Our Online Role as Magic Makers…

A rhetorical question for all my Online Disney Fan homies… When I say, “WDW’s Splash Mountain”, what comes to mind?

Image courtesy of JeffLangeDVD

Why do folks pay premium prices to visit the Disney parks? I believe that one reason is the Period of Maximum Anticipation.

We know for certain that any Six Flags park will guarantee us thrills. Even if half the rides in the park are down for rehab or weather issues, there will still be enough coasters left running that we can get our fill of thrills any day.

But people will take their chances at the Disney parks that the weather and maintenance schedules and crowd size will be conducive to a great visit, and they’ll pay a premium price for the privilege. Because of that Period of Maximum Anticipation.

The PoMA can last a month or a moment. It’s that period of time before even the slightest bit of reality has impacted your vacation; when everything is ahead of you, living in your imagination… and it all can still be perfect. All your favorite attractions are up and running and perfectly maintained… last-minute reservations are available at every fine restaurant… and cut backs haven’t affected the quality of the food anywhere. The people standing in front of you during the fireworks are all under 5 feet tall, and the clowns in Fantasyland are actually laugh-out-loud funny. If it rains at all it doesn’t start until the moment you’ve stepped inside a Future World pavilion… and by the time you leave, it’s stopped and there’s just enough cloud cover left to keep things cool and shady. On Star Tours you’re the ‘Rebel Spy’, and on the Laugh Floor you’re ‘That Guy’!

But then you get there… and The Compromises begin. The Magic Kingdom is at capacity and they send you to Animal Kingdom… your bobsled is too cramped to be comfortable… and they’ve discontinued your favorite Strawberry Swirl in Fantasyland, so you have to settle for plain old soft serve.

This is not to say that everything must be perfect for any trip to be counted a success. The Period of Maximum Anticipation never lasts; no vacation – even at Disney – is ever perfect. But the compromises must come slowly, almost imperceptibly, or they can overwhelm even the most devoted fan.

The Dreamfinder’s flying machine in the Imagination pavilion, for example, was composed of over a dozen special effects, and all of them rarely worked at the same time… there was often one or two that were down… but in the face of the total scene, no one would notice. You’d still be enchanted by the overall effect. On the other hand, if the entire showboat scene from Splash Mountain is a goner… and every fox and chicken is ‘101’… it’s bound to put a dent in your enjoyment of the ride’s finale..

But overall, small compromises are to be expected. And if you keep a happy thought and if no Greek chorus of naysayers turn their high-beams on every little shortcoming, the magic can far outweigh the disappointments and you’ll come away with several days worth of precious memories.

# # # # #

We of the online Disney community have inadvertently become a major player in our collective readers’ Period of Maximum Anticipation. In fact, we are – whether we know it or not – prolific creators and a major distributor of that pre-sold vision of magic.

This week I took a friend on her very first ride on Splash Mountain. As we stood in line, without me even having to ask, she offered this – “This is the ride where nothing’s working, isn’t it?” That was her sole anticipation of the experience. And if she felt that way, I wonder how many others out there, both our regular online readers and others, have had this idea drummed into their heads by what we’ve all been posting and reading and repeating and reading and posting…

We were both delighted to note that EVERY AA figure on the ride was fully active and looked great. Everyone was in synch, the music and voices never sounded better and the total effect was stunning from beginning to end.

The amount of time, effort and certain expense that such a make-over would entail, to this writer’s mind, precludes the possibility that a Youtube video of inanimate chickens – or the deluge of posted echoes that followed – was the motivation. Your mileage may differ. I have had enough first-hand experience with Disney operations to know that, no matter how much we might like to believe otherwise, online complaints do not drive Disney’s maintenance schedule, policies or budget.

In other words, I believe that we cannot – from the comfort of our blogs-and-laptops – do anything to alter the parks’ realities. But we can and should consider how we impact our readers’ preconceptions and anticipation.

I’ve spent no small amount of time this year defending those who make it a practice to project a positive image of the parks, and I resent feeling the need to do so. I try not to judge those who emphasize the negatives out of an attempt to be relevant or clever or to feel superior to the product… I just don’t pay them much attention anymore.

When I do criticize – and I do – I try to provide a practical balance with the positive… and I do so strictly for the benefit of the next generation of theme park artists; the ones who are visiting our university to gain insight for their own future endeavors.

I suppose what I’m saying, in my own obtuse way, is this: I don’t understand the benefit of posting pictures of overflowing trash cans or chipped paint. And I don’t understand those who do.


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  1. mjacka
    Posted July 24, 2013 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    First, let me say that the concept of “Period of Maximum Anticipation” is a great one and has applicability to large number of situations – any situation where one is working with customers or clients. I will be using that in the work I do with internal auditors. (Yes – internal auditors. Maybe better if we don’t talk about that.)

    But I have to shout quite a few “amens” on the concern regarding how on-line chatter impacts visitor experience. This has been front of mind for me lately because of the updates on Disneyland’s Big Thunder Mountain – in particular the work being done on Rainbow Ridge. At the outset, blog after blog/rumor after rumor was ranting about the destruction of Rainbow Ridge. Now, after the fact, all are speaking of the great work going on there. Yet, not a single apology from all those who were screaming that the sky, ceilings, and walls were falling.

    And one more amen (in a lengthy reply – my apologies). I am reminded again and again that, while I am not experiencing Disney parks for the first time, there is a huge population that is. My comments, my thoughts, my potential negativism can impact that first experience. And I have to remember that those first experiences – the joy of those visits – are why I come time and again. And I do what I can (sometimes by just being quiet) to make that experience great for everyone around me.

    Thanks for one of the best web sites out there.


  2. MichelleMorganReeves
    Posted August 21, 2013 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    I completely agree that online chatter can ruin vacations before they ever start. Guests come in with preconceived notions of how something should work….the expectations are set way to high, and a perfect vacation is not something that should ever be expected—nothing in life it perfect. Contrary to popular belief, Florida has rain, ….and at certain times of the year, lots of it. None of the parks have magic bubbles to envelope you so you are free from the fickleness of the weather. Parks in Florida, due to it’s seasonal climate, run 365 days a year and don’t have a 5 month period where all refurbishments can take place at once and not inconvenience anyone. Many people do like to plan ahead, and in fact the parks are encouraging it, so last minute reservations for that lunch with Cinderella, Mickey or the Beast most likely won’t be available. Magical moments do take place, but should not be expected just because a neighbor happened to be at the right place at the right time. They are magical because they happen randomly. Take out the randomness and you loose the magic. There is nothing sadder than the bursting of the bubble of expectations when reality sets in. Don’t build your expectations…just go and enjoy….. then everyone will have a better time!

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