It’s always hard to come up with fun company event ideas. Getting everything together seems to be a difficult task. But remember, with these event ideas, you come up with a well-managed company. So, continuing on with chapter twelve…
Back to Pepsi’s convention. Our first job was to provide the stagehands and operators with a means to load in their production equipment and staging into the room and assist in the installation itself. Our next function was to work with the company that provided all the Pepsi products and display it throughout the ballroom, pre-function areas, as well as lobbies and breakout rooms. This consisted of decorating twelve-thousand cases of Pepsi Cola product strategically placed about the hotel. This goes back to a time before plastic bottles and packaging. Each case was wooden and the bottles where glass. You can imagine, then, that the size of those crates is nothing like what you’d see in the supermarket now, and was certainly more fragile while at the same time being heavier. The big job here was to get the cases off the elevator and stage onto the floor. Once that was done, we could move the items by forklift and minimize the risk of harming the product. It took several days working two shifts to get all of them into their proper places. We also had another crew working with the decorator to fabricate the displays themselves so as to avoid burning anyone out. This, I can say, was a logistical nightmare. Right now, I want you to close your eyes and try to picture twelve-thousand of anything, anything at all, then imagine how you’d get each one of that thing to a specific place in only a few days and limited crew. That was a stressful experience I’m not eager to repeat, but we got it done on time and to the satisfaction of our client, which is all that matters. He was so incredibly pleased with the job we did, in fact, that at the end he gave my department all twelve-thousand cases of product to express his gratitude. A kind gesture to be sure, but again, distributing those twelve-thousand cases was no picnic. Ultimately, we have a third of the product to the talent from the Entertainment Division, another third to the convention services department at the hotel, and the rest to our crews. But you can’t simply walk home with a case or two like it’s a bag of groceries. We had to hotwire a few trucks to move everything to crew members’ apartments and homes but got it done in record time. Needless to say, no one went without a Pepsi for several years.
Let’s discuss one of the main themed events we produced for Pepsi’s Anniversary. Bob Yani, the Executive Vice President of the Entertainment Division, created a spectacular luau on the Polynesian Beach that featured over two-hundred and fifty performers. It started with a larger than life luau showcasing over one-hundred performers during the opening with fire knife performers at the show’s finale. After the dancing was through, the Admirable Fowler Riverboat came sailing into view with the entire cast of a popular group called the Young Americans performing on its decks. As it moved into position, the luau talent continued as the electric water pageant moved into position while we lit up the sky with a custom Fantasy in the Sky fireworks extravaganza finale capped off with a massive Pepsi 75th Anniversary logo burned across the sky by a massive helicopter to close out the festivities.
There wasn’t more to this show than the grand opening in terms of coordination, but the timing of the helicopter had to be just right if it was going to push the wow factor through the roof. That one element was so important to Disney that Card Walker, the CEO of Disney, insisted on calling the helicopter logo to burn himself. The timing had to be perfect, as we only had twenty seconds from the cue call to make sure the logo burn was completely ignited over the audience as it passed above their heads and into the middle of the lake. Needless to say, it went off perfectly. Hats off to the Bob Yani for his inspiration for the show, hats off to Card Walker, hats off to the talent, and a special hats off to my technical team. Everything came together swimmingly and went off without a hitch.
Sometimes, the hardest part of fun company event ideas isn’t drawing up themes or even building anything: it’s the logistics of it all. With so many moving pieces, from the crew you employ to literal set pieces needing to be arranged, know where everyone is, what they are doing, and how it’s all going to come together can be problematic, to say the very least. In reality, there’s only so much you can plan for, and even then, there’s only so much you can control. I want to impress on you the importance of adaptability on a logistical level. There won’t always be a Card Walker to insist on pulling off the finale himself, and sometimes the finale you planned for may not be so easy to pull off in the first place. Event staging is a creative business, but not just in the audiovisual aspect. You need to be able to think creatively in order to solve logistical problems. Think back to the Construction Party. When we learned Oscar Myer was going to host an event with us, no one’s first thought was to slap on a hard hat and start hauling debris. We were initially stifled by limitations, but we didn’t let them hold us back for long. More often than not, quick thinking is what will keep an event from falling short of what you hope for.
I wanted to share some of the experiences we had in the early days after the Park and Resort Division opened. I promise to get back on track in chapter thirteen when I get into some of the politics and challenges needed to succeed at Walt Disney World. If you’ve never worked with a massive corporation, you may be surprised by the things that I described. While there will always be people who simply want to their jobs, and others who want to do their jobs the best they can for the good of the company as a whole, there’s usually a group concerned with little more than advancing themselves, even it comes at the cost of efficiency or even the jobs of others. Learning to navigate among all of these people, let alone learning where each one stands, it a trick itself, but the art of keeping inline and not rocking the boat is something you’re always in the process of learning.