Media Magic: My Day with Disney PR

The Disney Magic
The Disney Magic

So, we’ve already established that I am pretty much the luckiest girl ever, right?

I mean, not only do I get paid to write for a living, but on two occasions, I’ve been fortunate to write about Imagineers. Well, two weeks ago, I was actually able to meet one in person when my day job (at a national consumer magazine) sent me to a Disney Cruise Line media event to learn about the changes coming up when the Disney Magic goes into dry dock this fall.

Yea. Disney media event. For Melissa. I was pretty thrilled. And initially, I thought about reporting the details of the updates to the Magic … but, um, hi … I don’t really do news here. So instead, I thought it would be more fun to tell you about the experience of attending a small, exclusive Disney press event and share some of my favorite upgrades slated for the Magic.

For starters, the Disney difference was apparent as soon as I walked in the door of the fairly non-descript office tower in Manhattan. I wasn’t visiting Disney’s offices; the event was held in a PR office in midtown. So I walked up to the guard desk and asked if I had to sign in.

Before I could finish my question, a perky young woman walked over and welcomed me by name, told me to get a temporary id from the guards and then head on up to the event. When I stepped out of the elevator, there was, again, a chipper young woman on hand to welcome me by name. By name! God, I love Disney so much!

My new first-name-basis friend ushered me into a conference room that had been absolutely decked out for the event. All of the walls were covered with photos and renderings of the Disney Magic. It was totally beautiful. I wish I’d taken a photo.

After meeting with the Disney Cruise Line PR team and the eight other journalists on hand for the event, it was time for the main event: a presentation about the awesome changes to the Magic by Senior Vice President of Creative Development for Walt Disney Imagineering Joe Lanzisero. (Who, as you probably don’t know, drew the image of Mickey comforting Kermit after Jim Henson died.)

Lanzisero was everything I love about Imagineers: quirky, intelligent, funny, energetic and above all, passionate. It was a pleasure to listen to him talk about the Disney Magic, which he clearly loves deeply. And that makes total sense, as he worked on the original design for the Magic in the 1990s.

These days, he oversees (among other things) the whole DCL fleet, including the upgrades to the Magic. Ironically, many of the spaces that Lanzisero worked on for the original ship’s launch will be totally ripped out and reimagined.

“We want to honor the great things about the Magic,” he said. “We want to keep it true to the brand but also fresh and innovative. Our redesign is all about our increasing understanding of the audience and how the spaces are being used.”

There are a ton of changes on deck for the Magic, but here’s an overview of some of the things I was most impressed with:


Meals on the Magic

Lots of cool changes to the dining spaces aboard Disney’s first ship, but perhaps the coolest is the update to Parrot Cay, the casual dining spot. The space will be all tropicalized and themed to Brazil and … José Carioca will be your host! How cool is that? Lanzisero says our favorite little parrot won’t be overly present, but I do love it when the Imagineers dip into classic Disney toons!

Carioca’s Restaurant
Rendering of Carioca’s


Just for Kids

The biggest changes are being made to the kids’ decks, and they really, really, really make me wish I was seven (or younger) again!

The It’s a Small World Nursery is so flippin adorable and absolutely dripping with Mary Blair inspiration. (According to Lanzisero, the team actually went back to her storyboards for inspiration: “This is an homage to her and the motif she established,” he said.)

It’s a Small World Nursery
It’s a Small World Nursery rendering

The Oceaneer Club also totally blew my mind. The whole area unfolds like a story: kids begin in a library-themed room that has entrances to four separate stories, including the Mickey Room and the Pixie Hollow room. Two rooms, though, stood out as way, way cool:

Marvel’s Avengers Academy, which is modeled after SHEILD HQ and also happens to be the first permanent Disney attraction to feature Marvel characters.

Andy’s Room, where kids can jump on Andy’s bed, slide down a Slinky Dog slide and play with a super huge and totally functional Mr. Potato Head.

Andy’s Room on the Disney Magic
Rendering of Andy’s Room on the Disney Magic

The best thing about these spaces? How Lanzisero described them as “neat hardware” built to support the “great software, which is the programs that our crew creates for the kids,” he said. “It’s the experiences with our crew and cast members that make these experiences come to life.”


Splish Splash

As if being on a huge ocean liner in the middle of the ocean isn’t being around enough water, the refurbed Magic will have a whole boatload of new water features on Deck 9, including a splash park for kids and a small family water slide.

But by far the coooooolest thing about the refurb is the new AquaDunk, a thrill slide akin to the AquaDuck on the Dream. Guests get into the launch tube and the floor drops out, sending them on a near-vertical 30-foot drop through twists and turns in a translucent tube that extends 20 feet over the side of the ship. And a video camera captures the moment the floor drops!

Disney Magic's AquaDunk
Rendering of Disney Magic’s AquaDunk: a thrilling three-story body slide


At the end of the session, someone asked Lanzisero how he’d know the new Magic is a success, and he said the perfect thing: “We measure success by the smiles on our guests’ faces.” Ba-bam, people! That’s Disney magic!

Afterward, I headed back to my office, totally full of renewed energy and Disney magic. I don’t cruise, but if I did, I’d absolutely want to climb aboard the Disney Magic.

If you want to read more about the changes to the Magic, head over to Disney Food Blog, who has details on the dining and nightlife updates, and Touring Plans, who has a brief overview of all of the updates to the ship.

What do you think of these awesome changes coming to the Magic? Let us know in the comments below.

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