Design by Melia Kenny

I love living in a reality that is not my own; that’s why I read and write and watch movies. And that also happens to be why I go to Disney World.

As my last hoorah for the summer, I traveled to Orlando with some family and friends to explore the most magical place on Earth. For seven days straight, we arrived at the park at opening and left at closing, spending around 15 hours there each day and walking close to 70 miles by the end of our seven-day trip.

Much like how my feet are still aching as if I were walking down Main Street towards Cinderella’s Castle, my mind is still stuck on the level of immersion I felt wandering through the worlds of my favorite Pixar movies.

“Toy Story”

In Disney’s Hollywood Studios Theme Park, there is a section of land dedicated to the “Toy Story” series. Toy Story Land features attractions such as Slinky Dog, Toy Story Mania and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. Whether or not you enjoy rides, it’s almost impossible not to smile as you slowly catch onto the details surrounding you.

Toy Story Land is built so that each guest feels as though they too are a toy. Cast members refer to the land as “Andy’s Backyard,” and the rides and restaurants surrounding you reflect that idea. If you look closely, there are larger-than-life footprints, created by none other than Andy himself. The outdoor dining spot is called “Woody’s Lunchbox.” To order, you line up behind a large lunchbox held up by a thermos about three times your size and sit on a piece of Babybel cheese large enough for two while you eat classic lunchtime meals, my favorite being the grilled cheese and tater tots.

The level of immersion in Toy Story Land is unmatched — I couldn’t help but feel like I really was among Woody and Buzz and the rest of Andy’s toys. Something I’ve always admired about the series is how well each movie portrays being a kid and growing up. “Toy Story” masters the portrayal of what every child wishes to see — their toys coming to life. The films also display the emotional bond a child can build with their toys, an attachment that comes to represent the hardships of growing up and letting go.

In the parks, we are so immersed in this world around us that we again become children, and it’s difficult not to replay in our minds what it was like to be so attached to an inanimate object. Watching the films, I am reminded of what it is like to let go and grow up. Walking through the park, I actually lived through that.

As someone who appreciates the art of Pixar storytelling and has rewatched the “Toy Story” series several times, there’s no better reward for a fan than being able to walk through the world that once existed only on screen.

“Ratatouille”

The “Ratatouille”-based attraction in Disney’s Epcot is less than a year old, meaning that even as a frequent Disney-goer, I had yet to ride Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. To prepare for the attraction and to make sure I would catch all the details, I sat down a few days before my Disney trip to rewatch Remy (Patton Oswalt, “Pets 2”) and Linguini (Lou Romano, “The Incredibles”) scheme in Gusteau’s kitchen.

As I approached the front of the line, I noticed that instead of a typical cart, each ride vehicle was a rat made to fit six guests. We followed Remy through Gusteau’s kitchen as if we were the size of one of his rat relatives. Like Toy Story Land, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure’s main mission is immersion. But instead of being a toy, I became a rat. And it’s surprisingly pretty fun.

While following Remy through the kitchen on his adventure to become the best chef in France, I realized that I was becoming a part of his success. We helped Remy hide from Skinner (Ian Holm, “Alien”) and ran through the pipes of the restaurant to escape being caught. The main message of the film is that anyone can cook, and as inspiring as the idea that talent can come from anywhere is, it’s even more satisfying and encouraging to watch Remy prove it.

“Monsters, Inc.”

The Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor has been a Magic Kingdom classic since I was a little kid. Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal, “When Harry Met Sally…”) announces that instead of collecting screams to power Monstropolis, the crew must collect laughter, a more powerful resource. Guests step into the theater, and the monsters we know and love appear on screen to perform stand-up and collect energy through our laughter.

Again, we, as guests, are put into the story. Just like in the movie, the monsters need to power Monstropolis. In this alternate story, we have become directly involved in their mission. That’s what Disney World seems to master — creating an alternate story (similar enough to the original plot of the movie that fans still understand the goal of the attraction), immersing the audience into that new story and referencing all the fan-favorite moments and lines of the films.

While at Disney, I learned that maybe I am a Disney Adult because of how much I love and appreciate Disney movies. These rides would mean nothing to me without what is at the foundation of each — a well-written story. And what’s better than truly jumping right in?

Daily Arts Writer Laura Millar can be reached at lamillar@umich.edu.