The Disney Effect

Disneyland Paris Castle


I’ll let you into a secret.

I’ve been away.

A glorious week at Disneyland Paris, at a fabulous hotel, eating wonderful food and walking eight miles a day.

And spending hours at a time standing in line to go on a ride that took no time at all.

I loved every minute of it. It was like being enveloped in a big, pink, commercial fantasyland where little children were allowed to be princesses and grown-ass humans could wander around wearing Mickey ears without being judged.

I would go back in a heartbeat if I could.

But I can’t, so until next time I’ll just have to knuckle down to real life.

sad face

It wasn’t all play though. I never manage to switch off for long, and I came away with some business-type thoughts. I even had an epiphany at 37,000 feet (as well as the whole plane hearing police sirens from below as we entered French airspace … that was weird).

Now we all love a fairytale (you do, don’t you?), but my trip away left me with questions:


  • Why do people pay an exorbitant amount to go and stay in a totally fake environment, surrounded by shops, rides, restaurants and little else?
  • Why do people stand in line for an hour or more to go on a ride that lasts little over a minute?
  • Why do people knowingly spend all their money in shops full of the same old stuff (even if it is mega cute). And I mean ALL their money.
  • Why do normally serious adults suspend disbelief and wander around wearing merchandise, and talking to Disney characters as though they were real (and not *looks around for any children … whispers quietly* human adults in doll costumes).
Pirate ship by Pirates of the Caribbean ride
Yes, we went on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride every single day. At least once a day.

There’s just one answer, people.

It’s the story.

And the feeling of inclusivity (ok that’s two answers).

Disney ice cream
It has nothing to do with the food. Not really. But, boy, was it good!

The reason that Disney is such a huge success is that people love a story, and they love to feel part of something. We’re hard-wired to love a story. It’s one of the most powerful forms of communication, can break down barriers and makes people feel included. Stories encourage empathy, can help people feel less alone and can move people in ways other forms of communication can’t.

A good story opens doorways to new lives

We love places like Disneyland because we become immersed in the fantasy, and it allows us to revert to childhood for a little while. We step inside the story and leave our troubles at the entrance gates. We know it’s totally fake, but that’s ok. We’re living in a fairytale while we’re there and it helps us cope with the adulting once we leave.

We stand in line for an hour to go on that ride because while we stand we’re surrounded by the story of the ride. We stand with other people, make contact and occasionally make friends for a little while. We expand our community for that hour.

standing in line

We spend all our money in the brightly coloured shops, full of brightly coloured toys, clothes and homeware because we’re buying into the dream. We’re a knowingly captive audience who want to extend our experience through into our real lives when we go home.

We suspend disbelief and wear the merchandise because we want to, and the herd mentality wants us all to follow the crowd. Of course there’s also the fact that we want the children around us to believe in the magic for as long as possible … any adult who doesn’t play along is in danger of ruining the dream for everyone else.

Panoramic from the Disney Castle, Paris


So what has this got to do with my business and your business?

Well, it shows that storytellers can help create engagement (yes, storytellers like me!).

By including narrative in your business website and material you can engage your customers more. Let people in, let them know about you and your business. Everyone loves a story and stories can make you more real. Help people see the real you.

magnifying glass

If you don’t believe me check out this article from the Harvard Business Review.


We don’t all need to go full Disney, but the Disneyland parks are a fabulous example of how storytelling can create an environment that engages customers.

And stories sell.

If you need help creating your story contact me and we can create a narrative that’ll help engage your clients.

A fabulous dish from Walts on Main Street
A fabulous dish from Walt’s on Main Street. Ok, it is sometimes about the food experience.

Now I’m home I’m missing my life beneath that pink fairytale castle. It was a warm, happy, inclusive place where pirates mingled with princesses and fluffy seven-foot-tall teddy bears. And where we rode rollercoasters before an omelette burger breakfast and took a trip with StarTours every day.

Our omelette burger
Ok, so we even tried to recreate our breakfast when we came home. More attempts needed.

But it’s time to get back to reality. And when I’m not helping my clients create their own stories I’ll be helping to create a fairytale pantomime at our local theatre for the next three months. I suppose stories are in my blood.

What’s your story?

2 Comments on “The Disney Effect

  1. Wow, Sara! Great relating Disney to the stories thing, and then, of course, making them up ourselves and having people like us edit them! Yay!
    Hope it isn’t too blustery up there yet as you head into the serious part of Autumn . . .

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