Our 6-year-old daughter was excited to maybe see an actual Disney Princesses. Weird, right? Fortunately, Disney provides plenty of opportunities for children of all genders to meet with Princesses, old and new. They are rarely just strolling around the park; they would get mobbed and hurt. Seriously. But you can visit them—or vice versa—in controlled settings, like carefully constructed attractions and something called “character lunches”.
Disney even sells autograph books so that you can collect the John Hancocks of Belle and the Gang.
On Monday, we attended a “Meet the Princesses” attraction (“attraction = something you have to wait in line to do). The princesses du jour were Belle, Cinderella, and Rapunzel (thank you Microsoft spellcheck for helping me on that one—that was a nice surprise; I’ll try to stop being so angry at you all the time for everything). Rapunzel happens to be the favorite of Monkey 2.
|I love that you can tell that this is their first Princess photo. They are posing with such care.|
|Rapunzel's parting words? "Remember, never cut your hair." Yeah, thanks for that, Rapunzel. You wanna come over Monday morning and brush out the tangles quickly enough so that no one is late for school and carefully enough so that no one cries?|
It was not until Wednesday that Monkey 2 warmed up to the idea of having an autograph book. Beth bought one for her. Though we were a little late getting in the game, the girls had reservations for a Princess character lunch at EPCOT on Thursday. Autographs would be flowing. Check it out:
|Not sure if this Cinderella or the one at Magic Kingdom was the real one, but I get it; when I double-book, I often send a lookalike, too.|
|Monkey 1 is kind of starting to lose it|
|The family of The Hungry Preacher voted this "Best Signiture"|
|Monkey 1 is definitely losing it|
Notable absences from the EPCOT gathering were Rapunzel, as well as Merida (from “Brave,” which is one of the few princess movies that our kids have actually seen). Fortunately, we would be spending Friday back at Magic Kingdom, where Merida had a semi-permanent lair where you could visit her after standing in line. We also figured we could re-visit the “Meet the Princesses” attraction, and maybe land a Rapunzel autograph.
First up was Merida. Monkey 2 and I went to visit her while Beth and Monkey 1 rode Space Mountain (don’t worry—I got to ride Space Mountain, too). While waiting in line to meet Merida, kids (and possibly adults—I didn’t ask) could be trained to use a bow and arrow.
|There's a large, angry bear charging right at them, but they really kept their cool.|
I was a little far away, but it sounded like the Monkey trainer might have been speaking with a Scottish accent. It didn’t surprise me that Disney would import someone from Scotland for this task. I tried to position myself to read his nametag, which tells where cast members are from (cast members = Disney World employees). I was too far away, so I pulled out our fancy new camera with its 20x zoom.
So, no—not from Scotland. New Jersey. It’s funny how differently I view kilt-wearing for someone from Scotland versus someone from New Jersey. Anyway, after about a half an hour, a super-friendly Merida was signing our very own autograph book.
I crossed the street and got in line. It was like a bank, with “tellers” signaling their availability to help the next person in line. After a couple of minutes, I was summoned by a young woman named Sandra. I greeted her politely, then explained our situation as briefly and somberly as I could, concluding with: “So is there any way we can find out if Rapunzel will be making any more appearances anywhere in the park?”
Sandra was a pro. Very understanding. Seemed to really feel my pain, probably even more than I was feeling my pain. She excused herself to the back room to check some information, then came back and broke the news: “Rapunzel won’t be making any more appearances until the park re-opens in the evening for the Halloween party, which you would need a separate admission to attend.” Sandra continued, “But if you want to leave the autograph book here, and come back in about an hour, we can make sure that Rapunzel signs it.”
I wasn’t sure if she meant, “Rapunzel, wink, wink,” or if the actual Disney representation of the fictional character herself would sign it. I also wasn’t sure if I cared. Either way, I didn’t have the book with me. I told Sandra I’d talk to my wife about it, and would come back with the book if we decided on this course of action.
I found Beth and the girls. Turns out, Beth had talked with Angie (whose family we were doing the Disney thing with) and worked out her own solution to the problem of the Rapunzellessness of our autograph book. Angie would meet up with us later and say something like, “Hey, I think I might know where Rapunzel is—if you give me your book, I can go see, and maybe she’ll sign it.”
Angie would head off for a few minutes and commit an act of forgery. She’d return the book, and everyone would be happy. Except for one little thing which I pointed out to Beth: this plan, technically speaking, involved lying. Now, dear readers, please believe me when I say that I do not think of myself as morally superior to very many people, and especially not to Beth. Even now, I see that this “lie” would have been more akin to “pretending stuffed animals can talk” than it would be to anything that most people would consider a “lie”. But for some reason the idea made me cringe just a tiny bit. I communicated my hesitancy to Beth.
Trying to be sensitive to my tender conscience, she gently wondered how her plan was any different from dropping off the book at guest relations where, for all we knew, it would be signed by some guy in a kilt from New Jersey.
I didn’t necessarily disagree with this comparison, except that at least in the “drop it off” plan, we ourselves could claim to be duped. I was prepared to concede that the line between “asking someone to commit forgery” and “asking someone to commit forgery but not tell you that’s what they are doing” might have been a little fuzzier than it initially seemed. Meanwhile, Beth tried to gauge how disappointed our younger Monkey would be if we weren’t able to get Rapunzel’s autograph at all.
I was not expecting her response: “Can’t you just sign it?” Have me or Beth sign “Rapunzel,” right there, with Monkey 2 watching? This would, by far, be the easiest solution. And admittedly, I was already excited about the possibilities for blending the tail of the “R” into the bottom of the “z,” and trying to make the continuous line look like a flowing stream of hair.
But if the idea of asking Angie to sign Rapunzel’s name gave me pause, this suggestion rocked me to my core. It was just too weird! I pulled Beth aside. “Having one of us unapologetically sign it right in front of her would contradict the foundational purpose of getting an autograph in the first place. An autograph is a way of demonstrating that this signed item was once touched and held by this very person. Think of the word itself: ‘auto’ means ‘self’; ‘graph’ means ‘writing’. By definition, neither you nor I can legitimately provide the ‘auto-graph’ of someone else.”
OK, so that’s a more articulate paraphrase of what I actually said, but the feelings were real. The bottom line was even if our child didn’t understand what an autograph was all about, it was our job to teach her. If that meant getting her book signed by some guy in a kilt from New Jersey pretending to be the actual Disney representation of the fictional character, Rapunzel—well, as long as none of us saw it happening, the sanctity “autographs” would be preserved.
Taking the book, I headed back to guest relations with boldness and purpose. I found Sandra, reminded her of her promise, and left the book. About an hour later, I returned. Lo and behold:
No way some guy from New Jersey signed that, right? It's kind of girly-looking, right? Maybe even from the hand of Rapunzel herself? To that, I can honestly say, "As far as we know."
Next up: PART 4: Mac and Cheese and Legos