Letters from Disney: ‘People Watching in Disney’

Today I come to you from France. No, not the real France, but from the France Pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase. The sun has just set, and Epcot’s annual Food & Wine Festival is in full swing for another night. The World Showcase is full of guests looking to experience exotic foods from all over the world.

I decided to write this column while physically in one of the Disney parks so that I could discuss something that has become a favorite pastime of mine since moving here— people watching. Now, this may seem like an odd thing to do in Walt Disney World, seeing as there are four theme parks, two water parks, a sprawling marketplace, and more all full of things with which I could be occupying my time. But I have spent much of my spare time these past few months doing all of those things already. I guess I needed another source of entertainment.

I first started people watching here the first time I went to a park by myself. I began visiting the parks alone mostly out of guilt. Whenever all of my roommates and friends were all working or otherwise occupied, I would feel as though I was wasting my time just sitting in my apartment. I have a finite time here to enjoy Walt Disney World (WDW), so why did I think I always needed other people with me to have a good time?

For me, this was really my first time truly observing WDW’s guests. I am one of few people on the Disney College Program that has a “backstage” role, meaning I never really have to deal with guests like my friends in food service or merchandise do. They all have crazy guest stories, while I have stories of things like technical malfunctions on the show I work costuming on.

I realized that it was really quite enjoyable and interesting to see all of the different types of people that come to visit WDW. Families consisting of exhausted parents with eager children dragging them from place to place, newlyweds enjoying their honeymoon and enthusiastically sporting matching bride and groom Mickey ears, cast members (employees, in Disney speak) much like myself enjoying the parks in their off time, reunions of sorority sisters still close fifteen years after graduation. Walt Disney wanted this to be a place that people of all ages would be able to enjoy, and I really feel that he succeeded.

Tonight I have managed to find a relatively quiet corner of the World Showcase, despite the impressive crowds the Food & Wine Festival has been pulling lately. I am writing from a quaint little French courtyard full of pink and purple flowers. From what I can tell, most everyone that has come to sit around me have done so to enjoy a quick snack, rest their legs, and plan which country’s cuisine (and generally, booze) they will tackle next. They seem to be as thankful as I was to find a reprieve from the loud and bustling crowds in this corner of France.

While writing this, I have mostly gotten some strange looks from the other guests for being a lone person sitting on a low stone wall, scribbling away in a small journal. Despite the mostly curious and slightly judgmental looks from those around me, this has been a very pleasant way to spend an evening. For most of these people, their time spent here is an escape from reality and the highlight of their year. There is something largely gratifying about watching other people enjoy their vacations and knowing that there is a possibility that something I did at work made their visit here a little more magical. And I feel so fortunate that at least for now, this is not just a vacation for me, this is my reality.

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