Congratulations on 25 years, Disney Vacation Club! You have grown significantly since first opening the single “Disney Vacation Club Resort” at Walt Disney World, adding numerous other resorts in Florida and other locations in the United States, and seeing an explosion in membership along the way. In so doing, DVC has undoubtedly become one of the most successful and popular branches of Parks & Resorts in the Walt Disney Company. Your growth and evolution since 1991 truly are worth celebrating.
Ah, 1991. For many Walt Disney World fans, including myself, this was the beginning of the golden age for the Florida parks. The Disney-MGM Studios had opened and was still in the process of expanding, Magic Kingdom still had many of its classics while being on the cusp of introducing new favorites and, of course, EPCOT Center was in its heyday.
Many Disney fans, including DVC members, hold strong nostalgia for the glory years of EPCOT Center. Nostalgia is something I’d assume Disney Vacation Club understands well. Fond memories and emotional resonance for the parks are largely what makes it unnecessary for DVC sales reps to use high-pressure sales tactics. I’ll readily admit that it’s one of the main reasons we joined! A DVC presentation can tug at the heartstrings in a way that Westgate cannot, and implicit nostalgia undoubtedly helps make those sales so much easier.
Despite this, I have never seen an explicit reference to the past in any Disney Vacation Club material. Heck, even the 25th Anniversary site features an image of Olaf! I understand that it might be counterproductive to fixate on the past instead of the future, but DVC management has to understand that its membership base is necessarily composed of rabid Disney fans, many of whom love the rich history of Walt Disney World. Outside of D23 members, this is probably the most concentrated group of nostalgic Disney lovers anywhere.
This is why I’m writing this open letter, and asking Disney Vacation Club to do what so many other groups, from digital marketing to merchandising, already do: embrace that glorious past. The 25th Anniversary year would be a great time to start, as milestone anniversaries are typically times to reflect upon the past while having an eye towards the future.
What better place to start than EPCOT Center, a park that so many fans love. Disney Vacation Club has announced it is opening a lounge in the Imagination pavilion, presumably upstairs in the location of the former ImageWorks. Many people expressed frustration over this, but the fact is that we lost that incarnation of ImageWorks over a decade ago. If Epcot’s operations team has not brought it back by now, it’s not like they would any time in the near future. This is not a case of either a restored ImageWorks or this lounge. The ImageWorks that we love is not coming back.
That doesn’t mean parts of that treasured piece of EPCOT Center cannot return. Whether by design or not, Disney Vacation Club has landed a piece of real estate for its lounge that has a deep emotional connection for many people. Some of my earliest memories at Walt Disney World are playing up in ImageWorks, and when I had the chance to revisit it a few years ago, those memories came flooding back. I know plenty of Disney Vacation Club members are quite excited about the prospect of revisiting a piece of their childhoods and basking in slivers of those memories.
All of this has been a long preface to what I’m imploring Disney Vacation Club to do as it readies the Imagination pavilion for the Spring 2016 opening of the DVC Member Lounge: restore the area to some of its former glory. I’m not asking DVC to scrap plans for a lounge in favor of an interactive play area. Rather, make the lounge something memorable and imaginative that pays homage to the pavilion’s past while also serving as a functional space for member relaxation.
To that end, re-install a version of the Rainbow Corridor. Seriously. I know the plans for this space were probably long ago finalized and “it’s too late” to alter them and add something of this scale. It’s not too late. We’re talking a passageway with some relatively simple lighting. Even in the bureaucracy of park-building, this is a minor addition that could be quickly accomplished by a small team that has the will to make it a reality.
I know that will exists within The Walt Disney Company. If I’ve learned anything from D23 presentations, it’s that there are many fans of EPCOT Center within the Company, and I’d hazard a guess that some of them would trip over themselves and make this an expedited pet project. All it takes is someone within DVC management expressing a desire to get it done.
Why bother? There’s ample reason for Disney Vacation Club management to put in the effort. The return on investment would be huge. As mentioned, Disney Vacation Club understands the power of nostalgia. They also understand that of business goodwill. Sure, a lounge alone will generate some business goodwill among existing members.
This has the potential to be so much more than a place to charge phones and grab free soda. That’s a new treat for members, but does nothing to move the needle. A lounge with actual character that gives a nod to EPCOT Center with that iconic Rainbow Corridor will generate goodwill that ripples across the entire Disney fandom, generating intense, positive buzz.
Beyond that, it has immense power from a marketing perspective. I’ve seen countless DVC marketing materials showing children running in front of Cinderella Castle while holding Mickey Mouse plushes. That image speaks to parents and helps gain new members. For people my age with my connection to EPCOT Center, imagine how moving those marketing materials would be with a child clutching a Figment plush while their smiling face is illuminated by the radiant glow of the Rainbow Corridor? I might have kids just so I could add on to my DVC membership and vicariously relive the past as they experience that! 😉
I know this is probably crazy daydreaming, and the chances of someone within Disney Vacation Club reading this and acting upon it are slim to nil. Still, like many other EPCOT Center fans, I’m a hopeless optimist, holding out hope that someday bits of this theme park will be restored to their former glory. I have no delusions about the likelihood of this actually happening, but I’m moved by nostalgia to cling to those small chances, just the same. As an organization that trades heavily on nostalgia, I’m sure Disney Vacation Club understands. Now here’s hoping that they understand the value of acting on that nostalgia here to create some real magic for so many of their members.
How would you feel about Disney Vacation Club giving a nod to the past with some restored elements of the original ImageWorks in the new Imagination lounge? Any other thoughts? If you agree, I hope you’ll take the time to demonstrate that by sharing your thoughts with Disney Vacation Club, or this open letter on social media.