Fangirl Thursday: Feel the Magic

Henry’s speech about the power of belief and the necessity of magic in the Season Five finale of Once Upon a Time will always be one of my favorite moments in the history of one of my favorite shows. And that is because it touched on something I believe with all my heart: Magic is real. You just have to be open to it in order to experience it.

Kids find magic everywhere—the stars in the night sky, the waves in the ocean, the worlds they create in their own imaginations. But as we get older, we tend to stop looking for magic. We get cynical, and then we start looking for reasons to roll our eyes at others who still see magic around them. We learn facts about the world, and we think that means we need to throw away our sense of wonder because we know how things work now. We become busy, and we put our heads down to get where we think we need to be—losing sight of the places where magic lives.

But that magic is still there. It’s just waiting for us to find it again. And those places where we find it—where we reconnect with what it means to believe—are special. They are places where we are reminded of one beautiful fact: Sometimes even grownups can still be believers.

Belief creates magic. There’s something profoundly magical about a room full of adults who put aside their cynicism and even their logic in order to allow themselves to experience they joy and excitement that can come from the willing suspension of disbelief. I’ve seen it in movie theaters, during plays, and at TV screenings at conventions: the way a group of adults all cheer when something great happens, cry when something emotional happens, or gasp when something surprising happens. Logically, we all know we’re watching actors performing words and actions from a script. But something special happens when you find yourself surrounded by people who let themselves believe the emotional truth of what they’re watching and experiencing: You start to believe, too. And that is the strongest kind of magic there is—the magic that comes from a group of people believing together, even just for a moment. Communal belief. Communal participation in magic.

Everyone has their own special place where that sense of communal belief is at its strongest. For some, it’s a darkened theater the night the latest Harry Potter or Star Wars or Marvel movie premieres, where you get to watch and react with other fans who find the same magic on the big screen. For others, it’s a stadium or an arena, where sitting in your seat just the right way or cheering at just the right time or saying a prayer right before overtime actually feels like it might make a difference.

For me, it’s Walt Disney World.

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I’ve been to Disney World more times than I can remember, and I still find magic there every time. Lately, I’ve found it while watching other people—especially other adults—allow themselves to believe in the magic. Some might think that the magic of a place like Disney World disappears after you grow up, but there is so much magic left to be found there and so much joy left to experience; you just need to be open to it.

It’s there in the way even the middle aged men in the audience throw their hands up and scream their greetings at the monsters on the screen at the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor. It’s there in the way moms and dads gasp right along with their little ones when Mickey appears to go from the top of the mountain to the bottom during Fantasmic! in the blink of an eye. It’s there in the way every person in the audience does their assigned animal sound as loud as possible during Festival of the Lion King—from toddlers to grandparents. And it’s there in the powerful silence that follows the torches being blown out before Illuminations begins each night at EPCOT—with every person around the lagoon waiting with bated breath for the show to start.

The jokes on Jungle Cruise, the celebrations at Chef Mickey’s, the interactions with the characters—Disney World is built on the idea that experiences are better and brighter when everyone buys into the magic. Joy is meant to be shared, and the joy experienced on Disney property is one of the purest kinds of magic I know.

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As Henry said on Once Upon a Time, we can always go back to that part of us that was once a believer; we just have to make that choice. Everyone has their place that makes that choice easier, the place that makes them a believer again no matter how cynical they may have become. Disney World is my place. What’s yours?

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5 thoughts on “Fangirl Thursday: Feel the Magic

  1. I am so excited to be able to share your magical place with you in just a couple months. I can’t wait to actually experience it for myself but I’m most looking forward to what it means to you to be sharing the magic with us!

    My answer is a little weird and fittingly for me, it is located in Las Vegas. Sam and I make sure to watch the Bellagio Fountains at least a couple times during each trip (and usually stay for more than one show). It’s the place he proposed and my favorite spot on the Strip. In such a noisy area of the city with so many people surrounding you, when the show is on, everything seems to get quiet and fade away so that all you see is the beauty of the fountains in time with the music. Everyone around you is awed by what they’re watching and it lets you forget about the 8 lanes of traffic behind you and that you’re essentially standing in the middle of a sidewalk. Then the show ends and everyone gets back to the general bustle of vacation but for those few minutes, we’re all united in amazement.

    I love the idea of the magic we create with collective belief. It’s not exactly a physical place, but it’s something I’ve found most strongly in books and when talking about the books we love with others. Reading Feed and the Discworld series wouldn’t have been the same without reading the reviews and discussion at Mark Reads and sharing in the communal emotions. So along those lines, I have a couple of book recommendations that are essentially about the magic of shared love for something.

    The first is the Libriomancer series by Jim C. Hines, which is based on the idea that the worlds described in books become real based on communal love for them and that certain individuals can reach into those worlds and pull things out. I’ve only read the first book but it was a lot of fun and I look forward to finishing the series. The second is the Indexing series by Seanan McGuire which is about fairytales becoming real and disrupting the narratives of people’s lives. With so many variants on popular stories existing in pop culture, it’s the ones that are most seen and loved that retain the most power and show up in greater frequency. The series focuses on what it means to write your own narrative when it seems like the choice has been made for you, which is a theme I think a lot of OUAT fans might appreciate.

  2. Hi, Katie. I finally decided to post a comment. Fantastic post! As always. Disney World is my special place too. No other place makes my heart happier. I have absolutely no worries or cares when I’m there. All troubles just melt away. That might be sappy, but it’s so true. Everyone could use a little magic, and you always manage to capture the magic of Disney so beautifully in your writing.

    • Hi Kristen! I’m so happy you joined us! And what you said about Disney World is 100% true for me, too. It’s always nice to know someone else gets what it means to feel that kind of emotional connection to WDW. ❤

  3. First of all, thanks, Katie, for creating a fun, magical place right here. (Given the current nature of the Internet, this is no mean feat.) I know I say this repeatedly, but I love the blend of goofy and analytical that goes on here.

    I do love Disney. I haven’t been in ages, but I have very fond memories. Even as a teenager, I thought it was magical. I remember making a concerted effort to soak up the every moment of my time there. Trips — in general — are one of my magic places. For me, nearly all trips are magical . . . they’re all adventures. I get a kick out of traveling even when it’s not for vacations.

    Like Heather (and I’m sure the vast majority of regulars here), stories are also my magic place. That’s what draws many of us here. We love stories; we love celebrating the magic of stories. Tolkien and L’Engle created some of my favorite magic places.

    I love your point, Katie, about looking for and being open to the magic everywhere. There are small (and large) magical moments and places EVERYWHERE in our lives. However, we have to make an effort to see them — we have to want to see the magic. (I’m reminded of Pixar’s “Blue Umbrella” where you see smiles in ordinary objects.)

    I also want to echo Heather’s point about collective believe — the importance of sharing the magic. There are some moments that are personal, but there are many that grow and become more magical as they are shared.

  4. I always love reading about your love of Disneyland. I love that not only is it a magical place while you are there, those memories and feelings of magic and wonder can still be channeled by just thinking about it.

    I love your sentence about “powerful silence”. In my life I think those are the moments that resonate with me the most. When you are in a large group of people and you all stop to experience that moment of anticipation. Every individual came for a different reason and from a different place, and each individual will leave with a different memory and opinion of what they saw, but that moment of quiet anticipation is equally neutral for everyone at the same moment. Its the moment when I feel the most connected to those around me.

    If we are talking on the individual level, I find magic in movie scores. There are certain pieces of music that I hold near and dear to my heart. While I love a good song lyric, I never considered myself to be a huge music fan (as I mentioned before, I kinda like quiet), until I realized my obsession with movie scores. The emotions that are put into those pieces of music are so much more powerful to me than anything that could be sung. Over the past two years, seeing both ‘Jurassic World’ and ‘The Force Awakens’, I was struck by how much that familiar music created such powerful emotions in me. I could just feel my heart swelling along with those familiar bars and no disappointing plot or fandom drama could ever take away the wonder I felt hearing something so familiar and loved in the theater.

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