In Disneyland, the year was 1966 and it was the grand opening of New Orleans Square and the Blue Bayou Restaurant. The mayor of New Orleans had been invited and Walt Disney was having some fun with the visiting city official.
The mayor said to Walt, “Looks just like home.”
“Only cleaner,” replied Walt.
“Well, give it a hundred years,” the Louisiana mayor responded.
This response caused Walt to tilt his head back and laugh.
The opening was a great time except there was a featured attraction that just wasn’t ready. The Pirates of the Caribbean had been built but they were still working out the bugs. The attraction was supposed to have been opened. Walt himself had input into each scene, each scenario, and each element of the adventure but there was one problem. Boats going down the first water slide threw off a huge wave that swallowed up the test engineers and flooded everything around them. (It would take them another 6 months to work out the problem and sadly, Walt Disney would pass away before the attraction was ever officially opened)
The Blue Bayou Restaurant that was officially opened with New Orleans Square was then officially closed after the opening day. There was something wrong with it according to Walt, something that just was not right, then he knew what it was…there needed boats to be passing by it for the look and feel to be complete. Since that couldn’t happen yet, the restaurant was closed.
For Walt it was about not just opening a land in Disneyland or opening a restaurant or attraction. Walt was focused on communicating a story and creating an experience. As a matter of fact, Walt insisted the main part of any attraction was the story.
In the book, Spinning Disney, Charles Ridgway quotes Walt as saying, “Disney doesn’t just build rides. Disneyland adventures tell stories and sometimes put you on cars, boats, trains, or other vehicles, not for just riding but to carry you into or through an exciting story.”
From the outset, Walt never set out to build an amusement park, those already existed, and that is where people went to ride rides. Disney was creating a new world, a resort, and place unique with no equal.
Walt Disney understood the power of a great story, he understood that people would remember a great story, and he knew that a story…had the power to impact and change lives by creating memories and moments that would last forever.
The stories that Walt told so well are the reason that he is still remembered to this day. As a master storyteller whether it was through a theme park or a motion picture, he found a way to connect with his audience and communicate with them in memorable ways.
Believe it or not, each day of your life, you are telling a story. No one can tell your story for you…it is yours to tell. My hope is that you are telling your story by living your life in such a way that you make the world a better place. I hope you are impacting the lives of others and that you are living to touch and change the world. If you are, then you are embracing who you were created to be and in your uniqueness…you offer a set of gifts and talents that makes the world a better place to live.
Learn the lesson that Walt understood so well…learn the power of telling a story…
Then tell yours!