Sunday, September 2, 2012

Walt Disney World vs. The Home Office

Walt Disney World in Florida is near the top of the list of most sought after tourist destinations in the world and with good reason - deluxe accommodations, fine dining experiences, 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, a sports complex, golf, and many other activities. Grand and spacious, you could spend weeks there and still not take it all in. Fans of Walt Disney World sometimes have an air of smugness about them simply because in their world - size matters. One thing that WDW has in spades is size.

And fans of WDW have a tendency to get defensive when you bring up the Disneyland Resort compared their park. After all, compared to WDW, Disneyland is down right puny. But the last few years, WDW fans have had to take it on the chin a bit and they don't like it.

I think it started with the lush World of Color and the plans for Disney California Adventure expansion. WDW was expanding too - expanding Fantasyland - but DCA got Cars Land (and Buena Vista Street). How come DCA gets the good stuff, never mind the fact it flat out needed something to bring it to life after years on life support? And the hot topic (or hot button topic depending on who you ask) is the bringing in of the Marvel brand into the theme park realm - something that can be done in Disneyland but cannot be done in WDW due to contractual agreements with Universal that are in place.

But there's other things too. D23 - Disney's exclusive "fan club" primarily caters to the Southern California contingent. Expo number 3 is slated for next year in Anaheim and grand plans to bring the show to Orlando seem more like wishful thinking.

There's a reason why Disney pays so much attention to its little park in Anaheim. Despite it size, WDW is not "the home office". Disney corporate offices are in Burbank along with its film and TV enterprises (excluding Northern California's Pixar and Connecticut's ESPN). Disneyland sits in their backyard (or about 30 miles away or so). When Disneyland has a major project, company execs like Bob Iger, Tom Staggs, and John Lasseter tend to be around front and center. True, Meg Crofton runs both U.S. Disney Resorts along with Disneyland Paris and she is headquartered in Orlando but compared to Bob and Tom and John, Meg is a minion. Disney has the bulk of its resources in Southern California both people and things so its easy for them to trot out celebrities and movie memorabilia without much logistical effort.

And then there is one thing that fans of Disneyland can always hang their hat on - Disneyland is the only Disney park Walt Disney himself ever stepped foot in. You can see Walt's presence every time you walk by the Main St. firehouse and see the light on in his upstairs apartment. You can go on the rides that Walt personally oversaw the construction. There are pictures of Walt in the Tiki Room, in the Golden Horseshoe, walking through Sleeping Beauty's Castle, having coffee in the Cafe Orleans, riding the Mark Twain or his beloved steam trains. Walt Disney also conceived Disney World and EPCOT but the most visibility you see with his involvement with those endeavors is pictures or TV clips of him standing around maps.

Yes, Disneyland is Walt's park. The corporate types that run the place now basically use Walt as a marketing tool but the fans of Disneyland know better. 

The fans of WDW in Florida have the crown jewel of resort destinations. The fans of Disneyland have a man of very large dreams and imagination. Its been that way for almost 60 years now.

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