What I've learned from Disney

Spoiler: it taught me many things aside from wanting to be a slightly pathetic damsel with really good hair
What I've learned from Disney
Olivia wonders which unsuspecting child to push out of her shot of the castle first

I blame Disney for my hair. I also blame a not-insignificant, mid-Noughties obsession with the show The Girls Next Door, and a brief flirtation with the idea that if I acquired the biggest, bounciest hair extensions in town, I’d look more like Penelope Cruz in Blow, and less like an original-lineup Sugababe that left before the budget really kicked in.

Thankfully, my tanorexic/diamanté-strewn underwear-as-outerwear days are over – but the hair? The hair is here to stay, my friend. I can say with absolute confidence that I’ll still be clinging onto my ridiculous, blonde, waistlength weave at 45 like some kind of tragic trophy wife, and will continue to do so at 85, at which point it will just look even more like a wig than it does right now.

I’m OK with that. It’s a small price to pay for channeling my inner Disney princess well into my toothless twilight years. At that point, I’m pretty sure I could get away with an adult-sized taffeta ballgown too.

I look forward to no doubt being joined in this charade by my good friend Lucy, who – having visited Disney World a total of 14 times in 34 years – is the only person I know who deserves to see the dream out to the bitter end more than I do. When I told her she was in this week’s column, her instructions were to make her sound “cool and hip.” Sadly, I think that Disney Cruise has sailed. But I can tell you this: At 28, when we took a girls’ trip to Disney’s Florida flagship – a first for me, a twelfth for her – I skipped around solidly for three days, fuelled by nothing but beige food, E numbers and sheer joy.

That’s the thing with Disney, isn’t it? Questionable dogmatic standing aside – not to mention consistently championing unrealistic expectations of love/ hair/ hip-to-waist ratio – as soon as Under the Sea comes on, we’re anyone’s; happy as a clam. Or, in this case, an anthropomorphic, Rastafarian crab with an outstanding grasp of catchy calypso rhythms.

Sure, it’s come up against a relentless tidal wave of flak for being the insidious author-engineer of many unattainable, negative ideals – my fake barnet being a direct result – but Disney taught me many things aside from wanting to be a slightly pathetic damsel with really good hair.

For one, Belle from Beauty and the Beast, reimagined by Emma Watson in the remake out next week, proved that voracious reading, and generally being a precocious little madam who’s too nosy to resist poking around where she doesn’t belong, will invariably lead to a positive, vaguely financially stable, future. In this instance, a career in journalism. Whoop! Perhaps subconsciously, it also taught me not to rule out the possiblity of finding a life partner in the guise of an inordinately hairy, pointlessly tall man/beast hybrid who’s prone to shouting when hungry, but is actually a complete softie once you get past all the bristles. Luckily, so far he shows no signs of wanting to kidnap my dad, or sashay around barefoot in a cape. Yet.

It also, like more modern, enlightened Disney flicks Frozen and Enchanted, taught me that true love is built and earned over time, not just something that arbitrarily manifests in a forest with a rogue stranger who happens to be royal, rich, and/or really hot. Shame, though.

Having said that, I’d still rather have Belle or Anna’s relationship than Ariel’s. I mean, Prince Eric had lines in all the right places, but he only fell for her when she was totally mute – a warning sign if ever I saw one – and he was prepared to marry Ursula who was, quite literally, a fat witch with tentacles. Not cool, dude. Not cool.

Above all else, though, one Disney life lesson sticks out the most. No, it’s not ‘don’t take food from strangers’ – that’s something I am fully onboard with. It’s “have courage and be kind” – something that Cinders taught us all. That, and the importance of impeccable footwear.

Photo: Olivias own