There is a sense of excitement in the air around Walt Disney World today, more so than usual, and a lot of that excitement is due to Disney’s newest global celebration: the Year of a Million Dreams.
For 35 years now people have been coming to Disney World with the sense that there was something about this place that sets it apart from other amusement parks. Everyone knows that it’s the only place where they can meet Mickey Mouse and Cinderella and many other of their favorite Disney characters, and most people are aware of the attention to detail Disney puts into their attractions and environments, but most people seem to have lost touch with what really makes Disney World such a magical place.
Unfortunately, in an increasingly negative and cynical society, a world where everybody seems to think they’re more important than everyone else, it’s difficult to get that magic across to people who see Disney World as a place where they must be made happy because they say so. Over the past decade or so, I’ve seen Disney World slip from a place where everybody is happy, to a place where everybody is whatever they want to be, and Disney judges happiness by numbers and profits. The attitude seemed to be to bring as many people in as possible, and if some of them left with magic, great; all the others still came aynway. Well, people got wise, and through all the cynicism came the voice of those who truly believed that Disney World could be so much more than what it was portraying.
Finally, Disney listened. With the Dream Teams roaming through the parks, Disney is poised to start making the magic themselves again, and I’ve already seen the results. This celebration is exactly what Disney stands for. Surprising people with magic that no one else can offer. Nearly everyone who visits the Magic Kingdom has wanted to live in Cinderella’s Castle, if only for one night. Now Disney is offering the chance. You want to visit all five Disney Resorts? Now you can, if you are lucky enough to be chosen as worldwide parade grand marshal. Disney has even gone so far as to reward guests who do magical things themselves with an exclusive pin that commemorates the moment, which itself comes with a pin for that guest to reward another guest’s magical moment.
This is exactly the type of positive reinforcement Disney needed. For too long, the squeeky wheels have gotten the grease. Those who complain the most and make the most noise have been running away with all the prizes Disney has to offer. Now, in order to receive the magic you have to become a part of it, and it seems as though most people are discovering this, if only on a subconscious level. It is bringing the best out of people and, most importantly, attracting the types of people to whom Disney has always reached out.
One of the Dream Team members was telling me a story recently about a Magical Moment. A random seat was chosen on Star Tours at a particular time of day and whoever ended up in this seat won a $500 shopping spree. The prize was won by a 9 year old boy. This boy and his father had planned this trip to Disney World together without informing the mother or sister. They didn’t even know they were going to Disney World until just before they left.
Upon winning the shopping spree, the boy went through the shop buying presents for his sister first, then his parents individually. He had the presents for his mother and sister (who were on another attraction at the time) mailed to their home as a surprise for when they returned. He commented that he wished he could have won dinner at the Royal Table (a full service restaurant on the second floor of Cinderella’s Castle) because his mother and sister had unsuccessfully been trying to get reservations all week. The Dream Team member (who was at this point in uncontrollable tears) made these arrangements for him.
Finally, almost as an afterthought, the boy bought himself a single, limited edition Star Wars watch with what was left over.
I am getting misty-eyed just typing this story…
This is exactly what Disney World is all about: bringing families together, creating genuine happiness, and making dreams come true. This celebration has brought the magic back where it belongs, and I hope to see more excitement in the coming months. With this celebration Walt Disney World has solidified its purpose in society, and has confirmed to even some of the most hardened hearts that it truly is a place “where dreams come true.”