Since I began working at Walt Disney World, from time to time people ask me two questions: what behind-the-scenes secrets have I learned, and do those secrets affect the way I experience the park?
I’m not going to answer the first question. Sorry not sorry! Disney protects their secrets, and I’m still a part of Disney.
The answer to the second question is yes, but perhaps not in the way you might think.
When that question is asked, there’s often an underlying assumption that because I know how the magic works – not all of it, certainly, but some pockets of it – then the magic somehow must be “ruined” for me.
Believe me when I say that even after working here for over a year in three different roles, Walt Disney World is as magical to me today as it was when I visited as an eight-year-old. Nothing has been “ruined.” I just see the magic a bit differently now.
Suppose you were to peel away a puppet to see the hand inside. Would seeing the hand “ruin” the puppet for you?
Perhaps it would if the only value of the puppets were in them as characters. But there’s more to it than that.
Now, I know Muppets aren’t puppets. As Kermit the Frog himself once said, “A puppet is actually controlled by a person, whereas I am an actual talking frog.”
But work with me here. If we lived in a world where Muppets were puppets, would the only cool thing about Kermit the Frog be that he is a talking frog?
Don’t get me wrong, that is super cool. I love Kermit the Frog.
But I also love Jim Henson’s hand. I love his brain. I love the skill and creativity that it takes to turn fabric and wire into the semblance of a living, breathing, talking animal that will win the hearts of multiple generations.
And I also love Kermit the Frog, the person, who won my heart as he won my parents’ and likely will win my children’s.
I am captivated by both the magic and the way the magic is created. It’s a kind of doublethink. Like in 1984. But not the evil kind that you use to oppress civilizations. It’s the kind of doublethink that inspires the world to create. I want to know how the magic works so that I can appreciate those who create it and learn how to create magic of my own.
Not everyone thinks this way. For some people, it’s only cool and wondrous if the rabbit appears in the hat out of thin air, not if you know the trick behind it. But I think if you recognize how much skill it takes to make it seem like the rabbit appeared out of thin air, then you can be just as excited as if you thought the rabbit simply appeared.
The kind of wonder that comes from “How the heck did they do that?” is not inherently greater than the kind of wonder that comes from “Look at how they did that!” They are both wonder. Knowing that there’s a trick doesn’t mean that there wasn’t magic; it’s just a redefinition of magic.
I'm not about to go around forcing people to see the trick, because not everyone thinks this way, and I have no interest in "ruining" magic for anyone. But both kinds of wonder – the one that comes from knowing, and the one that comes from not knowing – are good enough for me.