Walt Disney's Magic Touches All of Us

Posts tagged ‘Walt Disney as a leader’

You’re Not a Villain if you take a Disney Vacation

mrtoad_detailI was in a restaurant the other day for the first time and on the inside cover of their wine list was an explanation for their approach to wine offerings. It begins with the following: “Ever been to Disneyland? Welcome to our version of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride (or splash and swirl mountain, if you prefer)”. A little further along, they talk about changing the way traditional wine lists are formatted. Toward the end of the page, they finish with “Remember, it’s just like Disneyland (without the long lines)”. On the one hand, the restaurant clearly wants its wine list seen as singularly inventive, ground breaking, fun and memorable, the waywalt watching painter many people viewed Disneyland. Whoever wrote this was a Mr. Toad fan, so probably someone who likes Disney theme parks enough to pick an attraction that had a large fan base. But, then after some explanation about how make the best use of the list, including some tips (take a look at it before coming in, ask the server for recommendations, let the server choose for you, or forget the wine and order scotch), the writer felt it necessary to cover the other half of the world’s view of the Happiest place on Earth, by making references to attraction lines. If you read my post What’s with you and the Disney Thing?, I’d say the writer has not come to terms with his or her inner Disney fan.

castle costWhen I hear other people talk about their Disney theme park vacations, some of the first comments they often make are related to three different complaints. First up is “It’s so expensive” (often followed by a “you know what I mean” look or a sigh). I’ll admit, a Disney theme park vacation is not going to be cheap. I do, however, believe one should think in terms of what value for your money. Even If you don’t stay at a hotel on the Disney property, you are getting an extremely immersive experience chock full of just about every vacation option you can think of, (with the exception of the actual ocean), all as close a short car or bus ride.  Here in NY a movie ticket will cost me $13 for about 2 hours of entertainment, including endless previews, commercials, not including snacks, A ticket to the Bronx Zoo is $37 and is limited to walking and watching the animals. I’ll let you do the math. And that doesn’t include all of the free activities that you can take advantage of once you are inside the park.

Wherever you roam within a Disney theme park, you can be assured of a consistently high quality of customer experience. There’s no surprise when playing round of miniature golf that the course will be clean, well managed and, of course, perfectly themed. Every interaction whether it’s an attraction that starts with a themed, often, covered queue or a restaurant, perhaps with characters, or character meet and greets, is handled with the highest quality and attention to detail. As the inventor of the modern7-guest-service-guidelines theme park, Walt always insisted on the highest levels of customer service at Disneyland. It all started with calling the employees Cast Members. Walt believed that a theme park visit should feel like going to a show or a movie. Once a Cast Member is “on stage” each guest interaction is handled with a smile and an honest desire to add to the your vacation’s enjoyment. That tradition continues today. Every time you interact with a cast member, you’re not only treated like a valued customer, but made to feel you are somehow special. Many of us have experienced an unexpected magical moment, like a fastpass, a free pin or help finding a lost item.

06_ParksBlog_BigTop_MerchDisplaySecond complaint is that Disney is too commercial and geared towards kids. Let’s put that first part into context. Every vacation spot in the world is a commercial undertaking. If, by commercial, those people mean that it’s all about Disney. Well, yes, it is. That’s why people would go to Disney parks, instead of some other vacation option. And, having souvenirs with those much loved characters is no different than being upsold a scuba excursion or Hawaiian Luau. And unless you’ve been kidnapped, blindfolded and released without your consent into Disneyland, I don’t think I’ve seen too many unhappy adults at Disney parks. (Unless they are they proud parents of an over tired, over stimulated child who should have been given a rest earlier in the day). Even if you’ve never seen a Disney movie, there’s plenty to enjoy that’s geared aswalt watching painter much for adults as it is for kids. You can play golf, laze about in a water park, be pampered at a Disney hotel or enjoy a world class meal. In addition, there is a growing number of rides that have height restrictions and are not designed for the youngest amongst us.

The restaurant’s wine list comment about the lines is the third most related complaint in my unofficial survey. I sympathize with those who spend the bettecastle fireworksr part of their Disney theme park vacation on line. However, I believe some flexibility and planning can do a lot to reduce the waits while improving the overall quality of one’s Disney vacation experience. Anyone who books a Disney vacation during a peak attendance period, should be resigned to some lines. If you can avoid those times (there is plenty of advice and statistical analysis on expected crowds across the many Disney fan sites), then, by all means, pick a less obviously busy day or days. Expecting an empty park during school Easter break or between Christmas and New Year’s is like expecting a private showing of the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center any day in December.

Even if you can’t or can go any other time, I find it rather amazing that many of the same people who complain about costs for Disney vacations, do little or no planning. People will scour the internet for the cheapest airfares, hotels and rental cars. But not doing any planning at all for your time in Parks is just asking for lots of waiting, extra walking, planning-ecardmissed experiences and an overall cranky group of people. If you don’t want to do the planning, there are websites that will help you do it. Some will even ask the age range of the people in your group, whether you want to minimize walking or waiting, hours you want to spend in the park and will consider historical crowd levels to give you a good chance of having an extremely enjoyable time. You can even build in breaks, meals and other special Disney park experiences like parades and fireworks. And there are many well reviewed travel agencies that specialize in planning and arranging Disney vacations from the parks to cruises to Disney adventures. So, don’t stop your planning at plane fare and insure that your hard-earned dollars translate in a vacation that you don’t regret taking.

A Disney vacation is not everyone’s cup of un-birthday tea. Just as climbing Everest or a week of some city’s oldest churches is not going to be at the top of everyone’s list for leisure activity.  Sure, there might be situations where you might not get the best spot for watching a parade, the highly prized meal at Be Our Guest might elude you or keeping everyone in your group happy means that you don’t get a second ride on Splash Mountain. And there are some extras that are beyond many people’s budgets, like the Chef’s Table at the Napa Rose. But, there are so many other options, I defy anyone to say that there aren’t enough options to make your vacation fun and leave you feeling you’ve gotten good value for your money. With some planning, some thought about what’s most important to you and a little flexibility you’ll not only have a great time, but also experience the unexpected magical pixie dust that makes you feel like you too can fly.

peter pan flying.jpeg

What’s With You and The Disney Thing?

I was asked the other day what I like so much about all things Disney. That’s an easy question, I thought. I’ve got a hundred reasons why I go to the theme parks, watch and re-watch Disney movies, collect Disneyana, (see my post Hooked on Collecting) pour over Disney message boards, Disney Facebook pages, dissect every announcement of changes and additions to the theme parks and read biographies of Walt Disney. You’re going to have to tell me when to stop. Just tell me when to stop. Only problem was, while I was thinking all those things, I wasn’t saying anything. At that moment, I realized that while I had thought about all those different aspects of the world of Disney, I had never really articulated why it is that Disney means so much to me – at least not out loud.

Disney Sword in the Stone quote

Source: Gifbay.com

Fortunately for me, the person who had asked was understanding and willing to wait while I put some coherent words together. Not everyone I talk to understands my love of the world of Disney. I get a lot of “It’s so commercial” or “It’s for kids” or “They just want your money”.

I tried to trace back my when my interest had begun. The first movie I ever saw in a theater was The Sword in the Stone. A good movie, but not a great movie. I remember waiting for and watching Disney’s Wonderful World of Color every Sunday on television. There was that great opening with Sleeping Beauty Castle, Tinkerbell and firework sand classic cartoon and nature shorts,disney-wonderful-world-of-color sometimes a movie and Walt would introduce the pieces. But not all of it kept my interest.

I saw many of the live action movies while I was growing up, like “Herbie the Love Bug”, “The Ugly Daschund” and “The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes”. but most of them were, well mediocre. Even the movies with better stories like “The Shaggy Dog” and the “Absent Minded Professor” I saw at the drive-in. Small, tinny sounding speaker and watching through the windshield did not make for a great movie experience. And the Shaggy Dog just scared and wierded me out. I didn’t go to Walt Disney World for the first time until I was in my late twenties. And that trip is kind of a blur. So how and when did this minor obsession start?

Winnie the Pooh thinkingNow, picture for a second, that all this happened in my head, in a matter of seconds, while I probably had this mouth open faraway look in my eyes. I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, A Mother’s Gift, how my mother had been a collector of Disneyana and took me to my first Disney movie. But, as interesting as the items in the collection are and fond as I am of the memories of her telling me about them, and as much as I did enjoy Disney animated movies, and I vaguely remember enjoying my early visit to Walt Disney World, those were curiosities and did not lead me directly to the place where I am today – writing a blog each week about Walt Disney and the world of Disney magic.

Then it hit me. There was a kind of common denominator to all of this. It wasn’t pin collecting, new movies, the addition of Star Wars to the Disney portfolio or escaping into the Fantasy world of a Disney theme park. It’s Walt.

Walt Disney hard at workWalt Disney has become a role model for me. Here was a man who came from no means to build one of the greatest entertainment empires the world has ever seen. He persevered through setback after setback, going broke more than once. He could have been envious when it became apparent that others could execute the drawings for his ideas better than he could. He could have quit when Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was taken away from him. (BTW, thank you Disney company for bringing Oswald home) He could have taken the easy path and continued to make short cartoons when everyone told him that people wouldn’t pay and sit for a feature length animated film. He could have folded his tent when many of his animators went on strike. He could Walt Disney Disneyland quotehave sold out to another company when World War II forced him to make films for the military at almost no profit. And he certainly could have coasted on easy street when the company finally reached financial stability after ignoring the naysayers who said that the theme park he imagined would fail. Instead, he persevered. Instead, he stuck to his dreams and found ways to achieve his goals.

I am in awe of the boundless creativity that Walt exhibited throughout his life. As I discussed in my post How Much do You Want It?, there aren’t many people who have been successful at so many different entertainment genres. Walt had no background, training or experience in television, live action movie producing or theme parks. He even learned animation while he was creating his early shorts. But, he never let that stop him from doing what he instinctively knew what people wanted or needed for entertainment. His boundless optimism that, somehow, despite not having money or many supporters or any real plan for how some of his work would get accomplished, if he just focused on making people happy, everything would work out. He took big, potentially company destroying chances and didn’t look back. His unbridled enthusiasm and can-do attitude made him a natural leader. As a result, people he needed help from to succeed, believed in him and followed him. Bankers, animators, architects, engineers, directors, artists, even his brother Roy all fell under the spell of a man who could weave a great story and who’s enthusiasm for any project was spell binding and infectious.

Walt Builds Disneyland

If you were to describe someone who was not afraid of the unknown, took risks, lead men and women on great campaigns, followed his own heart, stuck to his principles, exhibited a knack for problem solving and built great things, you might be thinking of decorated military man or an explorer, moving from one adventure to the next. Not someone who made movies and created theme parks. But Walt Disney was an exceptional man who followed his passions even in the face of tremendous skepticism and what, to others, were insurmountable obstacles, financially, technically and artistically.

Those exceptional qualities inspire me and, I think, others, even though he has been gone for fifty years, to admire and aspire to be like him. While others have been successful at their chosen professions or endeavors, I’m hard pressed to think of too many who have done it with such style and enthusiasm and seemed to have so much fun at the same time. I’d love to hear where your love, passion or interest in the world of Disney came from.

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