Entertainment to Get You Excited for Disney
A while back I posted a list of movies to show your kids before your Disney trip, films that would educate them about the Disney canon so that they would be familiar with park iconography. Watching princess movies is definitely going to get the kiddos psyched for your Disney vacation.
But what about you?
You know alllll about pixie dust. You’ve been there, done that with Cinderella (glass shoe, bibbidi bobbidi, yadda, yadda, yadda). You are fully familiar with dwarf nomenclature and know P. Sherman’s address by heart. So what entertainment do you, grown-up person, consume to get psyched for your Disney vacation? Here are some ideas.
All items are currently available on iTunes, among other places. So load up your phone, tablet, or classic iPod (yep, they still make those) to keep you pepped up during the plane ride to MickeyLand. Some items listed here are specific to Disney World or Disneyland but, in my opinion, any of them will pump you up no matter which coast you’re headed for.
TRAVEL PLANNING and PROPAGANDA VIDEO
Sometimes you need some information with your inspiration. These ex-TravelChannel videos, while now fairly dated, will fill you in on the highlights of a Disney parks visit.
- Undiscovered Disney Parks. Focuses on backstage experiences and less popular attractions.
- Disney Parks: Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Get up close and personal with youngest Disney World theme park.
- Walt Disney World Resort: Behind the Scenes. A look at some of the WDW infrastructure.
- Ultimate Walt Disney World. A look at the Disney World thrill rides.
- Disneyland Resort Behind the Scenes. Go backstage in Anaheim.
- Samantha Brown Great Weekends, Volume 1, Episode 5: Orlando. Sam shows things to do if you’ll be spending some time off Disney property.
Disney also offers a free trip planning DVD, updated yearly, with all the latest news about Walt Disney World.
Also note that there dozens of other old Travel Channel and Food Network episodes which cover aspects of the wonderful world of Disney. (R.I.P. Great Hotels, Season of Disney, and a billion Food Network Challenge Disney cakes.) You can find some these on tapes or DVD, but they are not readily available for quick download.
TELEVISION VISITS, MOCKS, or OTHERWISE REFERENCES DISNEY PARKS
These are episodes of standard TV shows where the characters either visit parks or discuss Disney themes as plot points during the show. If Disney World is good enough for Uncle Jesse, then it is absolutely good enough for me. (And yes, MANY other TV series have visited Disney locations or riffed on Disney themes, but not all are readily available in digital format, nor are all of them actually watchable.)
- Full House, season 6, episodes 23 and 24: The House Meets the Mouse. The quintessential example of the ABC-makes-sitcoms-visit-Disney genre. Practically perfect in every way. The Step by Step, George Lopez, and Roseanne Disney episodes pale in comparison.
- Mad Men, season 4, episode 13: Tomorrowland. In which Don and Megan take the kids to California and Disneyland.
- Modern Family, season 3, episode 22: Disneyland. Gloria wears impractical footwear to tour Disneyland. Theme park pros nod knowingly.
- Pretty much the entire Once Upon A Time series can be somehow related to a Disney visit.
- iCarly, season 2, episode 21: iTake on Dingo. Yes, this is a kids’ show, but really it’s an awesome piece of Disney satire. Carly and crew plot to liberate the cryogenically frozen head of “Charles Dingo,” founder of Dingo Studios. Hilarity ensues.
- The Big Bang Theory‘s Southern California location makes it ripe for Disney reference. Episodes with notable mentions include:
- Season 5, episode 16: The Vacation Solution. Sheldon mocks Disney World as a vacation destination.
- Season 3, episode 20: The Spaghetti Catalyst. In which Penny takes Sheldon to Disneyland and we learn that Sheldon has Goofyphobia.
- Season 6, episode 18: The Contractual Obligation Implementation. The women go to Disneyland and come back dressed as princesses.
- Boy Meets World, season 3, episode 21: The Happiest Show on Earth. Cory travels to Disney World to win back Topanga’s love.
- The Simpsons, season 4, episode 13: Selma’s Choice. Many Simpsons episodes dig at Disney, but Selma’s Choice, in which Bart and Lisa visit Duff Gardens theme park is perhaps the diggiest.
- Saturday Night Live, many sketches throughout the years. Notably:
- Lindsey Lohan hosts: Season 29, episode 18. Debbie Downer at a character breakfast.
- Lohan hosts again: Season 37, episode 16. Real housewives of Disney.
- Anna Kendrick hosts: Season 39, episode 17. Monologue and Little Mermaid sketches
- Zac Efron hosts: Season 34, episode 20. High School Musical goes to college sketch.
- Family Guy, season 4, episode 16: The Courtship of Stewie’s Father. Peter and Stewie visit Walt Disney World.
RANDOM VACATION FUN WITH AMUSEMENT PARK MOVIES
- National Lampoon’s Vacation. I’ll admit that it took me about 10 years to recognize the WALLY World – WALT Disney connection. Some of my family vacations have been closer to this than I care to admit.
- Adventureland (2009). Hanging out at an amusement park can change your perspective on the world.
- Big (1988). The amusement park scenes were filmed at tiny Rye Playland in Westchester County, New York, but the “I want to be a kid again” theme is a nice fit for a grown-up looking to reclaim some childhood with a Disney parks visit.
- Beverly Hills Cop III (1994). Eddie Murphy hunts a killer in a theme park. The Sherman brothers, composers of the earworm enducing It’s a Small World theme song, actually penned the purposefully annoying attraction song in this movie.
- Escape from Tomorrow (2013). An fairly creepy film most notable for being filmed almost entirely on Disney parks property without Disney’s knowledge or permission. Frequent park goers will like playing “Where was that scene shot?”.
- Jurassic Park (1993). Yes, it’s a ride at Universal Studios, but there are several Disney references and an overall send-up of theme parks in general.
- Music & Lyrics (2007). Hugh Grant plays and aging pop star reduced to booking gigs at theme parks. The Eat to the Beat concert series needs to book this guy.
- That Thing You Do (1996). A brief scene show that boy band The Wonders know they’ve hit it big when they visit Disneyland.
- Dark Ride (2006). Horror is not my genre, but if you want to watch folks get terrorized in an amusement park environment, feel free to partake.
- Marvin’s Room (1996). Notable for scenes filmed at Walt Disney World with Disney’s permission.
With all the wonderful Disney music out there, it’s completely legit for an adult to load up his iPod with animated film soundtracks and Alan Menken scores. If you want to spend your flight to Orlando blasting an endless loop of Let It Go through your noise-canceling headphones, then I’ve got your back. But if you want an added degree of difficulty, try constructing some “Get Psyched for Disney” playlists which don’t include any actual Disney music.
Some topics you might want to include are:
- Being on vacation. For example, The Go-Go’s Vacation or Vacation by New Numbers.
- Hot weather and sun (especially if you’re escaping Northern climes during the winter). For example, Buster Poindexter’s Hot, Hot, Hot, Sunshine Day by the Brady Bunch, Too Darn Hot from Kiss Me Kate, or Katrina and the Waves’ ubiquitous Walking on Sunshine.
- Family togetherness (good and bad aspects). For example, Sister Sledge’s We Are Family, REM’s Shiny Happy People, or Kids from the Bye Bye Birdie soundtrack.
- Princesses or other characters. For example, Daughtrey’s Cinderella, Call Me a Princess by Kerry Butler, Toni Basil’s Mickey, or David Byrne’s Pirates.
- Fairytales in general. For example, Taylor Swift’s Today was a Fairytale, Fairytale from Sara Bareilles, or Happily Ever After from the Once Upon a Mattress soundtrack.
- Florida and/or California. For example, Two by Two from the Book of Mormon soundtrack, California Dreamin’ by the Mamas and the Papas, or Anaheim from They Might Be Giants.
- Rides or types of rides. For example, 50 Cent’s Amusement Park, Circle Game from Joni Mitchell, or Love Rollercoaster from Ohio Players.
- Fun vacation food. For example, Buttered Popcorn by Diana Ross or Vanilla Ice Cream from the She Loves Me soundtrack.
- Walking, waiting, and other procedural matters. For example, Tom Petty’s The Waiting, Ticket to Ride from the Beatles, or Walking Man by James Taylor.
- Disney parks. For example, Disney Girls from the Beach Boys, Disneyland by Five for Fighting, or a new one from Disney Hipster Andrew – Let’s Move to Disney World.
Here’s one of my Get Psyched for Disney playlists. I’m a theater geek, so this is a fairly soundtrack-centric old lady list, but based on your preferences, you could certainly construct your own pop, rock, rap, or other flavored Disney prep playlist.
Sometimes the best way to get enthusiastic about a topic is through study. Here are some Disney-related documentaries that will get you excited for a Disney visit through learning.
- Waking Sleeping Beauty (2009). A behind-the-scenes look at early Disney film animation.
- The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story (2009). A biography of Disney composers Robert and Richard Sherman. (You saw them fictionalized in Saving Mr. Banks.)
- Walt & El Grupo (2008). This is what happened when the U.S. government asked Walt Disney to be a cultural ambassador to South America.
- The Hand Behind the Mouse (1999). The life of Disney animator Ub Iwerks.
- The Pixar Story (2007). A look at the early years of Pixar Animation.
- Frank and Ollie (1995). A biography of Disney animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston.
You can’t go wrong with an Unofficial Guide as your flight time distraction, but you may also want to consider works outside the travel guide genre as a Kindle companion. Perhaps:
- Life, Animated by Ron Suskind. Teaching an autistic child through Disney movies.
- The Kingdom Keepers series by Ridley Pearson. Fun for both adult and young adult audiences. Sorta sci-fi set in the Disney parks.
- Walt Disney by Neal Gabler. Learn about the man behind the empire.
- Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow. A different sci-fi version of life at a Disney park.
- Dream Factory by Brad Barkley and Heather Hapler. Young adult romance set at Disney World.
- The Dark Side of Disney by Leonard Kinsey. Read about stuff that will get you kicked out of the parks.
- Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace. Inspiration from the co-founder of Pixar.
So fellow amusement aficionados, what do you listen to, read, or watch to get you pumped up for your Disney vacation? Am I missing your favorite pre-Disney jam? Let us know in the comments below.
18 thoughts on “Entertainment to Get You Excited for Disney”
Erin — thanks for another wonderful article! Right now, I am chewing my nails over that fact that my relatives are at WDW with ZERO planning. A last minute trip with 4 kids. Only one day, max two. I have hives! 🙂 Just wanted to mention a good Disney documentary that I believe is available on Netflix streaming. Modern Marvels did a good episode about Walt Disney world. I think when you select it on your queue in Netflix, it brings up other episodes and Disney options.
I have that Modern Marvels in my iTunes library. I wanted to include it here, but it appears to no longer be available for purchase from Apple. I’m glad to hear it’s on Netflix.
And wait, your relatives are there with no planning just before July 4? Yikes, now I have the hives too.
Erin, thank you for the tips, I will look for that Zac Efron episode. Chris, I would love you tell us how that unplanned summer vacation comes out. No fastpass plus, no touring plans, no lodging/meal reservation, that sounds crazy to me at this time!
Food unrwapped @ Disneyworld should be added to the list
For book recs: I’m taking along “Disneylanders” by Kate Abbott on my flight to Disneyland, as well as “The Disneyland Story” by Sam Gennawey.
I second “Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom.” Amazing read.
For a fun non-fiction read, check out “The Thinking Fan’s Guide to Walt Disney World: Magic Kingdom” by Aaron Wallace. It’s fun and funny and gives a nice history to the park. I’m hoping for a companion piece for Epcot.
Netflix and Amazon Prime both have several of the older Disney Park (World and Land) shows available right now; specifically the one you have pictured!
There’s also a Simpson’s episode where they visit a thinly disguised Epcot. Principal Skinner compares it to Edna Crabapple — “mild thrills in an educational setting” — and Homer sneaks over the fence into the Magic Kingdom to pay $20 for a churro.
For an even more cynical and not kid-safe take, the Venture Bros. dropped into “Brisby Land”. Their father negotiates with Brisby himself inside a giant, spaceship Earth-like beehive, while the boys are kidnapped and brainwashed by the Orange County Liberation Front.
The Simpson’s Itchy & Scratchy Land episode is another one to add to the list. There’s lots of good Disney references in that one. The season finale of The Middle was really good, but I still haven’t found the outdoor restaurant in France they ate at in the end of the episode.
Another great post, Erin! So thorough and fun! I find that I use a lot of these to get psyched up for a trip, but also for a touch of “magic” in between trips. I think I’ll be adding some of your songs to my playlist!
Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t need much to get me pumped!! Just knowing that I have a vacation coming up pretty much gets me all worked up 🙂
Great post! I always DVR the Disney Christmas Morning Parade (available on youtube) and then we watch it about once a week until our trip, lol. Last christmas Neil Patrick Harris hosted- it was great!
I was so excited to see Two by Two from the Book of Mormon included here! I always get a little excited every time I hear that song. Orlando! I love you, Orlando! With Sea World and Disney and putt putt golfing!
A few recent things you left out:
The Middle, S5, Ep 24 – The Wonderful World of Hecks – The Heck family visits Disney World, with scenes at MK and Epcot. Sue is the ultimate overplanner!
Saving Mr. Banks – About the making of Mary Poppins, and includes a great Disneyland scene.
Saturday Night Live S39E11 (Drake) – One sketch is at the Indiana Jones Stunt Show, with Drake playing a cast member trying to get a very confused guest who doesn’t seem to speak English to play her part.
The old Travel Channel videos can now be seen from time to time on Destination America and they have some new ones that are only a few months to a year old. They include Walt Disney World Resort Hotels and Disney Cruise Line: Magic Re-Imagined. The older ones are updated in spots. I remember one of them talking about New Fantasyland and Magic Bands.
Don’t forget Youtube! There are lots of youtube channels of park touring & having fun in the World. Nothing like watching people having fun in the parks to get you excited!
My favorites are:
Eat, Sleep, Dis, Repeat
Stef & Jeff
Phil, Emma, and Ben
And the good news ones:
Touringplans (of course!)
Dream It Do It by Marty Skylar is my favorite Disney Park read
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