Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Disney - It's All In the Details

Mindy here. Two weeks ago my family and I enjoyed six glorious days at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. And when they say "world," that's exactly what they mean. Six parks in five days. Oy! Exhausting, yes. But we had a ball.

At each of the theme parks, I felt as though I had been transported to another place or time.  From 1950's Hollywood to an African village, my mind believed that I was really there. But how was that possible?

At Disney's Animal Kingdom, we first visited Africa. As soon as I passed through the giant wooden arch, I was there. The buildings appeared crude and worn as were the signs that adorned them. In Asia, the walkways seemed even more crowded as people vied for some local fare at Yak and Yeti's. Nothing was crisp and new. Even the strings of pennant flags flickering overhead were faded and worn. We rested alongside some crumbling ruins--the great stone dragon from Mulan.

But it had to be more than just sights that made me think I was somewhere else besides Florida. And it was. From the moment we stepped off of the bus at our resort, The Animal Kingdom Lodge, music and sounds indicative of where we were supposed to be were all around us. Not blaring, though. Subtle. Almost unnoticeable. But always there. And at every other place we visited.

The suspended disbelief was in the smallest of details. Like the nostalgic billboards atop the art-deco buildings on Hollywood Boulevard. Workers (called cast members at Disney) dressed in uniforms that were more like costumes. Each country represented at Epcot employed workers that were from that country. We had lunch in Germany and dinner in Mexico.

I know I'm talking alot about about the visual aspect, but it really was so much more than that. It went beyond the superficial to create an actual experience.

On about day three or four, I began to notice little details in our hotel room that I'd overlooked. Animal Kingdom Lodge. Think The Lion King. The television stand in our living room had the crude outline of a young Simba that the baboon, Rafiki, painted with his finger carved into the back panel. The lace curtains had images of young Simba, Timon, and Pumba woven into the fabric. The wall tiles in our bathroom portrayed the opening scene with all the animals against the rising sun.

Suddenly I was on a mission. To dissect Disney, discover how they did it, and how I could translate that ability to my writing.

Details. It's definitely in the details.

Think about some contrasts. Wealth tends to be pristine and glitzy, while poverty is peeling, cracked, and rundown. New York City has bright lights, traffic, and street vendors. A ranch, on the other hand, has animals and insects, wide open spaces, and the aroma of cow patties floating on the breeze.

Now when I sit down to write, I think about where the scene takes place and what makes it special. What makes it different from any place else? Then I can't help but wonder, how would Disney do it?

How do you do it? How do you make your readers feel as though they've been transported to another place or time?

Happy Tuesday, y'all.


  1. Well I have an article for you! Suzanne Kuhn, of SuzyQ, wrote about Disney's sales experience and just how they do it. Here's the link:

    But you'll need to go to page 96 for the article. Best quote to me, "Author signings are the equivalent of a Disney character visit..."

    As authors, we need to remember to treat our fan-friends with the same care and consideration as the Disney characters do their fan-friends.


  2. Wow, your stay was long enough to really enjoy Disney.......cool!!

  3. The details. So true, Mindy!! Thanks for the reminder. I'll be sure to try to remember that while writing.

    I'm so glad you had a great time!! I love visiting Disney. It truly is a fantasy world.

  4. You are so right, Angie. I've often pondered what makes a great book signing/launch, and what I've decided is that it has to be about them--the reader/shopper/guest. Everyone has the desire to feel special. Our job is to do just that.

  5. Jackie, we did enjoy, but it was definitely a workout. One thing I really appreciate about Disney, though, is that they made waiting in line as comfortable and short as possible. Gotta love that.

  6. Yes, Missy, it is a fantasy. And who doesn't like a little escape:-)

  7. Very well written, Mindy! Not only is it the details, but the tone of the place and that everyone is in character and pretends to be thrilled to be there. We can relate every piece to writing wonderful stories for the reader to become a part of the world the story is set in.

  8. Will have to check out Angie's link and discover Disney's secret :)

    Sounds like a great holiday Mindy! Glad you enjoyed it :)