and learning of their experiences over the years, and then being able to take back to my students the ins and outs of how a broadcast works.
It was about watching Leanne, Jen, Courtnee, Lisa, Rana, Maria, Alex and the entire Walt Disney World Events Team as well as so many others working 18+ hours a day, always with a smile on their faces, thanking us for being a part of this and knowing it was a smile and a gratitude that came from within their souls.
And it was about the sponsors that immediately became your friends, genuinely wanting to know about you, your life and your family. It was those instantaneous connections that made it more than just a conference but rather people coming together just as if you had been friends for many years, and you knew that you would stay connected for all the right reasons.
It was in taking the time and learning and hearing the stories behind the stories that you came to truly understand what sets Disney apart from the rest. It is in every way and sense the people that make the dream a reality.
Whether it was listening to Amy Smeed, the first woman ever to hold the title of head of animation for Disney Animation Studios sharing her backstories of Moana, or trying not to cry as Dave Mullins, director of the new Pixar short “Lou” shared his journey of the little boy that dared to dream of bringing his own animated feature to life, a journey filled with twists and turns and even with the loss of his father and almost losing his mother, and how he turned adversity into triumph.
It was the excitement in Chris Ostrander’s voice as he shared the upcoming 2017 movie slate with us, sounding more like a fan than Synergy Director, that stand out in my mind because no matter what “title” they held, it was obvious in everything they said, that at the end of the day, they were still believers in the magic they were creating for others.
Listening to Ryan March and Roy Conli, who brought the newest DisneyNature film Born In China to life really hit home in what the true meaning of perseverance is all about. It reminded me of Walt’s words that tell us all that “When You believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable.”
The chance to listen to Chris Sonnenburg share not just the all new Tangled: The Series but his family, and how it was his family and their support and his daughter’s journal from a trip that made the series come to life. These are the stories that you are able to take home with you and that give you insight to the fact that they are just people like you and me that have a dream and are finding ways to make their dreams come true.
Every once in a rare while you are lucky enough to hear a speaker that you feel as though they were looking into your heart and soul and knew exactly what you needed to hear at the moment you needed to hear it and for me it was Ginger Zee, head meteorologist for Good Morning America but more importantly wife and mother.
Her story of how she got to where she is today was not always as easy and seamless as she makes it look but she conveyed the most important lesson of the 5 days and that is “No matter what you are doing at the time, when you are present, BE PRESENT in that moment”. In this simple statement she put into words what should be the golden rule for us all. It is so easy to get caught up in the world “out there” instead of the one right in front of our face. Every one of us gets so involved and driven to capture the moment that we tend to forget to be IN the moment. For me, this was never more true that when my son was rehearsing for a completion and I of course picked up the phone to film his latest and greatest dance move and he screamed at me to “Just put down the phone and watch me!” and from that moment on, I made sure that was exactly what I did. There is nothing in the world of social media or on the interwebs that can’t keep until after dinner. Put down the phone and enjoy the people around you because in a blink of any eye, they will be grown. Thank you Ginger for once again reminding me to be present in my life and the life of those around me.
Disney Social Media Moms Celebration reminded me that it was OK to be a kid and to live in the moment. Life is so short that none of us truly knows what tomorrow holds for us and if you take the time to step back and look around you, you can’t help but smile.
Being surrounded by the laughter of families, the giggles of kids, so many friends sharing this throughout the generations as we had done last year, cannot help but fill your heart with joy. Truth be told, I was terrified to go without any of my kids or grandkids this year, but as much as I missed them, it gave me the rare and unique opportunity to reconnect as a couple as well as to be a part of other people’s families, all of whom welcomed me with open arms and allowed me to find new avenues of joy.
Disney Social Media Moms allowed us all to live in the moment and to rediscover the child that lives within each and every one of us. Here we were all once again reminded to “leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy” and for an all to brief moment in time, we were able to lose sense of all the world
and turn back into that child happily skipping down Main Street, hugging Mickey Mouse and being surrounded by so many excited people who are all thinking the same thing… what a great day this is gonna be with the music, entertainment, food, rides and the laughter and endless smiles of families and knowing that this is what life is all about-that sense of believing in the impossible.
Disney has the inexplicable ability to bring out the best in all of us. It allows us to keep the most important parts of our childhood-curiosity, enthusiasm, the willingness to be silly, but more importantly to live in the moment and believe in the magic unconditionally. Nowhere was that more true than in that roomful of people who had come together to be a part of the special Disney Social Media Moms Celebration Disney Land and Sea and knowing that one man’s dream still lives on in the hearts and souls of so many.
Thank you to Disney and to the families that made the 2017 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration Disney Land and Sea full of memories that I will hold in my heart forever.
For one magical week we were all a part of something bigger than words could ever describe. We were brought together to leave reality behind and just focus on each other and the magic that is inside of us all. For one magical week life was as it should be lived with the focus on fun, laugher, friends, family, and most of all, reminded each one of us that we can spend our whole life asking “what if” or we can take the chance and live in the moment and see what happens. I promise you you’ll never ever regret it.