Disney Celebration Recap – The Year of a Million Dreams

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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.

Year of a Million Dreams Logo
Year of a Million Dreams Banner at EPCOT – 2008

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.

Year of a Million Dreams Castle Suite Winners

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.

Year of a Million Dreams – Prize Drop Mouse Ears

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.

Dani (that’s me) Super Greeting at EPCOT – December 2008

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.

EPCOT Dream Squad 2008

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!

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Dani

Born and raised in the land of sunshine and dreams come true, Dani is a proud Orlando Native who loves sharing her hometown with others. She's worked in nearly all of Orlando's theme parks, on board Disney Cruise Line, and in hotel management. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @thisfloridalife

7 thoughts on “Disney Celebration Recap – The Year of a Million Dreams

  • February 23, 2021 at 4:00 pm
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    This was one of my favorite years for Disney! My family and I went when I was 8, and the five of us got to go into the special lounge in / around Spaceship Earth – I believe it was only for Siemens employees regularly, but we got to hang out in there and enjoy the “magic mirror”. Thanks for helping spread the magic! <3

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  • February 23, 2021 at 8:49 pm
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    This was a favorite memory for our family too! My husband was watching Dumbo with our twin baby daughters in a stroller, while their older sister and I ran over to do another ride. One of the Dream Squad approached him and after a short chat asked if he’d like help taking them on their first Dumbo ride. They went in the back and she helped him get into the Dumbo with two very happy little ones, and I returned just in time to take some very memorable photos of our magical moment. Fast forward ten years later and my husband was walking through California Adventure and ran into the same Dream Squad member, now working in a different area. Not only did he recognize her, but she remembered him and our family! Now, every couple of years, when we go back to Disneyland we make a point to meet up with that same cast member. That little “magic” meant the world to our family so many years ago and the memory gets refreshed each trip!

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  • February 23, 2021 at 9:49 pm
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    First of all, reading this made me cry so much – joyous tears. Those years were so special for my family. We got to ride in the front of the monorail on our way to the Magic Kingdom. Additionally, we received the special mouse ears after riding Star Tours. We witness other families getting magical things. What I miss the most is the incredible atmosphere created the Cast Members as guests were surprised and delighted over and over again.

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  • February 24, 2021 at 12:22 pm
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    2007 was the first time we went as a family to WDW and that was a fantastic promotion! We didn’t get any of the “big” prizes, but we were asked to be in a parade in the Magic Kingdom, were able to get a”human FastPass” to Splash Mountain where we went in front of everyone and both of my daughters got a really cool “Year of a Million Dreams” commemorative pin.

    Needless to say, they were both hooked from that trip and we’ve gone almost every year since. Sadly, it doesn’t look like we will be able to make it there this year because of everything going on, but are encouraged that the 50th celebration will last into 2022

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  • February 26, 2021 at 7:30 am
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    We remember it well !!
    That year was one of our first of children-free holidays back to WDW- and how envious they were…
    Walking over the bridge between UK and France in World Showcase my wife and I suddenly found ourselves in the middle of what must have been your Dream Squad.
    We were presented with “Year of a Million Dream” lanyard packs -each complete with 2 commemorative pins, and we still have them unopened as very special part of our Disney souvenirs collection. Wish I could attach a picture!
    We were given invitations to return after park closing for a “select” disco party in Tomorrowland, to meet and dance (!) with the characters.
    It was an amazing, fantastic event !!…. very limited numbers; great interactions with the characters and all the main attractions were available for our enjoyment.
    My wife reminds me that not only did we walk straight on to Soarin’ that night but we had centre seats in row one. Plus it was so uncrowded that the Cast Members let us ride 3 times without having to get off the ride!
    It really was a day to remember…. so thank you so much!

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  • June 4, 2021 at 10:46 pm
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    We are at Disney now and I was remembering our Disney dream squad surprise so I found this blog while looking it up! We were surprised with the special fast passes and two special pins – which my teen brought with her on this trip now 14 years later . It was such a memorable surprise on our trip!

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  • June 13, 2021 at 10:39 am
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    My daughter and her two girls had the thrill of staying in the castle on New Years Eve for the end of WDW Year of a Million Dreams escorted by Fairy God Mother! The entire trip was overwhelming and amazing! A favorite was our tour guide, Alex, who won the hearts of the children and pampered them. The thrill of opening the castle suite door for the first time was magical. I often dream of a do over to soak in all in. Pictures don’t do our experience justice. We are still Disney goers but no trip has quite matched up to that Special ” Year Of A Million Dreams. ” Thank You WDW for picking us for such a fantastic trip!

    Reply

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