As I write this, I am melancholy. One of my absolute favorite attractions in all of Walt Disney World is rumored to be in its last days, and there are plenty of signs to indicate this to be true. One Man’s Dream has been open for nearly 15 years and as new attractions appear on the horizon, it seems this small but mighty experience will close to make way. With that in mind I had to get to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and visit this important attraction for a proper send off. I’d like to share with you the highlights of the incredible historical collection and the four reasons an attraction of this nature is oh so necessary at Walt Disney World.
- The Big Picture
So many guests visit Walt Disney World without knowing the resort’s place in the grand Disney universe. Many guests think Walt Disney World came before any other Disney destination, others have no idea about the parks over seas, while others don’t even realize that the Walt Disney Company owns ESPN, ABC, Marvel, LucasFilm and so much more.
One Man’s Dream is set in chronological order. As we stroll through the museum-like exhibits we do so following a timeline. As the Walt Disney Company grew and grew we start to see the birth of new divisions within the company as well as acquisitions. Prior to entering the theater to watch the finale film that always brings a tear to my eye, we can gaze upon beautiful models of various theme park icons from Disney Parks around the globe. It is at this end that we can fully understand the incredible scale and reach of this entertainment juggernaut that was once just a budding little cartoon studio in LA.
- American History
Beyond the history of Walt Disney and the Walt Disney Company, we can view an important timeline in American history. Walt and his family faced the many challenges of life in the Midwest during the turn of the 20th century. His father’s failures and struggles were not unlike that of so many Americans during that time. The impact of World War I, separating families, a rise in patriotism and sense of duty, and the resulting need to rebuild the country after the war’s conclusion is prevalent in Walt’s story.
The momentum of rebuilding and pursuit of the American dream that sprang from the events of World War I, pushed Walt and his brother Roy to build a life for themselves. They leaned together and through tenacity and will power they built their own business. When things looked darkest when their star character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, and the majority of their animators were taken from them, Walt and his team pulled together to create what would become the most iconic character in the world: Mickey Mouse. One could argue that this drive, this sense of attaining success no matter what, might not have been instilled in Walt and his brother had they not grown up in the period in which they did.
The Walt Disney Studios involvement in World War II also gives us another glimpse into American History. Once again fear and doubt was opposed by American pride and ingenuity. When the war was over America faced another period of rebuilding. This period gave birth to the optimism of the 1950s and a focus on family. It is easy to consider that this focus helped inspire Walt to create Disneyland.
As we view the exhibits and artifacts of One Man’s Dream we can also gaze at photos of eras gone by. While the focus of these exhibits is the life of Walt Disney, there is an underlying opportunity to learn about American history. Much of Walt’s story is the story of America itself.
- A picture of progress
In the same vein of seeing the impact of America’s history on Walt Disney’s life, we can also view how technology progresses over the years. During Walt’s early years the steam train fascinated him and automobiles were a new phenomenon. We can see the impact of this as well as catch a glimpse of the simplicity of public schools during Walt’s childhood.
As we journey through One Man’s Dream we see the progress of film technology by viewing models of the multi-plane camera and the “dancing man”, which led to the birth of audio-animatronics. In fact, as we journey deeper into the attraction we come across many items that show the progress of this important theme park entertainment technology, including the tiki birds of Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room and the audio-animatronic of Abraham Lincoln.
It is also interesting to see how toys and merchandise progressed through the years. Consumer products have always been an important component of the Walt Disney Company’s financial DNA. A selection of toys and merchandise are on display, dazzling the eyes of many collectors. It is fascinating to see both the simplicity and the craftsmanship of these items.
There have been various incarnations of attractions that tell the story of Walt Disney. One Man’s Dream is most certainly not the first one. If we do soon see the end of this attraction perhaps a new and improved version will take its place. Imagine using new technology like projection mapping and incorporating the use of smart phones or tablets. Disney could hone in on how technology has progressed in the past 15 years to create a new compelling attraction to tell its most important story: the story of its creator.
- Walt Disney
I am sure I am not alone when I say that one of the main reasons I have remained such an avid fan of the Walt Disney Company as an adult is because of the first two words in the company’s name: Walt Disney. Walt’s story is the quintessential American dream. A man who came from a struggling family, a difficult youth, a man who served our country, and took a huge chance to make it in Hollywood. His success was not without multiple hardships and struggles, but he kept working at it and now we have the most visited family destination in the world to enjoy because of one brilliant man and his incredible team.
As time marches on we get further and further away from Walt’s time. The men and women that worked with him, learned from him, are passing on. We really cannot say with 100% certainty what Walt would have wanted. However, we can look to his story to understand his values. More importantly we can look to his story to understand what it means to have an incredible work ethic, a fascinating imagination, and the importance of nourishing a team so they can rally around you and thrive.
It’s an oft repeated quote from Walt: “I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing, that it was all started by a mouse.” My hope is that not only do we as Disney fans and park guests never lose sight that it was all started by one man, but that we as humanity never lose sight of the American dream.
It takes perseverance, struggle, sacrifice, and an unwavering work ethic, but it is possible to attain whatever it is that each one of us defines as success and happiness. While One Man’s Dream may soon close its doors, let Walt Disney World and Disneyland stand as living monuments to Walt’s legacy.