I grew up in a Disney family. There are varying degrees of Disney families, but my Disney upbringing was pretty fanatical. We visited Disney World more times than I can count. My parents also took us to Disneyland, where we had lunch at Club 33. I’ve rolled my eyes at many a person asking if we’re ever going to “take a different vacation.” (For the record, I’ve been to 44 states and 7 countries. But our repeat Disney vacations are all people seem to remember.)
Basically, we’re always planning another trip “home.” But it wasn’t until recently that I thought about the Disney life lessons that defined my childhood and continue to guide me through adulthood.
Disney has taught or reinforced some important things in my life, like:
- Female empowerment
Reflecting on Disney life lessons
This epiphany happened the other day when I was reading the news. It was a particularly partisan opinion piece. And lines from a Pocahontas song came mind.
You think the only people who are people-Colors of the Wind
Are the people who look and think like you
But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger
You’ll learn things you never knew, you never knew
It’s a powerful song about diversity and unity. Disney’s Pocahontas urges viewers to see the humanity in others. The movie teaches children – and adults – about empathy. And it’s a lesson the world needs more than ever today.
How Disney teaches empathy
In Pocahontas, the messaging is strong. The Disney story is based loosely on historical events, but it’s not entirely accurate. And for Disney that’s ok. The value in Disney’s Pocahontas is not in history: it’s the basic human kindness the story encourages.
In Disney’s version of the story, Pocahontas is from the Americas. John Smith and Governor Ratcliffe are from England. Although John Smith comes over with Governor Ratcliffe in search of gold and to conquer a new world, Smith meets Pocahontas. And by getting to know Pocahontas, he steps away from violence and no longer sees the tribe as “savages.”
It’s important to note that the Native American Indians in the movie also show hatred for the English. In “Savages,” the English and the Native American Indians show a similar distaste for each other. But both sides are able to make peace through love.
How Pocahontas’s “Savages” outlines the conflict
Below, see the English point of view in blue and the Native American Indian point of view in green:
As Disney show aptly shows, both sides have contempt. Both view the other as savages. Yet through the love of Pocahontas and John Smith, war is able to be avoided.
Why empathy in Disney movies is so important
Pocahontas is just one example. But the empathythat it shows is very powerful. The lesson is about humanity. People, no matter what they look like or how they’re different from us, are people.
So often we forget this. In the United States, we’re witnessing some serious polarization of ideas. But that doesn’t mean we need to see a polarization of people. We’d all be wise to apply some Pocahontas-level wisdom to our interactions with others.
How Disney empowers women
Although there are many people who complain about Disney’s princess culture, there’s more than meets the eye with Disney’s powerful princesses.
Little girls look up to heroines like Belle, who lusts after a library, and Mulan, who takes her elderly father’s place in the war. They learn that women can do anything. And many times, women save the day (if not the world).
Disney shows girls that anything is possible
And you can do it while looking fabulous, too. Much of the anti-Disney princess criticism is about the way the princesses present themselves. They’re often in elaborate dresses with perfect hair, beautiful faces, and an “unrealistic” physique. But it’s important to remember that these characters represent a fantasy. They’re not unlike male superheroes.
So it might be time to stop expecting realism and start embracing the option to dream. “Dream big, princess,” is one of Disney’s slogans. And it’s really fitting. If you can’t have it all in your fantasies, then when can you?And imagination is good for you.
How Disney fuels the imagination
Let’s address the giant elephant in the room: Disney is not real. There’s a zero-percent chance you’ll grow up and wear a ball gown every day while anthropomorphic forest animals do your chores.
But flexing your imagination is important. Whether you use your imagination to escape reality or create a new reality, it all starts with suspending disbelief.
Using your imagination is a magical part of childhood and adulthood. Disney gives you permission to imagine the world in a different light.
How Disney encourages innovation
After a recent trip to Disney, I returned to the office full of fresh ideas about what technology could do for people. Things like vertical and hydroponic gardening, wallet-less transactions, and efficient transportation are just an everyday part of your stay at most Disney properties.
So when returning to the “real world,” my Disney experience allowed me to think of ways to make life more convenient for all. Magic bands in place of office ID cards, anyone? How about a personalized grocery shopping experience that uses RFID to provide you with reminders and ideas?
When you spend time in a world where “anything is possible,” you feel less limited.
So if you’re thinking of planning a trip to Disney World…
It’s definitely educational.
And we’ve got some great articles with pro tips to plan your next magical vacation:
- Best Off-Property Disney Resort: Hilton Buena Vista Palace
- Best Walt Disney World Vacation Deal
- Disney Dining Plan Cost Analysis
- How We Saved 38% on a Disney Deluxe Resort
What has Disney taught you?
We want to hear about it! Share your Disney life lessons in the comments below. And share this with someone who loves Disney! Thanks for stopping by!