Disney princess in training

It’s no surprise that my generation grew up watching everything Disney, and it remains to be a huge factor that not only anchors us to our childhood, but it gives us a sense of the very values that make us thrive in adulthood: Courage, identity, and the endless pursuit of wonder.

There’s simply no growing up from Disney, because, firstly, there is no need to.

Its animated and live-action films have always introduced such curious yet awe-inspiring characters, with timeless plots that revolve about friendship, family, and culture—sometimes more deeply than how we remember them to be.

I’ve religiously kept up with almost all the Disney films all throughout the 90s til early 2000s, but it was only until my sister, Zoee, came into the picture that I started searching my memories for movie titles and rewatching the very films I saw at her young age.

Having a baby, now a toddler, in the household is by far the most exciting and joyous experience. And I must say this little munchkin has bonded us together as a family more than anything, making me appreciate the kind of dynamic we have always shared even more.

So let me tell you a little bit about her: Zoee’s got quite a personality—she’s effortlessly kooky, obsessive, and witty. There’s this certain brilliance in her, and this goes with a certain sense of responsibility to hone her mind, interests, and behavior as early as we can.

My approach? Turning her into a Disney baby.

I let the Disney movies (and Disney Junior) become her early teachers and co-babysitters. We’ve seen so much Disney movies for the first time together (I snubbed some animations that I realized I shouldn’t have): Brave, Zootopia, Coco, Incredibles 2 (her first movie in the cinema!), and her current favorite—Moana.

I understand why she loves that movie so much. Tongue-twisting “Let It Go” is something you’d pride yourself memorizing (yup, I think it’s a skill), and “You’re Welcome” and “Shiny” are just songs you’d wanna sing in between normal conversations.

Like all Disney films, “Moana” puts importance to family. A concept we refocused on when Zoee entered our lives. Through this film, our little 3-year-old realized the joy of having grandparents who love and support you—likening her own Lola Mommy and Lolo Daddy to Moana’s grandmother, Tala.

Seeing Tala in spirit form sparked Zoee’s curiosity about death. And even at an early age we want to treat and speak to her like an adult, so we introduced the concept of what death is—a reality she is made aware of, and teaching her to appreciate, as well as make the most of her time with loved ones.

Zoee is a little obsessive compulsive, too. Things have to be done with certain schedules and she often associates and assigns tasks to different individuals. In a lot of ways, she gets frustrated by the little things, the little changes.

But she is learning to compromise and become more creative with her decisions. We always remind her that she could always color differently, do her days differently, and that things can have more than one function when she uses her imagination.

When she does throw her usual tantrums, we tell her to do it like her favorite Disney princesses—and that’s what ultimately convinces her to try things another way. She takes a minute or two, looking back at her heroes’ stories to see their spunk and resourcefulness.

We ask her, what would Belle do? What would Mulan do? What would Moana do? And somehow she finds the answer for herself, even when she’s just trying to solve trivial things internally.

Zoee’s undoubtedly a Disney princess at heart, and Zoee doesn’t let us forget it every chance she gets.

She’s Mulan whenever we eat at a Chinese restaurant. She’s Belle when she opens up her books and asks for a storytelling session every afternoon. She’s Rapunzel whenever she paints the colors in her favorite Disney characters. She feels like she’s Anna whenever my door is locked and I send her away (LOL). She’s Moana whenever she sinks into her mini pool and refuses to stop playing with the water.

Don’t tell her yet, but she’s about to meet all these characters in real life. We’re bound to go to Hong Kong Disneyland soon, and she’s gonna be the happiest kid in the happiest place on earth. And just our luck, Moana would be among the Disney characters we’d see up close at the theme park’s “Carnivale of Stars!”

My whole family can’t wait to see how a part of Adventureland has transformed into the Karibuni Marketplace where Disneyland-goers are treated to the 20-minute “Moana: A Homecoming Celebration.” The ongoing show is said to be filled with dancing, music, puppetry, and awesome storytelling that we can’t wait to witness.

We also can’t wait for the best part of our buzzer-beater September Disneyland visit—the very moment that allows Zoee to hug and take pictures with Moana herself! Hopefully the Moana outfits and necklaces at the Disneyland gift shop wouldn’t run out so they could have matching outfits, too!

Hong Kong Disneyland recently sent us the cutest baby Moana and Pua plushies, so those are some things off our Moana merch list! Zoee and I sleep with them every night, and we manage to come up with new games involving these two cuties every day.

Carl and Russell from “Up,” Officer Judy Hopps and Slick Nick from “Zootopia,” Rafiki and Timon from “Lion King,” among many others will also be there in the festive African-themed Karibuni Marketplace.

Just imagining the colors, sounds, and abundance of culture of this newly revamped installation already paints a magical time in my head—African folklore is my favorite, so this is bound to be a double treat for me!

Speaking of the chance to fangirl, guess who else will be in Disneyland’s Adventureland attraction—BLACK PANTHER!!! I’ll definitely do the traditional Wakandan greeting with this Marvel hero.

Well, that’s just how it goes, just thinking about the happiest place on earth already makes me happy.

Are you planning a trip to Hong Kong soon like we are? Make sure a visit to Disneyland is part of your plan. They’ve got exciting deals exclusive to Filipino wanderlusts that you have got to check out!

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