It feels like forever. I know it has only been a bit more than eight weeks, but it feels like forever.
Disneyland closed on Friday, March 13. Walt Disney World closed on Sunday, March 15. Since that night, and with the international parks having closed weeks or months earlier, we went from a world where “the sun never sets on the Disney parks” to the sun rising on a planet without a Disney park opening or operating anywhere in the world.
Still, I find myself thinking about the parks now more than ever. I step onto Main Street U.S.A. and into yesterday, a better and brighter story. I venture into Adventureland where I can cruise the Nile and remain in denial about life’s current circumstances.
I forage into Frontierland looking for remnants of America’s exceptionalism and hope that it was, and is, still true. I dream of Fantasyland, Peter Pan, and Coronavirus Never Happened Land.
I fast forward into Tomorrowland and look forward to riding my favorite attraction again, Space Mountain. Better yet, I pray for the day when everything, and everyone, will be Square again, and we are no longer Haunted by those standing less than six feet next to us.
And it’s not just me. Like an addict in need of her fix, Niki keeps threatening to drive to Anaheim, “flattening the berm” turning on “it’s a small world,” and riding around for forever. At least until she grows weary of the song or gets arrested…whichever comes first. Why she would pick “it’s a small world” I have no idea. But hey, whatever floats your boat….
Last month, a man actually was apprehended for breaking into the Disneyland Resort. No, it wasn’t Dr. Disneyland but thanks for thinking of me. In my defense, the man arrested was found carrying out tools, not ice cream Mickey bars and he was arrested at California Adventure, not Disneyland. He did, however, manage to grab national headlines.
On second thought, maybe Niki and I should go for it. If nothing else, the headlines might be good for book sales?
But more than anything these days, I worry. What do I worry about? That list is more random than the virtual queue for Rise of the Resistance. Nonetheless, here is a small sample….
I worry about the cats. Disneyland’s feral cats. In an effort to keep the rodent population down (don’t tell Mickey), The Magic Kingdom is home to more than 200 feral cats. Who is feeding them? Since Simba is furloughed, perhaps Disney could reach out to the Tiger King. I hear he has nothing but time on his hands….
I worry about the bears. Walt Disney World’s audio-animatronics bears at the Country Bear Jamboree. When they turned out the lights and closed the doors at Magic Kingdom, did anyone think to say goodbye to the bears and give them the “low down on the no go hoedown”? Think about it. Those hard luck bears have played in that same room, continuously, for nearly fifty years. Now, all of a sudden, nothing? No one? With zero explanation? That’s gotta be confusing….
But I worry most about the 100,000-plus furloughed Cast Members. So much so that I want to do something I rarely do. In twenty years of college teaching, I have only shared two essays with the entire class. One was on our need for both faith and science. The other was a lyrical analysis of the classic Eagles song “The Last Resort.”
Today is #3. I recently came across an anonymous, open letter written from one Disney Cast Member to all the others. It is so exceptional that it needs to be shared and read by all. Here it is:
An open letter from one Disney Cast Member to another…
To all my fellow cast members around the world, both near and far, on land or sea I hope this letter finds you well during these unprecedented times we are enduring not as a company, but as a Family.
I know there is much uncertainty going through everyone’s minds as it is hard to comprehend what it is we are all facing in the coming months.
That being said, as our kingdom’s gates continue to remain closed, our sails stay lowered, the studios echo with silence and our stage lights dim, I ask you all to please keep your faith, trust, and pixie dust. Hold it tight and don’t forget why you became a Disney Cast Member and what an honor it is to be one.
In 1955 Walt Disney stood as a beacon to millions of people of all ages when he opened Disneyland and said “here age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future.” Since then all Cast Members have carried a bit of light from that beacon to fulfill that statement.
No matter what challenges we face today we have a duty to uphold tomorrow, not just to Disney, but to the world. It is our responsibility to keep the Magic going!
Let us continue to assemble and shield the world from despair the best we can as we help guard the mines while the Dwarfs are on break, hold the feather until Dumbo is ready to fly again, and dust the toys in Andy’s toy box until they can be played with.
The Force is with us. I can feel it, can you? Things are gonna get better and we will have overcome these trials and tribulations to see a great big beautiful tomorrow!
Again, hold it tight!
A Fellow Cast Member
Whoever wrote this, thank you! You earn an A+ from Dr. Disneyland. Other than ending a sentence with a preposition, I think your letter is perfect.
When Walt Disney built Disneyland, he turned the amusement industry upside down by building a theme park, not an amusement park. One of his innovations was operating year-round versus seasonally. Walt’s main reasoning for doing so was because he wanted his Cast Members to be “family.”
Today, the Disney Family is hurting. We all know a Cast Member who has touched our life and left us with a magical memory. They work anonymously with just their first name and their hometown on their badge. For me, it’s friends like Steve from Redlands, CA, Tony from Stamford, CT, Rob from Tewksbury, MA, and Lorraine from Lindenhurst, NY. As a university professor, I think of kids like Lily from Charlottesville, VA, who when told their college program was ending early and they had to go home, lamented, “I am leaving the best thing I have ever been a part of.”
They need to know we care. Reach out to one today. Ask them what they need. This time, let us be the magic. Let them know we are coming back.
Hope is around the corner. Shanghai Disneyland opened this week and sold out. In Florida, Disney Springs is scheduled for a phased reopening starting on May 20. Again, there is light at the end of the tunnels: https://www.thewisdomofwalt.com/light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnels/.
Yes, it feels like forever. Especially for the furloughed Cast Members. But please “hold it tight.”
We will See You Real Soon!