Monday, December 19, 2011

The Magic Behind Disney's Magic

I am a major fan of Walt Disney and the company he created. He is an excellent example of the American Dream: he had a vision, and with the help of his brother, made his vision come to life in movies and theme parks. It's hard to calculate the impact Walt Disney had on the world, but it's huge. For example, I have a job because Walt Disney was the first major customer of Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard's oscilloscopes for the movie Fantasia.

OK. Why all the sudden gushing?

This weekend Jessi and I went to LA to watch her brother graduate from Biola University. The ceremony was fantastic! It was also great seeing all of Jessi's family again. On Saturday we all headed to the Magic Kingdom for a day of fun.

The rides are fun, but for me the real magic is watching how it all works. There is an unbelievable attention to detail within Disney that companies like Apple aspire towards. For example, while watching the Christmas Fantasy Parade, it suddenly dawned on me that there were no sounds of motors. The floats were clearly under their own power, but no noise.

Disney took the time to make all their floats electric powered. I can't even imagine the batteries in those things! The impact is profound: All you hear is the music and there are no exhaust fumes. I can't image it was cheap or easy to do that since all other parades chose standard gas engines to run their floats.

It also really struck me that the park is a human-centric endeavor. Sure, there are amazing engineering feats to make each ride work, but there are also a TON of people required to run the park. Each ride has a person standing at the start of the line and at least 2-3 people at the ride's beginning. It's A Small World even has a person at the end pushing some mysterious button while waving at us.

I think that's part of what makes the magic work. In some way, it's a fancy assembly line where every employee character has a small specialized role. They master that role, with a smile, and that's it. No job is terribly difficult, so Disney can screen solely on personality types. Plus, they make enough money that they can hire an abundance of people ensuring that more than enough people are watching each other in the park. It's incredible.

I wonder what system Disney uses to schedule everyone...

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