Remembering My Disney Dad

My Dad and I at Uptown Jewelers in 1995
My Dad and I at Uptown Jewelers in 1995

I mentioned on twitter and facebook this morning that today my dad would’ve turned 71. I’ve posted about my early memories of Walt Disney World with my family, my parents were both big Disney fans, however my dad, who had a childlike nature to begin with, would always be filled with excitement at every Disney visit.

His favorite character was Donald Duck. In later years, this meant he always got a Donald something for birthday and Christmas presents. I remember asking him one time why Donald was his favorite and he told me that he only really said he liked Donald for my benefit, because my older siblings were not really into Disney (I know, shocking!) and he didn’t want me to feel sad about that, so since back then Mickey was my favorite, he said Donald was his…and it just stuck. If that’s not an example of what a Daddy’s girl I was, I’m not sure what is.

My dad loved old musicals and old Hollywood. He’d be the one singing along to all the songs playing in the background on Main Street, USA and would name every movie from the Studios soundtrack too. Disney’s Hollywood Studios was definitely his favorite park. We visited a few times when it first opened and of course back when my husband, mom and I were cast members too. He loved being able to tell me every actor or movieย  that was being referenced in some detail or pun used in the parks. My mom and I cannot watch the film montage at the end of the Great Movie Ride and not tear up remembering his favorites. That park is just full of happy memories.

Another spot that holds some magic for me is the queue for Splash Mountain. My dad loved the thrill rides and was the one to first convince me to ride Big Thunder Mountain, which, as scared as I was, of course I loved. When I finally agreed to go on Splash Mountain, he spent the very long wait that day telling me stories of his childhood in Ocala and Jacksonville, FL. He always loved Song of the South and the tales of Uncle Remus (without getting into a PC debate, I think the lessons and history within that movie are something to be treasured, learned from and preserved) so the Splash Mountain theme always made him nostalgic for his southern upbringing and the crazy stories he grew up with. In fact, during 2009’s Moms Panel round 3 phone interviews, that was the ‘favorite memory’ I discussed (I was extremely nervous and I think sounded like I was about to cry but hopefully got the specialness of the memory across).

We lost my dad back in 2004 and although I do believe that he is looking down and seeing his beautiful grandchildren, I wish more than anything that he could walk through the parks with them and tell them his stories, as he told me. I am so grateful that I was given the chance to hear his stories in such a magical place and will forever be thankful to Walt Disney World for that gift.

Happy Birthday, Daddy.

  • Nellabeaner

    What a special tribute. It brought a tear to my eyes. <3

  • Allison V.

    Super sweet post Zanna! I know that you were a special daughter to him. Love the pic on Main Street of the 2 of you. And yes, yes, yes – I got misty reading this post ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thank you Allison…I figure if just one more person knows what a special person he was and how amazing Disney is for creating memories, then my job is done (but I’m not quitting haha). Hugs!

  • yeah, I am crying!!!

    • I didn’t mean to make everyone cry, but it’s nice to know we all are so emotional about loved ones and the magic of Disney. ♥

  • Anonymous

    Tears in my eyes reading this. Thank you for sharing these special memories with us. It truly is amazing to hear how many families were brought even closer thanks to adventures at Walt Disney World.

    • Thank you so much. ♥

  • Mike Ellis

    Zanna, your passion for Disney is but one of the special things that your Dad gave you. The memories you have with him and your family are what make blogging so special for those that get to share your thoughts! Thanks for writing, Mike.

    • Thank YOU for your kind words…greatly appreciated. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • What a sweet story, thanks for sharing. It reminded me of the good times I had at WDW with my grandparents, both of whom are gone now.

    • Thank you…so happy to have had these memories and be making more too.

  • Thanks for sharing that story, Zanna. One of the great things about the story is that it’s exactly what Walt was hoping to accomplish: create a place where parents and children can be together and all have fun. This post is also a great reminder to make the most of every day and the time you have with family and friends.

    • Aw, thanks Tim, I hadn’t thought of that, but you’re right. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Zanna, what a special tribute to an obviously special man. I completely understand how those special memories you have of him at WDW are treasured, as I have lost both of my parents now, and some of the most wonderful memories I have about both of them was the family trip that we all took to Disney World in 2000. Thanks so much for sharing with us, misty eyes and all. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thank YOU for reading and your kind words. I’m sorry for your losses as well.

  • happy bday dad. trust that he knows we wish himm well!!

    • Thanks, he grew up in Ocala, so he’d appreciate that. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • AJ

    What a great memory! I’m a Daddy’s girl, too, so I can truly relate to your special exchange with your Disney Dad. Thanks for sharing this with us; Happy Birthday Dad.

  • How special this post is. I completely relate as I lost my Dad (who, too, was a major Disney fan) when I was 8. It’s amazing the memories, stories, and learning experiences you have with a parent at WDW. That’s the most magical thing that I think Mr. Disney would be so thrilled to know has happened to thousands of families. Thank you for sharing your story and Happy Belated Birthday to your dad.

  • Beautiful post, Suzannah! What a sweet tribute to your Dad! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Oh Z.. Happy Birthday to your Daddy today. I know he is so proud of you! I’m glad you got to hear those stories. I love you vewwy much. x0x0.ย 

  • Scott

    Wow. More amazing stories from an amazing gal. Thank you so much for sharing these very personal stories. I really feel like I know you so much better now. And that’s a good thing!

    Thanks for being such a wonderful friend!

    Happy Birthday to your daddy.

    • ย Thanks, Scott.