I’ll never forget the moment I found out that Walt Disney World World was closing in reaction to the spread of COVID-19. I was on a Bumble date of all things at a wine bar, and when I looked at my phone to see that not just Disney World but Disneyland and Disneyland Paris would cease operations, the entire world seemed to stop.
It was monumental because NOTHING brings Disney to a halt like that. Granted, I was–and still am–against the debilitating and outright harmful lockdowns that we all endured, but that’s beside the point. When Disney World shut down, that was the moment for me–and probably for a lot of other people–that it became clear that things were not okay, and it was probably not going to be okay for a while. I say this as a fan, relative of past Cast Members, a Walt Disney Company Stockholder, and–quite frankly–a red-blooded American and Floridian.
We can complain all we want on the internet about who is in charge and how much it costs now, but the fact of the matter is that the Walt Disney World Resort transcends the present-day shortcomings as a timeless American establishment that is a financial wellspring for tens of thousands of people (yes, that includes the antagonized and belittled minimum wage jobs), a birthplace of technological, and logistical innovations, a mental and psychological retreat for countless others struggling to find their place in the world, and the catalyst for family bonding and development. All of those things are at the center of a success-driven American society.
Disney World needs to keep going. No, I am not saying that we need to give it special privileges so that it can keep going while we force all “lesser” or “smaller” folk and business to stay shuttered “for their own safety” again. (That should NEVER happen again.) I am saying that the Cast Members at every level, from Disney Parks Chairman Josh D’Amaro to the Disney College Program kid selling balloons on Main Street, U.S.A., have a responsibility to get to work and keep those things–those sources of real-world magic–open and thriving and to continue to provide its most essential service to its patrons: spreading the assurance that everything is okay and is only going to get better. That alone is as crucial to a hurricane survivor as food, clean water, and warm shelter.
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And Disney World is LOSING money as it serves as that proverbial oasis. Well aware of the flooding and other hazards, Cast Members are not being asked to risk life and limb to go serve the fat, entitled tourists. They were being offered shifts at higher-than-normal pay rates on a voluntary basis and are now returning to work on an ability basis. Disney World has waived the cancelation fees and offered refunds for thousands of hotel stays, dinner reservations, special tours of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique makeovers, and countless other extra magic experiences. Not to mention the fact that an entire Disney Cruise out of Port Canaveral was canceled due to the Hurricane, and those Cast Members are working overtime to keep their Guests happy.
Like the “Keep Calm Carry On” posters hung up around England during WW2, Disney needs to inspire us to keep calm and carry on, and that means leading by example and getting back to work.
That is what we do in Florida. We brace for nightmare storms like Ian every year, expecting the worst but always hoping for the best. We will assess the damage, and we will mourn for the lives, livelihoods, and special places that have been lost. But we will also get outside, clear the debris, raise what infrastructure has fallen, take care of our own, and get to work. And also, we will keep finding reasons to smile.
It is a travesty to see so many people victimize these Cast Members and antagonize an entity that is trying to revive a sense of normalcy and maintain livelihoods. We should see these enduring magic-makers as a source of inspiration to get up and get to work ourselves.
God bless all of the Cast Members, Guests, Team Members, and Florida residents who have been affected by Hurricane Ian. May tomorrow continue to be better than today, and you find some real-world pixie dust that puts a smile on your face. Stay resilient and keep all magic alive! Never let fear and despair let the light go out and be muzzled as it was before.
Meanwhile, Guests should be more aware of the sacrifices and hopefully remember the gratitude once undoubtedly felt for this place and its Cast Members.
Everything is going to be okay in the end. We will get through this!
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s and may not reflect the sentiments of Disney Fanatic as a whole.