By Mike Patrick, Jr., M.D.
Last week I presented a list of things I miss during a Disney vacation--things that were there, but aren't anymore. I felt the final item on my list, decreased magic among Cast Members, might prove controversial among readers. To my surprise, this wasn't the case. In fact, many of you share my concern.
I also suggested Cast Member magic is an easy thing to bring back. But then I got to thinking. How exactly do you do it? How do you move the individual Cast Member from looking at his or her position as a mere job to embracing the role of magic maker?
Someone mentioned pay raises and new benefits. I agree that a competitive employment package encourages quality applicants. But let's face it, that's in the realm of the financial gurus. We can suggest and encourage all we want, but at the end of the day, we aren't going to have much impact on Disney wages.
We could encourage Disney to instill more magic in Cast Members. But don't they already do enough? Cast members get plenty of training in the "Disney Way." They are encouraged to make magical moments, and they are given lots of ideas on how they can do just that. In fact, the Year of a Million Dreams thrusts the role of magic maker on all Cast Members, and I'm sure Disney is hoping all this magic making will strike a chord and continue long after the current campaign ends.
But again, are we really going to have an impact on Disney training? Probably not.
Then I read your comments last week, and an idea began to form in my head. It's a bit on the crazy side. Maybe impulsive. Maybe impossible. But then again, aren't those the ideas that actually have a fighting chance?
What got me thinking was this: Not all of your comments were disparaging. There's plenty of magic still out there. It's just a little harder to find than it used to be, that's all.
One person related the story of an off-duty Cast Member they met during a Fantasmic production--one who helped the family pull off a surprise marriage proposal. Another recounted the magic of a special Disney pin given up for a special mom.
On our most recent trip to Walt Disney World, we saw bits of magic here and there. A bus driver made a special stop for my mother. A Ghirardelli worker at Downtown Disney let my daughter pick out her own sample flavor when the treat-of-the-day didn't suit her taste. A waiter we had last year at Donald's Breakfast-a-Saurus in Animal Kingdom paid plenty of attention to our family this year, even though we weren't sitting in his section. A Cast Member in the Wide World of Sports gift shop talked to my kids at length about Ohio State athletics, making them feel extra special. And a Housekeeping Supervisor at Old Key West went out of his way to take care of a problem we had encountered.
So there's still plenty of magic to be had, at least in some circles. But again, how do we encourage magic in the others?
Well, here's where my crazy idea comes in. We share the stories!
Those little bits of magic you and I encounter on Disney trips ought to be out there in a big collection for everyone to read. I think this will help in a number of ways.
First, it will encourage more people to plan a Disney vacation. Why? To experience Disney magic for themselves, of course. More visitors mean more profits which (if the financial gurus step up to the plate) mean more opportunity for those competitive employment packages. Alright, that may be pie-in-the-sky, but it's possible.
More importantly, getting your stories out there will show Cast Members who are producing less magic exactly what's possible. It will encourage them to join in on the fun, to start producing magic of their own. Does it matter if they are telephone operators or housekeepers or landscaping personnel? No! There's magic to be made with every single job at Disney!
It will also encourage Disney's competition to step up to the plate and offer magic of their own. Why is that important? Because healthy competition keeps everyone on their toes. Walt Disney once said, "I've been up against tough competition all my life. I wouldn't know how to get along without it."
And it's true. We put forth our best effort when the competition shines.
Then there's the possibility of Disney magic spilling into my job and yours. Examples of magic at Disney can easily be transferred to our own lives, affecting everyone our magic touches. After all, why should it stay in Central Florida or Southern California? I say let the magic out of the box! Take it to New England, the Midwest, the Southwest, Europe, Australia, and wherever else life and travels take you!
So the next question is how do we get the stories out there? Well, that's where you come in. If you'll share your stories of Disney magic--stories from the distant past, the recent past, and the present--I'll do my best to assemble them into a publishable package. Of course, there's no guarantee anyone will want to publish them into book form, but I'm sure we can at least find an online home for them.
My goal is 101 stories (It's a nice Disney number, don't you think?). Include as much detail as you can recall. I'll also need a reliable way to get in touch with you about your story, in case I have more questions, want to tweak the wording, or need a release signed for the legal folks.
I can't promise anything will come of this, but I think you and I have a good opportunity to make it work and to make a difference. So what do you say? Will you share your stories of Cast Member magic?
One other thing--your story doesn't have to come from Walt Disney World. Disneyland, off-site DVC resorts, Tokyo, Paris, Hong Kong, Disney Cruise Line--they're all up for grabs.
Please don't post your story here. Rather, email it directly to firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to include your name, email, home address, and phone number if you want your story considered for publication.
So get writing. I think we're all looking forward to hearing what you have to say!
Dr Mike is a board-certified pediatrician and host of Pediacast: A Pediatric Podcast for Parents. You can read his blog, listen to the podcast, and sign up for his newsletter at www.pediacast.org.
COPYRIGHT 2006 MIKE PATRICK JR