So, if you have been reading these pages for a while, you may get the idea that a lot of the content is centered around my own interests. That’s not a bad thing, but at times, especially at oh-dark thirty when I’m casting about looking for a topic, I tend to wonder why it is that folks like myself take all of this so personally.
Note: This column first appeared here on the Blue Parrot on Monday February 16, 2009.
I can accept that on some level there is therapeutic value in setting down my thoughts on a variety of subjects to share with the world. It’s probably a healthy thing to do, to a point. And maybe I’m different in that I’m not seeking large numbers of folks reading this for validation. I do understand why for some folks that is important. Numbers of hits drive ad revenue in many cases.
Yet, there seems to be something more personal in all of this. I’ve been part of a number of groups that focused their passions for a shared interest. Call them fandoms, if you will. Star Trek fans (I won’t use the “T” word) may be the most noted, but Disney fans far outnumber them with all age groups, backgrounds and ethnicities well represented.
There’s probably a good thesis or five that could be written on why Disney has been so successful in making the connection with consumers on so many different levels. Be it movies, television, theme parks or collectibles, the passion to enjoy any or all of those products from Disney in something undeniable.
Passion can be a funny thing. It’s easy enough to share, but it can easily become misplaced and move to the higher level of obsession. I know because I’ve gone to that level before and it’s just not a pretty thing for anyone.
A case in point: Disneyland’s recent renovations of the It’s A Small World attraction. Even before the plans for the project were complete, someone (intentionally or otherwise) leaked the information to folks that would take it and run with it. And that they did. Word of how Disney was planning to make drastic changes to a much beloved favorite of many would result in disaster, the end of all things as we know them. Webmasters warmed up sites dedicated to preserving as much of the 1964 attraction as still remained. Online petitions and letter campaigns directed the faithful to let Disney know that they were displeased and did not want any of the proposed changes to be made.
Disney heard their cry and took extraordinary steps to let the public know that they had. Imagineers stepped up and publicly made statements of how this project would remain true to the vision of those who brought the attraction to life for the Worlds Fair and Disneyland. Yet, some of the faithful continued to object. So Disney went a step further and brought in some of their old-timer’s to see for themselves what was ahead for the attraction. And those folks went out among the faithful sharing, giving their opinions. For some of the faithful, fears were calmed. Yet there still remained many who just would not accept the changes.
And sure enough, when the attraction reopened, some folks spread the word of just how bad it actually was. Mind you, they hadn’t been to Disneyland in person to check it out for themselves. But all of the photos and videos posted online just confirmed what they had been saying all along.
Or did they?
Without naming names, one of the most vocal sites in opposition to these changes was right in the forefront of letting the rest of the world know how bad things were. After posting a blow-by-blow photo report, comments by registered posters to the web site were in the overall opinion that the changes were not as appalling as some people were saying. Some folks who rode the attraction felt that the addition of the Disney characters was well done and mixed into the rest of figures with little confusion. And much to their surprise, only Donald Duck appears out of the Fab Five characters. That’s right. No Mickey, Minnie, Goofy or Pluto.
So, I can hear you asking, “What’s the conclusion?”
If I had that answer, I would have an office in Burbank and be making six figures or better. What I do believe is that Disneyland especially is a place that many people want to see as it was on their first visits. That magical feeling of finally being somewhere that you have only dreamed about before is something that they want never to end. I get that, too. It is part of why Annual Passes are so popular. They offer the chance to relive that special moment, what ever it may be, any time that you happen to be in the neighborhood. And I know that if some folks had the chance, they would do so every one of those 365 days that the Premium Annual Pass allows.
Disney has succeeded in ways that other businesses can only dream of. Making a personal connection with your customers is indeed an art. After reading and watching many interviews with Walt Disney, I tend to think that even he didn’t completely understand it. But he did see that universal appeal was something that he could make use of in telling any story. Finding something to appeal to everyone and making the best use of it. Sounds like a pretty good plan to me…
I’m sure that many folks will keep right on seeing Disney and it’s products on such a personal level. If I were a stockholder, that would make me happy.
Yes, sir, there’s a thesis lurking about this topic. Here’s hoping someone has the time to write it and then shares it with the rest of the faithful.
And no, I haven’t had time since to explore this… someone should, though.