By Nathalie Bonney @nathaliebonney
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Videographer / director: Per Lind
Producer: Nathalie Bonney, Ruby Coote
Editor: Beth Angus
Living in Norwalk, Southern California, means the Ruvalcabas family live right next door to Disneyland. The family of four head to the theme park at least once a week, with parents Jennifer and Raul estimating they have collectively been to Disneyland over 300 times.
The family dress up as their favourite characters, with outfits that mom Jennifer has created herself. After teaching herself to sew, the stay-at-home mom has made over 60 outfits for six-year-old daughter Riley; and has now started sewing cloaks and an estimated 20 outfits for two-year-old son Liam.
Jennifer, 31, told Barcroft: “We try to go once a week to Disneyland sometimes two, but it is very close so it makes it pretty easy.
“We usually go for about two to four hours, maybe in a day; we are not there for 12 hours in a day. That is too much when you go there too often!"
Raul, who works full time as a retail manager for Nordstrom, added: “I usually try to go on my days off so maybe once a week or maybe every other week with the family.”
Raul, 33, added: “I love that we can go as a family to Disneyland, it is obviously very kid-oriented, there is always something new to do and the kids have the best interactions and we love to watch them, it is not just the rides and Mickey pretzels, it is also that we have met friends going and we get to enjoy that time together.”
The parents pay $175 a month for a family pass, so they can visit the park as many times as they want.
Raul said: “Our monthly payment isn’t actually that bad, it is like a $175 a month for the family and it includes parking so it is really affordable for us."
The cost of going to Disneyland so regularly is $2,037 a year, based on two signature annual passes for Jennifer and Riley ($849), and then the $339 SoCal select off peak pass for Raul; Liam gets in for free as he is under three.
Jennifer said: “By purchasing an annual pass we can pay it on monthly payments, which is really nice.
“Instead of going out to dinner or going on a whole bunch of vacations this is just our once a week play time where we can save money and spend money on that.
“Other than that we bring a lot of our own stuff, parking is included in our passes and I make my own costumes.”
For Riley and Liam, Disneyland offers more than teacup rides and Mickey pretzels, it’s a chance to meet the characters and heroes they have fallen in love with on screen.
Raul said: “The kids love to just play and take pictures with the princesses and princes.
“They see them on TV and when they go to interact with the characters they just love to be there and socialise.
And because Riley and Liam are such regulars, it’s not uncommon for Cinderella, Star Lord from Guardians of the Galaxy and Spiderman, to recognise the brother sister duo.
Raul added: “It is great that the characters actually know them by name so as soon as they walk up to them [they say], ‘Hi Liam, Hi Riley’ and their faces light up.”
Asked who her favourite Disney character is, Riley can’t decide between two:
“My favourite character is Peter Pan and Rapunzel! Peter pan and Rapunzel!”
Liam’s tendency to wear his Spiderman, Star Wars and Guardians of the Galaxy outfits suggests these by turn are his favourite Disneyland characters.
Borrowing her mother-in-law’s sewing machine and watching online video tutorials, Jennifer taught herself to sew just a couple of years ago.
She said: “My mom used to sew when I was a kid and she used to make me costumes, she made me an Ariel, Princess Jasmine and a Snow White.
“I remember dressing up in those all the time. Me and my friends used to share and pretend that we were princesses and I just loved it."
One of the first costumes Jennifer made for Riley was an Alice in Wonderland dress
“She was so excited that she wanted to get her tea set out and, it felt so good to make her so happy,” she said.
It will take Jennifer anything from an hour and a half to two hours to make a simple romper, to eight hours for a more elaborate gown. The cost to make the costumes also varies: approximately $7 dollars for a romper through to $25-45 in materials for a dress.
Wielding her own bit of Disney magic, Jennifer’s cleverly designed a Cinderella transformation dress, where a shorter skirt unfolds into a full-length gown, was the most expensive to make, costing $60. The dress has caught the attention of passersby in the park as well as her growing set of Instagram followers.
In the future Raul and Jennifer know that they might not be able to take their children to Disneyland as frequently as they do – but the park will always hold a special place in their hearts.
Raul added: “I would describe Disneyland as a place to have fun. For us to be kids with our kids and it was one of the first places we had a date and it kind of brings back memories and that’s why we like to go back.”