Thoughts on a Disney Threshold

by Mike Scopa
AllEars® Feature Writer

Feature Article

This article appeared in the October 19, 2010 Issue #578 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

Mike ScopaI think we would all be lying if we said we could never have too much of the Disney culture surrounding us. In fact I would guess that some of you reading this would go as far as to say that you would love to spend every day of your life in a Disney theme park.

I admit it -- I've dreamed about that myself.

Then on a flight home from yet another trip to Walt Disney World I wondered if I had a limit when it comes to the Disney culture. Did I have a threshold? If so, how would I know? What would be the signs?

I did a complete study on this and now it's time to bare all and share my thoughts with you, get you thinking about this to help you recognize your own Disney threshold, if you have one.

The first realization that surfaced was that there really is no saturation point per se. By that I mean when I hear the phrase "saturation point" to me it usually means "No mas, no more, I'm done, stick a fork in me." But that is not the case. I think that for all of us we recognize that when in the Disney culture, be it a movie, a theme park, a restaurant, an attraction, or a resort, that the experience puts us in a special place that yours truly has often referred to as "The Disney Zone." That place removes us from responsibilities, stress, worries, and other aspects of life from which we are able to escape, if but for a brief period.

Thus whenever we drag ourselves home after a long day at work and say to ourselves, "Hmmm, I think I/we may be able to sneak away for a week or so and go to Walt Disney World (or Disneyland)!" we find ourselves not just smiling and feeling good about that thought, but also ready to face tomorrow knowing that it brings us much closer to what brings us pleasure.

Getting back to the so-called saturation point, for those of us who "get it" there is no point at which we would say, "I've had enough" because, simply, we "get it." So let's think of this saturation point as a time when we feel that, although we love Mickey, Soarin', Dole Whip, IllumiNations, and The Main Street Electrical Parade, we really need to step back from getting a Disney overload.

So what are the signs?

The signs will be different for each one of us because we each have our own value system and level of appreciation for all that is Disney. For instance, a guest who is able to visit Walt Disney World only once a year or even once every two years may have a saturation point in the stratosphere compared to someone fortunate enough to visit several times a year. Visit frequency plays a huge role as to whether or not your Disney saturation point will ever surface.

This visit frequency point needs further discussion. If someone visits the Walt Disney Resort several times a year, and those visits take place during the International Food & Wine Festival, International Flower & Garden Festival, summer, and the Christmas holiday season, then perhaps the argument could be made that those visits could almost be seen as annual visits for each one of those time frames. That is, each year's visit during the International Food & Wine festival is special because it is an annual event, thus warding off the potential for any low-level saturation point.

There is much to be said for this because many guests have mentioned to me that regardless of how many times they had visited the Walt Disney World Resort, the first time they had the opportunity to visit in early December, during the Christmas holiday season, they felt like it was their first time ever visiting Walt Disney World. Hmmm. So frequency of visits, depending upon when they take place, may not play a part in the building of a saturation point.

There is one sign that I've often thought of that could be a telling point that saturation is near and that is a cavalier attitude when not able to visit an often frequented and beloved attraction because of a long queue line.

We know there are headliner attractions (e.g., Space Mountain, Soarin', Expedition Everest, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror) that are on everyone's list. However, let's say that there is a guest who travels to Orlando once a year who on one occasion, sees a queue for Soarin' and just thinks, "Oh well, maybe next time." Well, next time could be a year from now. Is that a sign that something along the line like a saturation point has begun? If, in fact, it doesn't matter to you that you have to wait a whole year to enjoy this attraction again then perhaps this attraction has fallen from grace or you've seen it enough -- at least for now -- or that threshold is near.

Is there an explanation for that? I know that for myself, if I feel that a queue is just a bit too long for me, then I will say to myself, "Next time!" But as one of those fortunate to make it down to Orlando several times a year, "Next time!" may be only a few months away, not a year down the road.

Of course there are more than just attractions that come into play regarding the hitting of that Disney saturation point. For instance, let's take the matter of parades, daytime or nighttime. Ask yourself how often you will make the effort to watch a Disney parade. Do you do it several times a trip; once a trip; every other trip, or rarely at all? More importantly, is your attitude towards the viewing of a parade a flag, or perhaps a cornerstone that would build to your saturation point?

I cannot answer that for you. Only you can. For me, there is always magic in a Disney parade...the music...the floats...the characters...I never get tired of them. At the same time do I make an effort? Yes I do, because there is something inside of me that says, "This is not a Disney vacation unless I see a parade or watch a nighttime fireworks display."

Speaking of fireworks, has it ever occurred to you that if you've ever said to yourself, "I think I'll leave during Wishes (IllumiNations, or Fantasmic!)," that you could be just around the corner to hitting that saturation point? The answer to that would certainly be yes if on that particular trip you avoided all your opportunities to watch one of those nighttime spectaculars just so you could beat the crowd. If, however, while on your trip, you had already enjoyed those spectaculars, then most likely you just happened to be tired that night and just wanted to beat the crowd.

Let's talk about restaurants.

An important component of any Disney vacation, especially one that takes place in Orlando, is the dining portion of the vacation. With so many unique and signature restaurants waiting for the guest, and the need to "Fuel up" from time to time to tour the parks it makes sense that guests would have their favorite restaurants in their sights for each trip, especially when those trips are few and far between.

Of course there are only so many meals in a day and so many days in a trip so it becomes a challenge to visit your favorite restaurant on every trip. Let's say that most visitors have a "Top Five" list of WDW restaurants and try to visit at least two of them on every trip. There is a good chance that guests can visit two of their favorite restaurants if they are proactive enough to plan ahead and call for Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRS) and be flexible with their time.

So is it a sign that saturation is close if on one particular trip the effort was not made to secure a meal at a favorite restaurant? I think so. No matter how short the trip, I have always managed to get one meal in at one of my beloved WDW eateries. That tells me something as to how precious I value my time in Orlando.

After doing some self-assessment on this subject I have concluded that I have never even come close to hitting that saturation point. I do find, though, that one particular habit has waned over the years. In the past I have always found the need to purchase something for myself -- perhaps a shirt, keychain, book, watch, or something you just cannot find anywhere else except in Orlando. Is that a possible flag? For some it might be, but I think it's just me saying, "I don't need it!"

And therein lies the key -- need.

When need entered the equation I realized how each one of us can assess whether we are approaching that Disney saturation point. We all look forward to our Disney trips, be it to California, Florida, or anywhere in the world where Mickey waits for us, because from time to time we NEED a respite from our daily lives. We NEED to see Mickey... we NEED to willfully suspend disbelief in order to get through the workday, the work month... the work year... life.

As long as that need is there -- to soar above the Golden Gate bridge, to dodge 999 ghosts, to drop 13 stories, to face the Yeti -- then that Disney saturation point or threshold will never surface.

Is it therapeutic? Perhaps, and there is nothing wrong with that.

So... do you think you have seen signs that you may be approaching that saturation point? If so, I'd love to hear from you.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mike Scopa has been a huge Disney fan for as long as he can remember. He first visited Walt Disney World in 1975 and has returned many times (how many? he's lost count!) since. Mike is a contributor to the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World and Cara Goldsbury's Luxury Guide to Walt Disney World, and has served as keynote speaker for MagicMeets. He is also co-host of the WDWTODAY Podcast and writes a regular blog, The View from Scopa Towers, for AllEars.Net:

In addition, Mike is co-captain of Team AllEars® -- the AllEars.Net Running Team that will participate in the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend in 2011.


Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.