Earlier this month, my family and I made the requisite at-least-once-in-a-lifetime trip to Orlando to go worship at the House of Mickey. In a whirlwind trip, we visited EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and the Magic Kingdom back to back to back in the Florida humidity.
There’s something different about Disney World. We’d been to Disneyland in Anaheim when we lived in California. But Disney World had this greater magical feeling–almost a tingle in the air. It could be because Disney World is so big. The park is the size of its own city, which helps fill every nook an cranny with showcase magic. It could be because the State of Florida ceded land to the Walt Disney Corporation to create the Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID), which encompasses all the land in Disney as its own self-governed area.
Let me rephrase that, Walt Disney World Governs Itself.
From Wikipedia about the RCID:
The Improvement District has far-reaching powers. Through the District, Disney could construct almost anything within its borders, including a nuclear power plant (which it never built, opting instead for a more traditional plant that supplements power from outside of the District). The District, as with any municipal corporation, can issue tax-free bonds for internal improvements. This became a point of contention when a 1985 law limited the amount of tax-free bonds in Florida. The eligible bonds were chosen randomly, causing the District to beat out Orange County, which had planned to build low-income housing, in 1989.
In addition to the power of eminent domain outside the District, the one other power that the District was given (that it would not have had if it were simply the two cities) was an exemption to state zoning and land use laws. When the state later established the Development of Regional Impact study process, Disney, through the District, was able to avoid the paperwork and streamline the process to build theme parks and other attractions. On the other hand, county taxes, including property and sales taxes, still apply within the District.
Those are some strong powers. But the real magic has nothing to do with the amount of people that pass through the district every day, nor has it anything to do with all the stuff on Etsy, Buzzfeed, Pintrest, Tumblr, and WordPress about Disney World (which WMAC has now joined.) It doesn’t even have anything to do with the (rather sweeeeeeet, if not slightly creepy) Magic Bands they give guests at the hotel and have available for sale in their gift shops.
But none of that has anything to do with the real magic of Disney. See, their real magic isn’t technological or economic or legal. It’s psychological and personal–near and dear to our hearts.
It’s all about ‘ohana
Take it from Stitch: “‘Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.” See, the real magic is this:
Every morning, throngs would line up to enter any one of the parks, having paid hundreds (or thousands) of dollars for the privilege of passing through the be-Mickeyed gates into a land of pure wonder and long wait times. Immediately after entering the park, everyone would rush from attraction to attraction: the Fastpass+ booths, the Photopass photographers, the rides, the character meet and greets.
By midday, tempers began flying. I don’t know why, but a combination of hot and muggy weather, giant crowds, and standing in a line for collective hours on end tends to take its toll on the human condition and make every guest in the park irritable. Hmm…
And so it happened every day. Between the hours of noon to four PM, families would be bickering between themselves about things that, were they at home, would result in nothing more than a short and peaceful conversation. Tempers FLEW.
Then, almost as soon as 5pm hit–everything changed more suddenly than Cinderella’s midnight transformation. Almost instantly, people began to be more agreeable, more patient, and kinder.
As we and everyone else left the park each evening, there was a general consensus of fun. Everyone enjoyed their day at Disney, everyone was happy. No one remembered getting mad at family members or any of the struggles of the day.
Instant Rosy Retrospection
Very few places in the world have the ability to make massive crowds of people forget their issues at the end of a long and struggle-bus-full day. And yet, here we have a 38.6 square mile tract of land which magically heals all wounds of the heart, brings families together, and unites even total strangers.
If that’s not magical, I don’t know what it.