The Disney-Driven Life

Inspiring Lessons from Disney History

by Jeff Dixon | Release Date: April 12, 2016 | Availability: Print, Kindle

Follow the Pixie Dust Path

FastPass times. Crowds. Meet and greets. That's what you think when you're at Walt Disney World. (And how much everything costs.) Next time, shoot higher. Packed in with all those souvenirs, leave the park with a philosophy, a guide to a better, Disney-driven life.

Former cast member Jeff Dixon draws upon his degrees in sociology and theology, coupled with a deep understanding of Disney history, to deliver a fun, engrossing mash-up of trivia-dense Disney stories and motivational life lessons, from Main Street to Fantasyland, and everywhere in between.

You'll be enriched by motivational magic from little-known Disney stories about:

  • The importance of 18 seconds in the Enchanted Tiki Room, and how a lifetime of hard work can pay off in moments.
  • Two Walts and a Wendy, and how mistakes can sometimes bring out the best in us.
  • The hidden history of Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe in Liberty Square, and how the act of giving defines us.
  • The perpetual motion of the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, and how it symbolizes Walt's admonition to never stand still.


Table of Contents



Part One: Main Street, U.S.A.

Chapter 1: All Aboard

Chapter 2: Wow! That Smells Good

Chapter 3: Step Through the Past to Find the Future

Chapter 4: The Glass Is Always Half Full

Part Two: Adventureland

Chapter 5: Call Me Bwana!

Chapter 6: I Couldn’t Tell the Hippos from the Elephants

Chapter 7: The Show Starts in Eighteen Seconds

Chapter 8: An Audience of One

Part Three: Frontierland

Chapter 9: Blazing a New Trail

Chapter 10: The Golden Choice

Chapter 11: Don’t Ever Spit in Front of Women and Children

Chapter 12: Find Your Own Path

Part Four: Liberty Square

Chapter 13: Under a Tree in the Shade

Chapter 14: Moving Forward into History

Chapter 15: Life Is Composed of Lights and Shadows

Chapter 16: A Gift Can Change Your Life

Part Five: Fantasyland

Chapter 17: Heart and Soul

Chapter 18: The Happiest Cruise on Earth

Chapter 19: Faith, Trust, and Pixie Dust

Chapter 20: Let Me Tell You a Story

Part Six: Tomorrowland

Chapter 21: Forward into the Future

Chapter 22: Never Stop Moving

Chapter 23: Out of This World

Chapter 24: A Beautiful Tomorrow

Conclusion: Now It’s Time to Say Goodbye

Appendix: Disney-Driven Life Lessons


The virtue and wisdom of Walt Disney is seamlessly woven into Jeff Dixon’s colorful and epic tour of the Magic Kingdom in The Disney-Driven Life. With an assured and steady touch, Jeff paints a new path for anyone looking for magic and meaning.

The Disney-Driven Life is certain to appeal to Disney fans and to anyone who is looking to jump-start their life with deeper meaning and purpose.

If Uncle Walt were alive today, he is sure to have been touched by such a thoughtful rendering of his profound legacy.

Please stand clear of the doors. Those words are enough to snatch your breath away in anticipation of all that is about to happen next. Any guest to the Walt Disney World Resort who has ever boarded the monorail at the Ticket and Transportation Center knows what is about to take place. The doors click to a close and within seconds you are gliding across the highway in the sky, streaking toward the Magic Kingdom.

The view is spectacular as riders look out across the panorama of the Seven Seas Lagoon and take in the sight of Cinderella Castle piercing the sky of Walt’s wonderland of fun. The WDW monorail system has been in operation since opening day in 1971. Travelers over the years have discovered that in many ways, once they climb aboard this unique mode of transportation, it confirms that they are indeed traveling into another world. The monorail is perched atop a 26-inch-wide concrete beam supported by concrete columns. The system was expanded in 1982 with a four-mile extension from the Ticket and Transportation Center to Epcot. Covering a distance of 13.6 miles, the monorail system will carry over 150,000 guests to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot parks on an average day. The double-beam track that circles the lagoon also passes through the Magic Kingdom resort hotels along the loop. The Polynesian Village, the Grand Floridian, and the Contemporary are all sights the rider can view along the route.

Riding the monorail, with face peering out of the window, my mind travels back in time to the beginnings of this world. Walt Disney World is a magical place. This land where dreams come true began with the dream of one man, who could see it when no one else could, and he was willing to share that dream with others.

The name of Admiral Joe Fowler is not new for many Disney enthusiasts. Fowler was one of the primary builders who took what was a hot Florida swamp and helped to transform it into what would become the number-one tourist destination in the world.

Fowler shared a story of what it was like before construction started. Walt Disney did not get the chance to see the real work on the Florida property ever happen. But Fowler recalled how he and Walt would drive all over that property in a jeep. The project was laid out, Walt would pace it off time and time again, and one day he decided he wanted to get a view of what Disney World would look like from the top of the Contemporary hotel. What Walt wanted usually happened.

Arrangements were made and the biggest utility crane they could find was brought in. Joe Fowler and Walt Disney stood in the bucket of the crane as it was hoisted high into the air. The higher it rose the quieter it became. Rising above the noise of the Florida wilderness, they finally stopped at the actual height of the lounge that would be placed at the apex of the resort, the “Top Of The World”. Fowler remembered being absolutely terrified. Hanging on for dear life, hoping to get down quickly, all he wanted to do was grab a fast glance and be satisfied that everything in the plans was located correctly. Admiral Joe saw the trip as a white-knuckle experience that couldn’t end quickly enough. For Walt Disney, it was something very different. Walt was leaning out over the side of the bucket, pointing out where things would be located, with all the enthusiasm in the world. Like a kid at Christmas, Walt was smiling and saying, “Oh, Joe, look at this … this is going to be great!”

Fowler realized that Walt could visualize it all. He had the ability to see what wasn’t there yet but what could be and what it would become. People in many ways live their lives on the dreams of visionaries. Many of the things we enjoy that make our life better happened because someone had a vision, could see it before it existed, and was willing to chase and dream until it became a reality. We don’t usually think about it, but we live our lives better because people weren’t afraid to chase dreams.

I may not know a lot of things, but here is something that I do know. You and I are not here by accident. We are all unique and we all have something that we can offer that will make an impact in the world around us. I don’t know if you can see it, but here is something that I specifically know about you … you can make a difference. Sometimes we need to allow ourselves a moment to rise above the crowds, the noise, and the clutter, and take a second and see what might be. Then we need to hit the ground running and start chasing dreams. That is what I hope you will discover with each turn of the page.

This book is a travel guide … but not the usual travel guide. We are going to explore the Magic Kingdom in a way that most have never seen it before. In the pages that follow you will visualize things on the trip that most others miss. You will read some amazing and perhaps lesser-known stories about Walt Disney. You will discover some things hidden in plain sight within the Magic Kingdom that you may have never noticed before. And you will also find that the lessons we learn from each have an impact on our lives in this moment.

Walt Disney once said, “Without inspiration, we would perish.”

It is my hope that as we take this trip through the Magic Kingdom you will find inspiration. As I said a few sentences above, this book is not the usual travel guide. Sure, it will point out some sights that you just need to see and tell you a little bit about them. A good travel guide should do that. You will also find some history about where these ideas came from and about how Walt’s life is woven throughout the theme park, which is an added bonus in any travel guide. But what really sets this travel guide apart from any other you may have read about Disney World is that this is a travel guide for your life. Between the periods, the commas, and the quotation marks you might just find a road map to a Disney-driven life. What is a Disney-driven life? That is a fair question. A Disney-driven life is a life where you move beyond being a person loaded with potential and become a person who lives up to that potential.

As we glide through the Contemporary aboard our monorail and burst into the clear Florida sky, our next stop is the Magic Kingdom. In just a moment, the soft click of the doors opening will allow you to disembark and head through the main gate and start exploring. Before you begin, let me explain what is going to happen next. You can do whatever you want to do. You can go wherever you would like. And feel free to tour the Magic Kingdom at whatever pace you wish. There is no hurry, it is entirely up to you. The book is divided into sections based upon the themed lands that make up the Magic Kingdom. So if you are up for a little adventure, head to Adventureland. If you are thinking about the future, Tomorrowland should be your first stop. Again, it is up to you … after all, this is your travel guide … it is your journey.

It’s time. We have arrived. Let’s start living the Disney-Driven Life.

Jeff Dixon

Jeff Dixon is a native of Orlando who had the chance to spend time in Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom before it opened to the general public. As a child, he was in awe of the Disney magic and later would become a cast member there and spend many memorable moments in the park over the years that followed.

Jeff has earned degrees in sociology and theology. His time spent at the Walt Disney World resort turned him into a collector of Theme-Parkology. In addition, his calling as a transformational architect has made him an expert in story-telling methodology … and he has woven those “ologies”, interests, and skills together for this very unique look at the world of Disney.

Jeff lives in Orlando with his family and spends as much time as possible at Walt Disney World where there is always another adventure just waiting to be discovered.

You can find out more about Jeff Dixon by visiting

Why Walt didn't worry, and why you shouldn't, either.

Walt Disney knew and understood how to tell a good story. He told stories that people would remember and talk about, and many of them became classics. One thing that everyone who ever met Walt would tell you is that he would do whatever it took to tell the story the best he possibly could. The Davy Crockett production is one that is certainly a Disney classic. The story of Davy Crockett played well on the big screen and on television. It became a story that produced a hit song, sold merchandise, and made a sensation of star Fess Parker. But the journey to get the story to the screen was slow.

At one point the production was running three weeks behind schedule with another week to go. The director, Norman Foster, was under tremendous pressure. He was trying to get it done well, but at the same time he was carrying the weight of costing the studio money and running way behind. As his stress continued to build, he feared that the studio was growing more and more impatient with his progress. Then word leaked out that Walt Disney was going to be visiting the set the next day.

Norman knew that the ax was getting ready to fall. He was a director who couldn’t get the project done and the boss was coming to fire him. It happened all the time and he knew in some ways it was inevitable. Removing a director who had gone over-budget was a common reaction for a Hollywood studio and now it was his turn to be replaced. The night before Disney’s visit Norman went around and told the actors and the crew goodbye. He knew that the following day Walt would be there and introduce the new director to the cast.

High anticipation charged every moment of the next morning as they continued work on the film. Soon, a long black Cadillac was seen coming down the dusty road leading to the set. The word spread like wildfire that Disney was there. Norman Foster was busy setting up the last shots they would get in before lunch and which, with a heavy heart, he knew were destined to be the final shots he would be putting on film.

While whispers announced in hushed tones, “Walt’s here …”, Norman carried on with his work.

Disney arrived, along with his wife and a couple they were staying with on their visit. People greeted Walt, and the cast and crew made their boss feel at home. He seemed pleasant and his mood was light. Engaging and talking to everyone around him, Walt moved about the set enjoying his visit. Norman ignored them and stayed busy with his work. Walt then approached and watched from a slight distance as Norman directed the set up of the scene, giving him room to do what needed to be done.

Finally Walt walked up and stood next to him.

“Hello, Norm,” Walt said.

Norman turned and acted surprised as he smiled, “Oh, hello Walt.”

The two men shook hands and Norman continued, “I heard you were coming.”

Walt nodded and looked around. The lull in the conversation was awkward and uncomfortable, so once again Norman spoke up to fill the void.

“How does the stuff look?” He was asking for Walt’s take on the film they had already shot and sent back for approval.

“OK,” said Walt, “except for one thing.”

Uh-oh, Norman thought. This was it! This was the moment that Walt was going to fire him. He braced for the moment and listened.

“You know that scene where Fess wrestles with the bear?” Walt paused. “I want you to retake that scene. The bear’s zipper was showing.”

Norman didn’t get fired. Walt knew the footage looked good and he knew that they were making something very special. He was willing to give the director time to get the story done and he wanted to actually add some production time to make the story better (and get footage without the zipper). It was about telling the story well … very well … and sometimes to do that he understood it would take time.

Your life and my life is a story in the making. Sometimes we think it is taking too long to develop or we wish we could change direction because it isn’t moving fast enough. Don’t get in a hurry and allow each moment of each day to be lived to the fullest. In doing so you are making sure that the story others are seeing in you is a story worth watching … a story about someone who isn’t so busy trying to live life that they have quit living altogether. You have a story to tell … tell it well.

Norman Foster had worried himself into thinking he had lost his job, although he was the only person who had ever thought that thought. The worry had turned into an anxious day, some premature good-byes, and avoiding Walt until Disney eventually sought him out. Walt Disney said it this way:

Why worry? If you’ve done the very best you can, worrying about it won’t make it any better. I worry about many things, but not about water over the dam.

Walt knew that worry can rob you of the joy of the moment, it can rob you of your ability to accomplish what you are trying to do, and worry can become a barrier that can stop your progress as you chase dreams and discover what you are supposed to be. Life does not offer you a rewind, but you can find redemption. Worrying about mistakes, the past, and what could have been or might be prevents you from experiencing it.

Surrounded by the stories and legends of the Old West on display and remembering what Walt said leads us to another Disney-Driven Life lesson. This lesson reminds us of how important it is not to let worry immobilize us. Worry is like a rocking chair; it uses up all your energy, but when you are done, you’ve gotten nowhere and you’re still in the same place you started. Mathematically speaking, it doesn’t make sense to worry. Although the numbers will shift based on which research you are studying, psychologists tell us that roughly 30 percent of what we worry about never happens, another 30 percent has already happened, 12 percent is about unfounded health concerns, and an additional 20 percent involves “sweating the small stuff” of life. That leaves only 8 percent. We worry 92 percent of the time for no good reason at all.

Walt nailed it when he said, “worrying about it won’t make it any better.” Living without worry frees you to do the stuff that can potentially become legendary. Living with worry can prevent you from accomplishing anything at all.

Continued in "The Disney-Driven Life"!

Why the sun always shines on Main Street, U.S.A., even when it's raining.

Stepping onto Main Street, U.S.A. gives you a sense that you are walking in a place of boundless possibilities. The attraction and lure is that anything can be accomplished and it won’t be long. The endless optimism of your surroundings reminds you that the glass is always half full on Main Street.

This is the perfect place to begin your journey deeper into the Magic Kingdom. The vision for this street was born in the memories of Walt Disney. The Imagineers tell you that Walt wanted Main Street to embody the American spirit. It is the kind of place where the people you meet are friendly, most are in festive moods, hard work is valued, and the dreams of a better life are alive and well. In many ways it reflects Walt’s love of country and the hopeful message he always strived to convey through his work.

There is a lot more to see on Main Street that we just don’t have time to explore on this trip. Any adventure into the Magic Kingdom forces you to make choices as to what you will do and not do on any particular visit. Our tour this day is no different. Another trip might give us time to spend a few minutes at the fire station. The Engine Co. 71 sign over the second story is a reference to the opening date of the Magic Kingdom in 1971. You may have noticed the windows on the storefronts along the street seem closer to the ground than the time period might indicate. It is on purpose, because Walt wanted children to be able to see inside. If you are need of a trim, visit the real working barber shop, the Harmony Barber Shop. Periodically throughout the day, you can get a haircut as you are serenaded by a talented barber shop quartet, the Dapper Dans.

The music you notice in the background on Main Street not only represents the time period but evokes a sense of optimism. It is up tempo with a bit of a bounce. It compels you to move but also adds to your mood. It would be nice to spend more time here, though if you did you would never get off the street, because there is so much to take in.

Before we leave, allow me to share one more story. Walt Disney once said:

Think beyond your lifetime, if you want to do something truly great. Make a fifty-year master plan. A fifty-year master plan will change how you look at the opportunities in the present.

The people who knew Walt, the people who have studied his life, and the people who have enjoyed the things Walt created all agree that he was a man with incredible vision. Bob Matheison, former vice president of theme park operations, recalled:

Walt was always way ahead of the rest of us. After dealing with Disneyland and its limited space issues, we all had a hard time grasping Walt’s vision for Walt Disney World in Florida.

In fairness to those working with him, the so-called “Florida Project” had thousands of acres to work with and the people who were helping plan and design the park were challenged with how big and massive Disney World would really be.

One day, as the design team met in their California “war room”, Walt grew more and more irritated because everyone was thinking “way too small” and felt they were limiting what they could create. Finally he had enough and erupted at the room:

The trouble is that you aren’t thinking far enough ahead! We are just beginning! You have to think beyond Disney World! We haven’t even begun to think big!

That is the kind of vision Walt Disney had. History reminds us that even though he imagined Disney World in Florida, he never lived long enough to see it opened. On the park’s opening day in 1971, someone commented to Mike Vance, creative director of Walt Disney Studios: “Isn’t it too bad Walt Disney didn’t live to see this?” (Walt died five years before Disney World opened to the public.) Vance replied simply, “He did see it … that’s why it’s here.”

The ability that Walt had as a visionary was truly a gift. Most people just don’t have that kind of vision. But at the beginning of this chapter there was a quote from Walt about designing a plan. The advice is simple: with a plan you operate and see the opportunities around you differently. For many of us that would be a good place to start. A large number of people float through life loaded with great intentions. There is always a desire to do some really good things … eventually. Sadly, most never get around to doing anything. That is the problem with intentions. Intentions don’t accomplish much.

One of the things we should try to do as we live lives is to remember that direction (not intention) gets us to our destination. In other words, if we desire to get to a certain destination in life, then we had better set our course in the right direction. That is a plan. That is a roadmap. You might not always make the destination you were aiming at, but one thing is for sure: you were moving forward and you made some progress.

You were created to make a difference, you are not an accident, you are here for a purpose. Don’t waste a life by floating on good intentions. Set your direction and get moving!

Continued in "The Disney-Driven Life"!

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