Disney theme parks and resorts are known for the “Disney Difference,” an often intangible factor that sets Disney Parks and Resorts apart from other entertainment experiences. Part of the “Disney Difference” can be attributed to the excellent level of service that cast members provide, but perhaps the seemingly random and unexpected experiences that cast members perform for guests contribute to this reputation, as well. Over the years, we’ve had many such experiences here at Walt Disney World, and on our recent first trip to Disneyland, we had several such “Magical Moments,” too.
On our first morning in Disneyland park, I wanted to take the quintessential Disney family photos in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle, so we stood in line for a PhotoPass photographer. When we got to the front of the line, I explained that it was our first visit and I wanted to capture several images with various combinations of family members. This Disney photographer turned my request into a mini photo shoot, capturing each child separately, together and with my husband and me. Then, he noticed the kids were wearing birthday buttons and asked them to do special poses to indicate how old they are. We received a fun collection of family photos because the photographer was willing to spend a little extra time and work with us, rather than take the same old shots. It helped, too, I’m sure, that we were in front of the castle right after the park opened so it was not very crowded.
Another Magical Moment also happened on that first day. My family and I each wanted to get a complimentary “First Visit” button to wear for the week, so we stopped by Guest Relations. Imagine our surprise when we were told they had run out! How was that even possible, we wondered? The cast member could only recommend that we ask in each shop on Main Street, U.S.A., and at attractions throughout the park because they sometimes have their own stock of buttons to hand out. So, to appease my disappointed children, we began to pop into each store on Main Street and ask cashiers about the buttons. Each time, we were told they, too, were out of stock. About halfway down the street, however, a cast member said she didn’t have any at the counter, but if we would wait there, she would go search for some. We agreed, and it wasn’t long before she returned with buttons in hand for us.
On our second day, we also had the good fortune to be part of two Magical Moments. As I mentioned in my previous review of the Carthay Circle World of Color dinner package, we were surprised that after we placed our order, a server opened the doors to a balcony overlooking the Pixar Play Parade, which was traveling past the restaurant. We were invited to go outside and watch. It was a great vantage point, and the characters even knew to look up and wave to us.
But by far the most magical experience of our trip was meeting Alfred, a monorail pilot at Downtown Disney station. We had asked if we could ride in the front compartment with the driver, knowing we would have to wait a little longer because of the demand. But we knew it would be a special experience, and something we all would remember, because guests are no longer allowed to ride in the front car of monorails at Walt Disney World. However, the wait turned out to be a little longer than we expected — about 40 minutes — because if a family was riding with the pilot when the monorail pulled into the Downtown Disney station, they were allowed to remain in the compartment until the ride terminated in Tomorrowland. Still, we were not upset. But Alfred was paying attention to our wait time and apologized, offering our family FastPasses that were good for any ride in either park to help make up for the time we spent waiting at the monorail station. We were stunned and happily surprised! Then, Alfred called the other monorail station and requested that the next train not bring passengers in the first car so that we could board. Besides his generous actions, Alfred entertained our kids and shared with us fun stories about his time at Disneyland and also what he knew of the monorail system at Walt Disney World, which made the wait pass quickly. Then he ushered us into the pilot’s car of the monorail, allowed the kids to take photos in the driver’s seat, and drove us himself to the Tomorrowland station.
These Magical Moments may not have seemed like much to the cast members who were making them happen, but to us, they were everything. They truly exemplified the Disney Difference.