It’s the Little Things That Count

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In November of 1997, I took my first trip to Walt Disney World. I was nine years old. At that age, my memory wasn’t the well oiled machined that it is now (ha!), so, of course I don’t remember too much from my first Disney vacation. I remember being obsessed with Horizons and I remember playing in the sand box at MGM-Studios (I love that I just got to use that name and it be correct). What’s funny is that I don’t actually remember my first ride on Splash Mountain or the first time I had a Mickey Premium Bar. I tend to remember the little things.

What I think Disney does better than anyone else might not be the obvious things that flash in a person’s mind when they hear the name, “Disney.” Sure, fast roller coasters and giant yeti’s are pretty cool but they aren’t what make’s Disney so magical, in my opinion. When you’re in the parks you can actually pick up on details that Imagineers worked diligently for you to notice. I think it’s the small, sometimes virtually unnoticeable things that tell me the Imagineers care about their job and about Disney park guests.

The first detail I ever remember obsessing over as a child are the “christmas lights” in the pavement over in Future World at Epcot. Only now, instead of just thinking it’s a really cool effect, I think about how this unique, albeit unnecessary, detail came to be fruition. First of all, someone had to think of the idea that lights in the ground would be pretty awesome. Then, they had to see if it was possible to mechanically pull this off and have the glowing pavement survive the elements. Someone had to make a mock-up and get the budget for the concept approved. All of that work from the Imagineers just to immerse you in Disney magic that much more. The Imagineers are really smart because, after all, it worked on me. Every single time I’m in Future World at night, I can think back to my first trip to Disney World and remember how amazed I was that the ground was twinkling.

Over at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the Hollywood Tower Hotel is a classic example of Disney Imagineering at it’s best. I’m not talking about the ride itself, which is also freakishly rad. I’m talking about the lobby. I do believe that the Twilight Zone references in this attraction’s queue has the ability to put almost anyone who know’s anything about The Twilight Zone in awe. Many episodes are referenced in the details included into the theming of the hotel’s lobby. Little things like a pair of glasses or posters all drop hints to the famed television show. The stunning antique couches are actually replicates of those from a department store catalog in the 1930’s. I was lucky enough to take a behind the scenes tour of the lobby (and control room) in which I actually got to sit on one of the dusty couches. Because Disney maintenance works so hard to keep things looking, well, unkempt, the one couch was the only thing I was allowed to touch. Cool, right? Disney Imagineers really took their time to make the entire lobby very period so guests could truly feel that they departed from a theme park to a mysterious hotel in the 1930’s.

On my last visit to Magic Kingdom, I was walking through Tomorrowland in Magic Kingdom with my mom and stopped dead in my tracks to appreciate a few posters along the pathway to the Tomorrowland Terrace. Disney’s graphic designers came up with some really witty and creative posters to help immerse you into the very specifically themed area. After I was done yapping up a storm about some stinkin’ posters, my mom said to me, “I would have never noticed these things before.” It’s sort of fun to appreciate the details that you usually just walk right by.

There are so many things that I don’t truly value about the Disney parks until I travel to an average amusement park and see the difference. I no longer take advantage of each cast member’s unique uniform. Some of the uniforms at Animal Kingdom are pretty cool, especially compared to the generic shorts and polo’s that a lot of theme park workers are required to wear. Take notice of how the cast member’s outfits will change as you travel from land to land in Magic Kingdom or from country to country in Epcot. While you’re traveling around different “lands,” see how the theming of gift shops change. Seriously, it’s the wildest thing to me that Disney puts so much attention into their zillion gift shops. The gift shops in Morocco (obviously in the World Showcase) are filled with wonderful treasures, but more than that, the area is architecturally designed to make you feel like you’re in a real Moroccan bazaar.

As I get older, I realize that it’s the overseen things that turn out to be great magic making memories for me. My appreciation for the parks increases with every single trip. Anytime I notice something that was surely an Imagineer’s special touch, I smile to myself because it makes me feel like I’m, in a small way, connected to the Disney masterminds. I like to believe that it’s a personal way for Disney Imagineer’s to say, “thank you.”

Now that I’ve told you some of the stand out “little things” for me, I’d really like to hear about yours! Post a comment and let me know!


Stacey Lantz

Born and raised in Southwest Michigan, Stacey believes she lives far too many miles away from Walt Disney World. In her spare time she enjoys singing/dancing, spending time with her nieces, and of course, talking about Walt Disney World to anyone that is willing to listen. She's been blogging about all things Disney since 2008. Follow her on Twitter @Stacey87.

24 thoughts on “It’s the Little Things That Count

  • August 21, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    It’s these little details that make Disney magical and keep it ahead of their competition. Details, details details. The details of telling a good story; of having super attentive cast members who care about the details of every guests experience; details in the cleanliness of the resorts and parks. Though Disney may be cutting some corners to save their bottom line, I hope they never cut back on the details – it’s what keeps me coming back to Disney year after year.

  • August 21, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    That photo of the lit ground at Epcot is gorgeous. What type of camera did you use?

    • August 21, 2012 at 4:59 pm

      Hi Amy – that looks like a Tom Bricker special. I actually have it as Wallpaper on my laptop right now! Love that shot!

      • August 22, 2012 at 9:53 am

        Yes, that’s Tom Bricker’s brilliant work! All the other mediocre photos are my own. Ha!

  • August 21, 2012 at 5:53 pm

    We love finding the really “tough to find” Hidden Mickeys!

  • August 21, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    My first trip to Disney World was in 1988. I was 5 and so terrified/scarred for life after seeing Captain EO that I must have wiped out all other memories of that trip. Glad you can remember the details…they truly are what set Disney apart and what keep me coming back as an adult 🙂

    • August 22, 2012 at 9:51 am

      Captain EO scared you? How funny! “Honey, I Shrunk the Audience” scared the living daylights out of me! Must be something about that location. Haha!

  • August 21, 2012 at 9:47 pm


    What a great post, Stacey (as usual). I am at Bay Lake Tower as I write this — sorry to rub it in 🙂 , and I will make a point of it to do some of the “smell the flowers” routine tomorrow, instead of what my wife refers to as the “travel nazi”, rushing everyone around so much. And, at the risk of making a lame comment lamer, one of the “details” i like most is the cleanliness of all the parks and grounds throughout the entire World. On the monorail today to Epcot, I saw the workers mowing lawns well off the highway and certainly where no human would otherwise be. And I feel like shaking the hand of every park maintenance man with a broom that I see picking up every piece of trash, usually before any else notices it. It is this attention to detail that I love, and to Disney’s credit, they do a better job at maintenance than any other them park in the world. And thanks again Stacey, for such a positive blog post about all the great things Disney does.

    • August 22, 2012 at 9:50 am

      Bay Lake Tower? I’m jealous! I hope you’re having a great time, Matt!

      The maintenance is Disney World also makes me so happy and thankful. They work endlessly day after day and I can’t help but take notice. I actually had the same experience as you but on a Disney bus. Honestly, it’s almost every trip that I feel wowed by the devotion to keeping the landscaping so nice looking all of the time. You can actually SEE the difference when you drive from the airport and the cross over to Disney property. That’s amazing!

  • August 21, 2012 at 11:23 pm

    The best parts for me are the smiles at WDW. From the bus drivers on the Magic Express buses to the counter folks at the resorts, to the performers to the people directing traffic outside the venues, the friendly folks make me feel better, even if my feet hurt and I want a nap. I have been to the rest, and they just don’t compare to the best!!!

    • August 22, 2012 at 9:46 am

      You mentioned something I find really special… Disney’s Magical Express. You’re right, provided you have the right driver, your trip from the airport to Walt Disney World can be the most wonderful start to your vacation.

      Disney cast members are seriously the nicest theme park workers I’ve ever seen. It’s says a lot that out of 100 cast members you walk by, 90 of them will say hello and 85 of them really truly mean it.

  • August 22, 2012 at 9:40 am

    The first time we went was the year WDW opened. I think I had just turned four so I was pretty little. All I really remember is being HIGHLY disappointed because the castle wasn’t a “real building” and instead it was kind of like a fancy hallway, maybe bathrooms or a stroller area, something like that. The next vivid memory I have of WDW is being there the year Space Mountain opened and getting in line for it. We waited forever and a day and then reached a big sign that said “Your wait from this point is 20 minutes.” My brother and I looked at each other and said “I don’t think so!” LOL We didn’t even know what kind of ride it was, or anything. IN retrospect it was a good thing we bailed, because at the time neither of us could/would ride roller coasters. We probably would have bailed when we got inside & saw it was a coaster anyway! LOL Ahhh, the memories!

    • August 22, 2012 at 9:43 am

      I can just imagine how bummed kids are to find out the castle isn’t something they can go inside of. That is, unless you’re raking out the dough for Cinderella’s Royal Table. When I first went, I turned the corner of Main Street to see a big pink birthday cake. I think I probably said out loud, “This is a joke, right?”

  • August 22, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    Hi Stacey! First, I just want to say that I’m addicted to your posts! Second, on the topic of the little things, a previous comment was on the Disney Cast Members and how truly special they are, and I could not agree more.

    We visited in October 2009 and took my daughters out of school to take advantage of the off season rates and lower crowds (not to mention the fabulous Food and Wine Festival). I try to work some type of “educational” experience into each trip (admittedly, some are more successful than others ;-)), and with the help of a Cast Member at our resort hotel, we came up with a fantastic idea.

    My oldest daughter was 11 at the time, and had become just slightly jaded (I know, gasp, horror!!) at collecting Character autographs. So instead, we challenged her to introduce herself to International Cast Members, and ask for their autograph! Also, asking them to share just one or two interesting facts about their hometown or country. It was amazing….the response was so much fun and she now has a keepsake that is a time machine into that trip. The Cast Members went above and beyond to make their entry stand out, in fact, it became almost competitive between some of the countries. We also took a photo of each CM with my daughter to attach in the book.

    It was such a success that I won’t be surprised if my youngest daughter (who is now 11) does the same thing on our trip in 3 weeks!

    • August 23, 2012 at 10:00 am

      That idea is brilliant! I’m going to have to pass it on to other parents with kids that are “too hip” for characters. Ha! I have been wanting to do a post on the international cast members myself. I think it would be fun to ask one from each country what their favorite part about working for the Disney parks is and then get a photo with them.

      Thanks for the very sweet compliment on my posts. I’m glad you enjoy them!

  • August 22, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    You are so right. There are so many little things, but what I really remember are the little things they do while people are waiting for the parade. I’ve seen cast members take out jump ropes for the kids -so simple, but so cool. And when I was there the week before Christmas last year waiting on the electric parade at Magic Kingdom, they made it snow in 80 degree weather. That memory really stuck with me more than anything else in that trip. Just super cool.

    • August 23, 2012 at 10:02 am

      I’ve still never seen it snow on Main Street! Some day I will.

  • August 22, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    Ever since first seeing the fiber optic sidewalks at Epcot, I’ve wished that my sidewalks at home had fiber optic lights too. 🙂

  • August 23, 2012 at 9:00 am

    Last time we were down, my husband and I were cracking up in the pre-show area at the Laugh Floor. The details in there are a riot — from the postings on the bulletin boards to the safety signs lining the room. Even if there is no wait to get into the theater, it is worth walking around and checking out the gems there 🙂

    • August 23, 2012 at 10:04 am

      Yes! Thank you! I’m absolutely crazy about that detail. Another place that is very similar in terms of comical theming is the Mike and Sully meet and greet at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The small queue makes me laugh every time. You should also check out the funny details in the Muppet-Vision 3D pre-show room.

      • August 24, 2012 at 12:56 pm

        And don’t forget the It’s Tough to Be a Bug pre-show room.. those movie posters and facts are the best! (Not to mention the awesome Tree of Life on the way in. )

  • August 23, 2012 at 9:31 am

    I was unfortunately 25 when I first visited the world. But what I remember most from that trip was Sonny Eclipse. I was so blown away by the effort that had gone into entertainment for a simple food court.

    It really solidified for me the effort that Disney makes to ensure as many parts of your day are magical as possible.

    • August 23, 2012 at 10:05 am

      Another restaurant that I think goes above and beyond is Columbia Harbour House. There are a lot of neat theming elements that you can discover there. Thanks for writing in, Andrew!

  • August 24, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    You named two of my favorites with Morocco and the lighted sidewalk in Future World! It is so fun to just wander the parks. You can have a complete experience and not even go into an attraction.

    The Liberty Tree Tavern has so many great little details with all the themed rooms. It is so tough to pinpoint favorites, because there are so many great things everywhere.

    My favorite area is Main Street USA, mainly because of the little things. The awesome early 20th century/ragtime, the building design, the windows, etc.

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