Right from the street front, before you have even set foot in her house, you can tell that Christine Whittle is a Disnerd.
Christine’s letterbox was made and gifted to her by a close friend, and has become a conversation piece amongst her neighbours and visitors.
“It was made by a very dear friend who knew how much I loved Disney. It is one of a kind.”
Christine’s first memory of Disney was as a child, living in New Zealand.
“My first Disney memories were fairy-tale stories read to me by my mother and grandmother.”
These stories planted a seed that grew into a dream - a dream of a life filled with Disney. This dream followed Christine into adulthood and is still very much alive and active today.
What started as a simple bedtime story in her childhood bedroom has now spread to every bedroom of her house as an adult. Walking through Christine’s house is like walking through a museum. Every corner is devoted to Disney.
The Magic Kingdom
Christine’s dream of going to The House the Mouse Built (Disneyworld) began about 35 years ago when she took her daughters, for the first time, to Disney on Ice. The show was so magical that it inspired a dream of something more, and nothing would quench this thirst until she was able to visit the real deal.
When Christine met her husband Barry, it soon became clear to him that her biggest dream was to go to The Mouse House. Like a true gentlemen, he worked hard to make her dream come true. Over a decade later, after much saving, Barry took Christine and her daughters (then adults of 23 and 25) to Florida for a seven day vacation at Walt Disney World.
Highlights included Christine’s favorite rides - It’s a Small World’ and the classic ‘tea cups’. Her fondest moment however, is of the night-time Light Parade at Magic Kingdom, which they went to twice.
“I remember watching the Light Parade at Magic Kingdom with tears streaming down my face and knowing I was living my dream. We had a week of magic that will never be forgotten.”
When the family returned home, they brought with them a suitcase full of beautiful souvenir Disney toys for their grandchildren. Christine did not yet have grandchildren, but she was already anticipating them, and would make sure they knew all about the magic of Disney.
With three beautiful grandchildren now - aged 10, 7 and 2 years old, Disney on Ice has become an annual event for the Whittle household. Each year Christine purchases them a brand new Disney princess costume brought online from Disney USA. Last year her granddaughters Gaia and Keira went as Elsa and Anna. This will be the first year the girls are not going as princesses, but instead are set to attend in a more traditional look, sporting red Minnie Mouse dresses with black stockings.
Now that Christine’s adult children have flown the coup, Christine has decorated her spare rooms with all things Disney and allocated them for her grandchildren who come to stay.
“Our grandchildren get lost in a world of fantasy when visiting and now my greatest dream is to get them to Disneyland.”
Christine’s collection began officially in 2008 when her then, three year old granddaughter fell in love with several Disney channel programs and wanted the toys that went with them. Living on an island at the bottom of the world, these toys were not readily available, so she did what any reasonable grandmother would do for her grandchild. She enrolled in computer lessons to learn how to import products using the internet, and soon began importing Disney toys.
Years later, Christine’s passion for all things Disney has not faded.
“We go to every Disney movie that comes out and then buy the DVD. Our latest watch was Cinderella -our favourite since Frozen!”
Christine’s husband of 24 years, Barry, has grown to love Disney just as much as the rest of his family, but Christine suspects this is mainly just due to some amount of ‘acclimatisation’;
“I guess he had no choice with little voices asking for more shelves to put their Disney dolls, soft toys and their brothers die cast cars and planes on. He is not keen when it comes to decorating the Christmas tree and lounge as it takes most of the day - he would rather play golf. It also took him a while to figure out which name belonged to which princess!“
Nonetheless, Barry certainly respects Christine’s passion for the wonderful world of Disney. In 2004, the pair were lucky enough to be able to see the onstage production of The Lion King in Sydney, Australia. The couple describe it as the best show they have ever seen, and are to this day aggrieved that they cannot see the performance again, on a New Zealand stage.
Christine’s Disney collection is wide-ranging and exhaustive. As well as being occupied by her grandchildren, her house has also come to be full of the following Disney items:
- Christmas decorations
- Enesco princess figures
- Bradford Exchange ornaments
- Jim Shore figures
- Swarovski crystal pieces
- Plush toys
- Plastic figurine sets
- Die cast cars and planes
- Table wear
- Hair accessories
- Wall decals
There is not much of Disney that Christine doesn’t collect.
Favorite items in her collection include plush toys Marie and Dumbo, and Animators’ dolls Pocahontas…“she has such a sad, adorable face.”
One of her favorite and most treasured pieces is her ‘Seven Dwarfs Walking Over Fallen Log’ piece by Jim Shore. Christine first fell in love with this piece in a Christmas shop in Christchurch, New Zealand, after her husband had told her it was much too expensive to buy. Never one to take ‘no’ for an answer, Christine knew she had to have it.
The piece now takes pride of place in her home.
“At Christmas time our lounge comes alive with Disney decorations.”
Even Christmas has become a cause for a Disney inspired celebration in the Whittle home. After starting their Disney Christmas decoration collection about four years ago, they now transform their tree each November into a magical Disney delight.
Last year the collection of decorations had grown so vastly that Christine had to go out and purchase a larger artificial Christmas tree to accommodate them. This year they are preparing to buy a second tree for the Frozen theme that the grandchildren (and the grandparents!) are hoping to make room for.
When asked what Disney character or movie Christine considers her favorite, she answers;
“…I love it all from Dumbo to Nightmare before Christmas with all the Princesses and Fairies in between… How could I not?”
Spoken like a true Disney fan!
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