Holy smoke

It’s been said nature abhors a vacuum. Well, it is also true Walt Disney World abhors spontaneity. Every aspect of the Disney experience in its four Parks, two water parks and numerous resorts are executed like clockwork:

  • Guests are not to put the arms or legs outside of any ride vehicle or monorail for any reason.
  • All persons and their bags and purses are inspected by security personnel before entering any Park
  • And you will stand in line for exactly 180 minutes to ride the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.

The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World paperback even sarcastically refers to a  water splash pad at Epcot — where kids can jump around in their bathing suits — as the “I Can’t Believe It’s a Disney Fountain.” That’s why I was so shocked and, frankly, giddy to experience a spontaneous moment at Disney World during a vacation there last month.

“JESUS” skywriting above Disney’s Animal Kingdom on Dec. 6, 2018. Photo by David Mayernik Jr.

As I was waiting in line to see “UP! A Great Bird Adventure Show” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom on Dec. 6, (The Feast of St. Nicholas and, also, my birthday) I looked to the sky and saw not a bird nor Superman but a plane.

Above the palm trees and colorful paper lanterns, a smiley face was being formed in the azure blue sky through skywriting (certainly a lost art in the 21st century, I think) and then the word “JESUS” slowly took form.

I believe “LOVES YOU” shortly followed but I’m not exactly sure since myself and other guests were being herded into the arena for the 4 p.m. bird show. Certainly, this wasn’t a Disney-sanctioned advertising so I had to get out my camera to snap a photo of the momentous occasion.

When I got back home to Pittsburgh, I decided to scour the Internet to try to find the story behind the sky-writing. According to the South Florida Sun Sentinel newspaper, two pilots own two crop duster planes, both dubbed the “Holy Smoke,” and have been writing these messages above the Orlando and Fort Lauderdale areas in Florida since 1999 “so the duo may spread religious affirmations from Miami to the Magic Kingdom.”

Their messages are written at 10,000 feet and can be seen 35 miles away on a clear day, the Sun Sentinel reports. At the end of the 45-minute bird show, the message had already started to dissolve thanks to the Orlando winds. It was interesting to note the reactions of some Disney guests, like myself, who were wondering what was happening in the sky above.

It was a change from the usual fireworks display and Tinkerbell flying above Cinderella Castle. A different kind of Disney magic, I suppose.