Manufactured Magic: The story behind the story of Disney World’s $1-billion re-imagineering

Last week, my colleagues and I joined about 1,400 of our closest friends in the construction defect litigation industry at the Disneyland Hotel for a conference. It was my first time staying at the actual Disneyland Hotel. Nice hotel, but really unacceptably poor wifi, and the grounds demonstrate a myopic and blatant disregard for the drought we find ourselves in…

After six months of intense research, Austin Carr wrote an extensive article for Fast Company on a massive program that Disney undertook at the iconic Disney World resort to bring its theme parks into the modern digital age. The article is called The Messy Business of Reinventing Happiness.

The night before the article went live, Carr gave a behind-the-scenes glimpse of some of the drama that was uncovered during his investigation. Well worth the read:

Talk to Disney or read other stories about MyMagic+, and you’ll learn it cost nearly $1 billion to develop. But you won’t be privy to the fact that the earliest bill-of-materials cost estimate for the MagicBand was $35, a surreal 87,000% increase from the 4-cent paper tickets Disney historically relied on. Or that the cost to redesign and integrate DisneyWorld.com with MyMagic+ ended up ballooning to nearly $80 million. One former creative involved tells me “people do a spit-take when I tell them I worked on an $80 million website. But the scale of it was so massive.”

Talk to Disney, and you’ll hear about the collaborative, team-oriented atmosphere. You won’t hear about the internal resistance, the grasping for credit, the political battles. One source deeply enmeshed in the development describes Disney as a “culture that is all smiles and happiness, and everyone is going in to give you a hug. But you have no idea who is working against you. You come out bruised and bloody.” Another former exec says there was “land-grabbing, finger-pointing, and, quite frankly, a lot of yelling in closed-door meetings.” Adds another executive partner intimately involved with the project, “There were a lot of bodies buried on the side of the road [over the course of developing MyMagic+].”

But the truth is, this is how innovation happens. The scale of MyMagic+ was indeed massive, as are many projects developed at innovative companies. Yet rarely do we get such an intimate look into how that creative process actually works.

Source: Fast Company

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