The global pandemic has caused many of us to reevaluate our lives, reassess our priorities and cherish the smaller things in life. Inspiration comes in many forms and has a unique power to move us to find hidden bravery within ourselves and overcome unforeseen challenges. Our most beloved Disney stories reflect these narratives and provide inspiration for millions of guests and fans.
We are blessed in our industry to inspire others each and every day with the power of our stories. But sometimes we can be just as inspired by the stories of the people we meet. I want to share the story of one such person, a lady named Su Min, from China.
We had just launched the beginning of Shanghai Disney Resort’s 5th Birthday celebrations when I read of Su Min’s story. Su Min is a 56-year-old retired factory worker from central China’s province of Henan. In mid-2020 she left her home and family to begin a colossal two-year journey by car across China. Posting frequently on social media of her adventures, her six-month solo trip has become a story of female empowerment, followed by millions of Chinese netizens, and challenging cultural perceptions of the social role of older working-class women.
Our 5th Birthday celebrations kicked off with the premiere of a new nighttime spectacular, ILLUMINATE! This incredible new show is based on the idea that we are all searching for the light within ourselves, in pursuit of personal triumph. When I heard that Su Min’s own mission was to “find the light” in her life, I knew I had to meet her and hopefully encourage her in some small way.
Luck was on my side, as I soon learned that Su Min’s epic journey was bringing her to Shanghai in mid-April. Once contacted, she readily agreed to include a visit to Shanghai Disney Resort.
As soon as I met her, I felt I had been reacquainted with an old friend. She shared stories of her childhood in Tibet and Henan, and her yearning from childhood to travel and discover. Years ago, I had undertaken a similarly challenging drive from Canada to Central America, and we immediately connected.
As we walked from the parking lot and entered into Shanghai Disneyland, I could feel her excitement and enthusiasm grow: her first visit to a Disney park, to any theme park; her first direct conversation with any foreigner; her chance to be a child for a day. She was soon wearing Mickey ears and we were off to experience our first ride together, Woody’s Roundup (I was glad to hear she shared my aversion to more thrilling rides, so no TRON!).
The rest of our time together was filled with stories of hope and optimism, of childhood rediscovered, of excitement and anticipation, and I have seldom been as touched by a guest experience as I was that day. It reminded me that Disney is for everyone, that guests of all ages and backgrounds, from all corners of the globe, can be inspired by the magic we create.
As we continue to embrace diversity and inclusion, I will always remember Su Min for showing me that the power of the Disney brand is at its strongest when we reach out to every corner of the community, and that far from just creating magical moments for our guests, our guests can also create magical moments that we as cast can cherish for a lifetime.
As Su Min watched our new nighttime show and saw the light of inspiration projected onto the castle, I felt she herself had shared a little inspirational light for me, and I thank her for that. And I smile as I think of her back out on the open road, with countless new adventures and new friends waiting for her. I wish her 一路顺风