We’ve all come to expect some level of the Disney magic when we visit the parks. But every once in a while, we get a surprise: Disney magic in the real world.
A few months ago, I was in a local production of Neil Simon’s “Rumors”. One of my lines was: “Don’t make it sound like we’re going to Washington. We’re going to Albany. Twenty-three degrees below zero in the middle of winter Albany.” Right after the show wrapped, where do you think work sent me? That’s right: Albany.
Needless to say, I wasn’t expecting to encounter any Disney magic on this trip. I’ve been to scores of bankers’ conferences and let me tell you, there’s nothing magical about them. But this one was different. You see, the keynote address was The Disney Institute: Disney’s Approach to Leadership Excellence. And believe me, the speakers truly showed what excellence was all about.
It started out with me sitting in the back of the room. As I was an exhibitor, I didn’t rate a seat at one of the tables – those were saved for attendees. But if the conference coordinators thought that my second class status would limit my participation, they were in for a big surprise.
You see, to get the audience involved Hugh and Mary (the presenters) kept asking Disney trivia questions. Um hi; I’m Teri. If there’s one thing I love almost as much as Disney, it is trivia. They even threw in a few sports questions. It was like the entire presentation had been tailored just for me! Now granted, these were really easy questions for any Disney fan. I identified a photo of Roy O. Disney, I knew who Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was, and I knew the historical significance of Plane Crazy. But Hugh and Mary were really wowed. They are used to talking to normal people, not Disney dorks like me!
Of course, they were wise to me after just a few questions. They would ask a question, my hand would shoot up, and Hugh would say, “Okay, can someone besides Teri answer this?” It was scarily reminiscent of high school, let me tell you. But how awesome was it that that they already knew my name? And during the course of the presentation, they started announcing some trivia facts about me to the group: that I had traveled nine hours to get there, that I was there exhibiting as a flood zone determination expert, and even little tidbits of information about my love for Disney. And I had told them none of this. They had taken the time to secretly ask others about me while they were doing their presentation, just to make me feel special and to thank me for being a Disney fan.
When the presentation was over, they took the time to seek me out. Mary gave me a big hug, and Hugh tried to stump me with some “harder” Disney trivia questions. I think he was just trying to make me feel good, because they weren’t all that hard (like I’m not going to know who Yensid is; now come on.) They even gave me a few souvenirs: two small plastic figurines and a copy of Lee Cockerell’s Creating Magic. I was so grateful, I nearly cried!
Non-Disney people ask us all the time why we love Disney so much. While we all love the parks, the resorts, and the movies, I think most Disney fans will tell you that the real magic is in the wonderful people that comprise the Disney family – starting with Walt and continuing with wonderful cast members like Hugh and Mary. I for one will never forget the magical time I had – in Albany.