‘I remember how magical it made me feel’: Channel 9 reflects on 50 years of Disney magic

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — For a half-century, millions of guests the world over have come to Central Florida to experience a taste of that Disney Magic.

Among them are some of Channel 9′s most recognizable faces.

See their photos in the gallery below:


With Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary in full swing, some of Channel 9′s anchors and reporters shared some of their favorite Disney memories, whether these memories were from when they were children, or when they were with their children as adults.

Investigative reporter and anchor Daralene Jones

The first time I visited Disney World I was a teenager, and the park was celebrating its 25th Anniversary! The ticket was $32 plus tax.

I remember how magical it made me feel, which is why I truly understand why our three boys get so excited when they see those Mickey ears. There’s a sparkle in their eyes, that’s indescribable!

READ: MagicBand+: Disney World unveils upgraded MagicBand for 50th anniversary

Anchor Greg Warmoth

Our family has made Disney experiences a part of our life since Day 1.

I asked my wife to marry me at Disney on Christmas Eve 1987. She said yes! It was at the Contemporary Resort.

Our family’s first cruise was on the Disney Wonder (we saw Whitney Houston on our cruise)!

Our youngest son Logan won the Pop Warner Super Bowl at Disney’s Wide World of Sports.

I interviewed “The King” Richard Petty at Disney’s revamped race track.

I met celebrities Demi Moore and Cindy Crawford at the grand opening of Planet Hollywood at what was then Downtown Disney, now Disney Springs.

READ: The original 23: Disney’s original cast members honored after 50 years of hard work

And of course, we took the kids a few times over the years. All in all, there are too many good memories to pick one. The scrapbook is full!

Investigative reporter Christopher Heath

Winters in Ohio are cold; very cold.

This is not the main reason that my family ended up in Orlando in 1983, but it is one of the reasons.

My father was in the convention business, he traveled a lot and did a lot of work with Disney in Florida and in California. So, in December of 1983 Disney invited him to bring the family down to Orlando for a winter vacation to check out the newest theme park, EPCOT.

The prospect of trading in the icy cold of a Middletown, Ohio winter for the palm trees and sunny skies of Orlando made what was already an easy decision even easier for the family. We packed all our light clothes, left our winter coats at home, and boarded a Piedmont Airlines flight for Florida.

Big mistake.

According to Florida State University’s Climate Center, Florida has had 12 significant freezes since 1894, and one of them was in 1983.

We had no sweaters, no sweatshirts, no scarfs, no mittens, and no warm hats. Orlando dropped to 22 degrees; we were cold.

Today, a quick drive over to Disney Springs or the outlets on I-Drive would provide a wayward tourist with all the warm clothes they need. But this was 1983, we had the Disney gift shop and that was about it.

After stocking up on Mickey sweatshirts and gloves, we headed off to the parks. On the agenda were any warm rides, anything that was indoors and out of the elements.

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Enchanted Tiki Room, It’s a Small World, Haunted Mansion, Spaceship Earth, and my absolute favorite Imagination! were all on the agenda, several times.

Yes, we were cold. But we were at Disney as a family and making memories. It was a fantastic vacation.

When we got back to Ohio, my dad discovered that the sump pump had frozen and flooded the basement.

READ: Singing, dancing and, of course, Gaston: 9 viral Disney World moments we’ll never forget

Reporter Alexa Lorenzo

I was born and raised in Miami. My childhood home and Disney are separated by roughly 250 miles.

We were close enough where my family could drive early in the morning and we could enjoy a day in the park no problem, but we were far enough where a 5-year-old child could ask “are we there yet?” approximately a thousand times during a four-hour drive. I’m certain it was a thousand. Ask my mother.

We made the ride fun listening to Disney songs on the way. My favorite then, and now, is “Part Of Your World” from “The Little Mermaid.”

READ: Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind will bring family-friendly thrills to EPCOT beginning in 2022

To this day I know all the lyrics. I won’t miss a word. I can perform it for you on the spot. The pitch and tone are what I haven’t mastered.

Disney was always magical for me growing up. I was blessed to be able to go a handful of times throughout my childhood and it always felt special. The fun, the food, the characters — I loved the characters! My mom says I would hug their legs and not want to let go. I was a clingy kid, apparently.

My favorite thing, by far though, was the rides, no question. The adult Alexa Lorenzo typing this right now is 5 foot 2 inches. So imagine a 7-year-old little Lexi wanting to get on Splash Mountain. I surely was not the required 40 inches.

I tried all the tricks: the high ponytail, the several pairs of socks, the tilting up of your chin. All of it. Disney, if you’re reading this, don’t get mad. It never worked.

As a child, I was captivated by everything at Disney. But as an adult, I’m enchanted by so much more. I now notice every little detail, how the songs add to the ambiance, the careful craftmanship behind each new display.

Now I am lucky to call Disney’s home my home. Central Florida is a special place, surely shaped around everything the Mouse brought here. I am thankful for all the dreams Disney made come true for me as a child.

As an adult, I am thankful for all the opportunities Disney has created for millions in Central Florida. I am forever grateful to sort of be part of Walt’s world!


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