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Are We Having Fun Yet?

What is your favorite Disney Park attraction?

Better yet, on which attraction do you find yourself having the most fun?

For me, the answer has always been Disneyland’s Space Mountain. There are arguably better, more advanced, and more impressive attractions. Especially with the recent openings of Rise of the Resistance and Cosmic Rewind. But for sheer fun, you will find me on Space Mountain.

Again. And again. And again.

Another option is Pirates of the Caribbean. It is certainly popular, and because of the movie franchise that started nearly twenty years ago, Pirates is the most profitable attraction in theme park history.

But did you know that Pirates started out as a rather pedestrian, walk-through wax museum?

That’s right!

Fortunately, in the middle of construction, Walt and his team of Imagineers were called away to the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair. At that famed fair, they created four shows—the last one being “it’s a small world” just nine months before the Park’s opening.

When they brought “it’s a small world” home to Disneyland in the summer of 1966, a lightbulb went on. If we can do a boat ride for dolls, then we can certainly do one for Pirates as well! Thus, they converted Pirates into the coveted boat ride that we all know and love fifty-plus years later.

Walt’s team was bursting with so many great ideas that they soon realized neither the new New Orleans Square, nor even the Park itself, would be big enough to hold everything they were imagining. Walt, not wanting to keep constraints on his team, made the decision to “…go under the railroad track and into a big building outside the berm.”

Since Opening Day, the Park’s “berm” had served as its perennial perimeter. Created out of 350 tons of dirt from the dredging of the Rivers of America, this twelve-to-twenty-foot earthen berm surrounded Disneyland and was the boundary that kept the magic of the Magic Kingdom in, and the distractions of the outside world, out.

So, the drop you experience at the start of Pirates isn’t there just for thrills. It’s there out of necessity. That’s the moment when you are moving out of New Orleans Square, going under the railroad track, and into a big building that sits outside of Disneyland.

Or should I say “drops.”

There is a great story in Marcy Smothers’ new book, Walt’s Disneyland: A Walk in the Park with Walt Disney that tells how Walt worked with Herb Ryman to design the drop and how those two dramatic drops came to be:

Walt tasked Herb Ryman: “Now this is a water ride, so it’s going to go down twenty-six feet…can you draw some stuff to show how we’re going to get down there?”

Herb did as instructed, drawing people plunging in a boat, screaming, and getting wet. When he showed the rendering to Walt, he responded, “Yeah, yeah. Mind if I take this with me?” Herb of course, could not refuse his boss.

Walt came back the next day and said to Herb, “I changed your idea. I’ve got them going down. They do it once and they only go down twelve feet, and then they go along and they don’t know it’s going to happen again and then it happens again.”

Walt concluded, “now that’s better, isn’t it?”

Yes, Walt. That is better.

But why?

I believe it’s better because Walt made it more fun. Ryman’s rendition accomplished what he had been asked to do…get guests moved into the show building and twenty-six feet underground. Walt’s version accomplishes the same task, but intentionally adds an element of fun!

When is the last time you challenged yourself to make “something better”? Better yet, when was the last time you made something better by allowing yourself to have fun?

I don’t remember how many different classes I taught during my twenty-plus years in higher education. What I do remember is that, regardless of the course and regardless of the required course outcomes, I always listed “Have Fun” as a final requirement on every syllabus.

To be fair, fun often gets a bad rap. Especially in education. However, unless you can take what you know and make it interesting and fun, you are just waxing eloquent. Your information is irrelevant and, yes, rather pedestrian. Know that fun is more than just goofing off, avoidance, or laziness. You can use it to build relationships, put people at ease, or make tough tasks more enjoyable.

And fun can be found everywhere.

For example, try making a game out of everything you do. Turn on some music. Take your team out for ice cream (in your defense). Go on a Happy Meal Date with your significant other. Watch the sunset.

Speaking of sunsets, Pirates of the Caribbean is also famous for being the last attraction Walt Disney personally worked on. Walt died of lung cancer on December 15, 1966, three months before the attraction opened. Before leaving us, he did enjoy a mockup of the auction scene in a warehouse. His team rigged up a dolly with a chair and pushed him around at the same speed as the boats. Then, he walked the water channel inside the Pirates building at Disneyland and gave favorable feedback, along with final input and final instructions.

Life is too short not to have fun, so go have some already. Your life, and your life’s work, will be better for it.

“I have fun just watching others have fun.” — Walt Disney

Want more from the Wisdom of Walt? Check out Jeff’s books on Amazon.

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