Service With a Flair

The backside of water in the original Schweitzer Falls at Disneyland's Jungle Cruise. Photo by J. Jeff Kober
The backside of water in the original Schweitzer Falls at Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

We shared earlier an experience where Walt Disney himself demonstrated to Dick Nunis what a great trip on the Jungle Cruise was supposed to look like. That trip required slowing down in places where there was something to see, and speeding up in places where there was little to look at. One of those places involves Schweitzer Falls, and a visit to “The Backside of Water”.  To Disney fans, and especially Jungle Cruise enthusiasts, the expression “The Backside of Water” holds a very unique image in their mind (along with the 40 different kinds of bacteria therein).

Schweitzer Falls has seemingly been a focal point of the Jungle Cruise since it was constructed in 1955. It began as a nod to African missionary Dr. Albert Schweitzer, or as many a Jungle Cruise skipper has poked fun at it, “a tribute to Dr. Falls.” Since opening the Jungle Cruise was, and in many ways still is, one of the most important attractions of Disneyland, it was important that the attraction be as exciting and dramatic as possible. The falls in many ways was a focal point, first seen as your boat swings around to avoid it, and then again later as your boat sails behind it. The sensation of going behind the falls has been a nearly tangible, tactile experience. In fact, it was so successful, that the Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland later created a similar experience through the falls of Cascade Peak.

It’s since been repeated in the Jungle Cruise at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, and at Tokyo Disneyland.

Backside of water at Jungle Cruise in Tokyo Disneyland. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Backside of water at Jungle Cruise in Tokyo Disneyland. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

So iconic has Schweitzer Falls become that Dr. Falls himself is now attached to the signature steak on the menu at the new Skipper Canteen at the Magic Kingdom. Is there really a difference between any grilled steak and a Dr. Falls Signature Grilled Steak? Not really. But the title gives the menu choice a little flair. Just like the falls.

The backside of water at the Jungle Cruise of the Magic Kingdom. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
The backside of water at the Jungle Cruise of the Magic Kingdom. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

But what does giving something a little flair really mean?  On the 10th anniversary of Disneyland, Walt spoke to Cast Members assembled for a celebration given at the Disneyland Hotel. To the audience he spoke about the early days, and the challenges of getting everything started: “A lot of people don’t realize we had some very serious problems here, keeping this thing going … getting it started.  I remember when we opened we didn’t have enough money to finish the landscaping.  I had Bill Evans go and put Latin tags on all of the weeds.  We had a lot of inquiries. That’s a fact.  You ask Bill Evans.  Of course, every weed to Bill Evans has got a Latin name, you know.”

During the opening of Disneyland, even the weeds were given a little flair to make them interesting. It sort of reminds me of the lyrics to a Sherman Brothers’ Bedknobs and Broomsticks tune, With a Flair:

Oh, it really doesn’t matter what I do, what I do
As long as I do it with a flair
What effect a little smoke is with a dash of hocus pocus
And the scent of burning sulfur in the air

I’m a fraud, a hoke, a charlatan, a joke,
But they love me … everywhere.
For it really doesn’t matter what I do, what I do
As long as I do it with a flair

In truth, Walt was no charlatan. The popularity and endurance of Disneyland 60 years later bears testimony to that. But those early days were difficult. And while he put everything financially on the line to make Disneyland a reality, it still had it’s shortcomings. It would be years before it would be perfected to the state it is today. Therefore, it was important to give anything and everything a little flair.

Walt would also go on to say about those early weeds:

“I wanted something live, something that could grow, something I could keep plussing with ideas, you see? The park is that. Not only can I add things but even the trees will keep growing; the thing will get more beautiful every year. 

A dedication to excellence? Yes. But to get it started it began with just a little flair.

Ask yourself:

  • What is the “backside of water” in your own business?
  • How can you take even the weeds of your business and plus them?
  • What is the extra touch you can bring to what is otherwise unexpected?
  • How can we give a flair even to those products and services that still aren’t perfect?

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