As New Fantasyland — the largest and most enchanting expansion in Magic Kingdom history — officially opened to Disney fans today, Tom Staggs, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, looked on with immense pride watching the wowed look on guests’ faces. I got a chance to talk to Tom this morning — a privelage indeed — and he was as gracious and lovely as I had always imagined. Here’s what he had to say:
Courtney : For first-time visitors to Walt Disney World, there are so many things to see and do. What’s your bit of advice for a first-time Disney-goer?
Tom Staggs: Well, I try to encourage people to make sure they engage before they get here to get a sense of how it all lays out and how to plan their time. There is more to do here than anyone can do on a single visit, which is great! But this is the ultimate in personalized experiences, where people can choose exactly what they want to do and how they want to do it.
Courtney: Disney World is a bucket list vacation for so many families, is there somewhere in the world that you’ve never traveled?
Tom Staggs: Gosh, I love traveling. I was just in Costa Rica last summer and I try to make it a habit of going anywhere Adventures by Disney goes, but that’s harder to do. I want to go to Antarctica and I want to go to Patagonia, but I could list several more!
Courtney: Comparing Fantasyland to New Fantasyland, what changes are you most excited about?
Tom Staggs: What I love is that New Fantasyland is Fantasyland, and more. We wanted to stay really true to the original vision of Fantasyland, and be able to explore those great stories and fantasy worlds that have been created by Disney, and that’s exactly what we’ve done. But you get to introduce some new stories in new ways. With Enchanted Tales by Belle we get to bring guests into Beauty and the Beast like never before. And who wouldn’t want to go have dinner in the Beast’s castle? And then coming in 2014, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. I think it’ll be an instant classic.
Courtney: Last night you talked a lot about guest experience. What’s the key to balancing the over-the-top excitement of the attractions with the small details that Disney is so well-known for?
Tom Staggs: Well first of all, we’re given this tremendous advantage because the company has a huge wealth of stories and music that get people excited about to begin with. So when you say, “Hey, would you like to be part of the story of Beauty and The Beast?,” people go, “Oh, that sounds great!”
So then for us it’s about making sure those moments are just perfect, the details are just right and people really feel wowed. That attention to detail is key to all of this.