Walt Disney was born on this date, the 5th December, in 1901, had a strong Irish connection and was only interested in “entertaining people, in bringing pleasure, particularly laughter, to others.”
I didn’t know any of that until I googled him. My interest was sparked when I decided to do a bit of decluttering this week. When I opened a cupboard in our living area dozens of Disney videos and DVD’s boxes with tatty covers and chewed corners spilled out. My son had been poking through his Disney movies again.
I haven’t seen Saving Mr Banks yet—a film about Walt Disney pursuing the film rights of Mary Poppins—but I do know the man’s classic creations saved my sanity when Cian was diagnosed with autism and developed a fixation for things; hoovers, toilet brushes, licking stones, doors, slugs, light switches…the list goes on…but Disney movies where by far the best fixation!
The nature of autism can be a bit of a killjoy as it impacts on normal every day activities and celebrations, like Christmas, but when Mowgli developed his interest in Disney movies we ended up celebrating the joy of Disney. In fact we celebrated the joy of The Jungle Book (from which he got his endearing nickname), The Lion king and a host of others the whole year round when Disney films, books and CDs became a constant companion in Mowgli’s life (and mine). For that I am wholly grateful.
Cian is now 15. He still gets called Mowgli the odd time but he has not had a lot of interest in DVD’s the last few years. More recently, he is keen to go to the cinema and we are surprised how well he is able to focus upon the plot and enjoy any movie. This improvement in his attention span is a gift in itself to us but he still watches Disney clips on YouTube and every now and then he returns to ‘his’ cupboard that still is jam packed with his Disney sing-a-long movies.
Disney movies tend to be cheerful, easy to watch and highly entertaining but if you examine the story lines a little closer they are offering up moral lessons as well. Snow White teaches us that having a kind heart is much better than being pretty. Toy Story’s Woody learns that there is no point in worrying because things are always changing, and it’s better to enjoy the present than to worry about what’s coming next. Poor old Carl in Up realises that it’s all too easy to focus on the destination, but the journey is more important. Taking our cue from Peter Pan encourages us to stay true to our childhood selves because no one grows out of having fun.
Walt Disney died in 1966, leaving an entertainment empire and a vast treasure trove of animated classic tales for old and young alike to enjoy. His life, however, was not all ‘sugar and spice and all things nice’ as he is quoted making reference to difficult times.
“All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles has strengthened me… You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”
One of the best things about Disney movies is that it all turns out okay in the end. And it does because there is nothing nicer than curling up on the sofa with Mowgli and his siblings to watch a Disney movie, the reason why I didn’t declutter but tidied up the beloved movies and closed the cupboard door again.