Chris Walker took his first trip to Walt Disney World in Florida when he was 3 years old. He says he doesn’t remember the vacation, but he did come home with a souvenir book filled with photos of the theme park. After that, he says he and his younger brother “became obsessed,” going as far as building replicas of Disney rides in their backyard throughout their childhood.
Fast forward a few decades and a move to DC, where he launched the popular Instagram account @TheHappiestSwampOnEarth. The feed features photos of iconic DC attractions with Disney’s most-famous characters digitally inserted into the scenes. (Think Cinderella underneath a cherry blossom tree or Simba with the real lions at the National Zoo).
Walker says the photos started as a way to feed his Disney obsession while exploring a new city, but he soon learned there were more secret Disney fans in DC than he realized.
“I didn’t think I would amass thousands of followers of people that like Disney a lot, particularly people that live in DC,” says Walker. “But it’s been really interesting to see how many people, particularly in DC, have reached out and said, ‘Oh my God, I’m obsessed with this. I’m not the only Disney fan in DC.’”
Visually, he says, DC and the world of Disney theme parks actually do have a lot in common. “The way the city is laid out and the attention to detail that’s paid to the museums and the gardens, especially around the Smithsonian, and how clean the city is, it’s very much set up to be a tourist destination,” says Walker. “So I think, visually, [Disney World] and DC are very cohesive together.”
After two years in the District, Walker is readying to move to Miami with his partner, but secret Disney fans in DC shouldn’t despair. Walker has taken thousands of photos of the Washington region and he’ll continue to post Cinderella, Belle, Peter Pan and others enjoying all that the District has to offer. A happy swamp, indeed.