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Friday, May 1, 2015

The Story of DISNEYLAND: Staffing the Dream

"You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality."

-Walt Disney

While DISNEYLAND was under construction, Walt Disney proudly gave tours to his many friends and acquaintances. When they would remark how amazing everything was, he would always say that it would be even more amazing once it was filled with people. Where others saw just a massive construction project, he was envisioning the completed project- full of happy guests and smiling employees. He knew he couldn't just hire anyone and send them out into the park without any training. That's how the University of DISNEYLAND came to be.

Walt had a particular idea of how things should be in his Magic Kingdom. To get it there, one of the first people he hired was Van Arnsdale France, an expert in personnel training. Walt sat with him one day and explained his vision for DISNEYLAND and how its employees should be trained to deal with his customers. Van retreated to his office (located in one of the old farmhouses relocated from the main property to a plot across West Street) to put Walt Disney's thoughts into a cohesive training plan.

(In the picture above, #1 marks DISNEYLAND Park, #2 is where the DISNEYLAND Hotel has started construction and #3 is where the Personnel offices were located, roughly where the parking lot for Disney's Grand Californian Hotel exists now.)

Mr. France created a lively curriculum based on Walt's desires. In fact, the curriculum was so good, the company still bases its training programs on it. Other companies have copied it as well.

At the University of DISNEYLAND, employees would be referred to as "Cast Members" and customers as "Guests". Mr. Disney wanted everyone who visited the park to be treated as though they were his personal guests. His Cast Members were expected to represent him with courtesy, kindness and respect. DISNEYLAND would be welcoming guests from around the world, of every race and creed. Walt expected ALL of his guests to be treated with respect. Cast Members were instructed to leave any prejudices or bigotry at the gate. Anything less would result in immediate dismissal.

Another aspect of the training was the idea that "We work while others play." The guests would be traveling from every country around the world and from across the United States to entrust their precious vacation time to Mr. Disney. He felt that they deserved to get top quality service and DISNEYLAND's cast members were expected to provide it each and every time. Mr. France (pictured below on the right) made his pitch to Walt, insisting that every new cast member should have to go through this training. Mr. Disney completely agreed and the legendary Disney customer service training began immediately.

Every guest who walks into the park, from tiny babies to senior citizens, and everyone in between, instantly feels the Disney Magic. The smiling faces, brightly colored buildings and impeccable landscaping combine to create a wonderful feeling that washes over every guest. Babies giggle, children take it all in with wide eyed wonder, the grumpiest grump smiles and the world, even if just for a day, feels like a happy, beautiful place. It's exactly the way Walt wanted it, and his spirit can still be felt in every corner of his one and only Magic Kingdom- DISNEYLAND.

Next week is "May the Fourth Week" here at RetlawYensid.com featuring stories about Disney's newest addition- The Star Wars Universe. The Story of DISNEYLAND will return May 15th.