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Walt Disney’s Way Book Report by Andrew Lock

Favorite Quotes

When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable.  – Walt Disney

Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends. – Walt Disney

Get a good idea and stay with it.  Dog it and work at it until it’s done.  And done right. – Walt Disney

“Of all the things I’ve done, the most vital is coordinating those who work with me, and aiming their efforts at a certain goal.” – Walt Disney

“A good story can hold the attention of viewers, even for several hours.” – Andrew Lock


Key Takeaways

It’s not about directly adopting what Disney does in their business, it’s about adopting the lessons for your business.

When Disneyland opened, Walt received a ton of criticism because of his desire to have just one entrance and exit and serve no alcoholic drinks or chewing gum.  People would be asked to pay an entrance fee and fees for rides.  That changed later but Walt was committing to doing things differently from the beginning.

Walt hosted a weekly show to help pay for Disneyland and promoted the opening of the park.   50% of US Population watched the opening and seven miles of traffic were backed up coming to the park.

  • Everything is Marketing (and Marketing is Everything)

*Definition of Marketing is anything you or your employees do that affects other people’s view of your business – Andrew Lock

Cast Members are trained that their primary role is to help the guest.” – Walt Disney

Focus on selling existing customers over and over again.  Two thirds of visitors at Walt Disney are repeat guests.

  • Unique Products = Unique Prices

Disney doesn’t sell plain t-shirts. They sell unique shirts with Disney characters or enhance them with glitter, embossing and other unique features.   This way guests should never know what the price of these t-shirts “should” be.

Same things with novelty ice cream products.  Disney offers Disney branded food items like Mickey Ears Ice Cream.

Command a premium price by creating specific, custom and branded products.

Gaston’s Tavern sells Le Fou’s Brew.  Star Wars land sells the special Star Wars Milk.  Cars Land sells specialty themed drinks like “Doc’s Wild Grape, Ramone’s Pear of Dice” etc.  Universal does the Butter Beer from Harry Potter.

Other examples:  Movie theatre has a flavor bar of seasonings for popcorn.  Baseball cap store lets you embroider a word on it.

  • Make it easy for your customers to buy

-Disney Souvenir Shops after rides.  Each shop on Main street leads into another one with the walls torn down.

-Disney hands laminated menu cards at restaurant to help them order fast before seeing line and walking away.

-Disney room delivery with merchandise.  “Delivered to your room” service.

Look at all friction points.  Do you make customers register before buying?  Do you have minimum purchase amount?  Do you only accept credit cards?

  • Innovation over Invention

Walt built on existing technology to build something better.

First full color animated film, first full length animated movie – Snow White. First moive to use surround sound – Fantasia,  First U.S. Monorail to run every day.  First regular TV Show in color – World of Color.

What can we build on to be the first in our industry?

  • Language Matters

Cast members instead of staff

Guests instead of customers

Costume rather than uniform

Audition and Role instead of Interview and Job

Performing a Show

On stage and Back Stage

Audience rather than crowds

Instead of Problems – Going Off Script

Other examples for other businesses – Investment over price or cost. Paperwork over contract. My pleasure over no problem.

  • Attention to Details – The Opening Scene of Movie

Walt had ground painted red at Disneyland as guests walk in to convey rolling out the red carpet.  Walt has movie posters as you walk through Tunnels and has popcorn carts to ensure aroma of fresh hot popcorn.  The train station was built up above to act as curtain and hide the show inside.

“In your own business, set the ground rules for what’s important to you, and most importantly stick to them!  Become known for details that separate you from your competition and be sure to maintain those details to a high standard.” – Andrew Lock

Empower Employees. Disney is always focused on long term outcome of a happy customer.  Cast members can always replace anything that is broken at no charge.

  • Turn Challenging Situations Into Future Magical Moments

When a child is too small to go on a ride, the cast member presents the child with a Future Rider card.  It invites the child to come to the front of the line on the next visit when they reach the height requirement.

  • Always provide purpose and direction.

In the 1970’s, Disney was in a crisis with employee morale.  Turnover was at 83%.  Walt’s brother Roy had passed away, there was no formal training and career ladder in place and the staff was exhausted from the opening of Magic Kingdom.

There was no new goal to aim for!

They developed Disney University to help instill excitement and pride in the work based on Walt’s legacy and to train and monitor consistency.

Two years after Disney University, cast member turnover went from 83% to 28%.

  • Visionary and Integrator – Walt and Roy, Michael Eisner and Frank Wells is needed to succeed.

Wall Street Journal Article from 1958 – “Walt Supplies the ideas for every phase of this business – ideas for new films, for new features in the park, for new merchandise, even for new songs.  But it’s his brother Roy who keeps him from getting carried away and makes sure the company’s financial feet are always solidly on the ground.”

Walt always saw the whole picture and not just an expense.  He kept the souvenir guide “The story of Disneyland” at 25 cents even when pricing went to 24 cents and he was advised to increase price to 50 cents.


What Will I Implement?

A single store within Disneyland Tokyo is one of Japan’s most profitable stores on a per square foot basis, generating sales of over $100 Million annually.  It’s a candy store.  Must continue to look at novelty unique food options for Banana Land.  Maybe a specialty candy store??

  • Always look to offer additional Add-On value for our fans. Disney does a great job with custom souvenir cups, park-hopper experiences, etc.  For the Bananas, what added VIP experience, custom banana products can we offer at our games?
  • Continue to add Special Events to Games.

-Disney early on hosted Dixieland at Disney and had special Dixieland bands perform at Disney.  They host graduations and now have over 150,000 graduates from over 1,000 schools.   Epcot – International Festival of Arts, International Flower and Garden Festival, International Food and Wine Festival.

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, Turn Back the Clock Baseball Tournament, Sounds Like Summer Concert Series, Star Wars Weekends.

All goes back to giving guests a reason to come back over and over again.

We need to build events around our Banana Ball Games.  First one to implement is Oktoberfest and Banana Ball with special Beer Festival.

  • Premium experiences = Premium Pricing

Disney offers free water at fountains, then offers Dasani water and SMART water as highest level.  20% of your customers want the best you have to offer.

Disney never discounts.

They offer variety of annual passes.  Unrestricted annual pass is over $1,200.  An annual premier pass allows entry to all Disney Parks in North America for $2,000.  Club 33 – $25,000 Initiation Fee.

  • Create Immersive Experiences in Banana Land

Enter any Disney story and you are guaranteed to have an experience.

*Color choice, décor, props, lighting, music and even smells are crafted.

  • Ask better questions of fans!

At Disney, guests are often asked what stood out the most about your visit today.

When fans come up and thank us and say they had a great time – I should ask what stood out the most?  What part did they enjoy the most?

At Disney, the most common response is “I was amazed at how clean it was.”

  • Recognition Every Day

Managers at Disney are expected to hand out at least 10 Recognition awards each day.  They are always on look out for great service.

Disney developed a little card that says Guest Service Fanatic.

There are 5 criteria that merit a card being awarded to a cast member.

  • Making Eye contact and smiling with guests
  • Exceeding expectations by seeking out interactions
  • Providing outstanding quality service
  • Greeting and welcoming every guest
  • Maintaining a personal high standard of quality work.

It involves two cards – one the cast member can keep and one that goes in box for monthly prize.

Recognize Guests by Giving First Time Badges, Birthdays and Anniversaries and writing their names on the Badge so cast members can recognize guests by names

Cast members have where they are from on their badge to start conversation and be recognize and connect people.

  • Always Plussing.

In the 1950’s Walt Wanted to do a special Christmas parade but it would cost a staggering $350,000.  The accountants strongly advised against it.  The guests will already be there, and they’re not expecting it.  Walt said “We should do the parade precisely because no one is expecting it.  Our goal at Disneyland is to always give the people more than they expect.  As long as we keep surprising them, they’ll keep coming back.  But if they ever stop coming back, it’ll cost us ten time that much to get them to come back.”


How does it fit with Fans First Way?

Values come first and culture is a manifestation of acting on those values.

Disney’s Core Values – Quality: Excelling in every detail, being the best in the industry. Community: Creating a fun, family friendly environment. Storytelling: Every ride, attraction and show should tell a story.  Innovation: Cast members are empowered to come up with creative ideas and solutions.  Optimism: Cast Members should dwell on positive aspirations and hopeful outcomes.  Decency: Cast Members should honor and respect guests.  Entertain: Walt said, Laughter is no enemy to learning and entertainment is the heart of what Disney theme parks are all about.

We don’t put people in Disney, we put Disney in People.

Walt sent a letter to his friend Art Linkletter and included a photo of a small boy looking into the distance.  Underneath the photo is had a single word as the caption, “Priorities”

In the letter Walt wrote “100 years from now it won’t matter what’s in your bank account or the kind of car you drive, it will only matter that you made a difference in the life of a child.”

This last quote is the summation of what Fans First is all about: how we make people feel and the difference we make in people’s lives!