Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Why Do You Like Disney World So Much?

Has anyone ever asked you this question?  Do your friends and family have trouble wrapping their minds around why you keep going back to the same vacation destination again and again and again?  It’s a fair thing to for them to wonder and not always easy for everyone to answer.  Our resident bloggers share their reasons here.

=== Todd ======
If I could let you walk around inside my head for a moment, it would be easy for you to understand why I love Disney World.  Lacking that trip into the fantastic, I think it’s important that you understand a small bit about me.  But at the same time, you’re not really here for me, so I’ll jump right into Disney and maybe you’ll get some of the back-story as we go.

For me, Disney is an escape from the world to a better place.  Yes, Disney World is a fun place to be with great scenery, fun rides, interesting dining experiences, and other cool things to do.  I could spend paragraphs telling you about all of that, but I’m sure you hear that all the time.  And of course, you can probably name other places that offer bunches of the same fun – local amusement parks, resorts etc.  However, it is more than that.  What makes Disney different for me and maybe for you?

For risk of sounding like a commercial – for me Disney just provides a different feeling.  As a socially awkward person who somewhat avoids confrontation, but is inwardly infuriated by people being mean to others and taking advantage of others, Disney is a place where I feel I can fit in.  For the most part, Disney seems to bring out the best in people.  You don’t have people so wrapped up in themselves that they don’t care what they do to others.  People are not running all over the place in inappropriate clothing, running you down to get where they are going, or violating the rules to jump ahead of you.  For the most part, they are friendly and kind.  (I've really only run into one exception to this in my 7 visits.)  I’m not sure whether this is more a product of how people behave when at Disney World or a result of the types of people that go to Disney World.  Either way, the end product is a place that doesn't strike me with sadness as I watch how people are treating each other.

Certainly, Disney’s employees – cast members if I must – help to foster this feeling.  Of course, it starts with the environment they provide that focuses on family fun rather than fraternity-esque fun.  Everything Disney is about the details.  Compare a Disney roller coaster to others’.  One thing is always missing from the Disney coaster – the supports.  The supports aren't part of the detail – part of the story so they are hidden as part of a mountain, darkness, or other story effect.   It’s this attention to detail and story telling in Disney parks that sets them apart and I believe sets the stage for the feeling Disney inspires in people.  And it’s this feeling that just makes me feel welcome, awed, and at peace.

Beyond that, the Disney family always seems to be friendly and wanting you to have a good time and help with any issues.  And finally, though no one will accuse a Disney vacation of being inexpensive (and no one will accuse me of not being thrifty), you also are pretty much aware of what you are going to pay before you get there.  Meal portions are certainly large enough.  Basically, you know what you are going to pay and that you are going to get what you pay for.  This is a comfortable feeling where you don’t need to feel like you have to worry at each interaction how are they trying to get my money.

Finally, as the father of two young boys, I can feel safe that I am treating them to a wonderful family experience without having to worry about them being taking advantage of or having to explain something that goes against our family values.  And a Disney World vacation is a gift and experience my parents shared with me when I was a kid, and it is an experience I get to share with my children (and also give back to my parents), and something I hope they share with their children.

In the end, it comes down to a feeling of belonging and not having concerns. Basically I can book a package and pretty much know exactly the quality I am going to get and not have to worry about it after that.  I’ll feel happy.  I’ll have fun.  I’ll get to explore.  And I know I’ll feel welcome and I’ll fit in and my family will get to share a great time with me.  There isn't much better than that.

=== Bob ======
My name is Bob and I have a Disney World addiction.  That may sound like a cliché, but my addiction is relatively benign so I’m not actively seeking treatment.  I’m a single man with no children, who is nearing 40 years old, not exactly the stereotype of who most people would expect to visit Walt Disney World.  While the ever growing vacation kingdom has always been near the top of my list of my desired places to visit and despite a dozen family trips to The World while growing up and a few more as an adult, I have only recently been able to put into words why the park is so appealing to me.  In the past, I would answer the question of why I want to go back to the same place so often with thoughts like "it’s fun", "there’s so much to do that anyone can find something they enjoy", "the park is so clean and well-maintained", or "the employees (people asking this question don’t know what you’re talking about if you say "cast members") are so friendly and helpful".  All of those statements are true, but I was never really satisfied that fully explained what drove me to return to central Florida’s biggest attraction.

After a sixteen year hiatus, I returned to Disney World in the winter of 2010 as an adult along with my parents, sister, and soon-to-be brother-in-law and almost immediately realized I had forgotten, or maybe didn’t realize in my youth, how much I enjoyed a vacation in Walt Disney World.  A year and half later, I visited the park three times in four months.  Trying to explain to friends at work why I kept returning to what is often perceived as a place best enjoyed by children, I found myself falling back on my old answers to the "why" question, which drove to me to reevaluate my stock answers.  During these recent trips I started to better understand what I really get from my many visits, and then I read a quote attributed to historian Judith Adams that put into words my feelings better than anything I have ever wrote.  She said, "Everything about the park, including the behavior of the 'guests,' is engineered to promote a spirit of optimism, a belief in progressive improvement toward perfection."  (Gennawey, page 148).  That’s it.  Disney World is a place where nearly everyone, guests and cast members alike, treat each other with courtesy and respect.  It is a place where you can celebrate great stories come to life and is a place where you can look back to great memories from the past and look forward to what the future may bring.

Is it hokey at times?  Yep, but the parks work.  Sometime after you’ve ridden the same ride or watched the same show a few times, listen for the "Ah's".  I wasn’t conscious of this for quite a while, but making a few trips in short succession, including one with a young child, meant that I started paying attention to how other people were experiencing the attractions that were becoming increasingly familiar to me.  As you might expect, I saw a lot of smiles (and found a few families with clearly different agendas and who spent too much time in the sun having a hard time working out their differences), but I was most surprised by what I heard.  During quite a few performances, I heard audible gasps from the audiences, children and adults alike as they saw Disney's version of storytelling firsthand.  During Mickey’s PhilharMagic with an audience full of kids or "Wishes" at night, there was a genuine sense of amazement, wonder and awe from the crowd when some of the effects I had long taken for granted were on display.  I was reminded of the "magic", a noticeable sense of that the world is full of beauty and wonder that inspires children to believe everything will work out in the end.  Sure, it’s hokey, cheesy, or whatever you want to call it, but it’s hard not to feel the sense of optimism that that park is designed to produce.

Gennawey, Sam. Walt and the Promise of Progress City. Pike Road, AL: Ayefour, 2011