Friends in happy places
When I was first invited to attend a press event by Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, many years ago, I left feeling cheated. “I was flown to Florida, but I never saw Florida” was my gripe. After having written my article, I was certain that I would never be invited to return.
Imagine my shock when I was invited to attend the press launch of “Expedition Everest” in 2006. Yes, I can rightfully claim that I was among the first to ever ride the popular roller-coaster ride at WDW’s Animal Kingdom. And, I can also say that the folks at WDW “liked how I paid attention to details,” and that was the reason I was invited back.
In one of those invitations, I recall staying at the Grand Floridian Resort. The same place where the big acts invited to pump excitement for the press event (such as Ashanti, at the time) were staying. More importantly, it brought a resolution to a one-time conundrum I had about Walt Disney World - the lack of flair from the Sunshine State. Being that the Disney World is roughly the same size at city of San Francisco, it is no wonder now why I hadn’t been introduced to the Grand Floridian Resort before. It is quite impossible to put together a press itinerary for one or two days and be able to tell all of WDW.
Over the years, the invitation to these Disney press events have dwindled, but I still receive occasional goody packages from WDW. More importantly, I have maintained direct contact with the PR team at WDW, which I consider as one of my job’s greatest perks if not for one reason alone - Walt Disney World and Disneyland are places I can count on to escape to in times I feel the need to be a kid again. Simply put, Disney’s “world” really is the happiest place on Earth.
I consider my connection to Disney akin to that of a long-time friend. I know I can count on Mark Sadowski and his team to answer when I do call. And I have. Since 2006, I have been on a few press passes - once to Disneyland Paris and recently to Disneyland and California Adventure. These mean a great deal to me, because they have been the only times that I’ve gotten to enjoy an industry experience with either a friend or family.
The experience of taking my 7-year-old niece to go ride “Cars” at California Adventure was a wonderful gift from Disney to me and from me to my niece. The ride is a tribute to the Disney movie of the same name. “Cars” had enough whims and surprises pumping a fair amount of thrill and excitement for a few minutes. The only drawback was having to wait over two hours in line for the actual ride, because that time could’ve been spent enjoying other attractions. But, my niece’s desire to ride “Cars” is part of being a child,which ironically is the feeling I’m trying to emulate when I visit a Disney theme park. “Let’s go again” were her exact words after we got off “Cars.” Suffice it to say, she enjoyed the ride tremendously. It made her happy, so I was happy. It sounds corny and childish, but that is precisely the point.
I’m proud to refer to my colleagues at WDW in the manner that I did in this article’s title. I know they get it. The same as they get it when they receive a message from me. Disney is a company known for sparking imagination, even the interest of the most jaded journalists to want to feel like being a kid again. This is the guarantee of a ticket to a Disney theme park, regardless of how old you really are. The jolt of fear from getting on “The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror” and the smile a ride on “Soarin’ Over California” elicits are excellent reminders that our inner child lives on. This in itself is a priceless reward. On this merit alone, I am grateful for having “friends in happy places.”