Back in October 2006, Disney launched a very exciting promotion called Year of a Million Dreams and in true Disney fashion, it lasted for, wait for it, a massive 27 months (over two years). The premise behind the initiative was that across both Walt Disney World and Disneyland there would be prizes that cast members, known as the Dream Squad, would dish out to unbeknown guests who happened to be in the right place at the time. It was the thing of dreams!
The prizes ranged from FastPasses, to Mickey ears, to even a trip on a Disney Cruise or a one night stay in the Castle Suite in Cinderella Castle or the Dream Suite in Disneyland. For a feel for what was on offer, I found this list from an article on the DIS back when the promotion launched that specifies all the giveaways:
As well as the prizes and magical moments, the lamp posts along Main Street were decked out with blue banners and the long running Dream Along with Mickey castle stage show premiered at the launch of Year of a Million Dreams. The Fab 5 characters also had cute new sparkly blue outfits to mark the occasion.
I was lucky enough to have been in Walt Disney World toward the end of Year of a Million Dreams and it was so exciting seeing the Dream Squad roaming the parks knowing there was the slimmest of possibilities that you could actually be granted a stay in the castle. Although we didn’t get picked for one of the top giveaways, we did receive some Disney magic on a fair few occasions.
The first time we were on the receiving end of the Dream Squad was as we were boarding “it’s a small world.” All of a sudden out of nowhere, a “Dreamer” appeared and announced that everyone on our whole boat were the lucky recipients of a pair of Dream Mickey Ears each! It felt so special.
Later in the vacation, on return from a trip through the Himalayas on Expedition Everest, our whole train was greeted by a member of the Dream Squad and presented with the Mickey Ears again! We couldn’t believe our luck that we’d managed to get two prizes.
As well as the above list of giveaways, there were extra magical moments happening throughout the parks that were also part of Year of a Million Dreams. One example was when my Dad lifted up the door mat at the entrance to Muppet Vision 3-D. There’s a sign above the mat that says “Back in 5 Minutes – Key is Under Mat” and in normal times, there’s a key stuck to the ground which is one of those nice touches of detail that Disney does so well. However, during Year of a Million Dreams, the first person who lifted the mat each day would be rewarded with a Year of a Million Dreams certificate! I was also gifted with a Tinker Bell “Where Dreams Come True” pin set in the Emporium which included two identical pins with one to give to someone else.
Even though I was only 11 years old, Year of a Million Dreams has really stuck with me and I quite often think about all the magical moments that happened on that trip. Although the magic is still very much alive and cast members grant magical moments everyday, there was something extra magical about being in the parks during Year of a Million Dreams. Something I would love to see happen again is having a team of cast members whose sole job is to spread magic like we saw with the “Dream Squad” – it’s the literal dream job!
The 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World would have been the perfect opportunity to re-introduce certain aspects of the Year of a Million Dreams, but for now it seems to be firmly set in the past and will remain something for us to dream about returning.