Unlocking the kingdom, p.1

Unlocking the Kingdom, page 1


Unlocking the Kingdom

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Unlocking the Kingdom

  Jeff Dixon




  Unlocking the Kingdom: The Battle for Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom

  © 2012 Jeff Dixon

  All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

  The Bible version statement as follows: Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

  Published by

  Deep River Books

  Sisters, Oregon


  ISBN 13: 9781937756512

  ISBN 10: 1937756513

  Library of Congress: 2012951259

  Printed in the USA

  Cover design by Joe Bailen, Contajus Designs

  THIS BOOK MAKES REFERENCES to various Disney copyrighted characters, trademarks, marks, and registered marks owned by the Walt Disney Company and Walt Disney Enterprises, Inc. This book is a work of fiction and is not authorized or endorsed by the Walt Disney Company or any other businesses named in this book. All attractions, product names, and other works mentioned in this book are trademarks of their respective owners, and the names are used for editorial purposes; no commercial claim to their use is claimed by the author or publisher. These include but are not limited to: Walt Disney World, Inc., The Magic Kingdom, Adventureland, Liberty Square, Frontierland, Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Main Street USA, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Epcot, Epcot Center, Downtown Disney, Audio-Animatronics, Carousel of Progress, Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Pirates of the Caribbean, Contemporary Resort, The Great Movie Ride, Cinderella Castle, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Mortimer Mouse, Goofy, Donald Duck, Pluto, and Walt Disney. Nothing contained herein is intended to express judgment on, or affect the validity of legal status of, any character, term, or word as a trademark, service mark, or other proprietary mark. Neither the author nor publisher is associated with any product, vendor, or service provider mentioned in this fictitious work.

  This novel, being a work of fiction set in an imagined future, suggests no claim to the events or characters in the book, including the imagined future of the Company. All characters, places, and events either real or imagined are used fictitiously as storytelling devices.

  For My Mom

  I have watched you face a changing world with bravery, dignity, and style.

  Your strength and faith have given me a glimpse of the Savior in you.

  You are an inspiration, and I love you.

  Author’s note

  This book is built upon the following facts:

  November 15, 1965—The Disney brothers, Walt and Roy, met at the Cherry Plaza Hotel in Orlando, Florida for a press conference. Seated with Florida Governor Haydon Burns, they announced to the public their plans to build a new Disney theme park in Central Florida.

  December 15, 1966—Walter Elias Disney passed away at the age of 65 in St. Joseph’s Hospital in Burbank, California.

  December 16, 1966—A private memorial ceremony was held at the Little Church of the Flowers at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California. No announcement of the funeral was made until after it had taken place. Only members of the immediate family were in attendance. Forest Lawn officials refused to disclose any details of the funeral or disposition of the body, stating only that “Mr. Disney’s wishes were very specific and had been spelled out in great detail.”

  January 1967—Disney department heads were invited to a screening room at the Disney Studios. Sitting in assigned seats, they viewed a film featuring Walt Disney sitting behind his desk and addressing them as individuals, gesturing toward them as he spoke, and laying out future plans. Roy Disney postponed his retirement to complete the Florida project.

  February 2, 1967—Roy Disney is the host at Wometco’s Park Theatre in Central Florida for Project Florida. This invitation-only event screens the film Walt Disney World Resort: Phase 1 followed by a press conference. The film included portions of the documentary EPCOT featuring Walt Disney filmed just months before his death.

  October 1, 1971—The Walt Disney World Resort opened the gates to the Magic Kingdom theme park.

  October 23, 1971—Roy Disney dedicated the Magic Kingdom theme park based upon the philosophies and vision of his brother, Walt Disney. Roy passed away less than two months later.

  October, 1973—The Western River Expedition is forever lost as a great Disney attraction that would never be built as planned.

  November, 2010—A novel, The Key to the Kingdom, a work of factual fiction is released for the first time.

  Today—The lives and legacy of Walt and Roy Disney continue to touch the lives of people around the world.


  * * *

  “MOVE!” THE BOOMING VOICE of Reginald Cambridge echoed in Hawk’s ears.

  “Keep up,” Hawk called back over his shoulder as the two men raced around and through the crowds of people leisurely walking across the bridge into Adventureland.

  Heart hammering and driven by dread, he ran, in stark contrast to the others around him. The Magic Kingdom of Walt Disney World was brimming with guests beginning their day in the bright Florida sun. Startled tourists scampered to get out of the path of the two men charging through their midst. Hawk sidestepped between people, trying to find open areas where he could pick up his pace without running over and hurting anyone.

  Suddenly a child broke loose from his parent’s hand and darted into Hawk’s path. Planting his foot, Hawk veered to his left, putting him on a collision course with Bwana Bob’s souvenir stand and a Disney cast member tending the cash register. Having avoided the child, Hawk now was confronted with a wide-eyed young lady who didn’t have time to move out of his way. He grabbed her in a bear hug and spun around, wildly out of control and trying to regain enough balance to keep both of them from falling. Lifting the girl off the ground and using her as a human counterweight, he slowed his momentum and regained his footing. Gently he lowered her back to the ground.

  The young cast member looked up into the face of her unexpected dance partner. She caught his sleeve before he could move away. “Grayson Hawkes.” She gingerly placed weight on her right foot and grimaced.

  “Hawk.” He smiled with concern. “Call me Hawk. Are you alright?”

  “Fine . . . I’m great.” She steadied herself, using his arm for support. “I just twisted my ankle a bit, but I’m fine.”

  Dr. Grayson Hawkes exhaled with relief, realizing she wasn’t seriously hurt. Her reaction at seeing him almost amused him. It had been nearly eighteen months since he’d become the chief creative architect for the Walt Disney Company. Like most people, he hadn’t known what the CCA position entailed when he was introduced to the organization, but it had quickly become apparent it meant he was now the boss. Right now, being the boss meant he had to keep moving, but he could spare a second to apologize for almost trampling one of his cast members. “You’re sure you’re not hurt?”

  “Yes, I think I’m fine.”

  “Sorry about bumping into you like this.” Hawk freed himself from her grip while reading her name badge. “It was nice to meet you, Barbie.”

  In an instant Hawk was moving again. He accelerated through the crowd of onlookers who had stopped to see the collision at Bwana Bob’s. Some of the gawkers realized they had just seen the new leader of the Walt Disney Company—cameras clicked and peopled shouted his name as he disappeared
from view under the tribal masks on the gates of Adventureland.

  Hawk raced past the Magic Carpets of Aladdin and caught up with Reginald at Caribbean Plaza. Now running side by side, the two ran past the entrance to Pirates of the Caribbean and into the shopping area beyond it. The congestion of people slowed their pace, and the buzz of the crowd crackled with a higher energy level than normal. Hawk slid in behind Reginald, as he cleared a path in the thickening ocean of people.

  “You should let me handle this situation, boss.” Reginald tossed the suggestion over his shoulder.

  “Just keep on moving.” Hawk raised his voice to be heard over the crowd.

  “Keep up,” Reginald answered, with just the hint of a smile cracking his lips.

  He placed his hand on his guide’s back and pushed firmly as they plowed a path through the people. Stepping out of the traffic flow, they entered an unmarked doorway leading them out of the public area of the Plaza. When they emerged into an alley of drab walls dotted with unmarked doors, a panicked cast member named Bill scurried over to them and gave a radio to Reginald.

  “What do we have?” Hawk looked past Bill to the door propped ajar behind him.

  “We’re currently evacuating Pirates of the Caribbean.”

  “The entire attraction?” Hawk felt tensing muscles crawl up his neck.

  “Yes, sir . . . everyone,” Bill responded, joining the two men resolutely heading toward the doorway.


  “It’s gotten a little bit manic in there,” Bill said, his eyes darting between them.

  Reginald’s head snapped back toward Bill as he paused with his hand on the doorknob.


  “We found a body floating face down in the water.” In a glance, Hawk and Reginald registered their concern as they moved through the portal into the Pirates of the Caribbean. Blinking while his eyes adjusted to the darkness, Hawk heard Reginald call for additional security.

  Reginald Cambridge served as the chief security officer for the Walt Disney Company. His job was far more complicated than Hawk completely understood, but Reginald was excellent at what he did. He was fair and fearless, perhaps intimidating to most, and always in close proximity to wherever Hawk happened to be. Over the past year and a half, the two had become friends and had forged a close bond.

  Bill, Reginald, and Hawk moved through the dimly lit offstage corridors that wound behind the sets of the water-filled attraction. While Reginald barked commands into the radio, Hawk pressed Bill for more details.

  “Tell me what happened.” Hawk pushed forward along the corridor.

  “Everything was going fine. The attraction was operating properly. The guest flow through the attraction was steady.” Hawk’s raised eyebrow prompted Bill to provide the information Hawk was really looking for. “Even though our crowds are extremely high, the wait time was not exceptionally long. We had a guest in a boat start screaming in the burning-city section of the attraction. Then more started screaming, and then the belts in the unload area stopped . . .”

  Hawk inhaled sharply. “Stopped?”

  “Yes, they just stopped, so we couldn’t get anybody off the ride in the unloading area.”

  “So the attraction shut down?” Hawk tried to process what he was walking into.

  “Well, sort of, but something strange happened.”

  “Tell me,” Hawk said as he craned his neck, battling the stiffening muscles.

  “The unload area shut down, but the belts in the loading area didn’t shut off; they just kept running, sending boats into the attraction.”

  “Did anyone get hurt?”

  “Oh, no,” Bill assured him. “It was frightening for the guests in the queue line waiting to board. They saw boat after boat go racing past. But no one was hurt.”

  “So the attraction is full of boats?”

  “Yes, most of them empty, but they’re jammed up in there. And the body is just floating dead in the water.”

  Hawk’s head snapped toward Bill. His eyes narrowed.

  “Uh . . . sorry,” Bill stammered. “Poor choice of words. We’re having problems in there.”

  Hawk hustled past Reginald, as the security chief coordinated his team in and around the attraction. Bill gestured toward a nondescript door to their right, and Hawk swallowed hard.

  Bill hesitated. “This entrance will put you closest to the problem.”

  “You mean the body.”

  “Yes, sir.”

  Placing a hand on the door and giving it a shove, Grayson Hawkes bounded into the burning city.


  * * *

  PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN WEAVES through looted and pillaged towns, a dark boat voyage that takes guests into the heart of a pirate adventure. Due to the huge popularity of the Pirates of the Caribbean film series, additional characters have been added to the ride, and a whole new generation of guests flock to enjoy the attraction.

  Hawk stepped into the “set” of the attraction and saw an endless line of boats now backed up on the waterway. Walking out onto a bridge over the water gave him a better view of the chaos below as he searched for what to do next. He stepped around a pirate and a parrot that normally the guests would look up at as the ride passed underneath. Glancing to his left and right, he saw guests being evacuated from their boats onto the set area itself and led behind the scenes and out of the attraction. The boats directly in front of Hawk were empty. Bill stepped up beside him and pointed out into the water, where a chilling shape floated. Quickly Hawk jumped down off the bridge onto the front of the empty boat beneath him. He high-stepped over each row of seats until he reached the back, then he jumped onto the front of the next boat in line. Again and again, he leaped from seat to seat until he got closer to the body drifting along the waterway.

  Reginald, having appeared behind the animatronic pirate on the bridge, bellowed something unintelligible to Hawk.

  “What?” Hawk paused in the boat. He leaned back toward Reginald, trying to hear him over the singing pirates and the driving theme song from the Pirates of the Caribbean films.

  “Why hasn’t anybody cut the soundtrack yet?” Reginald roared into his radio. “Do it now!” Turning back to Hawk, he shouted, “Paramedics are on their way inside now.” The now echoed in the building as the soundtrack suddenly cut off.

  “Good.” Hawk turned away and jumped off the boat into the dark chilly water.

  His feet found the bottom and slipped slightly as he took his first step. Over his shoulder he heard Bill anxiously shout, “Shouldn’t we wait until the paramedics get here?”

  “It is very rare that Grayson Hawkes waits to do anything,” Cambridge answered in a loud voice, as he jumped down onto the front of the boat in front of him. Hawk glanced back and saw his friend following the same path he had taken over the boats.

  Hawk sloshed through the waist-deep water as the reflection of the fire effects danced across the surface. The body in front of him was rocking back and forth, face down. Getting closer, he could see it was a woman wearing a billowing dress that rippled over the swells in the water. The dress wasn’t the typical attire of the theme park’s guests. Surging forward, he grabbed her by both shoulders. In one motion, he flipped her over in the water and positioned his hand behind her head. When he bent to begin CPR, he saw the woman’s face and paused.

  Cambridge leaned over the side of the boat. “What’s wrong?”

  Hawk shoved the body toward the boat like a raft in a swimming pool. Reginald watched as she drifted toward him and with an unceremonious clunk hit the side of the boat he was standing in.

  “She’s animatronic!” Hawk shook water off his arms with an exaggerated motion.

  “Well, isn’t that interesting?” Reginald reached down and hoisted the body into the boat.

  The audio-animatronic figure was life sized, but as with many of the figures used in attractions throughout the theme parks, only the parts that were seen by the public looked lifelike. This w
oman was really just a plastic-and-metal mesh structure with a realistic head, arms, and legs. The hollow body gave the figure a surprising buoyancy similar to that of a raft. Lifting her and laying her on the seat in front of him, the security chief turned back toward the water to look down at his boss.

  Hawk had now arrived back at the boat. His arms were crossed along the edge of the vessel, and he was resting his head. He grinned. “You can tell the paramedics not to hurry.”

  “I’m not so sure I’m satisfied with their response time.” Reginald turned back as he heard them enter. “They should have been here sooner.”

  “You can yell at them after you help me get out of the water.” Hawk extended an arm, and Reginald grasped his hand and lifted him up. Hawk placed a foot on the side of the boat and effortlessly landed in the boat next to him. The hands-on work of a chief creative architect had drastically transformed Hawk, who used to be sadly out of shape. As water dripped into the bottom of the boat, they peered over at the animatronic victim stretched out on the seat.

  “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Hawk continued to stare at the soggy female scrap-pile in the boat.

  “That you’re relieved that she’s not real, and that no harm has come to any of our guests?”

  “I’m relieved and thrilled that no one is hurt, that’s true. But that’s not what I’m thinking.”

  “You are thinking,” Reginald calculated, “how did this audio-animatronic creation end up floating face down in the water?”


  “Hmmm.” Reginald pursed his lips. “You’re thinking that this is a very unlikely accident and that our female friend here did not just jump in the canal by herself.”

  “Not that either, although I’m sure I will think about all of those things later.”

  “Very well, it’s apparent that I don’t know what you’re thinking.”

  “I’m thinking about how cold that water was and how much I could use a towel right now.” Hawk now turned his head toward Reginald and winked. “And I really am glad no one is hurt.”

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