When you first take summer out of the box it seems to unfold with endless days. There are trips to the beach, theme parks, birthday parties, and assorted spots of fun, all of which are clearly marked for promise. And it is good.
Then there are the moments where inspiration hits and creativity is built in a neutral space with bits and pieces of what makes summer great. Perhaps a beach ball becomes a planet and the seashells stars in a place far from waves and sunshine. There may be aliens that look suspiciously like the snow globes bought on Main Street, and trees made from the pencils found in a birthday party gift bag. The possibilities are as endless as the days, and perhaps even more so because they can change with a whim and depend little upon the seasons. Such is the timeless wonder of childhood.
My boys fell out school like monkeys from a tree. They spent days with balloons tied tight around their wrists and churros fresh upon their lips. They took long walks in warm sand and watched dolphins swimming by. They met their heroes from an array of Disney Channel shows, and they played video games as often as we let them.
There were milestones, too: My son Atticus turned 10. Zane, who is 7 years old, visited faraway places. Their summer was split across the things they did and where they did them — each a moment with clear distinction.
As we walked around Disney’s D23 Expo, it all began to blur.
“The Disney Channel shows are in their own area,” said Atticus. “We need to go over there to see the casts.”
“The Mary Poppins exhibit is upstairs,” said Zane. “I want to see that, too.”
“Don’t forget the Disney Vacation Club,” added my wife. “Think of the places we can go!”
I wanted to see it all. Everything was fun, and as such we were at an impasse.
Both boys were jumping up and down with excitement. They had been scanning maps, guide books, and the assorted swag layered across other attendees when their eyes fell upon the Disney Interactive pavilion.
“We can play it!” they continued. “We can play Disney Infinity!”
And so we did.
First they tried Play Set mode, where every world is self-contained and dependent upon the characters in play. They took turns exploring each world, all of them deep with the magic of their respective stories.
“Try Toy Box mode,” I said. “You can create whatever you want with any of the unlocked items from Play Set.”
If I had walked away at that moment my children would never have noticed, but why would I want to do that? The interactive and creative play of Toy Box was awe-inspiring. So many of the Disney-Pixar characters that we love were suddenly in one place, and their story knew no limits but the extent of our own ideas. Luckily, the collective imagination of my children stretches further than anything I have ever known (save perhaps the universe), and they laughed as they took their favorite parts from different stories and marked them for possibility.
“It’s like Toy Box mode is our own Play Set,” said my oldest. “Because the featured characters are us. It is our story.”
We walked away, some of us quite reluctantly, and spent the rest of the day enjoying one Disney moment or another. I watched my boys as they soaked it all in, every new experience another chapter in the story they were telling, and every smile one more word upon their page.
Photos: W. Honea