UC Riverside

Opinion: What Disney’s ‘Fantasmic’ taught me about my anxiety

Growing up in sunny Southern California, some of my most fond childhood moments were spent roaming Disneyland with my family. As much as I dreaded the mornings, on Disneyland days, I would quickly spring out of bed with an energetic enthusiasm as we arrived right when the parks opened for the day.

While I loved riding the rides and experiencing the magic of meeting my favorite characters, my favorite moments came from watching the Fantasmic show with my family, as my dad would lift me on his shoulders so I could see the entire show.

Although I’ve seen the show enough times to quote it off the top of my head, like most things, the true significance of the show didn’t connect with me until I got older. “Fantasmic” is a voyage through Mickey’s imagination and all the powers that it has, from pink elephants on parade to the Disney princesses wishing upon a star, to even Peter Pan turning Captain Hook into alligator bait.

However, as powerful as an imagination can be, it can also have a dark side. When the Evil Queen and the rest of the Disney villains plot to take over Mickey’s imagination, the unbelievable happens. Maleficent, the vengeful villain from “Sleeping Beauty,” transforms herself into a gigantic, fire-breathing dragon, ready to destroy Mickey.

It seems like all hope is lost, until Mickey utters the words, “You might think you are so powerful, but this is my dream.”

When I visited the parks and watched this beloved show for probably the billionth time, it was those very words that struck an unexpected emotional chord within me. I was taken aback to how many times I felt on edge, worried about the tiniest detail or held hostage by my thoughts telling me I wasn’t good enough. These thoughts were powerful and made themselves at home in my mind, and I felt weak for not having the courage to sign their eviction notice.

Maybe the dreams that I deferred because I was doubtful of my own capabilities was the destiny that I was waiting for. Maybe the things I ran from because of my anxiety were the things I needed to run toward. Anxiety’s had a hold of my life for as long as I could remember, and the constant feeling of being misunderstood or outcasted was one that I assumed was my new normal. But maybe, just maybe, this is my time to break free from the bondage of my anxiety, to pursue what my dreams were before my anxiety told me I needed to be someone else.

It might be a fairytale story, but if a mouse could strike up the courage to face their dragon, maybe I could start to face mine too.