Celebration Vacations? No Thanks, Give Me Dreams

25 Sep

I just can’t get excited about Celebration Vacations, Disney’s 2009 marketing promotion. But I gotta tell ya, I bought 80 postcard stamps today.

Since about January, I’ve been sending in the postcard entries for Year of a Million Dreams. It’s strange how attached I’ve become to the daily ritual of hand-addressing my postcard and stopping by the mailbox.

I was actually about to give it up last week, after a third pair of Mickey Dream Ears had arrived in the mail. Because yes, I have indeed won some prizes in this sweepstakes. Two pairs of Dream Ears arrived on the day my son graduated from elementary school (a bigger day than I would have imagined), and this last pair arrived on a weary September afternoon, when perhaps I’d supervised one too many hours of homework.

I’ve also been lucky enough to win a few things in the Parks: A Dream Fast Pass at Disneyland, a couple trading pins, a couple of lanyards for my son and me at Magic Kingdom. And a bittersweet memory: The American Wishing Tale Dream, which we won just two days after my son had been through some unsettling medical tests (which, thank goodness, turned out just fine).

I know plenty of Disneyphiles are glad to see Year of a Million Dreams come to a close, after what will be more than two years and probably more than a couple million dreams. And I know a lot of people are frustrated that they didn’t win anything. Maybe it’s easy for me to like the promotion because I’ve won a number of prizes. But I’m not sure that’s the only reason I like the promotion. My favorite aspect of YOMD has not actually been the free lanyards, the Mickey Ears, or even the Mickey confetti on that table in the Liberty Inn. I feel the best part of the promotion has been the increased emphasis on Cast Member empowerment and responsibility to make a little extra magic here and there. At the start of this campaign, I wrote:

The success of the campaign over the long haul may depend in part on how well Disney continues to support its Cast Members in creating the magic, and in managing Guest expectations. Will the Cast Members burn out after month upon month of going beyond even their usual level of consistent cheerfulness? Have the Guests’ expectations been raised to an unreasonable level, and will there be backlash from those whose Dreams don’t come true? Already The Disney Blog has raised the question of whether low-level prizes are being awarded in a manner inconsistent with the rules (and perhaps in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act), and certainly plenty of Guests have been frustrated to be almost in the right place at the right time, as they watch Dreams awarded to others. But the casual, occasional Disney visitor probably isn’t paying enough attention to have their hopes raiesed as high, and it’s hard to imagine the Disney Faithful changing their park attendance patterns just because they didn’t get handed a free pin.

Year of a Million Dreams might well turn out to be a stroke of marketing genius, if Disney can keep it up. But the real heart of the Disney magic is the Cast Members who go above and beyond the call of duty to create those special moments for Guests. Our Segway-riding friend Chris didn’t need any special campaign backing him up to make our evening a little more magic, he just did. Let’s hope that Disney gives Chris and all his colleagues the support they need to keep that magic going.

As far as I’m concerned, that part of the YOMD doesn’t have to end.

So what about those stamps? Well, I honestly was starting to get sick of mailing the damn postcards. For the money I’ve spent on postcards and stamps, I surely could have bought myself three pairs of Mickey Ears, and gotten them embroidered to boot. But when I mentioned to my son that I wasn’t going to be sending the postcards anymore, he looked at me blankly, saying, “But Mom, you got us Mickey ears!”

Enough said.

3 Responses to “Celebration Vacations? No Thanks, Give Me Dreams”

  1. FoxxFur September 28, 2008 at 8:48 am #

    If the YOMD promotion had had anything to do with Cast Empowerment, there would be a lot less resentment in the ranks right now. What the promotion entailed was a rollout of what is in Disney parlance a “Magical Moment”, or a preplanned and required moment of guest interaction. Whereas previously only high profile / sensible locations had a themed MM (guest Skipper at Jungle, guest pilot on Riverboat, etc), now every department, business unit and location was required to have at least one Magical Moment, resulting in some very strange and forgettable Magical Moments indeed (conga line through Mickey’s Star Traders?). What Disney differentiates between a MM and a “Take 5″ is that a MM is required and a certificate is given out at the completion of the event (to my mind this cheapens even some of the nicest ones immeasurably). A Take 5 could be something like bringing somebody in through the VIP entrance (backdoor) for no reason (we had “Backdoor An Emo Kid Day” at Mansion, for example).

    Anyway, each location has a roster of them which must be completed on a schedule and failure to do this will result in anything from dirty looks from managers to outright disciplinary action (or at least attempted disciplinary action; the Unions were quite good at fighting this). As a result the YOMD, for cast members, was more like “a million more ways management is making sure you can’t ever just be left alone for ten minutes”. when you factor in the fact that a Dream Squad, on staff during all normal operating hours but basically required only before the afternoon parade (all valuable prizes are awarded before the day parade), would often act like extensions of management and lurk around looking for trouble, it got to be pretty absurd.

    A short story to illustrate:
    I distinctly remember this moment early one morning before Jungle Cruise opened shortly before I quit:
    “OK, guys, we’ve been doing really great with Guest Skippers, according to the tally sheet here you guys did around 150 Guest Skippers yesterday, but we need to do even better and I expect to see around 300 today.”

    YOMD had good things and bad things about it, but that isn’t cast empowerment any way you cut it. Disney really does treat their employees like untrustworthy children and that moment was the moment I began looking for another job.

  2. Jennifer September 28, 2008 at 3:12 pm #

    Wow, I’m sorry to hear what an unpleasant time you had as a CM during YOMD!

    I’m curious to hear from other CMs….is the resentment as widespread as FoxFurr implies?

  3. lisa September 29, 2008 at 10:33 am #

    very interesting comments there, gets me thinking…. i don’t like this new promotion, it just isn’t something that, at least what they’ve rolled out so far, interests me or is available to me. the one thing i think the years of a million dreams/management pestering had going for it is it could apply to anyone no matter when you visited. or mailed in a post card. i am a single woman with no kids. my birthday is on a twednesday next year and i live no where near the parks.
    maybe i can celebrate my lonely bitterness with mickey? heh…

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