It’s hard for me to believe it has been almost 15 years since my personal favorite celebration ever held at Walt Disney World. “The Year of a Million Dreams” made impossible dreams come true for Disney guests, and the best dream of all was being a Cast Member who made it all possible. I had the privilege of being a part of the Dream Squad, with EPCOT as my home park. And since we are gearing up for the Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary Celebration, our team thought it would be fun to share some insight about past celebrations. Since I have some insider knowledge of the Year of a Million Dreams celebration I jumped at the chance.
This celebration encompassed both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. The four theme parks, the two water parks, Disney Springs (then called Downtown Disney), and even Wide World of Sports were all part of the celebration at Walt Disney World. Special prizes were given away to guests who were in the right place at the right time. Most famously, the Cinderella Castle Suite at Magic Kingdom and the Dream Suite at Disneyland came into existence, and a night was given away in each and every day of the celebration.
Special Dream FastPasses (one entrance for every FastPass attraction in the park), special mouse ears, and pin trading sets became the most desirable accessories. It was also when the “where dreams come true” banner first graced both the Walt Disney World archway and the nametag of all Disney Cast Members…and that tagline is still with us today. The Year of a Million Dreams actually became two years. It started in 2007, and was extended in 2008.
How did the Year of Million Dreams prize giveaway work?
I can’t go into too much detail about the process of awarding the prizes, but I can give an overview. Each theme park had its own Dream Squad. Each day we Dream Squad members, or Dreamers as we lovingly call ourselves, would be scheduled for prize duty or to “Super greet”. Those on prize duty would follow the specific instructions for the day’s prizes. Essentially, if the prizes being awarded as a batch to multiple guests at the the same time, like the special mouse ears or Dream FastPasses, then guests would have to be in the right place at the right time, generally marked by a landmark, unbeknownst to them, that they’d have to cross. If the prize was much larger and being awarded to one person, such as the night in Cinderella’s Castle Suite or a Disney Cruise Line vacation, the guest would have to be at the right place at the right time in an exact location that was extremely specific, such as a specific ride vehicle and seat number.
What is Super Greeting?
When we weren’t giving away prizes we were “super greeting”. Sometimes I enjoyed super greeting more than giving away the prizes. It was during this time I had freedom to make dreams come true that weren’t part of the giveaway. We were assigned a specific zone in the park and armed with our big black messenger bag with the Year of a Million Dreams logo on it. We engaged in conversation with whomever we liked. We also had magical moments we could create and really do as we wish.
We could also act as a “human FastPass” on occasion. As long as it was okay with the attraction’s Cast Members, we could help a family enter an attraction through the FastPass lane. I would look for families who had just missed the last FastPass distribution of the day at Soarin’. This was back in the days of paper FastPasses that you had to obtain at the attraction FastPass distrubition location. First thing in the morning Soarin’ would run out of FastPasses. I’d wait to find a family that look particularly distraught and would ask them if they’d like to get on Soarin’ right then and there. Almost every guest would hesitate and upon answering “yes”, I’d share the great news that I would walk them through the FastPass entrance.
Sadly, the Dream Squad was a temporary position and once your time on the squad came to an end you returned to your former position at Walt Disney World. However, some areas could not hold your position depending on business needs. In my case, the my previous role was an office job that was also a temporary assignment to which I could not return. As the Year of a Million Dreams came to an end at the end of 2008, the economy tanked and Disney entered a hiring freeze. I was in a panic. What job would I have when this was over? Thankfully, the American Idol Experience was getting ready to open and I became an opening team trainer. In fact, many of the opening team Cast members at The American Idol Experience were former Dream Squad Cast Members.
There are dreamers all throughout Walt Disney World, but now that it has been over a decade most are no longer a Disney Cast Member. But one thing is for sure, we all share a special bond and have some of the best memories for which anyone could ask. Certainly my personal experience with the celebration weighs heavily on my opinion, but the Year of a Million Dreams is my favorite celebration to date.
Did you ever experience the Year of a Million Dreams? Share your memories with us in the comments!