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  • Writer's pictureCharles Zitta

A Passion for Disney and Storytelling

Updated: Sep 11, 2020

The year was 1973, a wonderful year for a young eight year old boy with a big imagination and the courage to dream. My mother, grandmother and myself were on our way to California to visit my aunt in San Diego for a week of fun and adventure. The anticipation of the trip created an excitement inside of me that was pleasantly overwhelming. Not because it was the first time I would fly in a jet, not because we were going to California, and not because it would be the first time I had seen my aunt in over three years. The truth was, our plans included a trip to the happiest place on earth, Disneyland.

As far back as I could remember Disney had always been a passion of mine. From the animated movies, to the Mickey and the Beanstalk storybook album I would sit and listen to over and over again in my bedroom on my playschool record player, Disney was ever present in my life as a young boy. In 1970 at the age of five, my unattended Mickey Mouse tricycle wrapped itself around the tire of a pickup truck that was backing up in a local church parking lot where I was playing with a friend. I was devastated. Running home to our house nearby, I told my mother of this great tragedy with tears in my eyes. To my youthful surprise all that mattered to her was that I had not been harmed. As years passed, I continued on with my love for the magic, watching the Wonderful World of Disney every weekend and pretending I was at Disneyland as I looked at the slides of the park and its attractions through my beige View-Master—dreaming of the day I would visit the park.

In 1973 that dream came true. It was a day I would never forget. We traveled up from San Diego to Anaheim in my aunt's decked out cruisin' van. Sporting a purple shirt and cut-off pants, striped tube socks and blue Chuck Taylor tennis shoes, I was ready to experience the magic that until that time, I had only been able to dream about. That day changed my life forever. The sights and sounds of the park were unbelievable, the castle was incredible, and the characters, magical. But what I remembered most of all were the Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion attractions. To an eight year old boy whose sponge-like mind absorbed so much more per second than an adults, they seemed to go on forever—with one incredible scene after another. The brilliant storytelling and visual mastery created by the Imagineers on both attractions fed my mind with unbelievable excitement and sparked my imagination—which lit a life-long fire for creativity and generated an even deeper appreciation for Disney inside of me.

Over the next year and a half I drew, sketched, scribbled, colored, painted, and created. I even recall setting up my own Haunted Mansion in our backyard—making up stories of its origins and giving tours to some of my neighborhood friends. That single day, back in 1973, when I visited Disneyland had given me focus and purpose. Creativity was the path I would choose. And in fourth grade, as we were coming into the Holiday Season, our teacher presented an assignment which gave me the perfect opportunity to do just that. Create. It was and English assignment with an added twist. We were to develop a Holiday booklet, which included a series of hand written poems and short stories—and if we chose, we could decorate and add illustrations to our booklet. Furthermore, and this made it even more special, the teacher announced that a Holiday-related prize would be awarded to the student who wrote the best book. Hundreds of ideas immediately began to dance in my head. The stories and poems flowed effortlessly from my pencil as I visualized illustrations to match. To this day, I truly believe it was my favorite assignment of all time. Never had I been so excited to do my homework, and it showed. A week later, as our teacher passed back our booklets, she announced the winner. Or as it turned out, the winners. To my surprise, my name was one of two called.

Fast forward many years to present day. I have enjoyed a successful career as a graphic designer/creative professional, have a wonderful wife and two children, and am still an avid admirer of Disney who digs catching the latest Disney movie releases and visiting the parks to keep the eight year old boy inside of me alive. And while I have made a living being creative visually, two years ago I was inspired by a Disney-related podcaster to do more. To pursue my dreams by taking action and moving forward. I decided then, right then, that I wanted to be a storyteller.— just as I had done many years ago in fourth grade for the Holiday booklet assignment. Taking two of the things I enjoy most in this world, Disney and telling stories, I have created a new world. A magical world, filled with WONDER, danger, fantasy, adventure and hope. The result, Book one of my Disney and the Wonder Within series—Ears of Virtue. It's a family friendly adventure that is intended for young readers as well as those who still, like me, will always be that little eight year old boy or girl inside with a toothless smile. I hope you enjoy it.

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