'Find the magic again': Island superfans say Disney is for all ages

·3 min read
Mandy MacNevin-Reynolds and her husband during a trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando. (Submitted by Mandy MacNevin-Reynolds - image credit)
Mandy MacNevin-Reynolds and her husband during a trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando. (Submitted by Mandy MacNevin-Reynolds - image credit)

Serena Richard says she can see some similarities between herself and the character Peter Pan. But unlike the boy who never grew up, she did.

Disney was a big part of Richard's childhood. She would watch movies such as Beauty and the Beast "over and over again" with her family on Sunday evenings.

"When you're a kid, everything is magical," she said. "But then when you start to grow up, you're trying to kind of find your way, transitioning from like a young adult to an adult," she said.

It wasn't until Richard was in her 40s that she finally realized her childhood dream of visiting Walt Disney World in Orlando.

"I just said as a joke to my boyfriend, 'We should just go to Disney World for my 40th birthday.' And he's like, 'Yeah sure, why not?' And I was like, 'We can do that?'"  said Richard, who now has a vlog dedicated to Disney.

Submitted by Serena Richard
Submitted by Serena Richard

Richard is not the only Islander who, as she puts it, managed to "find the magic again." A P.E.I.-based group of Disney fans has more than 500 members on Facebook.

"There's quite a few people that have said, you know, that for them it was an experience they didn't get at childhood," said Mandy MacNevin-Reynolds, an early learning educator who started the group.

"Disney is a way for them to sort of relive some of maybe their lost youth," she said.

Like Richard, MacNevin-Reynolds only made the pilgrimage to Disney World when she was an adult, in 2018.

We could share stories about past trips or, you know, reminisce together, just to kind of keep that sort of like the positivity going. — Mandy MacNevin-Reynolds

"I just remember hugging [Mickey Mouse] and just begin crying … because he felt familiar," she said. "That reminded me of my childhood. Good memories of my mom [who] passed away when I was 15."

'Addicted' to Disney

Submitted by Sheryl Proud
Submitted by Sheryl Proud

Some of the group's members are avid merchandise collectors, others are trivia enthusiasts. There are even some who've left the Island to work for Disney's theme parks.

Sheryl Proud said she became so "addicted" to Walt Disney World following her honeymoon trip that she would often help friends plan vacations there.

She's now the only Disney-focused travel agent on P.E.I. that she's aware of, and visits the park several times a year.

"It's very much an adult destination just as much as it is for children," she said.

"I have three children, they're all 15 and under. And I love going with my family and seeing the excitement that they have … But my husband and I also go without the children."

Proud said her job was challenging during the last two years of the pandemic, when Disney parks and cruises had to temporarily shut down.

But with travel restrictions easing, she said business has been "crazy, crazy busy."

"The amount of people traveling is overwhelming. It's awesome. And people, too, are planning longer trips because they haven't been able to travel in two years."

Submitted by Serena Richard
Submitted by Serena Richard

Keeping it positive

MacNevin-Reynolds said she's been planning her next trip since the pandemic began. She said the group has built a strong bond, and some of them have discussed flying to Orlando together.

During the pandemic, MacNevin-Reynolds said Disney was a way to escape real life for a while.

"We could share stories about past trips or, you know, reminisce together, just to kind of keep that sort of like the positivity going," she said.

As for Richard, she's already planned her next trip: She will travel to Orlando next year to meet fellow adult Disney YouTubers.

And you know for sure she'll be wearing her Disney ears.

"I think if you are a Disney fan, you are gonna want Disney ears on your trip," she said. It's just part of the magic."

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