An Interview with Rafael Fernandez: Joining the Disney Train at 18

Raf with mike and sulley

For this interview, I chatted with my boyfriend, Raf about Disney. His first Disney Park visit was with me when we were both 18 about two years ago, and he became an Annual Passholder in 2019. Clearly, his love for Disney was quick and unique! To find out more, keep on reading!

Introduce yourself a bit!

I’m Rafael, I’m a student at Thomas Edison State University currently studying computer science. I first went to Disney in the summer of 2018 and I’m an annual passholder.

Was Disney better as a newcomer or someone who knew the ropes?

For me, Disney was better as a newcomer mostly because I didn’t know what to expect. When you don’t know something, your expectations are higher and they can be met. The best part was being able to be shown around so to speak, seeing things for the first time and experiencing the atmosphere, characters and walking around. Food you can buy, the amount of people that were there physically. The biggest thing for me was the actual structure, the castle, Main Street USA, when you go into Tomorrowland you have the Astroorbiter, Space Mountain. So as a newcomer when you first see those things it’s something surreal because there’s not any place like Disney World.

Do you recommend after hours events like Villains?

It depends. You really want to be in a position to maximize the amount of time you get. If you’re going to just eat food, I don’t recommend it, it won’t be worth your money, but if you’re going with a set plan of all the rides you want to do, how many times you want to do them; if you want to plan how to eat all the food it’s good to have that structure and I recommend it. 

What was your experience at Victoria and Albert’s like?

Victoria and Alberts..when I first heard about the place I didn’t know what I was getting into. When you make the reservation, you don’t get to see what’s going on or anticipate it. For me, the biggest thing was the actual way the food is served. It’s the first time I had a multiple course dinner where you try something new every single time. The food was phenomenal, we had a seafood focused menu which was cool and they were able to customize the menu to our food preference and they did a phenomenal job doing it. There were options for add ons, we didn’t do them but the flexibility was there to add something like truffle pasta or something else. It’s a surreal thing and very exclusive, there’s only about 20 tables in the restaurant so it’s a cool experience to be in that kind of fine dining setting. 

Is it important to stay on property for most of your trip?

Yes, a lot of the experiences you get are by staying on property. If you’re off property staying at a Hilton 15 minutes away from Disney it won’t be the same experience. It’s mostly because of the design of the buildings. If you’re staying at the wilderness Lodge you get the Wilderness Lodge experience, if you’re staying at the Polynesian you get the Polynesian experience. Locked into these buildings is the Disney experience, whether it’s mickey shaped waffles or cool sculptures in the lobby, it changes the way you envision the Disney experience. The transportation is a big thing, you can ride the monorail by staying on property to a bunch of places and this lets you see the other hotels and get a glimpse of what they’re like, and you have more access to more parks. You can also go to the TTC and get access to all of the other places. If you want to get the most out of Disney, you have to budget your time and staying on property gives you access to beneficial, efficient transportation.

What are some of the moments you’ve had at Disney where you’ve been truly amazed?

I’m not a theme park go-er., Disney was different because I saw what amazing engineering could do and see what it’s like at the peak of engineering and creativity. Pandora is the best example, it was breathtaking the first time and I didn’t think building that was humanly possible. Even if you told me to this day how it was built I couldn’t imagine it still.I couldn’t imagine metal holding up those structures. The structures and designs of most of these places, like space mountain or splash mountain are something to think about when you are seeing everyday objects like bridges or railroad tracks, you don’t think of how you can put that technology to use in a magical experience.

Is it still fun to meet characters as an adult?

I think it is. One of the things that goes through my mind is that it levels you down. If you’re 18, you turn 8. If you’re 56, you turn 46. The older you get, the younger you feel in Disney. If you went in 1971 and went today, it would feel like the first time you went. Meeting characters takes you to your childhood level and I think it’s important to do for pictures and memories sake. It is such an immersive experience, you think these are the real characters.

What tips would you give to people wanting to make the most of their trips? Restaurants, rides, tips for getting on many rides?

The best tips are 1. Stay on property, without the monorail you lose out on money and time. It is the prime form of transportation to get to all the different parks, specifically to get to Magic Kingdom from your hotel. 2. Get an annual pass and take advantage of the perks. 3. Take advantage of fastpasses as soon as your booking window opens, this will be earlier if you’re staying on property. 4. You want to get there early and stay late to get on the shortest lines. You have priority when you get there first and if you stay at the end you don’t have to leave. If you get on line at park closing, they stop letting people in line and it speeds the process up. No cast member wants to stay late getting people on line.

Some people who haven’t been to WDW think it’s for young kids only, what would you say to that?

It depends. A lot of people are at different maturity levels and Disney is subjective to how you feel. Some people weren’t exposed to Disney as a kid and don’t have that connection. Without the connection to the media and the books, it’s not the same experience as someone who had that in their childhood. To say it’s for kids is inaccurate, a lot of rides are comparable to the rides at six flags. They are in a position to make rides for everyone, not just people who love roller coasters. 

What are the things you appreciate most about Disney parks?

The technology aspect and how they maneuver it into the experience. It breathes life into how they run their parks. Rides like The Land help you learn about how they put their technology to work and use it to create a sense of sustainability. Whether it’s implementing paper straws or teaching people about hydroponics. They promote this idea of a utopia where they aren’t influenced by things that the rest of the world is. In Disney the water and the air are clean and everything feels in order. It follows through with what the company stands for. 

Follow Raf on Instagram! @rf3.ecom

Hannah Bouchard is the creator of Completely Magic.


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