Walt Disney World’s Backstage Success Secrets Provide Insight for Naperville

Over the past week, I had the good fortune to spend four days with the cast at Disney Institute and Fusion Productions during the 2007 Digital Now Conference as both a participant and presenter.  The conference brought together association executives and thought leaders from around the globe to focus on association leadership in the digital age.  Keynote speakers included Jimmy Wales, founder of the Wikipedia project (www.wikipedia.com) Chris Trimble, Susan Scott and Stephen M.R. Covey.

In addition to the conference program, both Disney and the Disney Institute offered deep insight into its success formula and culture as well as a backstage glimpse of what it takes to bring the Walt Disney World magic to life on a daily basis.  George Aguel, Sr. Vice President of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, also shared a number of insights regarding Disney’s success and the impetus behind it’s present “Year of a Million Dreams” celebration.

According to Aguel and his Disney Institute cast, while Walt Disney World immerses guests in an environment rich in sensory experiences, the true magic as quantified by thousands of post-vacation letters received daily is not Cinderella’s Castle, Spaceship Earth or even Space Mountain… it is the cast members who make the difference in bringing the Disney magic to life.  In other words, the “people factor” can make or break the experience. 

As I strolled through the underground tunnel at Magic Kingdom, the audio animatronic laboratory and even the laundry facilities which handle costumes for 57,000 cast members on a daily basis, I thought deeply about the Naperville experience and how our community and businesses bring our own show to life each day for loyal visitors and residents alike.  Further, I thought about how the “people difference” can apply to the next great chapter in Naperville’s history as I’ve discussed in my Naperville Unwrapped series.  

Believe it or not, Walt Disney World and Naperville have much in common. 

First, WDWis the #1 vacation destination in the world and Naperville is consistently ranked the 1st or 2nd best place to live in the country. 

Second, WDW welcomes guests into an environment which appeals to each of the human senses in making an emotional connection via a symphony of aesthetics including use of architecture, environment, textures, aromas, sounds, landscape, a strong sense of place, cleanliness, community, attractions, iconic symbols, history/story and, of course, people.  As covered in previous postings, Naperville also makes use of a multitude of simliar sensory elements to create an experience, such as the Riverwalk, covered bridges, the DuPage River, Naper Settlement, Centennial Beach, Central Park, Rotary Hill, the paddle-boat lagoon, authentic original architecture, landscaping, sculptures, water fountains and many other special features.  

Third, WDW offers a variety of themed attractions, dining and shopping experiences suited for all ages.  As addressed above, a comparable variety of options create Naperville’s own brand of “magic”.    

Finally, WDW and Naperville, of course, enjoys warm and sunny weather year-round… well, maybe there are some things we simply do not have in common.  To compensate, there are qualities which Naperville has that WDW cannot match, such as the functional authenticity of being a true residential community versus the “stage” which Disney creates artificially in bringing their world of life.  Both WDW and Naperville accomplish a similar sensory experience, but at the end of the day, Naperville is where we live, work and play.  To me, I think that’s pretty cool.

On a side note, for anyone who has ever dreamed of living in the Magic Kingdom, now is your chance during the Year of a Million Dreams celebration as a special suite has been built within Cinderella’s Castle (which believe it or not forced the castle to be brought up to building code), complete with three bedrooms, plenty of Disney magic and a 24 hour concierge on call.  The price you ask?   Free!  However, put down the phone and stop dialing Disney reservations because the only way your family can spend the night in the suite in Cinderella’s Castle is to be randomly selected within the Magic Kingdom by the Disney dream squad.  Should you detect the Disney dream squad is near you, there’s no reason to rush towards them as a randomizer computer pre-selects a specific time, location and spot for choosing the lucky family.     

Have you ever noticed that it’s not just the WDW cast members that play a role in the show, it is also the many loyal guests as well who return to the WDW resort on a regular basis.  Being one of those people, loyal guests are inclined to pitch in as well in helping other guests, whether it be finding their way, providing useful tips for maximizing their visit, volunteering to take a complete picture for a family, making dining/resort recommendations or discussing the upcoming ride/show everyone in line is about to experience.  Loyal Disney guests join together alongside cast members in taking ownership for the same magical experience which has touched our own lives throughout the years.

The insight which we can gain from the WDW success secret is that people can make or break the Naperville experience as well.  Businesses, employees, city government, residents and loyal visitors alike can help bring the magic to life in our interactions with those who visit our community, our businesses, our restaurants and attractions.  As passionate residents we serve as Naperville cast members each and every day.  As we all know, there is certainly plenty to share and talk about when it comes to Naperville. 

If you are passionate about our community and concerned about preserving Naperville’s own brand of magic for the future, we should all take a lesson from Walt Disney World’s success in the answer begins within all of us and the experience we help create for others.   



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