Walt Disney's Magic Touches All of Us

Archive for May, 2014

Testing the Disney Magic, Part 1

“Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends”. Advice from, Walt Disney, one of the business world’s great marketers. I am a New York resident, so I don’t get to either of Disney’s theme parks in the US very often. Unlike my Mother, who saw the theme parks as only a money making machine (see my previous post “A Mother’s Gift“), I see them as a wonderful escape. So when my job made it necessary for me to travel to Orlando for training, (really, it wasn’t my idea) I was excited to think I would be so close to WDW.

Aerial view of the Magic Kingdom

Aerial view of the Magic Kingdom

But sad I wouldn’t be able to spend time in the parks.  Would today’s Disney Corporation live up to its creator’s marketing advice and lure me there somehow to spend my hard earned money? If so, would the experience be worthy enough to “bring my friends”?

Disneyland Entrance Sign

Disneyland Entrance Sign

My Disney brain was working overtime trying to find a way to take advantage of my close proximity to the “Happiest Place on Earth”. After the smoke cleared a bit, (I think my brain pan needs an oil change) I began to see possibilities. I had to eat, right? And WDW has some restaurants that feel, sort of like attractions, right? My wife was joining me and we planned the trip like many of our vacations (Disney or otherwise)– we plan our days around meals. Since my days were spoken for by my employer from 7am-7pm, the plan was to soak up as much of the Disney Magic at dinner as possible without buying a park ticket. But was food wasn’t going to be enough? Undeterred I pushed ahead.

We decided to pick some old favorites and one new restaurant for the three dinners we were planning. To maximize our enjoyment potential, I felt the Resorts might offer more than just a meal. Even though we were limited to Resorts, there were still many options. Boma was an easy choice. Not only is the resort a favorite, but I love a buffet and the African inspired cuisine is not something you find everywhere (even in NYC).  We also loved our stay at the Polynesian. While Kona has never been at the top of our list, it does have the great tiki-style drinks and sushi, which is hard to find in WDW. For our new restaurant, I had just read that Iron Chef Cat Cora’s Koussina was closing and we had never tried the food, which also offered some unique WDW choices. Now that we had our three restaurants, we were ready to find out if we could make an evening out of it filled with WDW magic.

Boma

kouzzinaKona-Cafe-Polynesian-Disney

Disney Boardwalk

Disney Boardwalk

Koussina at the Boardwalk seemed like a no brainer for things to do before and after a meal. The Boardwalk itself is designed as an entertainment center. There would be stores, busker-like entertainment, a dance hall, a piano bar and beautiful Crescent Lake to look at as we strolled the boardwalk. Hey, maybe, this wasn’t going to be too hard. Buoyed by our first choice, we confidently approached our second meal,

Disney Polynesian Resort

Disney Polynesian Resort

Kona Café at the Polynesian. We had loved watching the fireworks from our room overlooking the Seven Seas Lagoon during our last stay. After a little research, I learned that we could get the same view from the beach near the Volcano Pool. The Polynesian also had the closest thing to an attraction we were going to get this trip – The Monorail. I know it’s a bit of a stretch. But it’s a nice ride that gets us very close to the Magic Kingdom, goes through the Contemporary Resort and would give us a view of the Grand Floridian, all for free. There was some concern when we learned that the lobby might be under construction, but there would always be a nice walk around the grounds if we wanted the tropical feel.

Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge

Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge

Finally we tackled Animal Kingdom Lodge, a Resort that holds many wonderful memories for our family. (Although there was an infamous trip during which we lost, not one, but two digital cameras there). With its soaring main lobby, the African artifacts to see, African music, the Cape Town Lounge, and African animals, it seemed we could make an evening of that meal.

In my next post, I’ll reveal how successful Disney was at making us feel like we were part of the magic and whether Walt would be proud that his creation could “bring us back for more”.

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A Mother’s Gift

This is my first Mother’s day without my mother and I was thinking about how much she influenced my respect for Walt Disney and love for his work. The first movie she took me to see was “The Sword in the Stone”. Other movies followed: “Mary Poppins”; “That Darn Cat”; “The Ugly Dachsund”; and “The Gnome-MobJungle Book DVDile”. The one that sticks with me most from my early childhood is “The Jungle Book”. My Grandfather was a songwriter in the 50’s and 60’s so hearing legendary singers like Phil Harris and Louis Prima in a movie made for kids mad a strong impression on me.

My mother made it easy to be open to many experiences and interests including theater, books, art and sports. But always in there somewhere was the influence of Walt Disney. It might be plates or napkins at a birthday party, a greeting card featuring Mickey or an image on some clothing. My mother was also a collector. She collected newspapers she never read, recordings of TV programs she never watched again, antiquarian books, which she built into a business and Disneyana. At some point, an entire room in our house was filled, floors, walls and ceiling with pre-1960s Disney collectibles. She and I would sit and look at things, discuss the artistic or historical value of one piece or another. We didn’t always agree and I didn’t always find the time or have the patience to talk as long as she would have liked, but we both enjoyed ourselves.

After I had moved out and started a family of my own, without saying anything, she began to sell off most of the collection, until all that is left isdisneyana book a couple of dozen pieces, autographs and photographs. It’s not clear whether the decision to sell was financial or that my brother, father and I didn’t show enough interest to convince her that it was worth keeping. It saddens me that something that became so integral to her life did not seem to be important to her in the last years of her life. As I looked though the pieces that were left, I couldn’t help remember many of the other collectibles that I had spent so much time looking at. I’m sad, not because there was value in the collectibles, but because it was a connection with me that no one else in our family shared with her.

I think my mother visited Disneyland once as a child, but she never went back and she never took my brother or I to any of the Disney Theme Parks. As I began to take my wife and family to Walt Disney World, I would ask if she would like to go with us. She would comment that it was just too commercial and about selling things. I didn’t understand it then, but I believe I have come to understand that for my Mother, it wasn’t about theme parks or animated movies. She, like me now as an adult, recognized the artistic genius of Walt Disney and the impact he has had, not just on animated movies, for which his legacy is firmly cemented, but for all the other ways he has changed the world. I’m not sure she realized what a special seed she planted. It’s a seed that has blossomed and thrived into my adulthood.  It’s a gift I treasure and don’t mind carrying with me.Mom

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