Guest behavior is a topic which often causes lively conversation. We all love to air grievances about those who use flash photography on attractions such as Pirates of the Caribbean, or who try and get their children past sensible height restrictions. What is especially grating to one guest might not be of the slightest concern to another. I live in a heavily populated area, and work in a major city, so weaving out of guests who block pathways or have bulky backpacks is something I can do with ease. Also, as someone who does not know anything about children and is never really around them, attempts to circumvent rider swap or height rules don’t concern me at all. But many an entitled “I paid x amount of dollars to be here” guest really grinds my gears.
There is a reason why this issue is so complicated. Depending on your culture, experience visiting Disney Parks, and what sort of interactions you have with people on daily basis, what you believe is acceptable can vary widely. So where would one look for a guideline or possible model? There is one unlikely, unassuming animal which can help provide an exemplary model of good behavior. These are the ducks pervasive at the Walt Disney World Resort.
Ducks are everywhere at Walt Disney World, from the pool at the Animal Kingdom Lodge to the waterways adjacent to Cinderella Castle. They are active from dawn to dusk, and take pleasure in the deep lagoons, guest pools, and shallow waterways which permeate property. Various breeds of ducks exist on property, the Mallard of course being the most common but other breeds such as the Ring-necked are also present. They go all the same places guests go, from the park and resort entrances to Liberty Square and bus stops, and therefore navigate the same crowds and obstacles we do.
What do they teach us?
They teach us how to enjoy these places without being obtrusive. These birds do a great job walking along while staying out of the main fray, often delightfully waddling along in major thoroughfares, taking their time while on point. A solo traveler can be spotted, but more often they are in large groups. These include fluffy ducklings dutifully following their parents. It is remarkable to think that animals not even hatched when your Advanced Dining Reservations were booked can walk in a reasonably ordered and obedient fashion. If a duckling can do it, so can you and your family. By simply being mindful of others, and slowing things down just a bit, the parks can be a much more pleasant place to navigate.
Ducks make a wide variety of sounds beyond the quintessential quack, including growling and purring. We’ve all been next to talkers on attractions. One report I read on the DisBoards even indicated someone was once talking on their cell phone while on Expedition Everest! As we all know, this behavior can ruin an experience and makes me wonder why some even bother to visit the parks at all. Quacks which can be heard throughout Walt Disney World show that these animals are not perfect. Quacking, which is a natural function, can be heard in various settings where it simply adds to a land’s immersive qualities, such as in Frontierland. But at other times it can be somewhat out of place, like during IllumiNations. Done thriftily, quacks are not exceptionally disruptive and are easy to ignore. A noise which occurs sparingly, if at all, can easily be translated to human conversation. There is nothing wrong with occasionally whispering or pointing something out on an attraction; most rides are frankly noisy or have loud musical accompaniments anyway. Done sparingly and discreetly, the human voice (like quacks) can be utilized without ruining the experience of others.
Finally, these birds teach us to enjoy the parks. Ducks are by no means sedentary animals. Their waddling and the speed they achieve is impressive. Utilizing walking, swimming, and flying, their ability to navigate from Tomorrowland to Adventureland is admirable to say the least. But they also linger, and certainly take their time looking around sniffing for a crumb or two to enjoy. They especially seem to enjoy the Oasis in Animal Kingdom and the area around the Liberty Square Riverboat. Showing you can enjoy the immersive qualities of the parks while also moving with purpose, they display the virtues of really smelling the roses. Great photo spots can get congested, and arguments and tension between parties is not unusual, but by really taking your time, one can find dozens of nooks and niches which offer gorgeous views and can only lead to increased appreciation of these places. I fully understand and have indulged in the desire to run from place to place, and if your visit is short or schedule tight that might be necessary. But hustling also leads to shortened tempers. This is where there is an increased chance of accidents, such as getting rammed by an aggressive stroller, or in fact being the rammer. Feeling the need to cut in line to meet up with your group can be reduced if one is not hastening from one spot to the next and has a more measured schedule.
These animals do have it a bit easy in terms of adherence to rules. They can go in resort pools before and after they close. Often allowed in areas of attractions guests would normally not be allowed in, they have quite a bit more freedom in terms of travel. On Kilimanjaro Safaris, the birds mingle freely with hippopotamuses, elephants, flamingos, and more. A sovereignty many visitors would abuse is instead humbly enjoyed, as these animals find a snug spot amongst tropical foliage or enjoy a nice cool swim. They do not cause damage or stir things up.
The ducks of Walt Disney World teach us to appreciate the environment and amenities which have been provided to us. They show us that Main Street USA can be enjoyed in large groups, and if you are obtrusive for a brief moment or make a little noise that is okay. While there are some guests who are simply blatantly rude or ignorant, I believe this is a small minority. Most all families in the United States are facing dwindling vacation time and funds, and Walt Disney World requires a massive amount of planning in order to have a full experience. Therefore, somewhat short-tempers are understandable. By slowing down just a little bit, having an awareness of your surroundings, and being cognizant of Disney’s rules we can all have a magical vacation.
Spencer Wright is passionate about Walt Disney World, Disney Film, History, and Old Hollywood. He works in Center City Philadelphia and lives in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. He looks forward to writing articles for The Dis Unplugged; currently focusing on Animal Kingdom and the creatures that live there.