The new Festival of Fantasy parade- an opportunity to conquer fears

Sunday, March 9, 2014

On our recent trip to WDW, we popped over to Sleepy Hollow for a snack (the most amazing snack of the trip) and while I was ordering, Steve took the kids to a nearby wall to watch the Dream Along with Mickey show underway at the Castle. Imagine my surprise when my order was interrupted by the screams of my daughter, age 6. My husband turned around and wheeled the kids away from the show as quickly as possible. I met his gaze and he said one word; "Maleficent."

Caroline adored Sleeping Beauty when we first watched it. She asked to see it again and again. I would even call it a favorite. I am not sure when that all changed, but suddenly she was waking up with nightmares. She would show up bedside, visibly shaking, and asking me, "Mommy, can I please sleep with you?" She never wanted to talk about her nightmares and it took a long time for us to put it together. Her most frequent and most terrifying nightmare was Maleficent. 

Earlier this year, she was lucky enough to attend a birthday party of a friend at a theatre for a showing of Frozen. I was admittedly jealous because she was my "in" to see the movie. I expected her to love it. I expected to play the soundtrack on repeat for months. I did not expect to hear from the parents of the birthday girl that Caroline had been completely inconsolable during the previews which wouldn't you know it, feature "Maleficent." Oh, how my heart sank. First, these poor parents managing a large group of six year-old girls having to cope with this and then, my poor daughter, completely unprepared for something like that. Later, as we rehashed the whole thing with her, she practically dove under the table at the mere mention of "she who can no longer be named." There were more tears, ears covered, begging us not to talk about it anymore. We saw Frozen twice more and each time she needed to close her eyes, cover her ears, and have the protection of a parent's hand.

So there we were, ordering our snack, and she was screaming... at Disney World. We reassured her that we had no idea Maleficent would be in the show. I had not even reviewed the content of the show before we arrived because Maleficent didn't exactly seem like Castle show material and yet, there we were.

I heard about the Maleficent float in the new Festival of Fantasy parade. The images they released met great applause and excitement from Disney fans, everyone but me. I enjoy the Villains and wholeheartedly support the inclusion of this well executed float, but you can imagine my sadness and relief that the parade would not be ready for our visit. There is so much for her to absolutely love about this parade; Princesses, Peter Pan, Anna and Elsa, Merida, "Ariel with a fin." The costumes Disney revealed were impressive and frightening. I looked at the raven and the thorny guys on stilts and yeah, there was no way she could watch this parade. This afternoon, I was reading all the updates in the countdown to the 3:00 parade. I told her about it and Maleficent. This was how she felt about it.

My poor baby girl. How can you even watch that and not have your heart break a little for her. Terrified as she was, she bravely sat at my side, watching the vines and images come across the internet. She cheered for Belle and the Beast. She watched Anna and Elsa several times before allowing me to move on. She loved it all until she caught sight of the fairies from Sleeping Beauty and she reached across and paused the video, crawling into my lap, hiding her face. "You know that means," she said. She refused to watch anymore. I found a link to a live feed of the entire parade starting any moment now and convinced her it would be ok. I assured her that the Maleficent she was afraid of; the horned evil fairy version, would NOT be there.

She could see her approaching, the dragon rolling down Main Street. She was a bit nervous, but so relieved when it passed by, and bravely announced, "nope, not scary!" Incredibly, she now feels she CAN watch the parade, "when can we go????" I am shocked, but so very pleased. She is like many other kids, what she can imagine in her head is so much worse than reality. If you have a villain fearing Disney fan, consider watching the video with them before you travel. Sure, it will take away from the magic and surprise of this truly wonderful parade, but not having someone screaming in fear as it rolls around the circle towards you is well worth it.

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