Magic and the theme parks

When my daughter was ten years old (give or take), my wife and I took her to see Disney World. She remembered. So this spring, she went back to Disney World and Universal Studios with her husband and two daughters. It was nice to meet them there and watch the reactions of another generation. As before, my brother and his wife were there for this visit.

Gringott’s at Universal Studios in Orlando – Malcolm R. Campbell photo

At my age, walking through theme parks for four days is hard on the legs and ankles and dangerous when one is hit by parents wielding strollers and run into by people gawking at the sights rather than watching where they are going. In spite of the sun screen, it’s hard to avoid getting sunburned.

On this trip, my wife and I enjoyed the nostalgia of the carousels. When it comes to riding in a car on rails combined with 3-D animation, life-sized automaton characters, and the design of the rooms, I thought the most creative ride at Universal Studios was the tour of Gringott’s Bank in Diagon Alley. The train ride to Hogwarts was also fun.

Unlike the children, I see the theme parks as huge, money making enterprises that play on the popularity of films to bring people into crowded attractions where the time spent waiting in lines is the longest part of the experience. Plus, I cannot help but note that the exit to every ride and attraction leads out through a gift shop. I see this for what it is.

I also see it has an experience that, for the children–and the children within each of us–can re-ignite the magical experiences of the films, and also create a few new memories. Anything that reminds us of the magic has my stamp of approval in spite of the commercialization of it. Parents need to hold the reins on spending, of course, but allowing the children time to let their imaginations run free is a wonderful gift.

The magic is certainly well-orchestrated by the parks, but it is nonetheless very real to all who believe,


I use magic in most of my novels and short stories, most recently “Conjure Woman’s Cat” and “Eulalie and Washerwoman,”