Richard Hyatt: The true spirit of Disney

February 18, 2014 

Mickey Mouse runs a billion dollar resort down in Florida, but when a minimum wage cast member makes a little girl cry, even the splendor of Disney World is in jeopardy.

This was Kamryn's first visit to the Magic Kingdom and she immediately fell in love with a new incarnation of one of Mickey's iconic attractions. She soared in the air with Dumbo the Flying Elephant on Saturday and we were back on Sunday to hook up our seatbelts again.

On that first visit she got a glimpse of a themed play area inside. To grownups, it is little more than a McDonald's playground on steroids, but to a 4-year-old, it's special. The line was short so we were waved past that section.

When we asked what she wanted to do Sunday she wanted to ride Dumbo again. But this time she wanted to play. It made no sense to me but I'm old so how could it?

Guests in Disney resort hotels get three Fast Passes every day. At a designated time, you go in a special gate at your favorite attraction and you don't have to endure those endless waits.

Sunday at Dumbo was a breeze. We went straight to the front of the line in sight of the play area. In the dark, we confronted a cast member who apparently flunked Mickey Mouse's class on customer service.

"That's for people who have to stand in line. She can't go in there," he said.

Hearing this, Kamryn went into melt-down mode. She dropped to the floor and started to sob. Even then, he said nothing.

We pulled Kamryn along, hoping the ride would help but she didn't want to fly. She wanted to play.

Outside another cast member saw how upset she was. While Kaye consoled Kamryn, I asked if a manager or a customer service rep was on duty.

"Is there anything I can do to help?" she asked.

When I told her what happened, she offered an observation that seemed so simple: "Why didn't he just let her go in and play?"

Without calling anyone, this wise young woman pushed aside the rulebook to make a little girl happy.

"Some people are too hung up on the rules," she said.

We rode Dumbo and then Kamryn was personally escorted to the play area. She could play as long as she wanted, they told us.

I should have noted the name of the thoughtful cast member who made Kamryn's disappointment go away. She understood the true spirit of Disney.

By the end of the day, Kamryn was hugging Pluto and getting her picture taken with the yellow dog with floppy ears. The experience at Dumbo was forgotten and so was the jerk that made her cry.

-- Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. Reach him at

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