At 93 years old, Walt Disney Studios still brings out the kid in all of us, whether you reminisce about your childhood by re-watching your favorite Disney movies, or you’re strolling through the Magic Kingdom listening to Disney classics while taking in the incredible ambiance of the park. Originally founded in 1923 as Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio, Walt Disney Animation Studios developed and pioneered many traditional animation practices, concepts, techniques and principles which made it into the premier animation studio in America. Disney Studios created some of the most recognizable figures in popular culture that have become a part of everyone’s childhood memories. To this day, the nostalgic feeling of being in Walt Disney World parks, reliving the memories of being a child and escaping reality is Disney’s catalyst to creating the “magic.”
Nostalgia makes the world of Disney special, and creating its own world where people can escape to and where they can just feel like a child again is what keeps guests coming back. So why does Disney utilize the feeling of nostalgia and what makes the feeling of “nostalgia” so beneficial to our health? Believe it or not, nostalgia used to be considered an ailment that was connected with anxiety and sleeplessness, and “particularly evident in soldiers fighting in foreign countries who experienced homesickness to the point where they became ill and unable to perform their duties,” according to an article by environmental philosopher Glenn Albrecht in the Philosophy Activism Nature journal. What was once deemed a sickness is now considered a way to counteract loneliness, boredom and anxiety. The use of nostalgia in marketing is one of the most beneficial techniques used today by so many companies who bring back fond childhood memories and blasts-from-the-past through emotional connections. Walt Disney himself has often been quoted as saying “I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse.” Even since its inception, The Walt Disney Company has been committed to preserving and marketing the legacy of their past through.
Nostalgia Brings the Past and the Present Together
For many, Walt Disney World will always be tied to their own childhood experiences of bonding with friends and family, and while comparing the past to the present may not be the best way to nostalgize, focusing on the past to help view your life as meaningful or in an existential way can actually be beneficial to your mental health. In a 2012 study published in the journal Memory, Clay Routledge showed that experiencing nostalgia that had predominately positive feelings helped people connect their past experiences with their present lives in order to make greater meaning of it all. Often times this helps reduce stress, increases positive mood, and boosts social connectedness, all of which demonstrate that nostalgia promotes psychological resources that facilitate well-being. Disney creates a great deal of nostalgia by transporting guests to some of their happiest memories through Disney “magic” and creating ideal guest experiences, ambiance and unforgettable moments.
Evoking Memories Through The Smells and Sounds of Disney
Many subjects of nostalgia often involve cherished or significant people, places and events in a person’s life, and the easiest ways to induce nostalgia is through sound and smell, something Walt Disney World does seamlessly throughout their parks. A Magic Kingdom bring back happy memories and nostalgic feelings. Just like smells, Petr Janata, a psychologist at University of California explains, our favorite sounds and music “gets consolidated into the especially emotional memories from our formative years,” meaning the whistle of the Walt Disney Railroad or music from classic Disney films heard throughout the parks is what also may provoke those childhood memories for many.
Cultivating Nostalgic Experiences
Creating new memories to store into your “nostalgia bank” can be beneficial not only to your present self but also to your future self. Rather than spending money on trinkets and souvenirs, cultivate experiences that you’ll look back on down the road with positive feelings! What better way to create memorable and happy experiences than dashing through Space Mountain, or enjoying a pirate’s life at Pirates of the Caribbean? Disney taps into your positive experiences of the past, making the idea of never wanting to grow up their mantra while creating an emotional hook that lures you right in; and who can say no to that? There’s no doubt that Disney parks strike a chord with the childhood self of most guests, which makes feeling like a kid again their ultimate intention.
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