A dear friend of mine has been battling the Disney franchise for three years. You see, she’s the mother of a three-year-old girl who happens to think Cinderella is the queen—excuse me, princess of the world.
But my friend and I have agreed from her daughter’s birth that we would not be franchise sellouts. We would not succumb to the commercialism that is the cartoon kingdom. Though I don’t have children of my own, I made the vow for my unborn offspring waiting in the wings. No Mickey and Minnie Mouse plush toys. No cast of Disney characters appliquéd to the walls. No Aladdin lampshades, window treatments and throw rugs. No. We were standing firm. We’d decorate our children’s bedrooms with exciting flair that did not have a theme song attached.
And so, my friend did just that. Her daughter’s nursery was the epitome of class and style. Not a cartoon mogul in sight! We were both very proud. Score: us 1, animations 0. Then the first birthday rolled around, and while many of my friend’s friends were throwing Donald Duck and Goofy-themed parties, she stood her ground. No franchise in this house. And a ladybug theme ruled the day beautifully.
The second birthday came and the pressure to succumb was even greater. Her daughter was officially captivated by the Winnie the Pooh Super Sleuth show. And the stores gushed with Winnie the Pooh party plates and napkins, banners and balloons, treat bags and treasures. Did I mention my friend is an AVP of marketing? Yes, so in addition to being one of the world’s greatest moms, she works from 8-5 p.m. in an office. Thus, thirty minutes in Wal-Mart and she could have had the party block checked. Why rack her brain trying to be creative with a birthday party her daughter wouldn’t even remember, right? Oh, it was tempting.
We chatted at great length about it and came to a conclusion that negotiations with Disney were a must. This was a birthday party, for goodness sakes. Couldn’t a compromised be reached? Yes, indeed. Bees and honey hives. These would be images her daughter would happily associate with her favorite cast of commercial characters but wouldn’t outright scream franchise. I thought it was a fabulous passing of the peace pipe between Tigger and Piglet and me and my friend. Another year without caving—hurray! Or so we thought.
Halloween arrived. As we all are well aware, Halloween is a commercial merchandise Mecca. We all indulge. The no-Disney vow is not applicable. So her daughter was Cinderella. No, she wasn’t just Cinderella; she was the most gorgeous, mini-imprint of Cinderella I have yet to see. And while her mom and I were busy ogling, something funny happened. Disney crept in the window and made itself at home.
The Cinderella movie was on rapid repeat filling the house with Cinderell-ie, Cinderell-ie, night and day it’s Cinderell-ie. And as grown women, we loved it. Something deeply rooted in our subconscious awoke, and we gushed over the first time we watched the movie. The first time we hummed a “Dream is A Wish Your Heart Makes” and believed. The first time I went to Disney World and saw Cinderella’s Castle, I was convinced it was better then heaven. I mean, come on. What little girl doesn’t want to be Cinderella living happily ever after with Prince Charming? For many, the story is as renowned as the Bible.
Thus, as my friend’s daughter’s third birthday approached, she beat her head against the wall. Cinderella was all her daughter wanted. How could she make her happy without conceding to the marketing trap? She was beside herself. And that’s when I confessed a deep, dark secret: I was a hypocrite. One of my fondest early memories is of a Rainbow Bright-themed birthday party. I had a cake (it’s the coolest cake I’ve ever had) in the grand shape of Rainbow Bright’s face. My mom decorated with Rainbow Bright streamers, cups and plates, etc. Full out franchise, 80’s style. And I loved it. I love it still.
I had absolutely no right to look down my nose at Disney. In fact, Disney cartoons and characters are engrained in my childhood as fondly as Cheerios and summer rainbows. My friend agreed. She’d loved Disney, too. We were slightly ashamed. How could we possibly deny our children the same joy?
So call us Disney sellouts if you must, but I know my friend’s daughter is having the most unforgettable princess birthday today. I sent her a Cinderella tee-shirt and a big girl sippy cup, and reveled in my own memories of glass slippers and tiaras. My friend skipped off to the store and purchased the Cinderella-themed items without an ounce of guilt, knowing that the jubilant smile on her daughter’s face was the ultimate goal and Disney deserves thanks for that.
Happy Birthday, Kelsey!