Last month, I had the honor of addressing a ballroom filled with 350 Disney fans, most of whom were Walt Disney World fans at the Mid-Atlantic Dismeet. I kicked off the weekend with one of my favorite topics: The Disney zone.
I took on the task of describing what "Disney magic" was all about and how it impacts our journey into the Disney zone. Disney magic is something that we have all experienced and felt but found next to impossible to describe. It makes us do silly things, like keep returning to Disneyland or Walt Disney World.
I tried to make my point by saying it's easier to write instructions on tying shoelaces or describing the color green than it is to describe Disney magic. Then there's the matter of describing or explaining Disney magic to those who just don't "get it." Good luck.
It becomes somewhat frustrating when a friend, relative, neighbor, or co-worker approaches you and says, "Hey Mike. I hear you're going to Disney World again," followed by a look that would indicate that my third eye has finally fully developed squarely in the middle of my forehead.
Then, of course, there are the other comments:
So how do you explain to these non-believers what brings us back to the Disney theme parks? You say it's Disney magic, but again, it falls on deaf ears. So how do we attack this problem? We are not alone. In fact, we are getting some help.
Let's go back to the announcement of the Year of a Million Dreams when Jay Rasulo, Chairman of Disney Parks and Resorts, talked about the "transformational effect" that occurs when guests enter a Disney theme park. I felt that he was basically describing what happens when the guests also enter the Disney zone.
Rasulo described what the Year of a Million Dreams was all about and put special emphasis on how cast members would be empowered to make these dreams come true for guests. I had always sensed that there was a formula or a recipe that created both Disney magic and the Disney zone. It suddenly dawned on me what ingredients are needed for the Disney magic/zone recipe.
We are talking about three important components: The guests, the park environment, and cast members.
Sure, they are all important, but think of the importance of the role of the cast member. It's the cast member that makes or breaks the guest's experience such that it draws that guest into the Disney zone.
Rasulo calls his cast members "the dreammakers," and I could not have bestowed a more appropriate moniker to those individuals who make our Disney vacations so special. Without them, would most of us have the memories that we have of our Disneyland or Walt Disney World experiences? Uh-uh!
When I had arrived at the most important component in the Disney magic/zone recipe, I also recalled how often I would think as to how underappreciated these dreammakers are every day.
I know that several times, I have made it known how I feel about the important role cast members have played over the years in nurturing my passion for all things Disney. That has not changed. They are the most important factor in determining how well a Walt Disney World vacation goes for a family.
As this philosophy is becoming more and more widely shared by visitors to Walt Disney World and Disneyland, it was my hope that not only would we see some tributes to these cast members but someday the emerging of "cast member appreciation" sites. That day has come.
There is a new Web site on the horizon that is actually indirectly dedicated to Disney magic and the Disney zone, and also those who make it possible, our friends the cast members.
The site is known as Sharing Magical Moments (link), and is the brainchild of former Walt Disney World cast member Mike Demopoulos.
Demopoulos, who has worked at both the Walt Disney World theme parks and resort hotels, brings a special perspective to what magical memories is all about. Magical memories are best found while in the Disney zone and while the guest is experiencing Disney magic.
As a former cast member, Demopoulos understands what a Walt Disney World vacation means to a guest, especially if it's the only time that guest may visit Orlando. He also understands the part each cast member plays in the guest experience, and how a cast member can impact the experience to the point of creating that unforgettable moment of magical memory.
Demopoulos has a co-host for his site, and its none other than Mouseplanet staff member Mark Goldhaber, who writes our weekly Walt Disney World Update, the "World View" column, as well as other articles.
Both hosts bring a different perspective to the site, and both understand the impact of special memories and how they are enabled through the work and efforts of cast members.
As Mark puts it, the main focus of the site is to " offer guests the opportunity to share and relive Disney memories and build anticipation for their next trip by reading others' stories. "
It also allows for the guests to relive their Disney vacation experience.
So what caught my eye about this site was that its prime focus was centered on basically a Disney magic experience, brought to you courtesy of the Disney zone.
However, there was something that got me even more excited. Not only will the site offer visitors opportunities to submit cast/guest stories and participate in discussion forums, but it will also let visitors " honor those who have enabled these Magical Moments " in the cast gratitude section.
I'm sure there are other sites out there that have a special portion devoted to cast members, but I prefer how the main focus of this site, Magical Memories or Moments" is tied in directly with cast member appreciation.
In the words of the co-hosts, "The cast gratitude section is devoted to thanking the Disney cast members for all they do, and to thank "special" cast members. We will periodically forward each "Thank you!" submitted by our guests to Disney Guest Services so that Disney hears about all the people that value the cast, and to ensure that those "special" cast members are acknowledged for making their guests' day."
Here! Here! Music to my ears.
The site will archive all stories from guests and cast members in a searchable archive.
Oh there is more: The "Magical Moment" podcast. The site will have a companion podcast that will be far different from the other Disney-oriented podcasts in that while other podcasts focus on Disney news, trip planning and attraction walk-throughs, the Magical Moment podcast will look at the magical moments that occur from visiting Disney parks, listening to Disney music, and watching Disney movies.
The podcast will also honor cast members that go out of their way to create magical moments for their guests.
The producers also welcome and encourage visitor participation and ask that their visitors share their magical moment stories via e-mail. They can also dial a toll-free phone number.
As we approach the beginning of a Year of a Million Dreams, it's nice to know that there is at least one Web site on the horizon where we can share in words and memories just what Disney magic is all about, and to help us all
Remember the Magic! What a concept!
Don't look now, but prices are going up. Not only that, some other changes are coming up that we need to look at a bit more closely.
We'll do so next time.
(Send an email to Mike Scopa)
Mike Scopa first visited Walt Disney World almost 30 years ago. Planning a trip was simple back in the 1970s, with only the Magic Kingdom and a few Disney-owned resorts in Orlando.
Over the past 11 years, Mike has been perfecting his WDW trip-planning skills as he has hosted chats and bulletin boards about Disney for a Fortune 100 company.