Disneyland and the Power of Story

Disneyland and the Power of Story

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I went to Disneyland for the first time last week. Now, like many of us, I grew up watching 101 Dalmations, Aladdin and Lion King. I loved Peter Pan, and I can sing at least a few bars of "A Whole New World." But I wouldn't say that I love Disney. I thought some of their cartoons were scary, and I've not kept up with Disney into my adult years. (Although I do watch The Emperor's New Groove on a regular basis. It's hilarious.)

So, I was excited to go to Disneyland with my boyfriend and a couple of our friends, but I wasn't ecstatic. But then I walked through the gates of the happiest place on earth — and I was transported.

Disneyland and California Adventure were actually quite stunning. For those who have never been (or for those who want to relive the magic), both parks are separated into multiple "lands." Disneyland has Tomorrowland, which has a space theme. It also has Frontierland (think Davy Crockett), Fantasyland (think traditional Disney princesses and castles), Main Street U.S.A. (think Victorian candy shops), Adventureland (think jungle) and a few more. California Adventure has an area dedicated to Old Hollywood and an entire wharf reminiscent of an East Coast boardwalk carnival. It also has the town of Radiator Springs from the movie Cars and the world from A Bug's Life. What was amazing was the detail of these parks. When you enter into a new "land" you are completely transported. The pavement changes, the garbage cans blend in, the costuming and food fits with the theme. And it is spotless. We were there during a very busy time — tons of people — yet there was never garbage on the ground, and the bathrooms were always tidy. Disney runs like a well-oiled machine.

What struck me the most — maybe because I love to read and write — was the story happening in each place. Each ride (it's not even right to call it a "ride" — it's more like an experience) tells a story. You are transported into the world of that narrative. For example, if you're waiting in line to go on the Cars ride, you weave through a desert setting in Radiator Springs. If you're waiting in line for Space Mountain, you feel like you're entering a space ship. The line for Tower of Terror takes you through a 1930s hotel lobby. And as you go on a ride, you watch a story unfold. Pirates of the Caribbean floats you through much of what you see in the movie. The Indiana Jones ride tells a narrative. You leave each ride having basically experienced a mini Disney production.

The whole time I was at Disneyland, I was struck by the power of story. And it reminded me that this is exactly what God has given us in His Word. The Bible is God's story — from beginning to end. There is a consistent narrative thread, built on the plan of redemption that God has put into place. The Garden of Eden, the Tower of Babel, the sacrifice of Isaac, the Exodus, David and Goliath, etc., are scenes in God's amazing story. I've loved studying the Old Testament and writing my thesis at seminary because it has helped me connect all of these random stories into one big redemptive plan. God's story is beautiful, it's amazing, it's vivid and bold. There are so many unexpected surprises, twists and turns. And, what is awesome to think about, is that it's still going. You and I are a part of that narrative. God invites us to share the world's need for Jesus' sacrifice with those around us. He invites us to tell His story. And one day this chapter of God's story will end, and a new one will begin. The new heavens and earth will be created. It will come full circle, when all that has been broken is restored. It is gorgeous. More stunning than Narnia, more beautiful than Disney. It is so exciting.

Disneyland was amazing. But it reminded me that all good stories point to something bigger — to God's redemptive plan, to His compassion and forgiveness, to His calling us to truth, to His beautiful story.

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  • I've been to Disney World's Magic Kingdom (in Florida) many times over the years since my grandparents live less than an hour away.  No matter how many times I go, I never seem to get tired of it.  I can ride the same ride several times in one day, and see something new every time.  However, I never thought of it as a story...that would probably explain why I enjoy it so much.  

    And great reminder that all good stories point to the bigger story of God's plan.  I'm one of those weirdos who wishes Narnia was real, and who would live in Disney World if I could, and I just love the reminder that God's story is better than either of those could ever be.  It makes me long for what He has planned.      

  • Honeymooning at Disney World in Septeeeemmmmber :D Can't wait! ^-^ I'm on the other end of the spectrum. I. Love. Disney. :D We went lots as kiddos (my sister and I) with Mom and Dad, for a couple birthdays, after our graduations and one last time altogether as a family before both us girls got married. :) I'm excited to celebrate our story at a place that holds so many wonderful memories from my past. :)

    And of course, it's wonderful when our stories point us to the best story of all. :D

  • Emperor's New Groove for the win!! Such a great movie.  

  • I love this point, Denise.  I've studied a lot of literature and have noticed a profound reality in this - we are all searching for that story of redemption and the enduring stories all have it in them.  Oh, that the world would see!

  • The Bible is an amazing story but most the time we miss it because we don't take Bible study seriously.  I used to read huge amounts of scripture quickly but not much of it would soak in.  But since December I have been attending a men's Bible group  that challenged me to properly  study the scriptures.  This means spending at least 2 hours per week studying a chapter, discussing what I learned with my group, hearing a one hour lecture on the passage, and then getting six pages of further notes to study - every week.  Finally I'm seeing the big picture of how God has worked in the lives of Bible characters and what ways He is also writing my story.

  • Denise and SarahJane, it's so true! The best stories speak to our heart's yearning for Christ. I think it's so neat that God chose to reveal His will to us through the written word...through *stories*, in the Bible. Lewis and Tolkien were spot on when they called God's word the original "true myth" and the source of all other great stories.

    That said, I like Disney movies but not Disneyland. I've only been to Tokyo Disneyland and thought it was a bit of a waste...too crowded, too expensive, and what am doing here as an adult? haha. But that's just me...theme parks and rides etc. have never been my cup of tea. :P

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