If you’ve read this blog for a few seconds you know that I’m a freakishly huge Disney fan. Not the type of fan where I have a Captain Hook costume in my closet and the complete set of director’s cut Disney/Pixar movies on DVD. Nope, I’m more of a fan of the Disney process, their attention to detail, and their ability to tell a story like no one else.

In case you’re an uncultured snob, you may not realize that all Disney parks are set up to tell a story. From the moment you get off the monorail or ferry at the Magic Kingdom, you’re walking into a movie set, complete with posters of “coming attractions” (ie, rides) the smell of popcorn, and the visual cues that you’re being transported to another world.

The newest example of this is the newest attraction at Magic Kingdom: an expansion of Fantasyland that takes guests back to the early 90’s classic Beauty and the Beast. The attention to detail is stunning, the painstaking recreation of movie themes is evident, and the story is king. Here’s what Creative Director Chris Beatty said in a recent FoxNews.com article:

What has been revealed is far more than just a restaurant. Like any great Disney attraction, Be Our Guest tells a story. Tucked away atop sharp, rocky hills is the Beast’s castle, trapped in the cursed moment before Belle breaks the spell.  As guests cross a stone bridge lined with tormented gargoyles, Disney lets the story of the Beast’s transformation unfold through architecture and design.  Beatty underscores the importance of layout, noting “the average guest may never see this, or really understand the story behind it, but for us it’s so critical to help tell that transition – that metamorphosis of who the prince is, as he was turned into the Beast.”

Continuing into the foyer and down a suit of armor-lined hallway, there is a feeling of coldness, decorated with hard stone, metal, and desaturated tones.  “You still feel like any moment you could be escorted out – you could be thrown out of the castle,” said Beatty.

But the mood shift as guests enter the study, welcoming with soft wood finishes and a roaring fireplace.  From there guests come across the most famous of “Beauty and the Beast” settings: the ballroom.  Adorned with gold and marble, giant chandeliers illuminate the impressive space that feels, as Beatty puts it, “almost like Belle and Beast could dance in at any moment.”  Artificial snow is even seen gently falling outside giant picture windows.  Entering the ballroom is the ultimate wow moment.

Disney is the undisputed master at telling stories. Churches? Well, we may be the undisputed disasters. Contrast Disney’s newest attraction with our regular attraction: our church building and facilities. Unclear signage? We have it. Overgrown parking areas? They’re there. Unmarked doors, bad lighting, unfriendly greeters, a confusing process for next steps? Oh yeah.

Every weekend, we’re telling our guests a story before they ever hear a sermon. We’re telling them how much we value them, how much we anticipated their arrival, and how much we expect them to return. Our lackluster (translated: messy, shabby, gross) facilities tell the story of the attention to detail we’ll give to our ministries, to our families, and to our guests.

It’s odd to me that the greatest story ever told often starts with such a bad story.

So what story are you telling?


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