"You can design and create, and build the most
wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a
reality" -- Walt Disney
And when it comes to next week's "One More Disney
Day" event (which will run from 6 a.m. Wednesday, February 29th right
through to 6 a.m. Thursday, March 1st. Making this the first time ever that
Disneyland Park and Magic Kingdom Park will have both been open for 24 hours
straight), it's going to take lots & lots of people (not to mention lots
& lots of overtime) to make this
special Leap Year happening happen.
So while the schedules for the WDW Cast Members working this
"One More Disney Day" event went out just yesterday, the Ops
department for the Magic Kingdom is still tinkering with its plan to keep that
theme park functioning for a full 24
hours. As they try and determine which rides, shows and attractions will be
closed in what order over the course of the night for necessary maintenance.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
And while Disney World's Marketing department would
genuinely love it if every single ride, show and attraction could stay up &
running for the full 24 hours of "One More Disney Day" ... As far as
Ops is concerned, this isn't really a negotiable issue. The safety of the
Guests (as well as delivering an overall high quality show experience) remains
Ops' top priority. Which is why -- though some Magic Kingdom visitors may
squawk in the wee smalls as signature Disney theme park attractions like
Pirates of the Caribbean & Space Mountain are shuttered for a few hours
over the course of this event -- these rides will still have to have their
daily safety checks & vehicle inspections done. Not to mention then cycling
each individual ride, show and attraction before allowing any Guests to enter
to make sure that everything's now working properly.
Which brings us to a tiny but constant area of friction
between WDW's Marketing & Ops department. In that the Mouse's merry
marketeers will invariably come up with some sort of high-profile but
hard-to-pull-off stunt to help promote the Parks & Resorts. And it'll then
be left to the people in Ops to find a practical way to actually make this
Case in point: The Magic Kingdom's Cinderella Castle Suite.
Back when the folks in Marketing were looking for a hook for 2007's "Year
of a Million Dreams" campaign, someone remembered that there was this huge
empty space high up in Cinderella Castle which had originally been intended as
a private suite for the Disney family & company. However, given that it was
Roy O. Disney who was calling the shots back when the Magic Kingdom was
actually being built in the late 1960s / early 1970s ... Well, Walt's frugal
older brother just couldn't stomach the idea of spending that kind of money on
a space that the Guests would never ever see. Which is why the private suite
idea got nixed. And this huge empty space high up in Cinderella Castle
eventually wound up being used as a telephone call center as well as a dressing
room for performers who were appearing in those daily shows that were presented
in the castle forecourt areas.
A December 2006 photo as construction begins on the Cinderella Suite at the MagicKingdom. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
But that was 1971. And 35 years later in 2006, Disney
World's Marketing staff was looking for an extra special hook for next year's
promotional campaign for the Resort. Which is when the idea of finally
completing the construction of that long-delayed suite in Cinderella Castle
came up. So that -- on every day of this year-long event -- some random family in the Parks
could then be selected to stay in WDW's most exclusive hotel room.
It sounded like a wonderful idea ... on paper. But when it
came to the actual logistics of building, operating & then maintaining the
Cinderella Suite, they bordered on the nightmarish. On a daily basis, Ops had
to handle all of the special behind-the-scenes aspects of running this Suite
(EX: artfully & discreetly separating the Guests from their luggage for a
brief interval, so that these bags could then be taken backstage and quickly
sniffed over by the Resort's explosives detection dogs. Not to mention posting a Cast Member right
outside of the entrance of that room every single night. Not just because
Disney was looking to honor any special requests that the Guests staying in
this Suite may have had over the course of their night in the Castle, but also
because the Company wanted to insure that these people couldn't somehow get out
of Cinderella Castle late at night and then go wandering around the now-closed
Magic Kingdom. Which -- the way Mickey's attorneys saw this situation -- was
been a lawsuit just waiting to happen).
It took a lot of hard work (not to mention being almost
prohibitively expensive). But the Ops staff at the Magic Kingdom did manage to
keep the Cinderella Suite up and running for over two years (The "Year of
a Million Dreams" campaign -- which officially got underway on October 1,
2006 was thought to be so successful that it was then extended by another full
year in August of 2007. This promotional campaign finally officially came to a
close on December 31, 2008), giving over 800 families & individuals the
genuinely magical experience of spending the night in Cinderella Castle.
The completed interior of one of the bedrooms in the Cinderella Suite.Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
And in case you're wondering, though the "Year of a
Million Dream" promotional campaign has been over for 3+ years now, people
do still occasionally stay in the Cinderella Suite in the Castle. Though these
days, the most-exclusive-hotel-room-on-property is mostly reserved for large
scale investors in The Walt Disney Company, not to mention would-be sponsors of
new rides, shows and attractions for the Parks. I've also heard that stays in
Cinderella Castle are now regularly being offered as an extra-special perk to
high-profile performers that Walt Disney Studios is actively wooing for
upcoming film & TV projects. That -- if this actor agrees to sign on the
dotted line -- the Mouse will treat that performer & their family to an
extra-special Walt Disney World vacation which will then include an overnight stay in the Cinderella
And speaking of overnight ... One of the lists that Ops is
now putting together for the night of February 29th / morning of March 1st is
places where people will typically go to catch a few Zzzs over the course of
this "One More Disney Day" event.
So if you're in the Magic Kingdom that night and happen to notice a lot
of extra staff manning The Hall of Presidents, The Enchanted Tiki Room, Mickey's
Philharmagic and Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress ... Well, there's a reason
for that. These additional Cast Members will literally be working as wakers.
Their jobs will be to sweep each of these individual theaters after each show
is completed that night and then -- as politely as possible -- rouse those
Guests who have fallen asleep over the course of those performances.
And if it's any consolation to you Disneyana fans on the
West Coast, I'm told that there'll be a similar sort of beefing-up-of-the staff
working Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, The Enchanted Tiki Room and Captain EO.
So that visitors to the Disneyland version of "One More Disney Day"
should know in advance that there'll be no snoozing allowed in those shows
Which brings me to today's question: There's got to have
been a number of JHM readers who have taken part in Grad Nites and/or those 25,
30 & 60-hour-long parties that were held at the Happiest Place on Earth
back in the 1980s. So what advice do you have for those folks who are thinking
of taking part in this "One More Disney Day" event? What advance prep
work should these people do if they're thinking of spending a full 24 hours
inside of WDW's Magic Kingdom and/or Disneyland Park?
I just stayed in the castle suite in November as part of a contest that I won. Apparently it is often reserved for travel companies to either review or give away as a prize as in my case. SO AWESOME THOUGH!
I know I shouldn't let it bother me but it does. THIS IS THE STUPIDEST PROMOTION THAT DISNEY HAS EVER DONE! Instead of a year-long event such as the Year of a Million Dreams or the birthday celebration, Disney has decided to announce on New Year's eve/day that its next promotion will be for 1 day-a Wednesday in February.
I was at the Magic Kingdom last August and ran in to a young couple at night wearing Tower of Terror bathrobes being escorted through the park. They told me they had won a night's stay in the suite via a sweepstakes and were going to get their publicity photo taken in front of the castle.
I attended when Disneyland was kept open for, I think, 36 hours when Captain EO opened. My suggestion is . . . don't plan on being there the full time. Pick the hours you want to be there. The hours I chose were from 3am to sunset. That allowed me to arrive when more people were leaving than arriving.
At the time I arrived, the line for EO stretched all the way to Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. I decided there was no way I was going to wait in that line and did other things. Three hours later the line was half as long.
My best experience was riding Big Thunder as the sun came up. The light on the rock spires was extraordinary.
Unfortunately, the hours offered here don't offer the option I chose back then. You can enter the park at sunrise or depart the park at sunrise, but probably won't be able to ride at sunrise.
During the night there were lots of sleeping bodies on benches and seat walls. It looked like a bunch of passed-out drunks--many of whom I expect were photographed. In this age it would be all over the internet within hours, so I'm sure Disney will not allow that kind of thing this time. If you can't stay awake I'm sure they'll direct you to go home. So, like I said, pick your hours carefully. Saying you'll stay up for 24 is a lot different than doing it; it's twice what most people manage at a theme park. Remember, you're walking around the park, too. In a normal day it's equivalent to a 5K.
And be courteous to castmembers. Many will be working hours much longer than their normal shift. I'll always remember the castmember performing the pre-show spiel for EO. She was so addled by lack of sleep she struggled to get through it--but got a round of applause from the audience when she got to the end.