By LISA CAPOBIANCO
I’ll never forget that day in September 1996 when I was playing in my backyard and suddenly my parents called me inside to break the news: my great uncle (on my dad’s side of the family) just died of a heart attack.
As a 5-year-old dealing with the topic of death for the first time, I did not know how to react.
“Is there anything we can do,” I asked my parents in the kitchen.
“No, sweetie, there’s nothing you can do—he’s gone,” my parents said in a solemn voice.
I cannot recall crying, getting mad, or frustrated, but I was definitely sad, and my parents knew it. At that moment my parents escorted me to the TV room where they popped in one of my favorite videos (of many): Disney’s “Winnie the Pooh Boo to You.”
Welcome to the world of Disney where children like myself can escape life’s troubles, heartache, or setbacks by living vicariously through animated characters that can sing and dance, even while putting up a fight. As I sat on the couch watching the Halloween special of Winnie, I poured all of my emotions into Piglet, who wanted to prove to himself that he was “not afraid” to go out on Halloween night. Like Piglet, I also wanted to feel “not afraid” of dealing with the loss of a loved one, even though I was still trying to comprehend the meaning of death.
“Well in order to be brave, I tell myself I am not afraid,” Piglet sang while trying to get over his fear of Halloween in a darkened room.
I’ll admit that I am one of millions of people in America who have watched too many Disney movies throughout her lifetime. This is evident through my stack of VHS collections stocked on a shelf located in my TV room. From “Pocahontas” to “The Lion King” to “Beauty and the Beast” and “Toy Story 1, 2 and 3,” I have a Disney movie for nearly every special occasion. As I reflect on the past 24 years of my life, I realize how much these movies have become a part of me (which I think resonates with a lot of Disney fanatics).
Recently, I came across an article on Facebook titled, “15 Signs We Spend Too Much Time Watching Disney Movies.” While reading through the first paragraph, I came across a new term that can easily explain my tendency to rely on Disney for any kind of day I may be having: Too Much Disney Movie Disorder (TMDMD). Obviously, this is a fake diagnosis that may shift some blame off of those who just cannot get enough of their daily dose of Disney. But as I read all of the signs of TMDMD, I could not help but chuckle to myself while humming “Once Upon A Dream” at the same time (and randomly breaking out into a Disney song serves as one of those signs—surprise, surprise).
One of the major signs I am guilty of? I annoy friends by reciting the movie I am watching from start to finish: (like “Aladdin”).
“Thank you, kind sir. I’m so glad you found her. I’ve been looking all over for you,” said Aladdin trying to save Jasmine from an irate merchant.
“What are you doing?” whispered Jasmine.
“Just play along,” replied Aladdin in a whisper.
Besides getting goosebumps during the Walt Disney Pictures title treatment every time, I am also guilty of having a go-to movie for every mood. Feeling imaginative? “Alice in Wonderland” may have a few tricks up its sleeve for making any strange idea seem real. Feeling inspired? “Pocahontas” would encourage anyone to stand up for what he or she believes in despite what others think. Feeling sad and lonely? “Lady and the Tramp” may have a plate of spaghetti to share.
The list could go on from there, but by the time I go through each Disney movie ever made, a dozen new ones will already be released in theater. But one thing is certain: watching Winnie on that confusing day in September 1996 helped me cope with the loss of a loved one in a way I did not realize until now. Although I was too young to pay my respects at my uncle’s wake, my parents brought me to the funeral the next day. I don’t remember crying, and I don’t remember being scared. But I do remember being brave—like my long-time friend Piglet.
Lisa Capobianco is a staff writer for The Observer.