I know plenty of people who build their lives around All Things Mickey Mouse, EVERY vacation is a Disney Vacation. A group profile might reveal a broad mix of Conservative Adventure Seekers, collectively enjoying the mild terror as they wander in a romantic land where the elevator ALWAYS breaks its fall, even Halloween is Not-So-Scarey. Safely exciting days are filled with expertly risk managed experiences, at the end of which all return to spiffy themed guest rooms, air conditioners are set on arctic high and a bottomless tumbler full of some Coca-Cola product rehydrates and replenishes the perspiration expended on a central Florida summer day. These are the Disney Brand True Believers.
Ears and pins are purchased, Disney Vacation Club Points eagerly sucked up by True Believers. And daring to dream beyond the dream they are already IN, True Believers imagine their own lives spent where every detail of their physical world would be as obsessively detailed and immaculate as Town Square in the Magic Kingdom. At this point in the narrative enters the Ultimate Disney Souvenir, a home in the Town of Celebration.
It hardly seems unrealistic on their part to assume that home ownership in Disney’s Town of Celebration would come with an insurance policy which, while it MIGHT not contain coverage on items such as “disappointment”, would certainly imply a home warranty matching the legendary standards of excellence and quality assurance solidly embedded in the Disney Brand. After all, Celebration Rules and Covenants run to thousands of pages- HOW your home looked was Everybody’s Business. Wrong plants? Wrong mailbox?, Wrong curtains?, Stained sidewalk? Boo Hoo. Nut up.
Standards abounded, and True Believers EMBRACED the Standards. I said more than once that I did not need to see someone with 43 shopping bags and a battered Publix cart sleeping on a sewer grate to fully feel the pain of homelessness. I too want it nice. After all, Walt himself had taken such pride in his immaculate parks, providing trash bins every 23 feet, re-painting and scrubbing all night long, believing that if things were neatly kept it would encourage visitors to his parks to embrace the same standards. The average lifespan of a piece of litter in Disneyland is 15 seconds-as it has been since 1988. These people KNEW how to do this immaculate thing and True Believers BELIEVED they knew, and wanted to buy into it.
They were also willing to pay the Disney Brand price. Miles of buyers lined up to pay Brobdingnagian premiums on historically inexpensive Florida homes, happily signing on to a lifetime of controlling and paternalistic rules, trading cash for Adult Supervision and protection of their property values.
That all started in 1996- lives of cosseted protection courtesy of the Disney Brand and their Colossal Legal Department. Title Companies and attorneys alike caved under the weight of the closing documents. And we all signed, secure that we had made safe, True Believer decisions.
Without overdoing the fairytale metaphor, less than 20 years later in 2016 we find ourselves stunned awake, Rip Van Winkle-esque. Abandoned by the Disney Brand, abandoned by the Disney attorneys and their well crafted clauses, the visible effects of neglect and mismanagement are displayed in the decay and disarray, rotting beams and mold, leaking roofs and plummeting values of our homes.
How we got here is not a short story, and not a pretty story either. And while I do not know ALL of the story I DO know quite a bit of it, and more is revealed every day. After years of spending far too much time reading DCCROs and statutes I yearn to share some interesting stuff, assembled documentation, facts and opinions about just how the hell we got here.
Please read along.