Disney World

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    Learning to Love Long Lines

    A real timely or timeless question: does anyone love long lines?

    No, of course not.

    Can you learn to…perhaps not love them…but accept them?

    And we have looked at this subject before…including valuable (we think) advice on ways to “beat” the lines.

    But listen here, you really can’t “beat” them….or maybe you knew that already.

    Whenever you buy your Disney World Orlando tickets. Or Universal Studios Orlando tickets or Busch Gardens Tampa tickets…or any other theme park admission tickets, you will find something else.


    Some short ones. Or it used to be.

    But more likely:

    Some longer than others.

    Much longer.

    What we’ve done in the past is to suggest ways of handling those lines.

    The point is not to let them ruin your trip.

    We keep returning to this subject for a reason.

    Because amusement park fans like you in recent times have rated long lines as their biggest pet peeve (in case, you wondered, that was followed by complaints of line jumping and rude employees).

    Biggest pet peeve

    Because of growing crowds in recent years, the average visitor has time for only nine or 10 rides per day, according to recent surveys.

    That means a lot of time is spent standing in lines.

    The reason is simple: you can’t avoid them entirely.

    No matter what you do.

    So today we’re going to tell you the 14 best ways to avoid lines.

    We’ll also tell you what the parks are doing about it.

    But more importantly, we’re going to tell you what to do while you’re waiting.

    And we’re turning to experts to do that.

    But don’t be concerned about our “experts.”

    That’s because they are other theme park-goers…and ticket buyers to Busch Gardens Tampa, and yes, Disney as well.

    Does Disney and other park gurus really care about the lines?

    No real question there.

    But more importantly, what are they doing about it?

    There are improvements. Or so the parks say.

    Perhaps the first issue to look at is this:

    Why do people like yourself hate these lines?

    We have some answers there, too.

    Let’s take another look at lines.

    You wait in line for practically anything you buy.

    Even when you go to the open all-day, all-night grocery store at 3 a.m. You might find a person or two standing in front of you.

    Some lines are better than others

    But somehow lines at pleasant places…where you are looking just to have fun…seem longer and more disturbing, don’t they?

    Surveys show that theme park goers don’t mind waits of five or ten minutes or even a half hour.

    But when it gets to hours, instead of minutes, patience flies out the window.

    And with all the instant gratification of today's world, people still have to endure waiting in lines.

    Sure, we’re all used to instant gratification. It’s a common term.

    But psychologists say that may be a primary reason why we hate lines.

    It’s a form of imprisonment, in fact.

    And not the willing, “we volunteer” kind.

    "Once you get it into your head, you see them everywhere," psychologist Dr. Richard Larson said about long lines.

    But the good news is that theme parks are making efforts here.

    And no one does managing lines better than Disney, according to some experts.

    "We want you to have so much to look at or do or entertain your kids," Kathy Mangum, creative executive of Walt Disney Imagineering, told "20/20."

    “Cause kids aren't the best line waiters, right? They're a little impatient … If your kid's having fun, you're a lot more patient."

    He didn’t say it but adults also have little patience for lines.

    Disney is not the only one aware of them.

    Park officials know you hate waiting

    In Southern California, riders of the “Transformers: The Ride-3D at Universal Studios Hollywood” line up in an indoor area that resembles a military compound.

    They watch videos that explain their mission during the ride. Guests are told they must keep the powerful "AllSpark" from falling into the hands of the evil “Decepticons.”

    "Guest satisfaction is very important to us and we want to entertain our guests from the moment they enter the ride queue," said Larry Kurzweil, president of Universal Studios Hollywood.

    At Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, the park installed a 16-by-9-foot screen over the queuing area of the ride, “Full Throttle.”

    Visitors see a 25-minute video of extreme sports, such as bungee jumping and mountain biking.

    Six Flags Entertainment Corp. offers an interactive game similar to “Whac-A-Mole” that visitors can play on television screens. They use their cellphones as game controllers.

    The game is available at all of its 16 parks in the U.S., including Six Flags Magic Mountain.

    Park officials have even tried to make jokes about the waiting time.

    At Disney's California Adventure Park, visitors to the “Toy Story Midway Mania” are entertained in line by an animatronic “Mr. Potato Head.” He sings and tells jokes to the crowd.

    The voice was recorded by venerable comedian Don Rickles.

    "I'm going to guess your weight," Mr. Potato Head tells guests. "I'd say you wait about 15, 20, 25 minutes, tops."

    Ha, ha…maybe

    One of the first efforts by theme parks to address long lines came as early as 1999 when Disney parks introduced the FASTPASS. Others have followed.

    For everyone else, the lines are still long but, in some cases, more entertaining.

    In the case of Disney, entertainment before rides is an extension of their entertainment philosophy.

    Which is good.

    Disney sets up play areas for those waiting in lines.

    Disney's theme parks try to cope or manage lines with interactive technology. Or with games and touch screens.

    Well-placed fans sometimes help. A little shade seems to be carved out at times. That also helps.

    Theme parks also have posted wait times.

    Single rider only lines.

    Disney has also been an innovator in making the queue line an interactive experience itself.

    For example, at “Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid” (Fantasyland, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort) there are a multitude of interactive spaces throughout the queue. They help keep long lines of guests’ active and engaged.

    In the line for the “Haunted Mansion,” guests can touch gravestones that play music or squirt water.

    Disney has been a pioneer in using theming not only in rides but in waiting for rides.

    This type of theming really fleshes out the storytelling for the attraction and provides a better option than staring at a sea of people. No question there.

    Disney’s pricing patterns (mainly in raising them) has also been aimed at least partly to stretch out the crowds.

    One area to expect in the future: that initiative will be more common at other parks,

    Technology should also increasingly be expected to help you cope with lines.

    Interaction through augmented reality with head worn mobile devices that will let you interact not only with rides but while standing in line are other innovations that will help.

    And the best ways to beat the lines?

    There are what we call “windows” of opportunity to experience shorter lines.

    When you can avoid them

    No, not no lines at all. But shorter.

    1. Get there early. At least an hour before opening, preferably two hours. Consider this: At Disney’s Magic Kingdom Park, every minute you arrive after the park opens is two extra minutes of waiting in line.

    2. Stay late. Just before the park closes is a good time to get in line as many guests are on their way out the door or heading that way.

    3. Skip one line by not buying your tickets at the park. Get your Disney Orlando tickets or Universal Orlando tickets from other sources.

    4. Whenever you can, go the single rider line. These are often there and not always well marked. But they can reduce wait time by a third, according to some estimates.

    5. Everyone will tell you don’t go during busy times such as Christmas or Easter or in the summer months when the kids are out of school. Yes, lines tend to be longer. But there are a few windows such as early June, when schools are still in session. Barely. Look for these windows.

    6. Weekdays are invariably better than weekends. A Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday is far better than weekends.

    7. Skip the fireworks or other special events. Lines are usually shorter during those times.

    8. Don’t be afraid of some lines. Roller coasters are good example. Lines often seem much longer than they are.

    9. Join lines during normal lunch or dinner times. Many guests are then dining. So it’s another window of opportunity for you.

    10. If you have choices of when to go, consult sites such as ours that tells you when crowds are at their shortest. One hint: late August is often a far better time to visit than earlier that month or the previous month.

    11. Another good time to visit is when all America and the world are busy elsewhere. You already know when. Think ” Super Bowl.

    12. Don’t start at the front of the park where you enter Go to the back. Go as far back as you can. Select the most popular rides there before the crowd gets to them.

    13. If you have a choice, pick the line farther to the left. You may know where most people do: to the right.

    14. FastPasses are usually worth the added cost. But that is up to you.

    How to cope with…sigh…long lines

    As for what to do when…face it.,..there is a long line in front of you.

    Here’s what our own experts tell us:

    Prepare yourself in advance. You know there are going to be lines. So get used to it. Bring things to help you wait.

    In that preparation area, bring a hat and other comfort accessories.

    Brings things…and we mean anything at all… to help you wait. Books, mp3 players, magazines and of course, cell phones. What better time to catch up on what old friends are doing?

    Be judgmental. If your preferred ride has a long line, consider skipping it or waiting to try again later. It’s ok to be choosey.

    Again, use your good judgment whether it’s worth your time. Is it really something you want to do? You decide.

    Some riders tell us they love to play games while in line. The alphabet game is a common one. Very simple. Find the letters of the alphabet from A-Z around you. Great for children. But also works for adults.

    Use this time to plan the rest of your day. Even if you don’t get to do all that you envision, it distracts your mind to imagine what other rides and shows you might be seeing.

    Look around you…be aware…talk to others

    Talk to people around you. You might even make a few friends this way.

    Look for Hidden Mickeys.

    Whistle songs for others to guess the name.

    Wave at strangers to see who will wave back.

    Challenge another person or someone with you to thumb wrestling.

    Eating snacks always helps pass the time (hopefully, you’re not in a diet or can put it off for a few hours).

    Take a good look at people around you. See how they’re dressed and what they’re carrying. Then make up stories where they’re from or why they’re here.

    Take breaks. If you know a line is going to be long, say more than an hour, take some time away to relax. Have a meal or a drink. Buy an ice cream cone. Walk around and people watch. Get your mind off the wait itself.

    One of the best things to do while standing in line is to think of everything or anything else but the line. Imagine your next vacation, for example. Think about where you might have lunch or dinner. Anything that will take you away from the line.

    Study the park map. This is a good distraction.

    People watch. For some reason, a lot of us are good at this, while others find it hard to imagine. But it really takes only a little imagination to see what people are wearing. Fashion trends such as baseball caps or hatless? Who is wearing sunglasses (“See that two-year-old. Isn’t he a little young for shades”). You get the point.

    Make a conscious effort to relax. You may be excited about the prospect of the coaster there, but slip on headphones and listen to a slow song or try to find another way to relax. Music almost always helps. You will enjoy the ride more if you can do that.

    Songwriter Tom Petty once sang, “The waiting is the hardest part.”

    Did he go to theme parks? Could that have been an inspiration?

    We don’t know. But it’s something to consider…perhaps to even get your mind in another direction the next time you’re standing in yet another line. ###


    Disney did not…we repeat…did not invent the cupcake. But they are bringing “The world’s first cupcake bakery” here to Orlando.

    We mention this because with the growing popularity of cupcakes at Disney in the past several years, some may have thought it was invented there.

    Look for their latest (of many) cupcake providers, Sprinkles, later this month. May 15.

    Coming to Disney Springs.

    Sprinkles Disney SpringsBut here’s something else you may not have known about Sprinkles.

    It introduced a first of its own: a cupcake ATM, which will here join others in the chain.

    It’s a first, at least, in the state of Florida.

    Yes, a machine that provides cupcakes instead of cash.

    But here’s a question snack-goers may wonder about:

    What does this do to the Dole Whip?

    That has its own brand of being Disney’s favorite snack for just about everyone.

    Impact on the popular Dole Whip

    Sprinkles is not exactly a new kid on the block.

    It has been around for a while.

    This is their 20th location.

    They had their first Florida site in Tampa.

    “Sprinkles at Disney Springs signifies the company’s continued mission to bring the popular dessert experience to Central Florida and beyond,” says a press release.

    “Disney Springs was a natural fit for us when deciding where in Orlando to open our doors,” said Candace Nelson.

    She was the founder of Sprinkles and you may have seen her if you watching the judging on TV’s Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars."

    The chain’s cupcakes are said to be handcrafted from the “finest ingredients.”

    Flavors include Red Velvet, Carrot Cake, and even Peanut Butter Pretzel

    Sprinkles will be open daily from 10 a.m. to midnight.

    Unlike other ATMs, you can’t get cash from it but you can choose between 400 versions.

    Fresh from the ATM

    Freshly-made, according to the company.

    Also, dog-friendly (Whatever that means).

    Sprinkles opened “the world’s first cupcake bakery” in Beverly Hills, California.

    So reported the Food Network.

    The company is credited by theLos Angeles Times as “the progenitor of the haute cupcake craze.”

    Sprinkles has inspired long lines of devoted Hollywood stars and food-lovers.

    When you buy your Disney World tickets and head on over to Disney Springs, your cupcake choices at Sprinkles will be joined by stars like Tom Cruise and Oprah Winfrey…though there have been no reports on their personal favorite flavors.

    Or even a more serious question: how this has impacted Oprah’s famous dieting efforts?

    Well, we do know Sprinkles offers gluten-and-sugar-free versions.

    This development raises other questions of what’s new…in dining…at Disney.

    Particularly when you look at snacks.

    With the growing popularity of cupcakes, might they overtake what is undoubtedly Disney’s No. 1 favorite for just about all of us: Dole Whips?

    And what are your own preferences these days?

    Today, we’ll look at food from several angles.

    Disney did not invent the cupcake.

    Though they certainly made Mickey Mouse ears to often be associated with cupcakes.

    And they certainly have done a lot to for Disney World Orlando ticket buyers to help make not-so-humble cupcakes among the most popular snack foods in the whole world.

    As you know, cupcakes here resemble many characters.

    There’s been no shortage of cupcakes at Disney.

    Some of the gest known have offered Red Velvet Cheesecake versions, introduced in 2010 when the quickly became a favorite. Or Chocolate Peanut-Butter.

    Or even the “King Cupcake."

    Guess who?

    A hint: contains the entertainer’s favorite sandwich: peanut butter and bacon.

    Not Mickey Mouse.

    And not a Disney character, either.

    Among the most popular types (outside of Elvis, and we have no reports on its popularity) are Butterfinger, red velvet, carrot cake, among others.

    Cupcake celebrations at special events are common.

    Compare that to Dole Whips

    Little more than pineapple soft serve ice cream.

    Or even Dole Whip floats…not much more than ice cream and pineapple juice, really.

    Some call it a work of art, anyway.

    You can order it as a Pineapple Float or as in a cup.

    Officially, only the cup-version is called a Dole Whip by Disney.

    So popular that there’s a podcast named after it.

    Dole Whip internet searches turn up multiple pages of fanatic fans raving over it.

    If this was a contest, it would be poor “Dole Whip David” versus multiple version-giant-cupcake provider rightly named “Goliath.”

    Other of the most popular treats that are less than a meal in Orlando include soft pretzels (well, some are large enough to share), and some with Mickey heads.

    World Showcase at Epcot is a popular place for the German version of a Bavarian soft pretzel in World Showcase. That could be the best known.Walt Disney World, SeaWorld, Universal begin using metal detectors at theme parks

    Sandra Pedicini

    Another of the most popular snacks here: Mickey Ice Cream Bars.

    Found in carts everywhere. Simply chocolate covering over vanilla ice cream.

    A popular place to find it and ice cream in a dish (or cone) is the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor on Main Street, Magic Kingdom/

    For those not aware of them, there are healthier snacks such as fruit bowls at snack kiosks and counter service restaurants.

    Healthy or exotic snacks everywhere

    But even more exotic choices at Epcot are Kaki Gori, shaved ice or snowballs with fruity syrup at the Japan pavilion.

    The announcement of Sprinkles should be no surprise.

    Because, Melissa Fegely

    guess what?…and we are sure you noticed if you’ve been going to the park for even a few years.

    Theme park food has come a long ways in the past few years.

    Theme park food at Disney and other places used to be almost entirely fast food: not much more imagination than hamburgers and hot dogs. Maybe cheeseburgers for variety.

    And French Fries, of course.

    Visitors like yourself wanted more


    You, the visitor, wanted to spend your time on rides and entertainment.

    Forget the food.

    All that has changed.

    And cupcakes are far from the only choices.

    Various news outlets have been pointing out how visitors these days demand more food choices. This is partly due to the growing general awareness of food.

    "I think guests’ expectations' have changed over the years," said Disney Parks and Resorts vice president of food and beverage Beth Scott. "Certainly with things like The Chew and the Food Network and social media, people are becoming much more savvy about their dining experiences."

    OK. Mr. and Mrs. Savvy.

    You still don’t go to the park to eat…unless you are starving…and you want to save all your money to buy souvenirs…any kind at all, even though that is not our recommendation….so what do you do?

    To save money on food, that is.

    If you admit that food is necessary…

    Various Disney dining packages are the answer.

    Saving money on food can be done

    Food will still cost you but there are many options that range from snacks and refillable drinks at quick service places to higher-end meals at more posh luxury resort hotels.

    Buying an annual pass may also not be cheap but it does help with meals.

    All annual passport holders receive discounts ranging between 10 to 15 percent off at select restaurants in the park, entertainment complexes and resort hotels.

    But if you are serious about money, you do what many others do and there’s no fear or guilt about it: bring those snacks yourself.

    Perennials you see everywhere that are even more common than hidden Mickeys are peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Yes, remember that even Elvis Presley liked them.

    And granola bars (Elvis was not known for this type of food but look what happened to him).

    And bottled water, of course.

    The guidelines here are simple: any food is allowed as long as it does not require heating.

    Also not embarrassing for you to do at all: order a kid’s portion at a restaurant.

    You know they are cheaper. But may have worried someone might ask if you are older than 12.

    No fear.

    You certainly already know that eating lunch and breakfast is cheaper than dinner.

    A guideline of when to eat

    So that’s a good guideline of when to eat, isn’t it?

    Try not to buy your food at the park during busy times such as Christmas or spring break…prices then can be higher.

    Then, there is what has been called the “free Disney Dining Plan.”

    It is not really “free,” of course. But it does save money.

    On select dates in August through December, it has food discounts.

    You can book vacation packages with non-discounted resort hotels and park tickets to get the Disney Dining Plan. Each member of your party gets the perk.

    Dates are:

    • August 23 through October 1, 2016

    • November 15 through 21, 2016

    • November 26 through 28, 2016

    • December 10 through 21, 2016

      There are various stipulations and rules.

      You also must purchase at least 2-day tickets that include either Park Hopper or other options. Three-night minimum stay is also required.

      So no resellers can offer you tickets.

      Something else you should be aware of: the promotion is always based on arrival dates. Your dates at Disney have to coincide with dates offered in the program.

      Prices vary, according to tiers.

      Upgrades are also an option.

      If you don’t trust the good judgment of other members in your party, the Disney options may definitely be for you.

    Disney option is up to you

    That’s because it is not unusual for families or others to not only order the most expensive items on the menu, but also drinks…which everyone knows are highly profitable to the sellers who get them for pennies and sell for dollars.

    So in lieu of looking through the menus as you, the bill payer, cringe at the horror of high costs…you already know what you’re going to pay. Regardless of what everyone orders.

    A simple solution to knowing…and perhaps even controlling…your costs.

    Saving food costs, continued

    An Internet sites recently listed places where you can get food items for under $10.

    They included many bargains such as Whole Dill Pickles at Liberty Square Market for only $1.50. Or Hard-boiled eggs at the Main Street Bakery for $2.59.

    Or perhaps best of all: Garlic Knots with Marinara at the Pinocchio Village Haus: $4.49

    The effort was appreciated.

    But on the other hand, how much will a single pickle or even a hard boiled egg do to curb your appetite?

    Further, what kind of high calorie, nutrition-free snack are items like that anyway?

    And finally, one single pickle for $1.50 or an egg for $2.50?

    Really, what kind of bargain is that anyway?

    New food options

    There’s a new adult beverage and hard float menu at the Beaches & Cream Soda Shop at Disney’s Beach Club Resort.

    Then, there’s Tutto Italia offering fixed price (prix fixe) lunches this summer. Located in Italy’s Epcot Pavilion.

    Price for a three-course meal: $27. Includes soft drinks.

    There are also several other fixed price meals within Epcot’s World Showcase restaurants.

    Getting away from snacks

    You see others claim at times to offer guides to the “best…or even very best.”

    The very best overall restaurant at Disney will never be agreed upon by all but many would not argue with our pick of “Be Our Guest.”


    At least when it comes to counter service types at the Magic Kingdom.

    There are almost always long lines to get inside. Often at least 30 minutes waiting times for lunch.

    But the long popular restaurant has been getting good word-of-mouth notices for years. And keeps getting them.

    For sustaining a great atmosphere with good food, we would give a first place award to “50s Prime Time Café.”

    With its Osterizers on wooden tables over linoleum floors, it’s a throwback to another time. You might think this was a re-run of the old TV program “I Love Lucy.”

    Often packed, but the best themed atmosphere anywhere.

    One area where Prime Time truly stands out is in desserts.

    Most restaurants at Disney rely on a central commissary. But not ”Prime Time.”

    Upside down cake and warm apple crisps are among favorites.

    Dessert menu is special

    In addition, the dessert menu is presented as a photo reel on a View-Master….don’t know what that is? Understandable…you’ll have to time travel back to the 1950s or so to find View Masters.

    But both Earl of Sandwich and Wolfgang Puck Express, which are outlets of places that exist in the world outside Disney, are generally good choices for high quality and usually reasonable prices.

    All this bring us to a good but disturbing restaurant: the Coral Reef Restaurant. Known for its wall-sized aquarium with colorful fish that are only waiting to go on your dining plate.

    Disturbing prospect, to say the least.

    But some of this is a far cry from the Dole Whips that we all like.

    Unlike cupcakes, more variety is not likely…but possible.

    You can imagine blueberry or strawberry versions.

    You can already get them self-serve.

    But while they should remain popular, we doubt that you’ll see them offered anytime soon at an ATM machine…

    Though you never know, do you? ###

    A poll by InterContinental Hotels Group found the obvious: Orlando is the theme park capital of the world. But more:

    The king of theme parks is Walt Disney World Resort.

    Once again, no surprise.

    Disney’s Magic Kingdom in the poll far outdistanced Universal Studios to take first place in visitor popularity.

    This brings us to more imaginative and even creative issues.

    “Star Wars” being No. 1, in this case…but you have to stay with us to see why the rating brings up a galaxy not so far away.

    Back to the vote, briefly.

    In the Disney poll, the results were not even close:

    Universal Studios Florida had 19% of the vote, while the Magic Kingdom got 43%.


    The poll said:

    “Iconic rides like Space Mountain and Splash Mountain, not to mention the characters roaming the park that are sure to delight children of all ages, or the incredible parades, or delectable dining options…

    “There’s no denying that Disney’s Magic Kingdom takes the throne for the favorite theme park in Orlando.

    That was taken just two years ago. But it helps provide some answers to why Disney’s popularity continues.”

    Even now. Today.

    Would anyone really disagree?

    At least, now now, would they?

    And just what do visitors want in the future so that they continue to buy Disney Orlando tickets?

    That is a question Imagineers are thinking about.

    Are worrying about, as well.

    There are some answers to that. If you look for them.

    Why Disney delivers

    The easiest answer might be a simple word:


    More thrilling roller coasters.

    More entertaining rides.

    In general, more entertainment.

    Or should we say more exciting entertainment.

    Sure, the word “exciting” is used so often you think it’s connected with entertainment.

    But it’s not.

    And when it comes to upcoming attractions…and the ongoing voter popularity of future Disney World ticket buyers…you have to take a look at “Star Wars.”

    Some may recall the thrill of seeing the film for the first time…whenever that was (could it really have been that many years ago?).

    But when Disney does it, that’s another story.

    Will it wow us…or not?

    So yes, expectations will be high.

    Disney can’t do just another movie.

    No matter how exciting or thrilling.

    The new Disney Star Wars will have to be more thrilling than the movies.

    Disney faces a high standard for Star Wars

    Are these impossibly high expectations?


    But that’s what real fans will want.

    Will Disney Imagineers be able to beat the movie…by going to another level?

    Far far away?

    Disney promises that visitors will be immersed in the Star Wars galaxy “as never before.”

    That remark is from Bob Chapek, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.

    He said that the land "will introduce you to a Star Wars planet you’ve never seen before — a gateway planet located on the outer rim, full of places and characters familiar and not so familiar."

    The land will immerse the guest into the Star Wars Universe.

    According to Iger:

    “It will be "occupied by many inhabitants; humanoids, aliens and droids … the attractions, the entertainment, everything we create will be part of our storytelling. Nothing will be out of character or stray from the mythology."

    Other Disney officials say the idea is to make visitors feel as if they just walked into one of the movies.

    Like walking into a movie

    This is not really new for Disney but this high level executive’s description makes you think it is different.

    “... Bringing Star Wars to life in the physical world gives us the opportunity to play with a whole bunch of things we've never done before... to really engage all of the senses. What does that street feel like? What does that animal smell like? What does blue milk taste like?"

    Those are intriguing promises.

    So naturally, let’s take a closer look.

    The upcoming “Star Wars” attractions will have two main attractions, as far as we can tell: a full-size Millennium Falcon situated among alien buildings built into tall cliffs.

    The second major event will place you into the middle of a battle between The First Order and the Resistance.

    There will also be a version of the cantina (a real chance to find out, perhaps, whether blue milk tastes like Cola-Cola or just hopped-up root beer or even you-know-what).

    One thing we know for sure is that Imagineers have joined up with Lucasfilm to bring their own galaxy to life.

    No one we know doubts this is a potent combination.

    Flying the Falcon on your own

    With the Millennium Falcon, Disney says that guests will be in “complete control” of the experience. That’s a tall order, you might way.

    That means shooting down the ships from the Dark Side. But what kind of perils will come up?

    We also know with the arrival of the First Order to the planet, visitors will be in the middle of a tense and uncertain battle between stormtroopers and resistance fighters.

    Let’s look first at the ship itself.

    The minor point is the size of the ship.

    Visually, the Millennium Falcon in the various films was represented by several models. External and internal sets as well.

    The primary model was only five feet long or clearly far too small to be any part of a park.

    The model seen often on the screen took a reported three months to build. It weighed 25 tons. It was 65 feet long.

    There was much more to the story, of course, because nothing was really simple about “Star Wars.” So we can expect a large Falcon that will reflect the details in the movies.

    The Disney model will have to be larger than 65 feet long, of course, and have multiple versions.

    We know from advanced previews there’s going to be a dramatic ride for visitors aboard the Falcon. Right in the most famous cockpit in the history of cinema, of course.

    And the chance to fly it.

    What will that be like?

    But an even more difficult question is just how fast that ship can travel.

    Sure, it was the fastest in the universe.

    How fast is fast?

    SeaWorld of Orlando’s new roller coaster getting ready to roll this summer will go 73 miles an hour.

    The fastest coaster anywhere in Orlando.

    Getting to the theme parks via I-4, vehicles go 65-70 miles an hour.

    If you arrived here by airplane, you might have averaged 400 miles an hour…though it certainly did not feel that fast.

    And the speed of the Falcon?

    Various accounts of the Falcon’s speed have been attempted.

    Believe us, this is not a simple issue.

    Its actual speed is rated in various ways (and some people have more time than others to calculate this).

    So by various calculations, the Millennium Falcon’s top speed is 25,000 light years per day or 2,714 lights years per hour….or is that figure 20,000 light years per day and 1,990 per hour? No one is sure.

    No matter. It’s fast.

    Why is it so fast?

    It has a class 0.5 hyperdrive, one of the fastest hyperdrives ever built at that time (for more explanation, you’ll have to do your own detailed research).

    But the real question for riders is how will you feel it while riding the Falcon? How will you know its tremendous speed?

    That will be a key issue for Imagineers…or maybe even the most important issue…to show fast movement.

    A challenge: how to show high speed

    The Disney ride here also hints at a secret mission.

    We can only guess…but might it have something to do with survival of the rebels?

    Then, there are the interactive areas that let you imagine you are a Jedi. In training perhaps.

    What can we expect?

    Themed restaurants, of course, that are convincing so that you think it’s really another planet. Live and perhaps really odd-looking musicians performing.

    Two-headed creatures are acceptable. Perhaps they can play two separate instruments, one for each head.

    Whatever they look like, they should get us to think “wow.”

    Perhaps the musicians could be Star Wars characters. Hello Chewbacca, perhaps?

    Characters may do more than sign autographs

    At the same time, meet and greet characters at Star Wars perhaps will go beyond the usual characters in costumes.

    Will they be more than costumed creatures that say “hello…how are you” and where you want to sign autographs?

    Might ways be found to have the Imperial Recruitment Officers try to get guests to sign up for the fight…or Bounty Hunters’ attempt to somehow capture you. Just for the money…or bounty on your head as a visitor who was perhaps also a threat?

    In other words, can Disney create even better characters than the current audio-animatronic types?

    As for the climatic battle that visitors will fight…who knows?

    There are a lot of dramatic battles in the movies.

    Which one will the Imaginers choose to focus…or will it all be an entirely new and equally imaginative one?

    We don’t know.

    It’s easy to imagine yourself being thrilled at what Disney comes up with…stepping aboard the Millennium Falcon.

    Flying the fastest ship in the universe

    Not just seeing it on a big 70-foot movie screen…with Dolby sound…and not just seeing it but piloting the fastest ship in the galaxy?

    You bank it right and left. Avoiding other ships trying to shoot you down with laser canons.

    My God! You’re right in the middle of a battle between the Resistance and the First Order. It’s a race against time.

    And you’re right there.

    This is all speculation.

    Which we’re happy to do.

    But we’re not….definitely not…Disney imagineers.

    So it’s up to them.

    But we can guess.

    We do think they will meet the test of “wow.”

    We base this on past performance. Disney has delivered.

    When a group of Imagineers got together a few years ago to discuss creativity, among other issues, the original “Star Wars” films came up. How imagineers do it

    Some said it was a “life changing” experience for them.


    But also a new motive for coming up with the promised product “far far away.”

    Many of them started as hourly employees (giving hope and/or inspiration to ambitious other workers in those jobs).

    Interestingly, they agreed that all designs almost always start on paper.

    “Star Wars” will probably be the same.

    Then computers or sculpturing models.

    Following that pattern, there will never be a single hand print on the project.

    Many individuals will be part of it.

    Another fact they agreed upon: the lifespan of ideas.

    They very rarely die.

    Ideas get molded and shaped and sometimes discarded. But in the end, they never entirely disappear.

    The same should happen with “Star Wars.”

    Ideas are even now being tossed around. Accepted. Rejected.

    Sometimes recycled.

    This is a familiar pattern with Disney.

    Going back to Walt himself.

    A model….but for failure

    A model for failure: another relevant principle.

    Learning from failures, is a better way to put it.

    Walt Disney was a high school dropout who was fired from his first job working at a newspaper. One reason: he lacked imagination.

    Over the next few years, he suffered several business disasters and bankruptcy.

    From that, the Disney concepts emerged.

    As has often been seen, Imagineering synthesizes three different strategies: the dreamer, realist, and the critic. A dreamer and realist can create things but find that a critic helps to evaluate and refine the final products.

    Disney himself, as well as some of his most famous artists, often shared a maverick quality. But at the same time, their work was augmented by others.

    Mavericks? They share qualities with the characters found in the movies, don’t they, such as the one we are talking about…

    So it may really be no surprise what we finally get when “Star Wars” comes to life.

    A big “wow.” ###


    disney world fireworks cruises

    For Disney fans only…today we have one question:

    Who are you?

    We mean, really.

    Sure, you are a fan.

    Some might even call you a fanatic.

    On the subject of Disney, anyway.

    PS: Otherwise, you would not be reading this here.

    Case closed.

    So you do have some interest…at the very least.

    But just who you are is more complicated and harder to define.

    The deeper questions (and maybe some answers) come up in two new films about Disney fans.

    New films define who and what are Disney fans

    They explore some new territory.

    What might be called the mind-sets of theme park fans who are the hardcore Disney World Orlando ticket-buyers.

    How do these movies portray you?

    You might like what they say.

    But then again, maybe not.

    If you’re not nuts, are you fanatic about your favoring Disney?

    Are you childish about it?

    Worse is to come…

    Some of the fan pastimes in the films are forbidden and certainly not meeting with Disney approval. And we’re talking about drugs and sexual behavior.

    You may not like what they say about you

    The films point out that many associate Disney fans or fanatics with such negatives as being “nutty” on the subject.

    And while there are some “nutty” ones in the films, they also portray many others as successful people with professional careers. Intelligent people who happen to also like Disney.

    What we already know about you as fans is simple. And basic.

    It is this:

    You are male or female. Young or older. Rich or poor. More likely rich. Or even more likely, somewhere in between when it comes to material assets.

    That doesn’t tell you a lot, does it?

    There’s much more, as we find out in the new films. But let’s put off some of that until later.

    Let’s find out what we know about you…yes you…from Internet sites and some recent news stories.

    Steel yourself, however. This view of you is not always flattering.

    Living next to Disney can be your goal

    News: some of you buy houses based on Disney. And not just at Golden Oak, the Disney owned community at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, either,

    Of course, this was bigger news a few years ago before Golden Oak and Celebration when there were not choices to live on Disney’s doorstep in Orlando.

    Back then, a home based on a Disney movie and seen there was sold for $400,000 to a couple who described themselves as “Disney fanatics.”

    It was news then because it was rare. But no longer.

    Meet the people who love Disney so much they moved there: Company expands into real estate for theme park die-hards with millions to spare,” was the headline from the Wall Street Journal greeting Disney’s entrance into the home building business.

    “Makes sense, because, as any American child (or childish American) will attest, the only thing better than visiting Disney World would be staying there forever,” the newspaper said.

    It was named after the company's California ranch.

    Its distinction: It’s the only place in the world where homeowners actually live on Disney park property.

    Home prices there are and remain for the affluent: upwards of $2 million (so these are the rich Disney fanatics as opposed to the more common poorer ones who have to save to scrap together the money for those annual passes).

    Golden Oak homebuyers also have to pay annual fees for park passes, door-to-door transportation and extended visiting hours as well as a hotel-style concierge.

    Who are these people buying the homes?

    One way to collect Hidden Mickeys

    Many of them choose to decorate their homes with “hidden Mickeys,” according to news reports. One home was said to have 75 of them.

    There’s also more than one Mickey Mouse shaped pool.

    Who buys homes there?

    Americans from all over but also foreigners.

    One report was that many of them are Brazilians.

    They can take direct flights from Sao Paulo to Orlando.

    There was no simple explanation of why that particular country had so many Disney fans.

    One resident quoted in a story (not a Brazilian but a 69-year-old man from Milford, Connecticut) reported he had bought Orlando tickets for Walt Disney World Resort 300 times in five years.

    Presumably, the very rich Disney fans are the only ones who can afford to live there.

    But a lot of others, possibly termed fanatics, have their own Disney connection via the Internet.

    Some of the sites they join have various ways of helping you identify who you are. Some of these are practical, understandable and even predictable.

    But other are also best seen as silly.

    Such as how many Disney plush toy characters you have.

    Disney fan traits vary

    Some Disney related sites stress a huge variety of photos. Which apparently assumes Disney fanatics want to spend much of their time looking at pictures.

    One offers 76,000 shots of Disney’s half dozen worldwide parks.

    Another site for so-called “disneyphiles” or “Mouse Seekers” suggests bucket lists for members.

    These include visiting every Disney theme park.

    All six of them.

    Not very practical unless you are rich. Other ambitions are said to be to fly on a Disney airplane and earn a Disney coast-to-coast medal by running in marathons in both California and Florida.

    But more practical is to become an annual passholder or take a Disney cruise.

    These bucket list often combine the silly with the impossible.

    A few more

    Living at Golden Oak, Disney’s community on Walt Disney World Resort property. Easy enough if you are well-off.

    Attending a wedding at Disney World’s wedding pavilion. That’s also easily done -- even if you’re not an invited guest.

    Seeing every Disney Broadway show (“It’s a shame not to support the arts with your Disney enthusiasm,” the site says).

    And eating at every Disney restaurant (“a stretch even for a megafan, so try noshing at every eatery in a single park instead”).

    How about watching every Disney film in the order of their release. That one is another possibility but do you know anyone who has actually done this?

    Some other Disney sites are unrealistic and at times silly, too.

    What it takes to REALLY be a Disney fanatic, one site asks?

    Their answer or some of them:

    • Your Mickey Mouse ears (all 60 billion of them) are your favorite accessories.

    • Going to the Disney store at any mall is normal, along with buying everything in the store.
    • You wear a princess costume to a dance or even a “night out."
    • You are completely heartbroken when someone says that they don’t like Disney.
    • If a man (or woman) tells you that they like Disney, you fall head over heels for him that moment.

    As that last statement suggests, romance or loneliness must characterize some Disney fans.

    Or why else would a site come up for singles dating?

    One of the newer sites is MouseMingle.com.

    “Looking for a date who loves Mickey Mouse as much as you do?”

    Well, yes, that’s what it does.

    MouseMingle bills itself as the place to interact with other Disney lovers “who want that same magic in their relationship.”

    “Traditional Internet dating sites don’t understand the passion people have for all things Disney. But we do,” MouseMingle.com says on its homepage.

    Disney for the lonely

    MouseMingle.com is similar to your typical dating site: For $12.55 a month, users can create a profile and message or chat with other users. But it also asks people to share their favorite Disney songs, characters, parks, and memories.

    Like other sites, it identifies the “hottest names for men and women.”

    Is this positive?

    And does it work?

    Psychologists and other health care officials offer two divergent opinions on it:

    1. Common shared interests are positive. Even extreme Disney fandom can make for a very successful and positive relationship.

      “If you’re really into this interest, then it absolutely helps because many other people may not understand the level of your dedication to your interest,” clinical psychologist Suzana E. Flores, PsyD, author of Facehooked: How Facebook Affects Our Emotions, Relationships, and Lives, tells Yahoo Health. “

    2. This shared interest…call it a passion…does not work at all.

      “There is little evidence that having common interests is associated with relationship success. Clinical research doesn’t support the idea,” New York City-based psychologist Joselp Cilona, PhD, tells Yahoo Health.

      For Disney fans, love may be blind after all

      So all you can really be sure of is that love is blind.

      But Disney fanaticism does not have to be an extreme.

      Even level headed people are impacted by the Disney influence.

    In “Budget Travel,” a writer-editor says he is not a fan because he does not own a Mickey Mouse T-shirt. He doesn’t have a Disney license plate on his car or own any bobblehead dolls.

    But he has bought tickets for Walt Disney World Resort more times than he can count.

    He writes:

    “In fact, when my family and I try to tally the total number of days we've logged in the parks, we usually start with some complex mental math only to throw up our hands and agree, ‘A few hundred.’"

    Having grown up in Tampa, about an hour from Disney World, he confesses to having had some of his most memorable life experiences with Mickey and the gang.

    What it takes to be a real fan

    His experiences:

    “Disney World is where my fourth-grade science class went on a field trip to learn about marine biology, where my elementary school chorus performed Christmas carols, where I've spent countless New Year's Eves, Fourths of July, Labor Days, and Memorial Days. I even learned I was accepted into journalism school, from an e-mail sent to my smartphone, while riding in a simulated hang glider at Epcot's popular Soarin' attraction.”

    Proving you don’t have to be a nut on the subject to write about it, the author’s background of 60 years at Disney prompted him to write some wise nuggets on visiting there.

    Which is all fine.

    So we come back to who are you, Disney fans?

    And the two new films on the subject.

    The first one is more positive.

    “The Dreamfinders” focuses on people who moved to Central Florida because they loved Disney.

    So they went to work for Disney.

    Answers to who you are

    Filmmaker Anthony Cortese told The Orlando Sentinel:

    “I think people associate Disney superfans as being nutty, over-the-top individuals … and there are those types out there. But these folks (in the film) have very professional, successful careers. They're smart. They know exactly what they're doing. They raising their families. And they've chosen to be here."

    OK. Not crazy, Cortese says.

    His own interest was stirred by Florida visits with his ten-year-old daughter a decade ago.

    One of his subjects was a lawyer, Lou Mongello who started writing Disney World guide books but started a web site. Mongello gave the filmmaker high marks for attempting to capture Disney fanatics.

    “He really wanted to spend as much time with people as possible to really understand what they're doing now and the lifestyle," said Mongello.

    Other subjects in “Dreamfinders” included people who started blogs that eventually led to full time careers.

    "I have somehow made taking my children to theme parks a career," one says.

    The other book was a lot more negative.

    The dark side of Disney

    Phillip Swift's "The Dark Side of Disney" is not exactly G-rated.

    It’s how and where to do distinctly adult things such as have sex or take drugs in theme parks.

    "In the film, I decided to make it more about why," he said. "Why do these people have this compulsion to cross this line into the dark side?"

    Swift was raised by his mother and grandmother in Ohio. He often visited Walt Disney World Resort with them.

    It was such a happy place for them that his mother secretly scattered the ashes of his grandmother at the Magic Kingdom, according to the film.

    Filmmakers Swift and friends try various other banned and naughty tasks such as exploring the underground tunnels…drinking around the clock at EPCOT…

    They also meet up with a man called Hoot. He spent unauthorized hours behind the scenes at Epcot's now-closed Horizons attraction,

    Other characters include someone called Logan. He said he liked to be high when he goes to Disney World.

    And how often is that?

    He goes a lot

    "He has the key to his problems right there," Swift said. "He says, 'Even if I do every drug in the world, I still feel bad leaving Walt Disney World.' You have to say [to him], 'Listen to what you just said.'"

    You might wonder what Disney people think about this.

    You can wonder. But they said no comment.

    The news story pointed out:

    Park rules prohibit "photography, videotaping or recording of any kind for commercial purposes," according to Disney World's website.

    At its heart, "Dark Side" is not negative. It is rather a nostalgic film, according to Swift, anyway.

    "When you hear the title, you think it's going to be this negative thing," he said. "But, in the end, it ends up being almost like a love letter to Disney."

    The creators of these movies may not be huge fans or hardly fanatics, but they are not immune to the charms of Disney.

    Filmmaker Cortese is moving to Celebration.

    He didn’t say whether he wants to scatter his own ashes anywhere nearby. ###


    At a serious newspaper, you can’t expect to read front page news about a new theme park roller coaster. But you might expect the downfall of the highest Disney executive to get major attention.

    But which would you read?

    The coaster news, sure.

    And not the fate of someone more remote to you.

    As you probably know, COO is Chief Operating Officer.

    And the major (read: important) news was about him: Tom Staggs.

    But surely you were more interested in the newest roller coaster now operating with a definite date for climbing aboard.


    So the more serious personnel move at Disney at the same time?

    What does it mean?

    But more relevant:

    Does it matter to you who is COO or not?

    We think it does matter to you. And we’ll tell you why.

    One reason is your last experience buying Disney World Orlando tickets.

    Even if you were able to score Disney World Tickets at discounted prices, was it an enjoyable experience? (We hope so, but if not, it was not typical…or at least we hope not).

    So if you just give this a few seconds of thought, who the chief Indian at Disney or elsewhere is important.

    Why the boss counts

    Tom Staggs is an important part of why you go there, and why you come back.

    Because you had a good time.

    Hardly an accident.

    The Wall Street Journal, perhaps the most serious of all US newspapers outside of The New York Times, said this about COO Tom Staggs.

    “Succession planning at the world’s largest media company fell into disarray Monday as chief operating officer Tom Staggs, the presumed successor to Chief Executive Offer Robert Iger, unexpectedly said he would step down.”

    This is not something you keep in mind on a daily basis such as a look outside to check on whether you need an umbrella because it looks like rain….but Disney is not just a theme park in Orlando…and sponsor of a lot of movies.

    It is the “world’s largest media company.”

    The media cares and so should you

    So it demands some attention.

    And the Disney COO story…whatever a COO is or is not…is regarded as big news everywhere.

    “The news sent shock waves through the entertainment industry,” reported The Orlando Sentinel.

    It also came after more upsetting news not only for casual visitors but also for diehard fans. Or just about everyone.

    Despite record attendance and rising Disney Orlando ticket prices here and elsewhere, Disney has announced various cutbacks.

    That includes reduced operating times and shorter hours for cast members. Some layoffs, such as 100 painters.

    Disney explains this in typical sunny terms as refining operations for more efficiency “while delivering an experience that exceeds the evolving expectations of our guests.”

    But others see it as simple, perhaps cheap-minded cost cutting.

    It appears that there's "a significant initiative underway to see where they can reduce costs in the parks," said Bob Boyd, a leisure analyst with Pacific Asset Management.

    Typical of any company…but Disney?

    Upset Disney fans blog about it

    This certainly did not please everyone, as seen by negative bloggers.

    At the same time, the smaller news was about its far more minor competitor, SeaWorld Orlando.

    It opened a preview of “Mako,” destined to be the tallest, fastest and longest roller coaster in Orlando.

    Speeds up to 73 miles an hour.

    You can ride it June 10.

    In the meantime, there’s a showing of what it will do inside the park’s Nautilus Theatre.

    Twice a day. With free snacks.

    And tickets and other prizes in a raffle.

    So why is there so much attention to COO Tom Staggs?

    “There's going to be an empty throne in the Magic Kingdom two years from now—and it's suddenly far from clear who will fill it,” said a report from Newser.

    This all made us curious, and maybe you too, as to what Tom Staggs did there. And why he was leaving.

    And still the biggest question for most of us:

    Impact on you

    Does this matter to us? Or the park-goers of all types?

    Really, the move means the world’s largest media company: needs a new boss.

    One candidate is Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook.

    It would be a joke for almost anyone we know, and you as well, to send in a resume to apply for the job.

    But considering it pays several million dollars a year…Staggs’ starting salary alone was $2 million a year…and pays much more in both money and power…you might want to understand the position.

    First, what in the world is a COO?

    Yes, everyone knows it is a high level position.

    Boss, of course.

    But what does a COO do that is different, say, from a CEO (Chief Operating Officer) or simply a President or CFO (Chief Financial Officer)?

    You probably think you know what that is. But probably you don’t really

    And we were not sure until we checked.

    Chief operating officers are “oftentimes unsung heroes,” was one Internet description.

    Accenture called the COO “one of the least understood roles in business today.”

    Simply put, the COO us the highest-ranking executive within a company.

    So could you someday become one, if you had the necessary background and education and experience?

    Why not?

    A study showed most of them had college degrees, often advanced degrees. Master’s or MA’s, or even doctorates.

    Apple’s Jobs was one

    But Steve Jobs was a COO.

    So was Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg.

    And guess their educational level?

    They not only did not have impressive degrees, but lacked much of any strong formal educational backgrounds.

    So that is encouraging.

    COO’s as bosses help companies make better products or provide better services.

    That is the simplest and most direct explanation of what they do. Or try to do.

    That means they create short-term and long-term goals.

    Easy enough. At least it sounds that way.

    That brings us to Walt Disney, of course.

    Not so easy when it comes to Disney.

    But at the same time, easy enough.

    Walt started it all. And the tradition continues.

    We say this because the “happiest place on Earth” has both a simple goal and a tough one at the same time.

    Think of all the companies and places where you do business that disappoint out.

    That’s generally because they don’t care about you.

    And you know it.

    What Disney does to guests

    You don’t have to be special at Disney to be special.

    They try to treat everyone as special.

    Not that they always succeed.

    But they do more times than not.

    They succeed far more than they fail.

    Unlike some businesses that seem to want their people to avoid customers, Disney does the opposite.

    Cast members make everyone of us feel important.

    You know all the small ways they make you welcome.

    What Disney does routinely, every day, is give you a huge welcome.

    Not just the squeaky clean parks, either.

    No overflowing trash cans.

    Small touches.

    But everywhere.

    The streets are cleaned at night. After everyone leaves.

    We take all this for granted. But it is done by design.

    By an effort.

    A huge effort

    Managers are trained to make sure custodians are far from the only ones concerned about cleanliness. Neatness is everyone’s business.

    Some call it “show ready.”

    Just one example of that: When is the last time you found a ride or show that did not run on time?

    If you did, rarely, you found the reason.

    Cast members communicated.

    It’s not highly unusual at all for cast members to know the schedule of a nearby show but the times for another one in a far-off area of the park.

    Most people in service positions have simple training.

    They are trained to take your money.


    Which is the exact opposite of the Disney customer service experience.

    We could go on about this at far more length, but it’s all part of the Disney experience.

    So it all comes down to the COO.

    That person who follows Walt’s vision of a perfect park…or as perfect as anyone can do it.

    So how did Staggs handle the position?

    And maybe…just maybe…and out of simple curiosity…how would your own personality have stacked up with his? Could you have at least the potential to do it yourself?

    You almost certainly aren’t as old as Staggs. And equally don’t have his years of experience.

    Start out with modesty

    But a good start for you would be a modest manner. And having an attitude of keeping a low profile.

    Those were attributes universally attributed to Staggs.

    Being receptive and comfortable with Disney cast members also helps. Employees routinely described Stagg as “warm.”

    As COO, Staggs had not only theme parks to oversee but also such areas as the Disney cruise line of three ships, the vacation ownership program, and Disney’s themed resort in Oahu.

    But he was seen as particularly effective in handling a global workforce of 130,000 employees spread across six theme parks. Including the one built in Shanghai, which may have played a role in his leaving.

    “It’s a job that requires gut instincts on what consumers will respond to, and meticulous attention to detail on all aspects of the guest experience,” noted a story on Staggs in Variety.

    Disney parks are generally viewed by the public as Disney’s brand. That’s often an advantage but can also be a problem if expectations are not met.

    Cast members liked him

    Profiles of Staggs’ track record at the parks and resorts unit have been mostly strong from the media.

    He inherited many initiatives by his predecessors such as the “My Magic Plus” that have been regarded as big successes.

    A big plus for him was his relationship with the legions of cast members.

    Only one example of his popularity was obvious when he surprised members by making an unplanned appearance at a Disney event to praise Imagineer Tony Baxter.

    The audience loved his showing appreciation for Baxter’s efforts by dedicating a window along Main Street to him.

    Staggs seemed like “just another cast member.”

    At the 2011 opening of the revamped “Star Tours” ride at Disneyland, Staggs, cloaked as a Jedi knight, engaged in a strenuous light saber battle with Darth Vader.

    He then cut the ribbon with a light saber.

    Staggs himself has said he made an effort to keep involved with everyday Disney cast members. That is a somewhat unusual move in the entertainment industry.

    In 2012, while accepting the Distinguished Alumni Award from Minnetonka High School, Staggs noted that showbiz was “the most self-congratulatory industry there is on the planet.”

    He jokingly and he jokingly told the crowd that in his then-22 years in entertainment, he’d never accepted an award at a major awards show such as the Oscars, Emmys or Grammys.

    He was more than liked

    Staggs would fit a character out of a Disney movie.

    He grew up in the small town of Excelsior, Minn., about a half-hour outside of Minneapolis.

    He’s been married to his wife, Melanie, for over two decades, and is the father of three boys.

    “I don’t get caught up in all the Hollywood glitz and glamour,” Staggs said.

    Staggs earned a B.S. in business from the University of Minnesota in 1982 and went on to get his MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business.

    He worked in investment banking at Minneapolis’ Dain Bosworth and for Morgan Stanley before joining Disney. That was in 1990 as manager of strategic planning.

    “He’s a very good dealmaker. He’s smart as hell and he is very personable — that’s a good combination,” former Disney CEO Michael Eisner said of him.

    Staggs was promoted to COO after heading up the Disney Parks and Resorts unit (and overseeing the Shanghai Disney resort).

    To be a top leader often takes years of experience

    Prior to that, he spent 12 years as the company’s chief financial officer

    He consistently earned praise from major publications for his handling of the company's finances, earning Institutional Investor magazine's billing as its top CFO in the entertainment industry on several occasions.

    “During his 26 years at the company, (he was) was well-regarded but had little experience in the company's creative operations like film and television,” one profile said.

    Staggs was described by other Disney people with the almost infamous cliché:

    “He’s a good team player.”

    So where did he go wrong?

    Many commentators praised him not only for his financial capabilities -- including openness about Disney dealings -- but also for his clear people skills to handle the job.

    But the questions that often came up were about something else.

    Where was the vision?

    His strategic vision of where to take Disney in the future.

    But any vision concept has to be linked with the Shanghai park, which has been confronted several delays in opening.

    The importance of that is the future of Disney rides high in China.

    It could be a huge popular and financial success.

    But it also is a potential problem to deal with the Chinese government and local investors.

    As Disney learned the hard way during his 1992 launch of Euro Disney or now Disneyland Paris, local tastes can be finicky.

    The new park will woo middle class guests, who may be far more common in western theme parks than in Communist-ruled China.

    Disney commentators in the wake of Staggs leaving generally said no specific project or failure prompted the sudden move.

    New directions at Disney?

    Disney might want someone more experienced in the film and television side of the business, or technology, said other analysts quoted in The Orlando Sentinel.

    “Disney is a complex business that includes theme parks, cable, broadcast, studio entertainment, consumer products and interactive media. Its challenges lately have included ESPN, which has lost subscribers as consumers have been canceling cable-TV subscriptions,” the newspaper wrote.

    Speculation was that Disney wanted longer term thinking of what the company should be, and where it was heading in the future.

    So whoever eventually is named to take over, and while it won’t be you or anyone we know, we can only wish them the best.

    And this advice:

    Good luck on a tough job….

    …because it’s never easy to follow Walt. ###