The Disney Driven Life - Chapter One
Main Street Station
Traveling thorough the tunnels beneath the Train Station is the only way to get to Main Street, U.S.A.. As guests burst through the entrance to the Magic Kingdom they all will walk beneath the station nestled atop the entrance. Never more than a few minutes away from another train arriving and departing from the station, the train is a reminder that each person who enters the theme park is getting ready to embark on a trip where, as Walt Disney once said about Disneyland… “you leave today – and visit the worlds of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy.” But there is a stark difference in the world Walt dreamed up in Florida. He said, “Here in Florida, we have something special we never enjoyed at Disneyland… the blessing of size. There’s enough land here to hold all the ideas and plans we can possibly imagine.” Walt understood that what he was dreaming up in the Sunshine State was something far beyond what he ever could have created at Disneyland. When a guest walks through the entrance of Walt Disney World, they are entering a place of unimaginable possibility.
The tunnels below the train station are lined with attraction posters that draw guests back to the very early days of the Magic Kingdom. When the theme park first opened, guests would get ticket books with their admission. The posters were incentives to draw guests to the various attractions so they could use their precious tickets. Today the posters serve as an incentive for guests to get their first glimpse of all the choices that will unfold in front of them on their stay in the Magic Kingdom. These posters manage to suggest there is a place you need to visit but beyond that create a desire for you to go there.
Walt had once given a design challenge to Disney Legend, Herb Ryman. After weeks of work, Walt looked at what he had created and rejected the idea. Stunned by Walt’s quick rejection of his work and frustrated that Walt gave him very little input to what he was actually looking for, Ryman boiled over and yelled at Walt as he was leaving the room.
“Well, give me a clue about what you are looking for!” Ryman shouted.
Walt stopped and stood still, slowly turned back toward Ryman with his eyebrow raised in mock surprise at both the question and the outburst. Then Walt answered, “Just do something that people will like!”
Ryman went back to work being reminded that for Walt, his standard was his audience, and he liked what his audience would like. It was never about what the individual artist, designer, or animator liked… it was about the audience it was designed for. In other words, it was not about them it was about others.
That encounter was a powerful glimpse into the kind of leader Walt Disney was. He understood his audience. In life, there are various opinions of how you measure success. But when the final books are balanced – life is never about what you gained but about what you gave. Each person has one chance to pass through a lifetime and will choose how they want to live. Will they turn their life into a quest to attain, collect, and amass the most stuff – or will they use the resources within their grasp to bless, share, and better the lives of others?
Remembering that life is never about you but always about others sets you on a path of greatness. Along the way you will make the lives of others better and the impact you make on them can ripple through eternity…and then of course, and this should not be a surprise – you will find that you are blessed and your life is better because of what you have given.
Walt was able to surround himself with artists, animators, and designers who caught a vision of this. The results are the unforgettable attractions that permanently take up residence within the hearts and imaginations of each guest. The posters remind us that one of the appeals of a visit to the Magic Kingdom is that it is full of places we desire to be.
Before you travel up the stairs to climb aboard the Walt Disney World Railroad you can browse the photographs that adorn the walls that honor the Walt Disney Company’s history and Walt’s lifelong love of trains. You can see a photograph of Walt and the Carolwood Pacific Railroad, which was in reality a miniature train he constructed in the backyard of his home in Holmby Hills, California. (Most guests don’t realize that some of actual cars of this train are on display within the Walt Disney World Resort, on loan from the Walt Disney Family Museum. Walt Disney was a railroad enthusiast. He would race alongside the trains as a young boy growing up in Marceline, Missouri. As a teen, he worked on a railroad selling newspapers and magazines. In this early design of his concepts for what a theme park should be, he always included a train that encircled them. That vision has held true and trains are a part of the Disney history and featured in theme parks all over the world to this day.
Wandering around beneath the train station we are struck by the reminder that the things you find in the Magic Kingdom are not there by accident. If you take time to notice the Train Bulletin hanging on the wall is a puzzle full of Disney trivia. The things illuminated on the board all have a Disney reference. You will read of Grizzly Bear Flats and Kimball Canyon . This is a tribute to legendary animator Ward Kimball. Kimball was a railroad enthusiast and shared that in common with Walt. In 1938 he acquired a locomotive from the Nevada Central Railroad, and a Southern Pacific passenger coach. The Grizzly Flats Railroad was a real place, created in Kimball’s own backyard. There are the words Hickory and Siddons City. An often forgotten Disney film from 1966 entitled Follow Me Boys features the character of Lemuel Siddons played by Fred MacMurray. The film is set in the 1930’s in the little town of Hickory. The places named Medfield and Rutledge…these are the two rival colleges from The Absent-Minded Professor and its sequel Son of Flubber. And although most observers will never stop to look, you will also find the names of Harrington Hills and Pendegast Plains. Harrington is the small town setting for the film Pollyanna. Pendegast is the name of the story’s primary villain, Mr. Pendegast,. Finally, the names of Bullwhip and Griffin Gulch makes reference to the 1967 film The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin.
The Walt Disney World Railroad is an attraction where guests get to ride actual steam trains on a 1.5 mile trip around the Magic Kingdom. The trip leaves Main Street U.S.A. and travels into Adventureland, thunders into the western wilderness of Frontierland, escapes into the world of Fantasyland and the animated wonders of Storybook Circus, then races riders into the future of Tomorrowland before returning to where you started on Main Street U.S.A.. Usually as passengers on the train travel there is no one riding with them to point out the Florida history that can be found along the tracks. The red bridge as you leave the station and move toward Frontierland is from the Old Florida Flagler Line, it was originally two tracks wide but was adapted for use in the theme park. Also, an observant rider might noticed that the bottoms of some of the trees appear charred from time to time. That is because, the train doesn’t run during the nightly fireworks display and the trees just beyond the Indian village are sometimes showered with falling embers from the shows each night. The Grand Circle Tour of the Magic Kingdom allows guests a preview of what they might discover but also proposes a challenging question for each guest… where do you need to go? The fun of the Magic Kingdom is that once you decide to step off the main streets of your life you are only strides away from a world where you can escape, relax, and reconnect with things that will refresh you all before you have to return back to the main streets of your life later.
Sometimes it is easy to forget that back in 1955 Disneyland was one of the biggest gambles in the history of American business. Now all of these years later, with Disney theme parks all over the world, we can look back and conclude that the risk paid off. Did the risk pay off because Walt was a genius, lucky, favored, or in the right place at the right time? Those things may have been factors but they were not the reason. The reason the risk paid off is because Walt would not quit. The success and opening of Disneyland is the result of sheer determination and persistence in the face of obstacles, overwhelming circumstances, and opposition.
One of the most notable Disney songs in many ways is a theme song for the company, When You Wish Upon A Star…the song reminds us to dream and never stop wishing. Now that is a great place to start but the life of Walt Disney is a powerful reminder that if you are going to make your dreams come true it is going to take work, hard work and the will to stick with it…even when others will tell you to quit.
Roy E. Disney once said in an interview, “If Walt had one great gift, it was that he kept his head down and kept on trying. Over the years he was told his ideas were impractical, impossible, and would never work…they told him, “Walt you will lose your shirt on Snow White or Walt give up this crazy obsession with a theme park. Walt knew his naysayers were wrong and he knew his ideas were good. Walt proved that the only way to get things done is by sticking to your ideas and beliefs.”
Walt was a farm boy with a modest talent for drawing cartoons that created a Magic Kingdom. But because he was willing to dream big, work through those dreams, keep those he believed in, and then plow ahead and make them happen…the world was impacted forever. Walt Disney was tenacious, he refused to fail, he refused to quit. And those that knew him realized that when things looked darkest and went horribly wrong…he would work through it and it made him stronger.
Sometimes the world we find ourselves in is pretty good at beating us up. Life is tough, it can get very confusing, and more than a little bit overwhelming. In a culture that wants, desires, and sometimes demands instant results and instant reward many have lost the art of “sticking with it.” I have a gnawing feeling that many people (and you may be one of them) might be just a moment, a heartbeat, a clock tick, or one more day away from success. In a world where people quit and give up let me encourage you to stick with it…don’t quit…work hard (no matter what others may say) and the end result may just be an impact that can change the world.
I believe that each and every one of us are born with a mission, a purpose, and a destiny. Some will live it others will not. The difference is because some don’t want to do the work and will simply quit. You really do make a difference! You really make the world a better place! And you can make an impact!
Keep trying, don’t quit…stick with it! If you want to live a Disney Driven Life that is an important life lesson that you have to remember. Our trip aboard the Walt Disney Railroad is a trip that inspires us with the rugged realization that there are things to explore, opportunities to discover, and a life time of experiences just waiting. But the beauty of the train ride is that it brings us full circle. Eventually, you have to quit looking, get off the train and decide to venture down the main street of your existence and then step out into the lands lying in front of you. It won’t always be easy to be sure. But keep trying, don’t quit…and stick with it.
A Disney Driven Life Lesson –
Don’t Give Up and Always Keep Trying !