Excellence is Never Finished

It was the mid-1960s. Kevin Bailey, corporate pilot for the Disney Company, was standing with Walt Disney in the Central Florida wilderness just southwest of Orlando, where the Walt Disney Company was in the process of buying up over 27,000 acres – that’s 47 square miles.

That little project came to be known as Walt Disney World.

Even though he would not live to see the park developed, Walt had no trouble “seeing” it amid the Florida scrub. He pointed out Main Street, Fantasyland, and other nonexistent features to the thoroughly astonished pilot.

That story, part of the Disney legend, illustrates a key principle of Disney World:

Excellence is never finished.

Walt Disney was the first Imagineer, but as soon as he began developing the early ideas for Disneyland (and later Disney World), he started recruiting others to help him realize his dream. He snapped up several of his most trusted and versatile animators and art directors to apply the skills of filmmaking to the three-dimensional world. They approached this task much the same as they would a film project. They wrote stories, drew storyboards, created inspirational art, assigned the production tasks to the various film-based disciplines, and built the whole thing from scratch.

Disney Imagineers are still telling the story envisioned by Walt Disney…

It’s something that will never be finished. Something that I can keep developing…and adding to.

Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.

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Construction cranes have been common site at Animal Kingdom – but there’s not too many places where you see floating islands. Come back in 2017 and you’ll see how that all works out in Pandora: The World of Avatar.

If change is always coming to Disney’s theme parks, it’s accelerating even more so. Here’s a good example: I was at Hollywood Studios in late February, returning again in April. During my first visit, I talked with some of the Imagineering staff who were working on the Star Wars fireworks, then known as Symphony in the Stars and now known as Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular. But it’s now more than just fireworks: they told me that if I liked the show in February, I was really going to like it when I returned later in the fall – and they were right! As the official description says,

State-of-the-art projection effects, dynamic lighting, lasers and pyrotechnics light up the night like never before! The music, magic and characters of Star Wars combine with special effects and fireworks to put you inside iconic scenes from the Star Wars saga.

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Of course, the above images are just an appetizer to what’s under construction at both Disneyland and Hollywood Studios – Star Wars Land and Toy Story Land. Here are some early concept drawings.

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These are just a few examples of how excellence is never finished at Disney. You could also look at how Disney keeps pushing the excellence envelope on Guest Services…or its amazing technology in the attractions…or its expansion into the digital world…or extending the Magic Kingdom around the world to Paris, Tokyo, and Hong Kong, and most recently, Shanghai, China.

I think you’re beginning to get the picture – just like Walt Disney did standing in the middle of a Florida marsh 50 years ago.

Times and conditions change so rapidly that we must keep our aim constantly focused on the future. – Walt Disney

How do you envision excellence now – and in the future?

#3 in a series of Ten Takeaways from a Disney Immersion

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