With every book, it’s inevitable (and I would argue necessary) that bits and pieces of the author find their way into the story’s characters. In a book that deals largely with the nature of fandom, this excerpt encapsulates a number of my areas of fandom and/or expertise neatly:
The girls oohed and ahhed at Cinderella Castle from the moment they set foot on Main Street. They craned their necks back until it seemed they would topple over backward as they entered through its brightly hued gates. Dara rubbed her fingertips across the surface of the mosaics depicting the story of Cinderella. Cleary, who had watched seemingly every Disney World television special ever aired, regaled her cousin with trivia about the castle: the mosaics took almost two years to complete and feature more than 500 colors of glass; the castle is not built of brick or stone but with a steel frame and 10-inch thick concrete walls; the castle suite was originally intended as an apartment for the Disney family, but was left incomplete for years following Roy Disney’s death. This last fact was met by a dubious look from Dara.
“Who’s Roy Disney?”
“Walt Disney’s brother,” Cleary replied.
“But Walt Disney isn’t a real person,” Dara protested. Cleary’s jaw dropped.
“You have got to be kidding me!” She flagged her father down in the crowd. “Dad!” Turning to her cousin, she said, “Tell my dad what you just said.”
Dara shrugged. “Walt Disney isn’t a real person.”
Bill stared at her blankly for a moment, unwilling to believe what he had just heard. His mind raced, wondering what historical figures could be more slanderously maligned by such a statement and could only come up with three: George Washington, Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant and Elvis. For an instant, he was awash in guilt for not including Jesus in his top three. However, he justified the slight to himself by arguing that Jesus was too controversial, whereas the others were unassailable.
“Come with me,” he finally answered. He took them each by the hand and led them back the way they had come. Passing Katherine, she cast him a puzzled look. “I’ll be right back. Meet you at Dumbo!” He led the girls down the ramp at the front of the castle, against the flow of traffic and into a circular garden at the foot of Main Street. He led the girls around a large bronze statue of a smiling man, gazing up Main Street, one arm outstretched and gesturing with his hand as if to indicate where the next wondrous attraction would go, the other hand grasping that of Mickey Mouse, who stood grinning at his side.
“Now Dara,” Bill said as he pointed emphatically at the statue, “that is Walt Disney.”
“You’re telling me he’s a real person,” Dara snorted.
“Yes. That’s what he looked like.”
“Well, if he’s a real person,” she put a hand on her hip as she formulated her argument, self-assured of a satisfactory outcome, “why is he holding hands with Mickey Mouse? Are you telling me Mickey Mouse is real, too?” Bill gritted his teeth. He had no patience for children who lacked imagination.
For her part, Cleary buried her face in her hands, as if ashamed to be seen in public with someone so literal. “Aiyiyi…” she murmured, risking her father’s ire.
Taking a deep breath, Bill tried again. “It’s called ‘artistic license,’ sweetheart. The sculptor chose to depict him holding hands with Mickey, because a Mickey Mouse cartoon is what catapulted him to success. And Mickey became sort of the mascot of his company.”
Dara thought about this, studying the lines of Walt’s face in the sculpture. If he weren’t a real man, she thought, surely they wouldn’t have made him look so old. “He may have been real, but” she turned and faced her uncle, “what did he do?” Bill smiled.