Not even a pandemic can keep diehard fans away from Disney.
Forced to put their vacations to the parks on hold during the pandemic, families across the globe have gotten creative in recreating their favorite parts of the Disney experience at home – mimicking the feeling of being on a rollercoaster in their living rooms, whipping up Disney’s famous churro recipe and even meticulously constructing replicas from the parks made out of Legos.
And now one former Disneyland castmate has continued the creative streak, bringing the magic of the theme park straight to our phones or computers with the help of nearly 200 former employees.
Mat Davies, 33, of London, worked at Disneyland Paris from the fall of 2005 to the fall of 2007 and again from summer 2008 to 2009. On April 25, he came up with an idea to connect with his former colleagues by recreating Disneyland Paris’ The Wonderful World of Disney Parade in lockdown.
“Feeling nostalgic, I started reminiscing about old times working at Disneyland Paris and looking through old photos,” he tells Yahoo Life. After reaching out to former colleagues in a private Facebook group, the idea caught on.
“The group has over 1,200 members, all ex-Disneyland Paris parade performers reliving happy memories, sharing stories and photos and reconnecting with old friends.”
The parade ran from 1998 to 1999, and then again from 2001 to 2007, and although many of the cast members didn’t overlap during their time participating in the spectacle, they knew the same choreography to “Dancin’ (A Catchy Rhythm),” which Davies says he performed six times in a row during the duration of each parade.
Davies, who began his work at Disney as a cast member at 18, received over 160 video submissions. It took him one week to compile and edit the videos. Since sharing it to YouTube on May 11, it has racked up more than 24,000 views and counting.
“You can't help but remember the routine when you hear it,” he says of the memorable tune that brought everyone together.
“As the parade was on for almost 10 years, there were a lot of people who came and went during that period, so many of the people in the group I had never worked with,” Davies continues. “But being a former cast member – this is the name that Disney gives to their employees – you have a unique and special bond that is like nothing else.”
The final product of Davies’ video shows a collage of submissions from the former employees filming from their homes during the quarantine. The video begins with a few cast members performing their characters’ varying choreography, and then everyone, on cue, begins the same dance. Some dancers wear partial or full costumes and are joined by their children or other family members pirouetting in the background.
One of the dancers included in Davies’ video is David Mitchell 39, of Brighton, England, who met his wife Alice while they both were performing as parade cast members at Disneyland Paris. The couple married in 2015 and true to the magic that brought them together, celebrated their honeymoon at Disney World in Florida. The couple has two children, 3-year-old Henry, 3, and 1-year-old Albert, who are growing up to love Disney as much as their parents do.
“Not many things bring me to tears, but seeing all my old Disney family and seeing everyone’s effort and what Disney means to people, you can't help being moved,” Mitchell tells Yahoo Life of participating in the video.
“Disney plays a big part of my family,” he continues. “I owe everything I have to Disney. If it wasn't for Disney I would never have met my wife or had my children. So I will always love Disney and will always believe in that Disney Magic.”
“Getting to dance down the parade route, passing the iconic Disney Castle is like no other job,” Davies says of his Disney past. “It's an amazing feeling, dancing along seeing children and adults all smiling and waving back at you. Getting to relive those happy memories and get that feeling again...even dancing in my living room has been wonderful.”
Davies says he has received messages of gratitude from former castmates for his idea, but he is just as thankful.
“I have had so many lovely messages from the performers thanking me for reconnecting them with friends they haven't spoken to for 20 years and lifting spirits during this lockdown time which has been really overwhelming,” he says. “Most don't realize that I am just as thankful to each of them for agreeing to be part of the video, doing it with such enthusiasm, and allowing me to flex my creative muscles which has ultimately made my time in lockdown a lot better.”
Yahoo Life’s attempts to contact Disneyland Paris for comment were not immediately successful.
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