Dreamers Change the World

“That’s the real trouble with the world. Too many people grow up.” -Walt Disney

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Hollywood Studios construction barricade Photo: Colleen Murphy

Walt Disney managed to create one of the world’s most recognizable brands. He imagined a character, built two theme parks and founded the most famous movie studio in the world. The key to his success was innovation and a childlike sensibility. He was going to do it better than anyone else. But how? By creating an experience for the whole family.

Building Walt Disney World in Orlando wasn’t simply about kids and rides. He built hotels designed to host the fantasy of not only children, but to satisfy the desires of parents. Disney knew that standing in the hot sun while your kids ride the teacups may not be the most fun adult experience. So he coupled the theme park experience with luxurious hotel accommodations to transport the parents to a beautiful city scape or a tropical island. Fine dining, child care and a premium service experience all combined to create a vacation the entire family would enjoy.

Walt designed transportation to move people seamlessly between his worlds. The monorail has been running since 1971 and carries 50 million guests per year. Think about that number. Each element of the parks is designed to keep you immersed in the world of Disney magic. As the parks and resorts have grown, the additon of transportation options increases. The bus system serves every resort not covered by boats and monorail options. When ride-sharing apps took off, Disney wasn’t about to be left out. Lyft now partners with Disney to provide “Minnie Vans”, adorable polka dot vehicles that whisk you from A to B. And the newest transportation option will carry guests from several resorts to Hollywood Studios via The Skyliner Gondola.

“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” -Walt Disney

One of the most interesting aspects of design at Disney World is the Imagineering Department. Engineers literally spend their days designing and executing plans to keep you immersed in each ride and every world you pass through. They are designing experiences, not roller coasters. I had the opportunity to have lunch with an Imagineer and to hear about the process of creation. Walt’s spirit lives with his designers every day. They don’t think no we can’t do that, they think why not?

The thematic elements are carried throughout each ride beginning the moment you step on line. Disney World Cast Members are each dressed in costume corresponding to their assigned area. Many are acting out their part all day long. I have had the evil stepsisters snap at me. I have heard ghost stories at the Hollywood Tower. I have watched my children dance with Cinderella and Prince Charming to the sounds of “One Day My Prince Will Come”. The magic is being completely absorbed into the experience.

Interactive elements have been incorporated into every experience, including wait times. The new Avatar world in Animal Kingdom features an incredible ride, Flights of Passage. Lines top out at a three hour wait time to climb on your own banshee and take flight in the 3D flight simulator. As you dive over cliffs you can feel the banshee breathing between your legs. Sometimes I just marvel at the thought process and incredible attention to detail.

I have waited on that line, two children in tow. The line itself includes beautiful rooms of lighted flowers, a replica of the lab from the movie Avatar and an enourmous Na’vi floating in a specimen tube. And if you are still bored in line, Disney provides their own app called Disney Play. It only works when you are in the parks and includes games, trivia and intereactive experiences. Visitors are literally excited to get in line just to use the app. Three hours in a line became completely memorable. By the end, you are best friends with the people waiting near you, having shared an experience.

Animal Kingdom, Avatar: Flights of Passage Photo: Colleen Murphy

To understand the complete immersion, look no further than the Disney Christmas Party. As the holiday parade rolls past a tin soldier marching band clacks by keeping time with the music. Favorite Disney characters wave as they pass on their themed floats. And sitting there, you notice the smell. Each float is scented. Evergreen trees and candy and cinnamon move past you with each scene. There is no part of your senses that has been forgotten.

Park tickets are no joke. One day entry into one park is $109.00 and there are no discounts. The price is the price. If you couple park entry with a Disney Resort and food, you are spending a huge amount of money. For a visit to a theme park. So why are people doing it in droves?

Every time they raise the price, attendance continues to climb. Disney has solved a problem for families and has done it in the most effective way possible. How do you create a vacation that children love and adults want to pay for? Create a world people want to experience, have them stay in accommodations with the highest level of service, provide top tier dining experiences, offer child care so adults can have a night out and create fun at every turn. The memories you leave with match the marketing message.

Design, planning, and an incredible amount of hard work all combine to create something that looks like, well…magic.

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Writing about the beautiful journey of life and love. We are all figuring this out together

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