The Disney WayApril 13 2023
In Disney’s The Mandalorian TV show, there is a phrase often recited amongst the Mandalorians. This is the Way. Implicitly, this means there is a right way to do things, and the Mandalorian people will do best to adhere to it. I kept thinking about this today as I recounted an amazing experience at Disneyland while on vacation with the family.
We go to Disneyland very very often as a family. Since our youngest was just a little over 2, we’ve probably averaged one Disneyland trip every 12-18 months. It’s reliable (the kids always enjoy it) and there are usually enough little touches and surprises that even my wife and I end up enjoying the experience.
Disneyland always has a parade and a fireworks show at night. I would imagine it’s a pretty rote experience for the performers - after all, they literally do this every day, not to mention all the countless other obligations they have to Disney (probably some character sightings, maybe showing up at a restaurant, etc.).
On this trip, we decided to stake a nice spot near the parade route and wait for the parade to start. I noticed sitting next to us were two young people, in their 20’s, who were, uh, very enthusiastically dancing. Now, there wasn’t even any music started yet. They were just having a really good time. Eventually, they met two other people that they were clearly friends with, and they all four settled down to wait for the parade right next to us.
As the parade started, these four people started dancing. I started to notice, that they were REALLY good dancers. Like, wow, they absolutely are having fun and they’re really excited for this parade. But then I also noticed that, they weren’t just good dancers, they were dancing the exact same moves that the parade performers were dancing. And then also, that many of the performers were winking at them or throwing sly greetings over to them. These four people were Disneyland performers, but off the clock and in their street clothes!
As the parade came through, they help up their incredibly high energy, basically dancing along with every new song and every new step. Finally, at the end, I approached them and asked the obvious question - one of them sheepishly grinned and said something about how they’re not allowed to say what they do, but that yeah, they work for Disney.
This is an experience I will never forget. Imagine, loving your job and your co-workers, so much, that even in your time off, you’re willing to spend your time and hang out at work. We ran into them about an hour later well, after the parade had ended and the crowd dispersed, and they were just having fun in the park.
As a contrast, we visited Universal Studios later in the week. It was a nice park with some nice character IP (hello Super Mario and Bart Simpson!) and some nice rides. But the big difference is that humans are just a less visible part of the experience at Universal. The rides are mostly putting you in front of a screen. There were way fewer character meetings, and even the few that we saw, were not really people (there was a transformer photo op and one with an animatronic raptor from Jurassic Park). The best experience at Universal was their most human one, Waterworld, a live action show with real stunts, props, and actors.
I came out of this whole even bullish on Disney as a whole. There really is something magical about Disney. But it’s magical in the old-fashioned way. They have happy people who believe in the mission and are happy to represent the company. I can’t think of very many consumer companies in the entire world where we would have been able to find those 4 enthusiastic dancers on their off day, still giving it their all.
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