Walt Disney World Hooks
by Mike Scopa
AllEars® Feature Writer
I remember one time being asked how I get through the gaps between my trips to Walt Disney World. The best way to answer that question is to describe what I look forward to every time I go to Orlando.
Have you ever sat around with friends or relatives (sometimes they can be one and the same, you know) and talk about the places you love to visit? Whenever someone comes back from a vacation the most important question that can be asked is, "Would you go back?" If the answer is "Yes!" then there is no doubt that they enjoyed themselves and want to relive their experience. The same can be said for visits to Disneyland, Walt Disney World, or any Disney destination.
But what is it specifically about that experience that has us looking forward to a return visit?
That was what I asked myself many times and I wanted to be sure that my answer made sense not just to me but to everyone who asked me the same question. We've heard the reasons for returning: "Oh it's so Magical!" "I love Mickey!" "The food is out of this world." "They have the best fireworks." I agree with all those statements but I'd like to delve into this a bit more and I want to nudge or trigger your memory into thinking about something more specific.
What I am looking for, and I will provide some examples, is for you to pinpoint some specific memories that, "grab" or "hook" you when you visit. So I'm introducing a new term -- "Walt Disney World Hooks." By hook I mean a very unique and specific sensory moment in Walt Disney World, specifically what we would call an attraction, that cannot be experienced anywhere else.
For our purposes saying, "Oh, it's the first time I see Cinderella Castle as I turn into Main Street USA!" does not fill the bill. Why? First of all I think 100 percent of those who are asked for their WDW hook will say exactly that and to me that's a given. I want more. I want a very unique and specific instance or moment on an attraction that is very special and says to you, "I'm back!"
Of course it has to be very sensory in nature, something that you see, hear, or smell that perhaps hit you in a special way the first time you experienced it and is forever part of what brings you back for more. It grabs you. It hooks you into coming back, hence the term Walt Disney World Hook. Just to be sure you know exactly what I mean I want to share some of my Walt Disney World Hooks with you.
Let me start in Disney's Animal Kingdom. One of my hooks is that precise moment on Expedition Everest when you stop at the very top, in front of the ripped up track and find yourself going backwards. It lasts for about two or three seconds, but it is very much something that reminds me I am in Walt Disney World. So that is a hook -- a moment, an instant on an attraction or viewing a show or something that tells you you're home.
Have I gotten you to think of your own hooks?
Here's one from the Magic Kingdom. I have always considered Peter Pan's Flight as the one and only attraction that has never really been touched. By that I mean no change in the name or the attraction itself since the Magic Kingdom's turnstiles first opened in 1971.
My hook is the moment on the ride when we hear Peter say, "Here we go!" and the next thing I know I'm looking down upon the city of London at night while hearing, "You Can Fly! You Can Fly!" That has not changed a bit in 40 years. It brings back memories of my first visit to WDW, that's why it is a hook for me.
Let's head over to Disney's Hollywood Studios. There are several attractions there that have hooks for me. The first attraction is The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. The moment that stands out the most is that memorable second the elevator door closes and we begin to ascend. But that hook ends as soon as the elevator doors open again and we are looking down that hallway. Sure, the rest of the ride is fun, but it's those two or three seconds that hook me.
Are you beginning to understand what I am looking for? In a way, you could say these are signature moments for me and my relationship with Walt Disney World.
One other attraction that has a hook for me is The Great Movie Ride pre-show. As soon as I catch a glimpse of that pre-show film loop of the classic movies I say to myself, "I'm here." Again, I thoroughly enjoy the rest of the attraction itself but nothing hits me more than the second I see that film loop. Another attraction in the Studios that I feel has a hook moment for me is The Voyage of the Little Mermaid. This is a bit different than the other hooks. Among everything that occurs during that attraction it is the audience's reaction the moment it begins to "rain" in the theater that hits me the most. That is the hook for me.
I hope you are now beginning to assemble your own personal list of Walt Disney World Hooks.
I have multiple hooks in Epcot. The first one is on Spaceship Earth. It's the moment that my vehicle is directly under Michelangelo as he paints the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The combination of that image, along with the music being played makes for a memorable hook moment for me. Another hook moment comes from Soarin' and, like most hook moments, it hits me because it brings back memories of my first introduction to Soarin' in 2005. What I remember most of all from that very first time I rode this attraction is the feeling when lifted off the ground and I find my feet dangling. That is a special moment. Sure, the sights and smells and music throughout may offer a signature moment for others, but for me it is lift-off.
I have a difficult time choosing my number one Walt Disney World Hook. I have two, which I sometimes find sharing that top spot, and so it's virtually impossible to choose one over the other.
I consider nighttime spectaculars like Fantasmic, Wishes, and IllumiNations as attractions. During IllumiNations we hear the song "We Go On" sung by Kellie Coffey. There is a specific moment, it lasts 10-12 seconds, that is a huge Walt Disney World hook for me. Although the song touches me in so many ways, it is when the last note hits and there is a finale of white fireworks shells that just tells me where I am and that no place on Earth can duplicate that moment.
Now here is where I explain a bit more as to this whole concept of Walt Disney World Hooks and how they can attach themselves to you. There are many experiences we can recall from a visit to Walt Disney World and without knowing it we find ourselves associating certain memories with times and places in our lives. For me that last note reminds me of friends who have found so many challenges in life yet pick them up and move forward.
They all come to mind when I hear that last note and see the World Showcase Lagoon sky light up. Now, that is a moment.
Finally my other candidate for my top Walt Disney World hook is a little complicated. It's hard to pinpoint just one hook for this particular attraction. It's the only Walt Disney World attraction that has more than one hook for me. I'm speaking of The American Adventure. The first of these hooks hits me at the very end of the "Rosie the Riveter" scene when I hear the first five seconds of "Golden Dream". When that film begins my entire body becomes so focused on the images -- it's something I look forward to more than almost anything else in Walt Disney World. That is an introductory hook to three others within the film. Remember, this is The American Adventure and so when I see hook number one of Christa McAuliffe walking with her fellow crewmembers towards the Space Shuttle Challenger, looking for adventure... unaware that it will be her final journey... Hook number two is the very brief scene where JFK, Jr. salutes his father in 1963. That became a moment for me during July 1999. I was in WDW when JFK Jr. lost his life in a plane crash, again looking for adventure. Finally as a runner and a father, I find the image of Rick Holt, born with cerebral palsy and being pushed in the Boston Marathon by his dad Dick, as probably the strongest Walt Disney World Hook of them all. It's a father showing his son something that many have claimed Walt Disney once said, "If you can dream it, you can do it."
Maybe that's the key. Each one of these hooks brings with it a special meaning to each of us. Could it be the dream of flying, the adventure of space, the thrill of the unknown? One thing I have discovered is that it is these specific instances, these moments in time, that draw us back -- and each one of us has our own list of hooks.
The list is endless. Perhaps the first time Chernabog opens his wings as he passes by in SpectroMagic; maybe the first three notes being sung of "O Canada"; perhaps it's the finale chorus sung in "The Festival of the Lion King" in Animal Kingdom...
Either way, my feeling is that it's these hooks that grab our attention and trigger special instances of visits past and visits to come in Walt Disney World.
So, what are your personal Walt Disney World Hooks?
What grabs you? Let us know and perhaps you'll see yours in an upcoming issue of AllEars®!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mike Scopa has been a huge Disney fan for as long as he can remember. He first visited Walt Disney World in 1975 and has returned many times (how many? he's lost count!) since. Mike is a contributor to the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World and Cara Goldsbury's Luxury Guide to Walt Disney World, and has served as keynote speaker for MagicMeets. He is also co-host of the WDWTODAY Podcast and writes a regular blog, The View from Scopa Towers, for AllEars.Net: http://land.allears.net/blogs/mikescopa/
In addition, Mike is co-captain of Team AllEars® -- the AllEars.Net Running Team that will participate in the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend in 2011.
and then the responses to the blog in which my little hook is published: WDW Hooks Responses