Theme park cast member stories: Where in the world is Walt Disney World?
By Robert NilesDid you know that there's no theme park named Walt Disney World?
Published: May 10, 2010 at 11:10 AM
Well, okay, you're Theme Park Insider readers. You're the best informed theme park fans anywhere. :-) You know that "Walt Disney World" means the Walt Disney World Resort, a collection of four theme parks, two water parks, dozens of hotels and a shopping district, located on tens of thousands of acres in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
And that what many, more casual, theme park fans call "Walt Disney World" is simply the original attraction at the resort, the theme park we know as the Magic Kingdom. (You'll notice that I label the park "Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom" here on the Theme Park Insider, since I learned early on that if I label that park simply as "Magic Kingdom," too few new readers to the site knew to which park I was referring.)
Working anywhere on property at Walt Disney World, the whole Disney World/Magic Kingdom thing can cause major frustration. I've lost track of the number of such stories told to me by cast members at the various WDW theme parks, but they all reduce to an exchange something like this:
Guest: "How do I get to Disney World?"
Cast Member: "Well, to get to the Magic Kingdom, just (board the monorail/take the bus/follow the highway signs) once you exit the park."
Guest: "But I don't want to go to the Magic Kingdom! I want to go to Disney World!"
First impressions are hard to overcome. And for the first 10 years after its 1971 opening, Walt Disney World offered little more than that original theme park, the Magic Kingdom. (The resort's second theme park, Epcot - I'm sorry, EPCOT Center, didn't debut until 1982.) With the then-single Disneyland Park on the west coast in Anaheim, people found a simple parallel with a single Disney World (or, even, Disneyworld) park on the east coast near Orlando.
So that's how a generation came to know the Magic Kingdom. Disney tried its best to rebrand the park, following Epcot's opening, but millions of visitors have failed to buy that, and continue to call the park with the castle "Disney World."
Even working within the Magic Kingdom, we weren't exempt from guests asking us "how to get to Disney World." Each of us learned, quickly, that you never respond with "you're already here!" People don't like being told that they're stupid. Instead, we have to make our best guess at what the guest really wanted to see when s/he asked for directions to "Disney World."
Most of the time, we just ended up directing them toward the castle.
Giving directions anywhere at the Walt Disney World Resort often requires a bit of detective work, if not guessing. Where do you send a family that's asking for "the cowboy show"?
Did they want the afternoon stunt show in the Magic Kingdom's Frontierland? The old west scene in the Studios' Great Movie Ride? The Hoop-Dee-Doo Review at Fort Wilderness? I've encountered folks asking that question who ended up wanting each of those three.
What about "the water show"? Is that IllumiNations? Fantasmic? The water pageant on the Seven Seas Lagoon? The Little Mermaid puppet show? Yep, I've found folks looking for each of these who'd asked me that same question.
Sometimes, though, even the best Det. Friday questioning won't help me help a guest who's asking for something we simply didn't have, anywhere on the resort. I'll never forget those poor souls who asked me, when I worked at Pirates of the Caribbean:
"Hey, how do I get to the Blue Bayou?"
Well, sir, first you drive to the Orlando airport….
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