The “Year of a Million Dreams”
Disney Parks, “Where Dreams Come True”
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Yesterland
 
The “year” began October 1, 2006. Now, 27 months later, the “year” is finally over. In this article, relive the “Year of a Million Dreams.”
Werner Weiss, Curator of Yesterland, January 2, 2009    
The Disneyland Resort Esplanade, festooned with banners
The Disneyland Resort Esplanade, festooned with banners

It pays to be in the right place at the right time.

You’re walking around a Disney theme park in California or Florida. You’re approached by a Dream Squad cast member wearing a blue shirt and a white vest. The cast member explains that you and your family just won a DREAM FASTPASS. That means that you and your little group will be able use the FASTPASS entrance once for each FASTPASS attraction in the park for the rest of the day.

The prize is real. There’s nothing to buy. There’s no catch. This isn’t a trick to get you into a room with a timeshare salesperson.

Dream Squad cast members are ready to make guests’ dreams come true
Dream Squad cast members are ready to make guests’ dreams come true.

If you’re really lucky, the cast member will explain that you just won a Grand Marshal World Tour—a 15-day/14-night trip for four people, visiting Disneyland, Disney’s California Adventure, Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney-MGM Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, Disneyland Resort Paris, Walt Disney Studios Paris, Tokyo Disneyland Resort, Tokyo Disney Sea, and Hong Kong Disneyland Resort. The prize includes economy airline tickets, quad-occupancy hotel rooms, a $75 gift card each day for each person to pay for meals, park admissions, and even a Disney VIP tour guide at each location. The prize is worth $36,881, and Disney even will give you another $8,511 to help you pay the income taxes on the prize.

A park guest’s dream come true... or maybe not
A park guest’s dream just came true... or maybe not.

There are a bunch of other memorable prizes. If you’re visiting Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World, you might be picked to spend the night in the Cinderella Castle Suite. In California, you might might end up staying in the Disneyland Dream Suite on the second floor of New Orleans Square, right inside Disneyland Park; it’s the space that was originally planned as an apartment for Walt Disney and later became the Disney Gallery.

Maybe you’ll win a 220-point Disney Vacation Club membership at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa. That’s enough points to spend eight nights in a one-bedroom villa every year during the Epcot Food & Wine Festival (with a couple of points left over each year) until your membership expires January 31, 2057. Because DVC is a flexible program, there are many other ways to use the points. Don’t worry about the usual annual dues; the prize includes the dues for the life of your prize membership.

How about a VIP day at Disney’s private Bahamian island, Castaway Cay? You and three guests would board a regular 4-night cruise on the Disney Wonder. On the third day, while the other passengers enjoy a day at sea, you would have Castaway Cay and all its guest amenities to yourselves, ending with a gourmet dinner.

A Dream Squad cast member dispenses “dream” ears to park guests
A Dream Squad cast member dispenses “dream” ears to park guests.

Perhaps you’ll only win a “Year of a Million Dreams” pin-and-lanyard set or special mouse ears. Sure, such a prize isn’t as good as trip to every Disney theme park in the world or a 220-point Disney Vacation Club membership, but—hey—it’s free.

Guests dutifully don their “Ears” of a Million Dreams
Guests dutifully don their “Ears” of a Million Dreams.

Or maybe you’ll win nothing at all. In fact, that’s the most likely scenario.


Disney announced the “Year of a Million Dreams” with a big press event in New York City in June 2006.

A Disney press release promised unusual prizes that no amount of money could buy:

And, for the first time, during the “Year of a Million Dreams” celebration, Disney cast members will award a million dreams—both large and small, including many “money-can’t-buy” experiences—to guests selected through a random process as part of a unique “Disney Dreams Giveaway” promotion.
“Throughout this incredible celebration, special dreams and unique experiences once thought impossible will be awarded by our cast every day,” said Jay Rasulo, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “Disney parks are always the place where dreams come true—but even more so during the ‘Year of a Million Dreams.’”

The year would begin October 1, 2006, and run through December 31, 2007. Apparently, Disney’s Marketing department buys calendars with years that last 15 months.

Disneyland entrance modified for The Year of a Million Dreams
No, it’s not graffiti. It’s Marketing.

The banners and signs went up. Guests would know it was the “Year of a Million Dreams” in the Disney Parks “Where Dreams Come True.” The artwork involved curving squiggles and flowing wings in pastel shades.

Year of a Million Dreams decor in the Disneyland castle moat
Marketing the “Year of a Million Dreams” in Disneyland’s castle moat.

The artwork appeared in all sorts of places where it detracted from the themes that the Imagineers had so carefully designed. The artwork damaged the very Magic of the places that it was trying to promote.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge with a sign for The Year of a Million Dreams
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge with a sign that doesn’t belong

I admire everything about Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. Every time I’m there, I marvel at how the architecture, artwork, landscaping, decor, furnishings, cast costumes, music, excellent restaurants, and, of course, the savannas with African animals all work together to make it the most immersive resort Disney has ever built. It succeeds in taking me to another continent. (Sure, I realize that there’s nothing like it on the real African continent, but that doesn’t matter.)

So who thought that green and blue and purple and pink and orange “Where Dreams Come True” signs needed to hang at the resort’s magnificent, theme-establishing porte-cochère?

Walt Disney World Monorail decorated for The Year of a Million Dreams
The sleek Walt Disney World Monorail was not safe from the Marketing.

On October 1, 2007, the Disney Parks & Resorts organization announced their next big promotional push. It would be... get ready... 12 more months of the “Year of a Million Dreams.” The press release began:

Disney Parks is continuing its wildly successful “Year of a Million Dreams” celebration through Dec. 31, 2008, at Disneyland Resort in California and Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, highlighted by the debut of blockbuster attractions and entertainment—and the 2008 Disney Dreams Giveaway in which Disney is awarding more than one million more dreams.
In a bi-coastal event that began in late 2006, guests have discovered that wishing upon a star isn’t the only way to make dreams come true. By being in the right place at the right time at Disneyland and Walt Disney World resorts, more than one million guests have been selected through a random process as winners in the Disney Dreams Giveaway. Dreams also were awarded to mail-in participants.

Was the “Year of a Million Dreams” actually wildly successful? The Disney parks were doing well in 2007. I’m sure that the executives who approved the “Year of a Million Dreams” attribute the strong guest attendance and the revenue increases in 2007 to this promotion. However, it’s hard to imagine a family planning to spend thousands of dollars on a Walt Disney World vacation because they just might be picked at random to win something.

From a guest perspective, the “Year of a Million Dreams” was wonderful if you were one of the few who won something good, but just another meaningless slogan if you were one of the many who didn’t.

Disneyland Monorail deceorated for The Year of a Million Dreams
The Disneyland Monorail with the 2008 version of the artwork.

The 2008 version of the Disney Dreams Giveaway introduced new prizes, including hot air balloon rides over the parks. But the vast majority of the prizes were once again minor prizes such as DREAM FASTPASS badges. The total approximate retail value of all prizes added up to $13,092,311.

Disneyland initiated blue promotional artwork in mid-2007 to replace the pastel artwork. It became the new standard on both coasts in 2008.

Banners for The Year of a Million Dreams at Epcot’s World Showcase
World Banner Showcase

Unfortunately, unnecessary banners in the parks were often completely at odds with the themed environments.

Banners for The Year of a Million Dreams at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
The Boulevard of a Million Banners

What’s your dream?

My dream is that Disney’s Parks & Resorts executives will learn that promotional artwork shouldn’t be put in places where it doesn’t belong.


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© 2009-2014 Werner Weiss — Disclaimers, Copyright, and Trademarks

Updated Match 7, 2014.

Photograph of the Disneyland Resort Esplanade, festooned with banners: by Werner Weiss, 2007.
Photograph of two Dream Squad cast members at Walt Disney World: by Allen Huffman, 2006.
Photograph of a guest being awarded a dream prize: by Allen Huffman, 2006.
Photograph of a Dream Squad cast member dispensing ears to guests: by Allen Huffman, 2007.
Photograph of guests wearing Year of a Million Dreams ears: by Allen Huffman, 2007.
Photograph of Disneyland entrance modified for Year of a Million Dreams: by Werner Weiss, 2007.
Photograph of Year of a Million Dreams decor in the Disneyland castle moat: by Werner Weiss, 2007.
Photograph of Animal Kingdom Lodge with Year of a Million Dreams sign: by Werner Weiss, 2007.
Photograph of WDW Monorail decorated for Year of a Million Dreams: by Werner Weiss, 2007.
Photograph of Disneyland Monorail deceorated for Year of a Million Dreams: by Werner Weiss, 2007.
Photograph of Year of a Million Dreams banners at Epcot’s World Showcase: by Werner Weiss, 2008.
Photograph of Year of a Million Dreams banners at Disney’s Hollywood Studios: by Werner Weiss, 2008.