Last week we spent two days at Disney. It had been ten years since we last visited the Disney machine, so when some friends we hadn’t seen in a while suggested we meet there — and we realized our oldest has just three Christmases at home before her childhood officially becomes the content of photo albums and memory books — we booked our flights.
When we got there, I kept staring at the group walking in front of me throughout the park, recalling those same girls as doll-toting, princess-dress-wearing littles and wondering when they turned into iphone-toting, makeup-and-skinny-jean-wearing young women. (And then I found myself trying to figure out how I’d turned into that woman who lamented where the time had gone, but I digress.)
Being in the Magic Kingdom with teenagers is a whole lot different than with little ones. First off, we’re not wiping noses, changing diapers, and pushing strollers all day. (For this I offered multiple prayers of thanksgiving, usually prompted by the sound of a screaming 3-year-old somewhere in my peripheral.) This extra time enables us to focus a bit more on our surroundings, and on what makes Disney so, well, Disney.
We found ourselves doing something most of us do a lot of in amusements parks: waiting. In doing so, we noticed the rows and rows of blooming plants in all of the garden areas, about 98 – 99% of which were flowering. How is that possible? I’m not a gardener (OK, I have about as opposite of a green thumb as you can get), but even I know that hundreds or thousands of plants don’t all bloom at the exact same time.
Turns out, Disney has loads of greenhouses growing these guys, and they replace any plants that aren’t blooming when the park is closed. If you gently push back the leaves and take a peek the next time you’re there, you’ll see each plant is not truly planted, but merely placed into a small hole — on display — until the blossoms fall off. Apparently, after we all leave each night, an army of workers descend to pick up the trash, clean everything, and do whatever is necessary to make it “perfect” for the next day (including replacing any plants that stopped blooming for whatever reason).
* Epcot photo courtesy of flikr
All over the park, we found evidence of Disney’s image-crafting… and all of the ways they sought to put forth this aura of perfection. When we got home, we did a bit more research and here are a few other interesting tid bits we learned:
- Smell that? The theme parks use a patented ‘Smellitzer’ device designed to pump certain scents around. Whether it’s a waft of sea salt in Pirates of the Caribbean, or vanilla in Main Street, your senses are constantly being played. (Source)
- No baby trees: There is a tree farm on site so that when a mature tree needs to be replaced, a thirty-year-old tree will be available to replace it. (Source)
- Beautiful bubbles: In The Voyage of the Little Mermaid ride, Disney adds helium to the bubble makers to create bubbles that float up instead of down. (Source)
- Underground lair: Where do cast members go to de-Mickey, and why is trash largely unseen at a place that hosts millions of visitors a year? The secret at Disney World is a nine-acre network of underground tunnels called utilidors, according to Business Insider, which house break rooms, garbage chutes and more. Characters must not be outside of their designated areas while in costume (so as to not confuse kids), so they use those underground tunnels to move from one location to another, on the sly. (Source and another source – with photos)
- Natural pest control: After closing each day at Disneyland, 200 feral cats are reportedly let loose to help get rid of rodents, according to HomeAway. During the day, they are kept hidden in special cat houses. (Source)
- Disappearing act: If you look beyond the fantasy of the Magic Kingdom, Disney hopes you won’t see anything at all. The less-than-magical parts of the park, such as fences, garbage bins, and administrative buildings, are all coated in a color known as “Go Away Green”—a shade that’s meant to help things blend in with the landscaping. (Source)
While all of that is fascinating, it got us thinking about how each of us might be tempted to do the same sort of image-crafting with our own lives. Whether it is plucking/coloring/covering our gray hair (a la replacing those dead flowers) or only sharing our most flattering photos/stories/thoughts with others (not unlike those characters who must always stay, well, in character)… exploring Disney’s branding made me consider my own.
The folks at Magic Kingdom do it because they are trying to brand the business, earn fans, sell products, and ultimately make money. But why do we do it? Probably a lot of the same reasons, whether we’re conscious of them or not. And yet, we’re not running a business with our lives.
Or are we?
Well then, what are we selling with our personal image-crafting and self-branding?
The funny thing about branding ourselves to achieve that magical image we all think we want… no matter how gorgeous our castle, or how spectacular our gardens, we’re all still works in progress on the road to Heaven — the only place where we’ll ever be perfect. And along the way, even though we don’t intend it (and usually try pretty hard to prevent it), evidence we are “under construction” threatens to mar the image, and throw us off course. (The next photo was taken last week, during our Disney visit. See anything that doesn’t quite meet their magical image?)
As much as the world wants to make us believe the contrary… I really think God wants us to know: That’s OK! I love you in spite of your imperfections, even because of your weaknesses. Keep going!
Because in the end, we’re [still] not there yet.
Interesting how a few flowers in an amusement park can prompt a healthy dose of reflection. (Maybe I should have stuck with those screaming toddlers after all? 😉 Naaahhhh…)
How about you?
Have you ever found yourself branding for the wrong purpose? How did you change your perspective?