We have the best corporate event ideas in Orlando. Needless to say, Disney’s theme for corporate groups are one of a kind. It doesn’t just work for children but also mature adults. Before I get started on this section, I would like to add a footnote to the last chapter regarding my conflict with the head of the Animatronics Department who ultimately became my boss (we will call “Mr Wonderful”). I was told by many reliable sources at Disney World that he ultimately lost his job with the company for doing something absolutely stupid. It was so foolish, in fact that I have to wonder if it’s even happened since then. It’s not every day someone takes a misstep quite like this.
A fun piece of trivia for you Disney fans: Walt Disney himself had an office and suite of rooms in Cinderella’s Castle. Walt passed away before he ever got to use the accommodations, however, and it was decided by upper management that the rooms were never to be used in respect and tribute to the man himself. They were, in effect, sealed off—but not literally so. You may remember from the last chapter my describing how there was a real need for office space, and for whatever reason, “Mr Wonderful” decided he would move his office into Walt’s private space in the castle, no questions asked and certainly no permission given. I don’t think he occupied any of Walt’s intended accommodations, but space was never to be used except for members of his family and special guests, and perhaps for the occasional executive staff meeting. When upper management found out what “Mr Wonderful” had done, he has ushered off the property. At least, that’s what I was told, and I have no reason to doubt it.
I do not know why he did it—he and I haven’t spoken since I left, obviously. I’m sure in his mind it was the practical thing to do, and thus it shouldn’t have been a problem. Though we had our problems, I really doubt it was a matter of him having too high an opinion of himself. But for all the sense it made (and sure, it made sense on some level: why not use empty space when you desperately need offices?), it was flat-out against the rules. You don’t overstep the boundaries, especially at Disney.
There was probably more to this story than I was made privy to (as the old saying goes, “there’s three sides to every story: yours, mine, and the truth), but he did vanish. I felt it appropriate to add this footnote because I thought so much of him when the two of us were working together. This happened well after I left Disney to start my own business, so I should say that I don’t really know all the details for sure, but the person at Disney who told me was a close friend and pretty high up at the Mouse House, so they are pretty well in the loop of the goings on in the Magic Kingdom. It’s unlikely to me that they would make something like that up for my entertainment. I would love to know just exactly what went down that day, but I suppose I’ll have to settle for the story as I’ve been told.
That said, things were really heating up at the resort division (which is one of the main reasons I moved my office over to the Contemporary Hotel). The relationship between Technical Services and the Entertainment Division was becoming very strong since my department and the Entertainment Division having meetings was becoming a daily requirement. In order to maximize the communication, I was introduced to Peter Bloustien, whose responsibility was to meet with incoming clients coming into the hotel for on-site inspections and to sell them Disney entertainment and themed corporate events ideas for their conferences. Selling someone on Disney may seem like an easy task to you, especially when you consider the entertainment monolith it is today, but it’s not always so easy to sell to business people. Peter and I hit it off big time. He was an absolutely incredible salesman. What he would do when he met with a client (or clients) was to ask them what they wanted to provide their attendees for entertainment during their conference. Some would say that they just wanted a DJ or a trio, nothing that would strike us as particularly special. Peter would then tell them that Walt Disney World didn’t do DJ’s or trios and refuse to suggest any other entertainment. He would remind them that they were at Walt Disney World, the most creative and innovative themed entertainment and talent in the world. Usually, by the end of the meeting, he would sell them a themed opening reception and a special Disney Show for their awards night closing if they had one. If they had a trade show, we would build a package of entertainment groups from the park. He was always successful in reminding them at all times that they were at Walt Disney World, not Knott’s Berry Farm. My function at these site inspections was to let the site inspection committee know that Walt Disney World was totally full service and that we could handle all their needs, from audio visual rentals, staging, lighting sound as well as set design and custom fabrication.
From my perspective, part of Peter’s talent and success as a salesperson for the park was in his ability to let them experience what made us so unique in the first place. There’s a principle in writing called “show, don’t tell.” Part of the idea is that readers will be more engaged and find more value in what you’re writing if don’t directly come out and say it. It shouldn’t take a genius to figure out that the same guideline goes a long way when you’re trying to make a sale, too, but think about any time someone has made you a sales pitch on anything—a car, an appliance, whatever. Did they start rattling off a list of features? Chances are that they did. Did you know what all of them meant, or how they were even useful to you? Maybe not. They would have told you, surely, but does an explanation mean as much as getting the first-hand experience?
It would have been a simple thing for Disney to mail out a bunch of adverts to these people with photos and bullet-point lists about every little thing we could do and leave it at that. But the tours as Peter did them said a lot more than any materials we could have cooked up.
In these meeting, we would also have someone from transportation there to discuss their ground transportation, printing, and assistance in marketing the conference to their potential attendees. We also would have someone from reservations (who back then was Harris Rosen). Disney was, to my knowledge, the first totally full-service convention services company in the USA. WDW could handle all the client’s needs under one roof, which ultimately gave me the idea of a lifetime.