Disney Magic – “The Other Kind”
Disney is Magical . . . we all know that!
If you are a real Disney fan, and I know you are, you understand what Disney magic is . . . it's that wonderful feeling that comes over you as you drive through the Main Gate and enter Walt Disney World. It's that sense of magic you feel as you walk down Disneyland's Main Street USA and see Sleeping Beauty Castle. Sometimes a sound, like the Disney steam train pulling into the station, can bring on the magic . . . sometimes a smell, like the lobby at the Polynesian Resort, brings it on!
But in this blog I want to talk about a different kind of Magic. The kind of magic that happens when a Disney Cast Member goes way beyond expectations and creates a moment of pure magic! A moment of magic that is personal and unique, crafted only for you!
This "other kind" of magic has happened to me and it may have happened to you.
Let me give you an example of what I mean:
In December 2000 Carol and I were at Walt Disney World with her parents John and Sybil, celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. During the trip Sybil bought a wooden cane at EPCOT's China pavilion. It only cost $5.00 but it was worth a fortune since it helped her a great deal as we toured all the parks. Soon our trip was over and it was time to go home. After spending the morning at a theme park we returned to Port Orleans French Quarter where we retrieved our luggage from the Bell Captain and sat on a park bench in front of the hotel waiting for the Town Car which was taking us to the airport. When it arrived we hurriedly loaded the luggage in the trunk, took our seats and left Disney behind. No one noticed the $5.00 cane, still leaning on the park bench. For two weeks no one even thought about that cane. Then one day the doorbell rang - it was FedEx with a long slender package! Yup - the cane!
I don't know exactly what happened, but let's speculate a bit . . . Someone noticed the cane and turned it into a Cast Member. That CM must have gone to Bell Services and asked, "Who was sitting on the bench?" They looked up our baggage check records, added two plus two and came up with four. Then they must have gone to Registration to get our home address. Then they spent over $25.00 to ship a $5.00 cane to our home in Canada. WOW!
It is a well know fact that Disney trains their employees extremely well and stresses at all times that Cast Members are more than employees; they are performers acting out a role. Those of us visiting the theme parks are not seen as customers, we are not seen simply as folks who paid a bit of money to enjoy some thrill rides. Cast Members see us as guests who are there to enjoy their performance.
Cast Members seldom ever break character; they are always "on-stage". Disney Cast are so consistent in treating guests extremely well that we often become complacent about it. Then, every once in a while, a Cast Member does something so extra-special that it's magical. They step so far out-of-bounds to give you great service that you just have to stop and say WOW!
Carol and I have had a few special "magical moments", here's another example: Carol and I were at Disneyland in 2008 celebrating our anniversary. The Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage had just opened. The lines were huge . . . often over 90 minutes long. We walked past several times, always hoping to return later and find a shorter wait-time.
Finally our vacation was drawing to a close; we were running out of time. We bit the bullet and entered the back end of a 70 minute line. A cast member walking by, Christina, must have noticed our anniversary buttons. She stopped and said "Happy Anniversary, I have a gift for you. Follow me." She took us to the front of the line and walked us directly up to the boarding area for the first available boat. WOW!
Just a few years ago Carol's parents were staying at POP Century and had a dinner reservation at Boma. They caught a Disney bus from POP Century to Animal Kingdom where they planned to switch to an Animal Kingdom Lodge bus to head off for dinner at Boma. Unfortunately they misread the sign on the front of the bus and boarded one heading to Wilderness Lodge not Animal Kingdom Lodge. It was close to the time for their ADR so they asked the driver if he knew the fastest way to get to AKL from WL. After they explained the situation he said, "Go have a seat." He called dispatch to get an OK and then drove them directly from Wilderness Lodge to Animal Kingdom Lodge - there was no one else on the bus. Along the way he called Boma and let them know John and Sybil were on the way but would be a few minutes late. WOW!
Friend John from New Jersey tells about the time, years ago, when he and his family were staying at the Contemporary Resort. They were heading out for the Hoop-Dee-Doo dinner show at Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground but when they arrived at the dock to catch the boat to Fort Wilderness they discovered that it so windy all the boats on Bay Lake and the Seven Seas Lagoon had been cancelled. They were really pressed for time so they went to the information desk in the lobby to explain their predicament and ask about the quickest way to get to Pioneer Hall. The Cast Member called for a Disney van and they were quickly chauffeured to their destination. The van didn't drop them at the Settlement bus stop; it drove them all the way to the bus stop adjacent to Pioneer Hall. In John's words, "We felt pretty special." WOW!
Denita from South Dakota tells this story from November 2012: "Our last night at Walt Disney World there were Extra Magic Hours at Disney Hollywood Studios so of course we finished our vacation there. At 10:45 p.m., 15 minutes before park closing, my husband, son and three nephews and I sprinted to Rock 'n Roller Coaster. Our daughter was tired so she sat on a bench to wait. We waltzed right on the coaster; there was no line at all! We still had a few minutes before the park closed so we raced to the Tower Of Terror. While in the queue, close to the loading area, we wondered if we would have the elevator all to ourselves. Alas, it did not happen . . . BUT . . . the ride froze after the first part. The soundtrack continued after the lightning and ghost movie segment, but the elevator just sat there and didn't move. After a delay of about 3 minutes the ride started again. We continued on and finished the "up and down" part of the ride."
"I know how Disney likes to please, and we just couldn't finish our vacation on a botched up ride. So, when the doors opened, I explained to the Cast Member what had happened on the ride, then followed it up with the fact that were leaving the next morning and it would be two years before we could return. We just couldn't end our amazing vacation on a botched trip on our favourite ride. Of course, she agreed with me, picked up the phone and made a call. Soon another Cast Member arrived. He was not a typical Tower Of Terror worker; he was dressed in a suit. He came out of a side door and took us "backstage", up the back way to the loading area.
In the end....we not only got the entire elevator to ourselves . . . BUT . . . by the time we were done with our final ride, the park had completely emptied out! We were the only people walking from Tower Of Terror to the park exit. What a great opportunity for photos! WOW!
How do you say thank you when this kind of magic happens? How can you repay magic? Wow, that's a tough question! But there are some things you can do.
Carol and I always carry "Cast Appreciation Cards" which we hand out when we've received "special" service. They are available for download (and customization) from the Tagrel.com Disney fan community. You can see some sample cards here. The Cast Members we've given them to are really appreciative. Disney has a great recognition program for Cast Members and I suspect that a Cast Appreciation Card would draw a smile from the person's supervisor.
But, while the Cast Appreciation Cards are well received, are they really enough for that real "WOW" level of service? . . . the kind of experience that carries the accompanying magic? Nope, I don't think so.
That kind of "WOW" moment should be pointed out to senior management!
When the "WOW" moment happens try to get the Cast Member's full name. At least remember the name on their name tag. As soon as possible after the "magical experience" you should write down what happened and describe how wonderful it made you feel. Be sure to include complete details - don't forget to mention the date, time, location and the Cast Member's name. Then send the information by mail to: Walt Disney World Guest Communications, P.O. Box 10040, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830-0040 or by e-mail to: WDW.Guest.Communications@disneyworld.com
How about you? Have you experienced any of "The Other Kind" of Disney magic? Have you said "WOW"?