Pure awesome All-American fun

By Katie Kieffer


Image credit: “Sleeping Beauty Castle” by Andrew Poole on Flickr via Creative Commons.

Apple pie. Baseball. And Disneyland?

I never thought of visiting Disneyland as “All-American” recreation on par with watching a baseball game—beer in one hand, hot dog in the other. But, last week, I vacationed in California. Before I left, my friend insisted, “You have to go to Disneyland. It’s practically un-American not to go.”

The first time I visited Disneyland I was an awestruck little girl on a mission to find Minnie Mouse, while eating a lollipop the size of my head. When I walked through the gates on my second visit, the man who took my ticket said: “Welcome to pure awesome. Your life is about to change forever.” I laughed, but, this time, I saw Disneyland with the eyes of an entrepreneur.

As I watched children squeal in delight while their parents reveled in the opportunity to fulfill their own childhood fantasies, I realized that my friend was right: Not because it would be “un-American” not to go to Disneyland, but because it would be un-American for an entrepreneurial success like Disneyland not to exist in America.

Nearly every American 6-year-old knows who Mickey and Minnie are or has seen Disney films. Walt Disney is an American icon. He embedded his business into American culture and grew his innovative dream into a worldwide entertainment empire with 450 Disney getaway destinations.

Disneyland’s success represents an All-American culture that says anything is possible if you work hard, dream big and satisfy market needs. Disneyland is not an electric car. California’s world-renown theme park did not rise to success because the government recommended it to us. Disneyland satisfies a real market.

Like many successful entrepreneurs, Disney took his interests, like operating toy trains and entertaining children, and, found a remunerative niche. On July 17, 1955, in the presence of Ronald Reagan and others, Disney unveiled his first theme park in Anaheim, California: Disneyland.

Disneyland was the first of its kind and families ate up Disney’s entertainment. However, when other theme parks cropped up across the country and technology changed, Disney did not rest on his laurels. He created competitive value for the marketplace that allowed him to stay relevant and expand his company globally.

MSNBC reports that Disneyland started out as “wildly innovative” and that The Walt Disney Company has led the way in developing new ride technologies over the years. For example, on my visit, I utilized Disney’s FASTPASS service to bypass a two-hour wait for the all-new Star Wars “Star Tours” digital 3-D ride.

Successful entrepreneurs do not take their customers for granted. They don’t assume that the government will usher new clients in the door. Rather, they build long-term relationships with their clients to keep them coming back.

The park is meticulous and employees enforce park rules with consistent kindness. When the guy ahead of me tried to smuggle a soda into the park, the gate operator kindly asked if he’d like a cup to drink his soda with before entering. Every employee we met—from the man sweeping the streets who offered to help me find a ride, to the woman who cheerfully added fudge to my sundae after I pointed out it was missing—seemed genuinely happy. The government’s TSA staff that barked at me like they owned my body when I opted out of the scanner could learn from Disney.

Running any business, including a theme park full of fun and games, is risky. A ride could tragically malfunction. A child could choke on a Mickey-shaped cookie. Over-protective parents could whine about the Jungle Cruise gorilla shooting a toy gun.

America should encourage young people who are willing to take risks and start businesses that satisfy real market demands as opposed to artificial “needs” fabricated by the government. Otherwise, recent grads may feel obligated to work for the government in exchange for “job security.”

If our government excessively taxes and regulates businesses, we will lose entrepreneurs who would otherwise develop a “Disney”-size idea to end bed bugs or cure cancer. You don’t need to go to the world of fantasy to make your dreams come true in a free market; you create your own magic by innovating and creating jobs because the rewards outweigh the risks.

We should also uphold successful American entrepreneurs like Walt Disney rather than envying their success and accusing them of greed. Their entrepreneurial success has a ripple effect that helps other start-ups.

For example, Disney licenses its brand—giving clothing, jewelry and toy manufacturers the ability to profit off its animated characters like Tinker Bell and its Disney Channel stars like the Jonas Brothers. Essentially, other companies can ride to greater success on the coattails of Disney’s achievement.

As you vacation this summer, observe what lies beneath countless amusements that you’ll enjoy: All-American entrepreneurship, capitalism, perseverance and passion.

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  1. starguy24 says:

    Disney is a very interesting case study when it comes to this. I spent a couple of years when I was in college working at Disneyland in a couple of different departments. Equally so, it’s been fun to study them for my ethics and business classes in case studies.

    Business wise, it is very much as is described in the article. Most of the people I worked with loved working there. Looking back, my memories are great for much of it.

    But if I may, consider a very different side of it. Many of the “front line” employees…err…Cast Members…are union members. But unlike most of the public employee unions, the Cast Members frequently have to rely on just the union bosses to get them a “better” deal. Many of the younger workers are very idealistic when they come in there. Many of them are just out of high school or are in college and very much believe in a utopian ideal and that one day the union will be able to cut them a better deal for that next big “reward”.

    Behind the scenes, some departments sound more like a junior high gossip discussion than a business. My first time around with the company, it wasn’t unusual to have a 12-14 hour shift and the wear was showing on everyone. The second time around, it was a bit better hours-wise, but the politicking and a progressive attitude were still constant.

    What keeps it fresh is (oddly enough) a high rate of turn over. Which isn’t all that uncommon in the entertainment industry at any level. From a leadership standpoint, I disagree with leading people on with concepts that are unreachable and expect someone else to get for them. I also disagree with treating adults as children requiring guidance in a professional setting.

    But at the same time, Miss Kieffer’s point that Disney took the hard route is no joke. Recently, the park has shifted away from the glossed over version of history and facts. There’s a renewed sense (i.e. Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln) where it doesn’t pull punches with how hard life can be to make it. Even with some of the negatives behind the scenes, there is still a very real dream. And in some ways that dream seems to have been renewed that hard work pays off more than expecting a group hand out.

  2. Sophocles says:

    Yes, Jayson, they should be included among bad regulations. The government enforces laws, i.e. those structures put in place (ideally) to create a framework that protects citizens from theft or other evils thereby ensuring an environment of freedom and equality under the law. The government never has, does not now and never will possess the wisdom, prudence or honesty necessary to choose which law-abiding citizens should flourish and which should not.

  3. jayson says:

    Katie writes, “If our government excessively taxes and regulates businesses, we will lose entrepreneurs…” Is Government subsidization of entrepreneurs, and the socialization of their risk, to be included among these bad regulations?

    • jayson says:

      Correct. The problem is that I don’t think this is something that traditional conservatives realize; how much we socialize the risk of private enterprises (the corporate form itself is a form of this, but hey, it has its advantages).

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