Flowers Have Understudies

Even Flowers Have Understudies

Disney has its roots in show business. It’s why employees are called Cast Members, rather than simply staff members. It’s also why Cast Members are taught on the first day the difference between being onstage and being offstage. Cast Members are taught that when onstage there are certain behaviors that shouldn’t happen unless you are backstage.

In show business, every performer has an understudy. It’s someone who waits in the wings in case the main performer is ill, or sprains an ankle, or has to go out of town. In time, those understudies often take over the role of the original performer, or takes on the role when the show goes on the road.

That same concept applies to even the park floral. The flowers, shrubs and bushes are a huge part of what makes Disney’s parks so beautiful. Disney spends millions of dollars every year to make sure that its floral show adds color and life to the guest experience. Just look at the following examples from the Magic Kingdom:

Flowers Have Understudies
It’s no coincidence that you are first greeted by flowers. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Flowers Have Understudies
Mickey and Walt are surrounded by flowers. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Flowers Have Understudies
And a dragon topiary is surrounded by flowers. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Flowers Have Understudies
It seems like there is always something in bloom. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Flowers are not quite like Cast Members. They don’t get breaks to go backstage. They’re onstage from park opening to park closing. They are the most delicate of performers. Those closest to the guests take a lot of abuse.

Here the flowers are so close to the guests that they are easily flattened. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Here the flowers are so close to the guests that they are easily flattened. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Flowers in a container garden that have been smashed. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Flowers in a container garden that have been smashed. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

So it’s no surprise that even the flowers and shrubs have understudies. They usually sit just backstage, growing along at the same pace as the ones onstage. So when there’s a need to put in an understudy, they come ready to join the ensemble.

Flowers Have Understudies
Flowers backstage ready to replace flowers onstage. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

When areas like the New Fantasyland are built, usually more than the needed number of trees are planted. Part of this is due to the fact that the trees are smaller, and so more are needed to fill the space. But it’s also presumed that some trees will not survive their first few years. Take a look at the following:

Belle's cottage home is nestled among a glen of trees and shrubs.
Belle’s cottage home is nestled among a glen of trees and shrubs. Photo by J. Jeff Kober
Flowers Have Understudies
A forest of new trees frame the New Fantasyland section of the Magic Kingdom. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Whether it’s flowers or trees, the idea is that there are always enough, so that the show never looks sparse or incomplete.

You may not have flowers or trees in your business. But you do have people. Whether it’s flowers or people, you need to have enough on hand to make the show succeed. You need to be ready to switch them out, especially those closest to the customer who take the most abuse. It’s a little thing, but consider the following:

  • Do you have a back up? Do you have understudies?
  • Can you consistently look like the show is ready to go?
  • Is your business setting complete, or is there something missing?
  • Do you have enough to switch out those working closest to the customer in order to provide a break?
  • What do you need to have on hand to make sure that the show is ready to go?

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