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  • Writer's pictureCharles Zitta

Season of Shadows (Chapter 5 - The Machine)

Updated: Mar 11

It was the summer of 1954. Disneyland was a year away from opening. The first generation of creative talent, yet to be titled Imagineers, had just completed their most ingenious project to date—put in place to protect the imaginary worlds Disney had created, or ever would create, from the dark forces that be. It was a machine like none ever imagined before. A magical, masterpiece. Capable of marrying dreams with reality. It consisted of two roughly-built, geometric shapes, one encasing the other, in a unified functionality of the impossible: taking dreams and ideas of Disney’s creative talent and preserving them in the most extraordinary of places. A place that existed slightly beyond reality. A place…called WONDER.

One evening, late in July, Joe Wellington, an inaugural member of the secret Patron circle, was tending to repairs of the magical machine. His eight year old son sat patiently, observing from a small, wooden chair near the large sliding doorway in the secret room of which they occupied. It was an enormous space, roughly the size of an airplane hanger. Spotlights populated the perimeter, all focused on the center of the room; a room hidden underground on Disney-owned property in California.

A green light illuminated, the electronic lock buzzed, and the giant, sliding doorway opened.

In walked a partially bald man, short in stature, sporting frumpy, oversized work clothes. A pair of taped-together, black rimmed glasses rested upon the end of his lumpy red nose as he approached Joe. Before saying a word, the small man turned and closely examined the mysterious machine.

“What exactly is this contraption, Wellington?”

Joe looked down at the little man, then turned his attention back to his task at hand; tightening bolts and oiling joints of the crudely-built machine.

“I said—”

“I heard you the first time, Victor,” said Joe.

“Well then, what is it?” Victor replied impatiently.

“Something rather hard to explain.”

“Hard to explain?” said Victor.

“Especially for a rigid mind such as yours.”

“A rigid mind? What is that supposed to mean, Wellington?”

“How should I put this, Victor? Your mind is built strictly on logic…on reality. It believes only what you can see, or that which has been proven to be true based on mathematical formulas, scientific explanation or anything else your superiors have told you to be true throughout your life.”

Victor looked at Joe as if he were making no sense at all. “And? What’s the matter with that?”

“Nothing really,” replied Joe. “It’s just…well, you wouldn’t understand.”

“What do you mean, I wouldn’t understand?” said the frustrated little man.

Joe stopped what he was doing and turned to Victor. “It takes all the dreams and ideas we think up and transports them to a magical place where they are expanded, creating alternate realities.”

“Pshhh! Impossible,” said Victor with a hysterical bit of laughter.

“I told you, you wouldn’t understand.”

“Understand? You can not understand that which is not real,” said Victor.”

“Unless your reality is something never before imagined.”

“What? You’ve gone totally bonkers, Wellington. You and all the other ‘creative coconuts’ around this place.”

Frustrated beyond reason, Victor turned and marched towards the doorway, where he paused and said to Joe’s son, “Boy, I hope you grow up to have more sense than your father.”

The little boy stared at the bitter man and smiled. Oblivious to what he had just been told.

Victor punched in the door code, then abruptly departed—no longer interested in the mysterious contraption.

“Papa, why did that man get so angry?”

Joe looked down at his son and said, “Some do not understand the powers of imagination, nor do they believe in it. Because of this, their potential is limited, Frank.”


Frank stared out the window of his secret apartment in WONDER.

“Frank, you’ve never told me the story about your father and Victor before,” said Ben. “Why now?”

Frank turned away from his second story window view of the castle. “I’ve had a lot to think about lately.”

“Like what?” replied Ben.

“The Magic Dream Expander,” said Frank, turning back to look out the window.

“What about it? Is it in danger of being taken?”

“Let’s just say, dark forces are getting too close for comfort,” replied Frank.

“I know you have a special connection with that machine,” said Ben. “You’ve told me about it before, but I can’t seem to remember the details. The old noggin’ just isn’t what it used to be.”

“You never were much into history, were you red?” said Frank’s big black cat as he crawled out from underneath the bed.

“It’s about time you woke up,” said Ben, ignoring the cat’s sarcastic remark.

Frank continued to gaze out the window. His mind, somewhere else.

“I’ve been awake—just ignoring you,” replied Midnight.

“So what were we talking about again?” said Ben, scratching his head.

“The Magic Dream Expander, nitwit” replied Midnight.

“Oh, right,” said Ben. “What about it?”

The cat lowered and shook his head. “Do I need to go through the story with you again?”

“That’s probably not a bad idea,” replied Ben.

Frank was still silent, continuing to look out the window.

“Alright, have a seat,” said Midnight.

Ben sat down at the small kitchen table. “OK, I’m ready.”

The cat jumped up into the chair across the table from Ben and began. “Seventeen years had passed. Walt Disney World was set to open soon. Joe Wellington’s son, Frank, had grown into a young, creative genius. His contributions in the continued development of Disney’s most magical machine ever would be significant over the next thirty years.”

“This is going to be good,” said Ben, staring like a small child at the storyteller.

Midnight continued. “First, there was the name. Prior to Frank’s involvement, it had simply been referred to as ‘the machine’, but Frank thought well beyond such simplistic labeling. In 1969 the young Patron came up with a new name. A more substantial name. The Magic Dream Expander. A name admired, and well-respected to this day.”

“Indeed it is,” added Ben.

The cat shook his head again, then continued. “Next, he changed the design. When first created, the Magic Dream Expander was functional, yes, but crudely designed. Its appearance came off as very clunky at best. Full of creative spunk and energy, Frank spent most of his youthful years streamlining the design. All nuts, bolts and rickety parts were removed. The two geometric shapes, once made of metal, were switched out for smooth, transparent glass. The inner shape, a sphere which could spin in any possible direction when activated, was incased by a pyramid—that spun horizontally when in motion. Centered elegantly within the sphere, an organically shaped glass chair was suspended in air—allowing it to remain perfectly still and provide flawless dream expansions from the creative minds of its passengers into WONDER. The young Patron’s upgrade was a true stroke-of-genius—smooth, streamlined, and very effective. No wires, knobs, unwanted gears or other unsightly mechanisms were visible. It was as if it ran purely on magic.”

“Go on,” said Ben. His chin, still resting in his hands.

“Functionality was Frank’s third contribution,” Midnight continued. “In its early years, the Magic Dream Expander was only capable of performing dream expansions.”

“At least I still remember what those are,” said Ben. “ That’s when you take the dreams, ideas or concepts of Disney’s Imagineers, or animators, and add them into, or create new realms of WONDER.”

“Hmm, I guess it’s good to know you haven’t forgotten everything,” said Midnight.

“Ha-ha! Yes. Hmm? Oh…right,” said Ben.

The cat rolled his eyes. “Anyway, safeguards, such as the Kingdom Crystals, were built-in to protect WONDER and all it contained. Especially the dream core, where Walt’s most precious creation was hidden away from the dark powers that be.”

“Uh huh, a very wise decision,” said Ben.

“However,” Midnight added, “to a young man with limitless imagination, the crystals were a great start…but more was needed. Not long after Disney World’s grand opening, Frank brought it upon himself to add another layer of protection. A layer made of two key elements. Both of which, to this day, are only known by a few select members of the Patron order.”

“So what are they?” asked Ben.

“What are what?” said Midnight.

“The two key elements,” said Ben.

“If I knew, I would tell you.”

“Oh. Yeah, right,” chuckled Ben. “Sorry. Go on.”

Midnight continued. “Many years passed, the end of the Disney Decade was near. The leaders in family entertainment and theme park magic were sitting on top of the world. It was then that Frank’s last significant contribution to the Magic Dream Expander was brought to fruition, through decades of hard work, and the help of a few fellow Imagineers. Micro dream particles. Not only can they be used to enhance dream expansions, but also dream interactions. These incredible tiny particles have proven over the years to be an effective method of communicating secretly with other Patron members without any outside interference from dark forces lurking about.”

“I always enjoy that story,” said Ben. “What an amazing history you have with that machine, Frank.”

Frank did not reply.

“Frank, are you alright?” said Midnight.

The wise Patron slowly turned and looked to his friends, then back out the window.

“I feel things are about to change.”

“Change?” said Ben.

“Yes. We need to be ready.”

“Ready for what, Frank?” Asked Midnight.

“Dark and challenging times.”

© 2024 Charles E. Zitta. Charles E. Zitta and Disney and the Wonder Within blog novels are in no way part of,  endorsed or authorized by, or affiliated with the Walt Disney Company or its affiliates. All rights reserved.

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