Okay, I’ve made an observation about the theme parks we’ve visited. I’ll compare Disneyland and Universal Studios to make the point.

It appears to me that Disney is a world class theme park, while Universal is a wannabe. Disney is cleaner, shinier, more fun. One of their mantras surely must be, “Everything matters” – from making sure the sidewalks are spotless to putting smiles on kid’s faces. Both parks are clearly money making machines (this is commercialism’s mecca, let’s be clear), but I think they go about it in radically different ways. I think Disney aims at surprise and delight — evoking joy in children — knowing that if kids are happy, parents blow money; whereas Universal aims at money, trying to be cool and hip hoping to make money off it. This is not semantics. It’s very real.

Disney FEELS light and fun. It really does tickle the inner kid in you, and it’s wonderful. Universal FEELS edgier and somehow emptier — pricking out a few thrills that lack substance. At Disney, children having fun really does matter to people. They hire folks to walk around doing nothing but play with the children on the street. They give away free stuff at random, like laniards with Disney pins and SPEED passes to the best rides. Universal charges for all that stuff, and the prices are much higher for similar products. At Disney, our daughter was accosted by a rude customer and a Cast member saw it happen. She approached my daughter, asked what her favorite disney character was (Pluto), and gave her a free Pluto pin saying, “No one mean gets free stuff at Disney!” I was so impressed! We observed that even the caliber of people working the lines at the rides was generally higher at Disney. Their ship is so tightly run that it’s mind boggling.

I also noticed that at either park, the very best “rides” understood the fact that the ride begins the moment you get in line. The line is part of the experience. It builds anticipation. Which reminded me that on Sunday AM, people’s experience of church begins the moment they set foot in our parking lots.

Last thought: I think one of the messages at Disney is that using your imagination to create joy is a limitless, worthy ideal. I would agree, though adding Paul’s words at Mars Hill – “You’re on to something you haven’t quite nailed down yet. Let me introduce you to the God who can take this noble ideal and truly give it purpose.” (Paraphrase).

Just a few thoughts. Reminds me of Jesus’ words that when we aim at the right things, lesser things often get thrown in as well.