By now, you probably feel like you’re experiencing some kind of whiplash between The Highwomen, The Wild Woman, something happening in California and the news of this Pixar ball that I promised y’all a week ago. So for now, let’s jump back into it: my Disney saga.
Let’s be real: most high-intensity large-group scenarios make me want to roll into a balled-up fetus position and stay there awhile. And if the Disney D23 Expo is anything, it is most certainly a high-intensity large-group wild, crazy, tired-feet-aching, back-breaking kind of event.
After the crazy roller coaster of emotions I’d experienced in my transition from Nashville to Los Angeles, I was worried that I’d made the wrong decision in coming this far from home for this long. You see, I’ve loved Disney movies since I was a kid, and there’s a part of me that loves to draw myself back into that world whenever I can. The D23 Expo was meant to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience; if I didn’t do it now, I probably never would.
But lately, as cited by this blog and the significant lack of Disney-oriented posts, my interests have been elsewhere. And admittedly, I’ve been so consumed by trying to define and refine the wild woman concept in my life that I couldn’t even fathom how that would fit into this world of animation and imagination. It was kind of stressing me out. Having my feet in both worlds felt wrong and contradictory.
But a funny thing happened. In fact, a funny thing has been happening since I left that convention: I can’t get it out of my head.
The bad, the good, the somewhere-in-between…the D23 Expo was overwhelming, stressful, completely out of my element, and, well, fascinating.
For those who don’t know anything about it, the Expo is designed to be a one-of-a-kind fan experience. You can buy exclusive merchandise, get up close with movie stars and props, and – most importantly – sit in on some very unique panels and presentations that either 1) take you behind the scenes or 2) make you one of the first desperate fans to get the latest news, see the latest movie trailers, or look inside the newest attractions at the parks. If you’re like me, you’ll be plenty happy if you can just take a picture with a giant Forky.
Needless to say, the exclusivity of these events makes for a very competitive and high-stress atmosphere….one that I wanted nothing to do with. Sure, I wanted to see some cool stuff – but there was no way in hell I was going to let it be the make or break of my trip. Others, as you can imagine, didn’t really see it that way.
The chaos began with an online reservation system developed to prevent attendees from camping out all day and night to get into a single presentation. (Because seriously – what’s the fun in that?) The system did provide some relief in guaranteeing hundreds of fans admission into each event, with allowed space for standby admission. But it also caused a lot of headaches when it didn’t work for everyone. Having worked high-pressure events and knowing what it’s like to try something new for the first time, this was something I could easily understand. Trying to make 60,000 people happy all at once is no easy task, which made it all the more difficult when I seemed to be the only one in the room who was able to live and let live.
Plus, we need to learn to make our own selves happy, right?
So, imagine a mob of screaming Haunted Mansion fans trying to fit through a single access lane to get into an arena-size celebration of the 50th anniversary of the attraction. Then imagine that same group of people when they find out they’ve waited an hour in this mob to not all gain entry. And then imagine all of those people frustratedly making their way to a standby line, from which – after an additional 30 minutes of waiting – every single person gets inside with room to spare. In the end, Disney magic prevailed, but not before a whole lot of angry Disney fans lost their cool.
You see, I was in that line. I was in many lines during that weekend. And as much as I hated those lines, I was okay with whatever came of them. (My only true disappointment came when I found out all of the Toy Story 4 records had been sold and I couldn’t meet Randy Newman, which – let’s face it – would’ve been pretty cool.)
No, you see, while a lot of these formerly happy Disney fans got mad, I’d managed to find some light in my time at the D23 Expo.
And you know how?
Well, let’s just say it all came down to what I was holding in my hands during those crazy, chaotic moments: a ball. A Pixar Ball.
You’ve seen it before: a relatively simple yellow plastic ball with a red star and a blue stripe around the center. It’s iconic. Primary-colored. Childlike. And through that wildly chaotic and controversial reservation system, my dad had secured a spot in line for us to get a free one. And I actually walked away from one of my own reservations seeing a panel of inspiring women talk about saving the world (#grlpwr content) to nab my own.
So okay, now you think I’ve really lost my mind. A ball? A plastic children’s toy? THIS is what it’s all come down to?
Well, yes. Yes it is.
It started out as a joke. “I want a Pixar ball!” I’d told my family, once I knew the offer was on the table. It was something silly to look forward to (plus, who doesn’t love cool free stuff). But when the day came to line up and redeem our prize, I stood there watching each adult and child walk away with theirs. Every face was lit from within. Every person in that line was happy. And realizing that – managing to get so excited about this silly giveaway, myself – was enough to light me from within, too.
That ball was pure happiness. It was something to hold onto for comfort as I stood in line after line. It became my talisman and my grounding force. It gave me the permission I was needing to be a kid, if only for a week – and apparently, beyond.
And in that setting, for those few days, it was completely appropriate.
In a weird way, I was that ball: protected from any negative elements by my shiny, brightly-colored rubber casing.
No one cared who I was, where I was from, how old I was, or whether I was a wild woman writer or not. In a way, I felt like I was able to dig deeper into a part of myself that doesn’t come out very often – the part that still loves this stuff, no matter how much I change through the years. This thing was so “powerful” it almost got me an extra $20 in my pocket. But I said no. Because this little toy – this plastic Pixar ball – paved the way for the rest of my week spent there in California.