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Fall 2013, Stefanie Bressan

Disneyland: The happiest place on Earth — for adults?

Some of the most popular attractions in the world are the California Disney parks. This may not come as a surprise to some adults because the billion dollar company has been promoting a world where dreams come true ever since these individuals were kids.

Andere holding a hand-painted mural of The Beauty and The Beast.

Andere holding a hand-painted mural of The Beauty and The Beast.

“I had an amazing childhood and it was surrounded with everything Disney,” said 26-year-old, Raquel Andere, who has been going to Disneyland since before she was a baby. “My family are huge Disney fans and it is literally just a part of our everyday lives. Disneyland is always evolving and there are always new things I discover and become involved with.”

While growing up Andere’s family would go to Disneyland up to a couple times a year, and once she begun college, she got her first annual pass and has had one ever since. She used to go multiple times a month but due to work, she hasn’t been able to go there as often.

Of course, Andere has a favorite princess — Belle.

“She’s the one I resemble the most, she loves books, she stood out as different, my favorite flower is the rose, she is her own woman and is independent, she is close with her father, and most importantly, her love story is better than any other Disney movie.”

Now, when Andere visits Disneyland, she sometimes dresses up as Belle, which is part of a growing trend among adults called “Disneybounding.”

Andere and friends dressed as their favorite princesses at Disneyland. Photo provided by Andere.

Andere and friends dressed as their favorite princesses at Disneyland. Photo provided by Andere.

This is when one dresses up as a Disney character or somewhat themed as one.

“You don’t necessarily dress up in an actual costume but everyday clothing that you put together and looks like the outfit a Disney character wears, or an outfit that has prints of that character,” Andere said. “I also have a lot of Disney-themed bows that are custom-made by someone in Florida. I wear those bows all the time and Cast Members and guests alike always rave about them.”

Disneyland by the numbers

Disneyland California ranks as the second most visited themed park in the world according to The Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) and AECOM’s 2012 Global Attractions Attendance Report.  It seems to be a common assumption that Disney as a company focuses on entertainment for kids and families but the number of adults who enjoy the parks has grown significantly throughout the years.

To some, it is the attention to detail that captures their interest. To others, it is the ideal outdoor activity or their elysium. Either way, many adults are highly active in Disney related activities as well as frequenting the theme parks and interacting with the different features and attractions offered by the company.

“You literally feel as if you are in this whole different universe and that life outside the parks doesn’t matter for the time being,” Andere said. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard and said the phrase, ‘I need a Disney day.’”

Pinning fever takes over Disneyland

Many adults like Andere enjoy living the full Disneyland experience; anything from watching the movies, owning an annual pass, collecting pins, hunting Hidden Mickeys and dressing up as their favorite characters.

Andere got her first pin in 2004 during a parade at the park. She started her collection in 2007 and now owns over a thousand pins.

SLIDESHOW: Andere talks about Disney pin trading and her collection.

“I think that Disney pin trading is such a fever because it literally could never get old. There are always more pins coming out from all over,” Andere said. “The pins are also quite valuable if you find the right ones so it’s kind of like a gold rush for some people.”

Hidden Mickeys

“I love the ‘Hidden Mickeys’ that are all over the park,” Andere said. “From the speakers behind the kiosks at the entrance, to the ironwork on the gates, or even bushes shaped like Mickey Mouse’s face and ears. It is so much fun to find them.”

Hidden Mickeys are embedded in Disney pins, such as the one in the horse's tail.

Hidden Mickeys are embedded in Disney pins, such as the one in the horse’s tail.

Hidden Mickeys are images of Mickey Mouse are cleverly hidden throughout the park. In the Haunted Mansion, for example, one of the rooms features about 30 ghosts dancing, eating, or trying to shoot each other next to a large dining table. On the table, there are several sets of plates and silverware. One of the sets in particular, composes the head and ears of Mickey Mouse. This would be one of the infamous Hidden Mickey heads located in the parks.

As defined in the book Hidden Mickeys: A Field Guide to Walt Disney World’s Best Kept Secrets, Hidden Mickeys are “a partial or complete image of Mickey Mouse that has been hidden by Disney’s Imagineers and artists in the designs of Disney attractions, hotels, restaurants, and other areas.”

The key is in the details

According to Andere, the attention to detail is key to why adults love Disneyland. She says when you’re a kid, you can’t always tell what’s real or not but when you’re an adult you are well aware that Mickey Mouse isn’t actually the real Mickey Mouse.

“The fact that Disney pays extra money and attention to details is astounding,” Andere said.

When one walks in Adventureland, home of Indiana Jones, Tarzan, hundreds of robotic wild animals and ducks, there are tribal masks, jungle décor, the floor was designed to mimic a muddy, rock-like pavement and the stores and restaurants are colonial outposts’ look-a-likes.

Adventureland replicates a jungle-like town.

Adventureland replicates a jungle-like town.

California native and Disneyland dancer, Patrick Lahey, has been working for the company for two years. He says “children are mostly focused on going on rides and running around. Adults want more; they want to know the history, they want to know the inspirations behind the themes.”

While Main Street may seem a boring feature to some children, many adults appreciate its features such as the names of the important people in the history of Disneyland printed on the doors.

“During training we had to walk each of the areas and observe the floor… literally,” Lahey said. “The attention to detail is what makes this company different from other companies.”

Working for Disney

Lahey, had always been a fan of the company and he always had wanted to be part of the experience. To him, what he does is not only fun, but significant.

VIDEO: Lahey talks about working at Disneyland and things that attract adults to go to Disneyland in his interview at the California Grand Hotel located at Disney California Adventure.

“Some people will use their life savings to spend a weekend at Disneyland,” Lahey said. “They do it because they know that here, all of their problems disappear. They can leave their overdue bills behind, their stressful jobs and exhausting lives, and dive into a world without problems. A place where they can be happy and have no worries.”

Lahey says, providing that happiness is why he and other employees have a sense of duty to keep the magic of Disneyland real and make sure that even adults have an unforgettable experience.

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