It’s that one day of the year when I come to you from the future as our timezones wreak havoc with the universe. I greet you today from 2021; yes, we’ve made it. Despite the escalation of apocalyptic conditions that I had imagined, I haven’t seen any creepy clowns in the streets or falling lava. Happy to report, so far, so good!
As usual, I wanted to take a moment to reflect with you all on the year that was and look forward to what we can achieve in the next one. Thinking about the last twelve months, many words come to mind. Volatile, unpredictable, soul-crushing, and a few others that aren’t entirely Disney-themed, but let’s just say, Siri, “ducked” wasn’t the word I was looking for.
That said, it wasn’t all bad. 2020 had many lessons to share with us, doing away with our increasing entitlement and reminding us that every opportunity to spend time with the people we care about, doing the things we love, should be cherished. We’ve been challenged. Once set in our ways, living life with expectations, we now look at our existence a little differently. Our Disney lives have also changed dramatically. We’ve seen more restrictions and rules for those that can visit the parks than we ever thought possible. Our love for Disney has been tested, from face masks and capacity limits to temperature checks and returning quarantine periods. For those of us at home, unable to travel, the way we connect with our passion has changed significantly as well. We live vicariously through our memories, proving the old adage to be true. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
With canceled travel plans to both Tokyo Disneyland and Aulani in O’ahu this year, I’ve had my share of disappointment when it comes to missing the magic. That was until I saw a post on the Disboards on Facebook that caught my eye. It was a pictorial review of a recent trip to Walt Disney World that Michelle Perrin-Crawford and her family had taken. Complete with outfit-coordinated face masks, their eyes sparkled in delight; those smiles unable to be contained by a face covering. A combination of Michelle’s impressive eye for photography and her family’s abundance of happiness transcended through the screen and warmed my heart. After a few messages with this lovely lady, I’ve been lucky enough to use her extraordinary images in many of my articles throughout the year.
Despite the restrictions brought on by COVID, it has been a year of change in the parks as well. We saw the opening of Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, though other attraction openings were hindered by delays. Both the long-awaited Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind are now expected to open in 2021. Disneyland’s Avengers Campus that was anticipated to open on July 18th of 2020, has been postponed with an unveiling currently unscheduled due to Disneyland Park’s long-lived closure.
In the realm of reimagining, updates on the considerable transformation of EPCOT roll in weekly. Magic Kingdom and Disneyland also had some big news with the announcement of a retheming of the fan-favorite attraction, Splash Mountain, set to become a Princess and the Frog attraction that follows Tiana and Louis on a magical, music-filled adventure. While no one really likes change, I’ve made peace with trusting the Disney process; they usually get it right in the end.
So, what comes next? Even though I am the better part of a day ahead of most of you, those hours aren’t enough to tell you where we go from here. All I know is that we have to look forward. We need to keep making plans and working toward our personal goals to sustain some sort of positive outlook. Those of us who love our Disney parks, cruises, and resorts need to keep planning our vacations, albeit a little further in advance and with more realistic expectations. Once rigid in our thinking, Disney vacations now require a more casual mindset, in some ways, bringing back that long-forgotten feeling of simplicity once you arrive. Those action-packed days of dawn-till-dusk FastPasses, advance dining reservations, and park hopping have been refined into a less-complicated experience, allowing you to rediscover a relaxing vacation if you let it.
The year 2021 has much to offer us. As we take forth our newly-found knowledge and awareness into the next twelve months, we are buoyed by the precautions we choose to employ to protect our individual health. While 2020 took us by surprise – and showed us just how many people were not washing their hands – 2021 has the opportunity for a united community to regain control. We are empowered as a society with an understanding of what we face and the tools to lessen its impact. On the other hand, our mental health is a personal battle that we all must fight for. Invest in yourselves. Immerse yourself in your passions and always look ahead to brighter days.
Coming to you from the other side, I can tell you that my own goal is to take this year one day at a time. Setting attainable goals for myself and making the most of every day along the way because our lives aren’t on pause during this pandemic. We don’t get this time back. I’ll be re-planning my Japan trip and our return to O’ahu, bigger and better than before, not taking a single step of the planning or the journey itself for granted.
I hope 2021 brings you peace and happiness. The days ahead won’t be easy, but we can make them lighter on each other with the right outlook.
Happy New Year to you all! I’ll see you all on the other side.