A Whole New World: Bay Area Disney Super Fans

Apr 23 at 10am

By Tony Bravo

She was sitting a row ahead of us: the little hat and the carpetbag and umbrella declaring who she was. 

Mary Poppins. Practically perfect in every recreated way.  

I was at the Walt Disney Family Museum in the Presidio when I saw her. According to the staff, the woman was a regular who made costumes for many of the events: Mary Poppins was just the tip of the animated iceberg when it came to her affection for the Disneyverse. Edwardian nanny ensemble aside she wouldn't have struck you as out of the ordinary: but the costume testified to something much deeper. I had met my first Disney "superfan."

Andi Wang, the digital media manager at the museum explained the superfan phenomenon. "They live and breathe all things Disney even going so far as to communicating effectively through Disney sayings, plots, and lessons. These fans, she emphasized, "are hands down some of the most dedicated and passionate people you will ever meet."

My run-in with the world's most beloved nanny got me thinking: what other Disney fan(atic)s were quietly out there in the Bay Area living amongst us? I decided to find out.

The Couple

Bren and Auds: He's an entrepreneur, she's a pastry chef. 

Earliest Disney memory?

Auds: When Snow White was re-released in theaters in the ‘80s, my father took me to see it. I was around four and already had serious plans of being a princess one day myself. When the evil queen handed Snow White the poisoned apple I stood up on my seat and yelled, “JUST SAY NO!” This ended up in the papers and shortly after Nancy Reagan, who was in the midst of her big "Just Say No To Drugs" campaign, sent me a lovely letter thanking me for being a smart kid. The best part was she also included a Snow White watch and tickets to go to Disneyland!

How often do you visit Disneyland?

Bren: We're season pass holders. Admittedly, this made more sense when we lived in Southern California. 

Why do you love Disneyland? 

Bren: Two words: Peter. Pan. When you walk down Main Street, USA you're instantly transported back to your childhood (or the one you wish you had!) There's just something transforming about being swept up in the enchantment of Disneyland. There's a reason it's called "The happiest place on Earth." 

Does your significant other also enjoy Disney with your intensity?

Auds: Um, yes! Life would be a dark and dreary place if that weren't the case!

The Singer

Shauna: classical singer, fitness blogger, and superfan since the womb.

Earliest Disney memory?

Urban legend states my mother went on Space Mountain when she was in her third trimester with me. She stood very close to my dad in line so they wouldn't kick her off the ride.

Who's your favorite character? 

Aurora from Sleeping Beauty. "Gift of song" and all. My mom wanted to name me Aurora and my dad nixed it.

Do people comment on your enjoyment of Disney?

No one has commented since I stopped wearing my Winnie the Pooh costume to teach my voice students.

The Social Media Mouseketeer

Collin: works in tech and is the keeper of the Disney Fans Bay Area @DisneySF Twitter, Instagram and Facebook pages.

Favorite Disney memorabilia? 

My family owns a large storytelling book from the original 1950s Mickey Mouse Club. We obtained it from the Disney Studios years ago. I also collect Robert Olszewski's Disneyland collection. It's a z-scale model from the main entrance to the castle. It's about the size of a dining room table. I've been collecting them since 2001.  

Has anyone ever implied that you're "too into" Disney?
Some. It's no different than people loving a sports team. There are a lot of Disney fans out there who share the same love and admiration. Walt Disney said it best: "You're dead if you aim only for kids. Adults are only kids grown up, anyway."

Do you post Disney related things to your Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram accounts?

My friends and I started Disney Fans Bay Area, a group that is thriving on Instagram (@disneyfansba) and Facebook (facebook.com/groups/DisneySF/). On occasion, we meet up for movies and ice cream. I've made a lot of new friends!

The Producer 

K, Music producer and aspiring mermaid

Earliest Disney memory?

When I was 3 or 4, my parents took me to Disneyland for the first time. I'm sure the nighttime "Main Street Electrical Parade" is why I eventually became a raver.

What's your favorite film?

 As a child it was The Jungle Book. I dealt with a lot of racism and it was the first time I saw children that looked like me in a cartoon with brown skin. I felt like I just had to find Tiger Lily to find my family.

Who are your favorite characters? 

Ariel from The Little Mermaid and everything she represents; staying true to herself, creating her own world, wanting more, risking it all to do what she felt in her heart.  I lately have a special fondness for Pinocchio. I think this has to do with my "biological clock" and secret desire for my puppy to turn into "a real boy."

The Film Scholar

Kristen, film scholar and blogger

Favorite piece of Disney memorabilia?

I have a large wooden carving of Tinkerbell that I'm very proud of. In case of a fire I'd be grabbing my pin lanyard and giant map of Disneyland which came out in honor of the 50th anniversary.

Do people comment on your enjoyment of Disney? 

All my friends know I'm a Disney nut. I do get the occasional friend who says "There's other places in the world, why go back to Disneyland?" and they know there's no taking me away from it.

Has anyone ever implied that you're "too into" Disney?

I tell myself that!  I'm always afraid friends think it's weird that I have Disneyland merch plastered all over my room, and I just remember there's a huge Disney fandom who have their entire house decked out in Disney gear, so I'm not that weird.... right?

The Theme Park Fan

Jesse, drag and theme park enthusiast

Who is your favorite Disney character? 

Ursula the Sea Witch from The Little Mermaid.  She was probably my first exposure to a drag queen and my love of her anthem “Poor Unfortunate Souls” was an early sign of “things to come” to my parents. What little developing gay boy in the ‘80s didn’t love Ursula?  She’s modeled after Divine!

What's your favorite ride?

I’m very partial to The Haunted Mansion.  It doesn’t just take you on a ride, but puts you in the middle of a fully realized, obsessively detailed world that is great. Plus, Madame Leota is the shit.  She makes me moist.

Do people comment on your enjoyment of Disney?

I get eye rolls and have had to over-explain myself quite a bit in my adulthood.  To admit that you really like the Disney Parks as an adult to some people seems to be an affront to their own self-importance. Disney is a pretty easy target for the intellectually lazy to make fun of or look down their nose at.

Has anyone ever implied that you're "too into" Disney?

Yeah, but they’re dumb.

The Broadcaster 

Karli, a local tv favorite is also a proud "lander"

What's your favorite Disney film?

Aladdin. I adored Jasmine. Like her, I lost a parent when I was 10 and watched it every night. I knew every. Single. Word. and can still recite most of it, but no one likes watching it with me when I do that...

Do people comment on your enjoyment of Disney?

My husband likes to tell people that my sister and I are "no joke" when it comes to Disneyland visits. We strategize our ride plan and conquer it by lands so we don't waste time. He thinks we are nuts but goes along.

Has anyone ever implied that you're "too into" Disney?

One friend labeled me and some friends who love Disneyland as "Landers." I take that as a compliment.

The Newly Engaged Fan

Shelley, Redwood City, is newly engaged and planning a Disneyland honeymoon.

How much of your wardrobe is Disney related? 

I have hoodies, tank tops, capri sweats, hats, jewelry... even flip flops! I still have an almost 20-year-old hoodie I bought when I went for Christmas with my Grandmother in 1996. I also have my Mickey Mouse earrings I wear year round. Two years ago for Christmas my fiancé, Ken, bought me a Mickey Necklace with a diamond on his hip. 

Does your significant other also enjoy Disney with your intensity?

He's starting to; he agreed to Disneyland for our honeymoon. My love of the place excites others to want to enjoy the experience.

Why do you love it?

A few years ago I was facing open heart surgery and didn't know if I was going to survive. I told my Mom that I had to visit Disneyland before surgery: if I was going to die, I wanted to spend some of my last moments at the Happiest Place on Earth. She granted that wish and we booked the trip. Luckily, I ended up not needing surgery and I am here today to tell you this. 

The one and only MARY POPPINS

Dusty, a pre-school teacher; Disney costume, set, and figure recreationist; regular Disney park attendee.

Favorite Disney memories?

I was married on December 5th, Walt Disney's birthday, and celebrated my 25th anniversary at Disneyland with a fairytale wedding vow renewal! My family and I have opened Disneyland three times and opened Disneyworld once: it's a special ritual with a song while people countdown by the front gates. I've also ridden in the coveted Lily Belle celebrity car on the Disneyland express, been inside the secret Club 33 more than once, marched in two parades and slept in the park twice. I've also made life-size recreations of scenes from The Lion King, Snow White, The Little Mermaid, Winnie the Pooh, there's so many!

Who is your favorite character?

Sleeping Beauty, I tell my preschool students that I'm the real Sleeping Beauty.

Among the costumes I've created are Elsa from Frozen, Alice in Wonderland in two variations (including Alice as parade float), Madame Leota from the Haunted House, obviously Princess Aurora from Sleeping Beauty and yes, Mary Poppins.

How often do you visit Disneyland? 

For every occasion. The sights, sounds, and smells of the place are embedded in my family's memory. I've been other places and they're not Disneyland! Once we went to real New Orleans but we all agreed we prefer the New Orleans in Disneyland. 

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