This past Friday, my husband and I returned from a work conference with the youth organization that employs him. Every four years, all of the international and US staff and spouses gather in Orlando, Florida for a week of celebration and community - over 5,000 of us from all over the world come together for one amazing week. We gather in Orlando for a number of reasons, but they have an international airport and the means to host, feed, house and entertain a group of 5,000, so Disneyworld it is! On one of the afternoons, all meetings and sessions are postponed and we get to hop on buses and head to a Disney themed park. This year, my husband and I along with a group of our friends decided to hit Hollywood Studios. If you’re a Star Wars fan then you probably know why. There is a whole new addition to the park to honor and promote Star Wars, including a few new “epic” rides (so I’m told). After learning that all the ride passes had been distributed before 9am, it wasn’t an option for us to participate in the new ride. My Star Wars loving husband was not happy. We learned that people started standing in line at 5am to get passes to STAND IN LINE AGAIN LATER IN THE DAY to get on the Star Wars Resistance ride. Um, no thanks. We all have our things, but on no planet, at no time ever, am I going to get in line at 5 am to get a pass to stand in line for two hours to “enjoy” a ninety second ride at a Disney themed park.
So we saw Chewbacca, stood in a different line for almost an hour, rode a different ride, and then called it a night. I had had my share of lines, rides and Disney. But the joke was one me. As we were leaving, the night was just getting started for so many castle loving, costume wearing, joy-filled Disney guests. The popcorn and ice cream was still being served, music was still playing, and the fireworks show had yet to begin.
People love this stuff.
But did you know, Walt Disney wasn’t sure if this would be the happy ending he was hoping for. Jody Jean Dreyer, author of Beyond the Castle, was one of the many speakers at our conference this past week, and she shared several stories from her thirty-year career with Disney.
I just assumed Walt Disney knew what he was doing when he began this grand business over sixty years ago. But the thing is, he didn’t.
In the summer of 1955, Disneyland opened in California. Unfortunately, Main Street, USA was not ready for visitors. Disney expected around five thousand guests, but due to counterfeit ticketing, twenty-eight thousand guests entered the park that day. Several rides and attractions were unfinished, the restaurants ran out of food, and worst of all, there was a local plumber’s strike so very few bathrooms were open to the public. You can imagine how that contributed to a pretty crappy experience. To top it off, opening day was caught on live television and a very unsympathetic Hollywood audience called it “Disney’s worst nightmare.”
But it turns out, that didn’t dissuade folks from visiting. Over the next two months, over one million people visited the park. By the next year, attendance reached almost four million.
Disneyland certainly got off to a rough start with a plumber’s strike and a food shortage, but by 2015 at its sixty-year anniversary, over 750 million guests had visited the park – including me and my family. Maybe that includes you too.
As you know, that was only the beginning of this fairy tale. I just spent a week in Disneyworld, which came to be on the other side of the country in the swamplands of Florida a short time later in 1970’s. Who would have thought?
Let me bring this back to reality.
I recently heard about a study that reported that 47 percent of our waking hours are spent thinking about something that isn’t going on. This could be seen as a statistic regarding the fact that we spend half of our waking hours with our minds wandering instead of living in the present moment. And you know I’m all about living in the present moment. But hear me out.
I also hear this and think that our hearts and minds are longing for more. Our thoughts are an indication that maybe there is something more we should be living or doing. We are daydreamers, and maybe that’s not a bad thing. Maybe we should do more to make those dreams and fairy tales a reality. I’m not saying we should overlook the present. But maybe we were made for more.
I’m not a Disney fanatic, but I’m glad that Walt Disney wasn’t discouraged by that crappy first day and all those skeptics.
I’m certainly glad Whitney and Lindsay didn’t give up ALL the times someone or something told them no. For Walt, it was a swamp. For us, it’s a Barn and a Distillery. I’m glad their dreams became reality – and still are! Just look at our teen & youth programs that rolled out this week! And check out the Roadshows taking place down in the valley or the retreats announcing for the spring & summer – BeauCo is on the GEAU! Great things are happening because we continue to dream and take risks.
Thanks for walking alongside us on this journey. We are honored that we get to do this – with you- day after day, and we can’t wait to see what this next year brings!