Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Keep It Magical

The other day Aladdin ended his text to me with the line 'keep it real.' I sat on the bus grinning like the Cheshire Cat as I explained that I have never been, and will never be, cool enough to 'keep it real.'

A few minutes later he replied that I was right. He told me instead to 'Keep It Magical.'

In those three words I feel that he totally summed my attitude. If I didn't think that I'd be disowned from my family forever I'd get those words tattooed on me somewhere.

When I worked as an Activity Instructor at a holiday resort I felt that the most important thing was that the children could temporarily suspend reality enough to feel like they really were learning to be Cowboys in the Wild Wild West; that the clues that they were searching for really had been left by a pirate; that the evidence that they found in Cool Detectives really had been found for the first time by them.

When I was nannying I felt the same- the best part of it for me was inventing characters for the children to know and love and believe in.

When I was asked at my Disney interview what I liked most about my job I told a story.

On my first day as an activity instructor there were two empty drainpipes leaning against the wall. When the first two children came tearing into the garden in excitement, their immediate and totally natural response was 'OH MY GOODNESS! THERE ARE TWO CANNONS HERE- A PIRATE'S BEEN!'

That was the moment that I realised that working with children is for me.

No adults I had ever worked with (at this point) would have had that natural reaction.

Since that position I have gone for jobs as a nanny, an entertainer, a birthday party princess and in Disney World, and until Aladdin sent me that text I had not realised that the one thing that every job has in common is that they involve Keeping It Magical.

Three months ago I wrote a blog post describing my attempts to 'Spread The Joy.'

Since that post I have continued to make an effort to make people smile; but with a Magical Disney twist.

And one of my favourite things about working for Disney is that they not only allow this but they encourage it.

 Which, in turn, means that when I go to play in the parks on my days off I can experience the magic myself.

Here are a few of my favourite examples....

1. Real Magic.

I recently went for breakfast at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa (as amazing as it sounds, I assure you). As we were among the first to arrive we were lucky enough to be able to watch the children in front of us say the magic word in order to unlock the door to the restaurant.

The magic word was 'Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.'

And as the two small girls shouted the words- 'poof!'- the door opened and Mary Poppins was standing in the doorway.

Real Magic.

2. Inexplicable Magic.

The following day Dumbo and I went for lunch at the Beast's Castle (I've eaten in my apartment approximately three times since I moved in). We checked in for lunch, ordered, then wandered round to explore the castle while we waited for our food. We could have been in any room in the huge castle yet somehow they knew exactly where to bring our food. When I asked the server, he smiled and said 'You know this is an enchanted castle ma'am', before winking and disappearing.

A week later I watched Beauty and the Beast and I genuinely felt like I had been inside that film a few days before.


3. Little things.

A few weeks ago I was out for breakfast when the waitress began pouring glasses of orange juice for everyone. Having seen what it's like to work in food and beverage for Disney I decided against announcing my allergy to oranges to everyone: it's a big deal backstage if an allergy's known and I didn't want to do that to the lovely lady looking after us that day. So instead I just covered my glass and said no thank you.

She smiled and offered me tea or coffee instead.

Which in itself would have been perfect service.

A few moments later she appeared with a large glass of water for me instead.

Just like magic.

I'm still thinking about that glass of water a month later: she's probably so used to making small magic every day that she didn't even notice how special it was.

4. Personal Magic.

A couple of weeks ago Aladdin and I went to watch Disney's Electrical Parade in Magic Kingdom. As Cinderella's beautiful carriage went by, the princess smiled and waved as usual then pointed at the girl next to me and mouthed 'Happy Birthday.'

Of all the things that her parents may have paid for in Disney World: a special dinner, presents, merchandise, that moment is the number one thing that that little girl will remember about her birthday- about any of her birthdays- something that was free of charge and just took two people to make happen: the genius who created the birthday badges for guests to wear, and Cinderella, who went to the effort of looking for the badge and pointing it out.

That day she could have smiled and waved easily and made everyone's day magical. But she chose to make that child feel extra special- something that she will treasure probably for the rest of her life.

5. Extra Magic.

I wasn't actually there for this story but I feel the need to share it anyway- I know you'll appreciate it.

Ella was five years old and had spent five years reading, watching and falling in love with the characters of Winnie the Pooh. So when she came to Walt Disney World her number one priority was getting an Eeyore soft toy. She had waited and waited to get it, and when she did she carried him everywhere around the park like her new best friend.

As Ella, her parents and her grandparents were skipping along the streets of Epcot, Eeyore leapt out of Ella's arms and straight into the path of her Grandma's electric wheelchair where he was promptly torn apart.

Luckily at that moment Lucy was walking past. Lucy was an Epcot Cast Member who happened to be a stuffed animal doctor. She knelt down beside Eeyore and checked his pulse. It was still there. She lifted him carefully and took him in to first aid.

After a worrying fifteen minutes in the waiting room, Ella sighed in relief then squealed in excitement as Eeyore was wheeled out in his own wheelchair with his arm in a sling and a bandage across his eye.

I will remember this story forever and I wasn't even there- can you imagine how magical that was for Ella and her family?

I imagine she'll be telling that story into her eighties.

Magic happens all the time in Walt Disney World- I see it every single day: at work, on my way home, on my days off, and then I get home and hear stories of magic happening from my friends and housemates.

Before I came to Disney my Grandma said that she wondered how I would face the real world after being here for a year.

I later said to my mum that I was sure I would be fine- I'm only working in Disney, I'm still exposed to the real world here.

But actually, the more time I spend here the more I think my Grandma might have been right.

Last week I ventured to the supermarket and a UPS store and took a taxi home.

The whole experience was so un-magical- everyone I encountered was rude and unhelpful and I felt like I had ruined everyone's day by even leaving my house. When I was almost home I got a text from Aladdin saying he had sent Tinkerbell to give me a hug.

 When I got back to Disney housing I was so traumatised that I poured the whole story out to security with tears in my eyes.

Guess what the Disney Security Guard did?

She gave me a big hug and told me that my day would get a whole lot better now.

So Tinkerbell really did get the message.

That one morning spent outside of Disney showed me that I'm already so used to magic that I struggle with the real world, and I don't know if Tinkerbell can send messages all the way back to Essex....

So I was thinking, maybe we should all add magic to our attempts at Spreading the Joy.

Maybe if we all injected a little bit of magic into everyday life Disney would no longer be the happiest place on Earth because the Earth would be a happy place.

Maybe I'm not going to change the world with my attempts at magic.

But Aladdin, Dumbo and far too many other cast members to name have made my world- and the worlds of millions of others- a magical place to be. And that counts for a lot.

So as you go about your daily life- Spreading the Joy and making people smile- consider the effect that you could have on those around you- and Keep It Magical :)