The Happiest Place on Earth

The Happiest Place on Earth

In conjunction with our attendance at the annual iNACOL Blended and Online Learning Conference in Orlando in early November, Christine and I took time out for a day of play—and learning—at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

What better way to study one of the world's foremost brands than to go immerse ourselves in the rich customer experience of it? The world of Disney is expansive with a large cast of beloved characters—none more ubiquitous and quintessential as that little mouse—that appeals to all ages and nationalities. People are crazy for Disney memorabilia, and some of the earliest merchandise that sold for pennies is worth thousands of dollars now. As a media conglomerate, the Walt Disney Company is the largest in the world and umbrellas such well-known brands as ESPN, ABC Family and A+E Networks.

What's incredible to realize is that this mega-corp began with the imagination of one artist, singular in his quest to break into the cartoon industry and create a character that people would find endearing and enduring. Walt Disney was also endlessly curious about how the technology of his day could be used to bring his cartoons to life, and he pioneered cartoon filming techniques and feature-length animation. He also understood the power of pairing music with his cartoons to bring the story to life. His Silly Symphonies had no spoken dialogue—just music—and one of them, Flowers and Trees, won Disney one of his first Academy Awards.

The history of any business as large and far-reaching as Disney's will inevitably be studded with moments of controversy, and an organization of this caliber will capitalize on their communication resources and brand loyalty to mitigate any negative perceptions. Though I might not always agree with The Walt Disney Company's stances or practices, I have the utmost admiration for what this man created and the power of his imagination.

I see Walt Disney as a someone who dreamed BIG and nurtured his child-like joy and curiosity all throughout his life. I believe it is these qualities and his abiding passion that infused his creations with the power to captivate legions of kids and adults.

We were certainly captivated that day at Hollywood Studios. As designers, we reveled in the display of color, lights, animations, 3D graphics, animation and sound that converged in this high energy multi-sensory experience. We saw so many interesting uses of space, typography and layout to create different moods, different rhythms and take-aways. It was a blessed day out from behind our computers and right in thick of a design and marketing masterpiece.