At the recent media event celebrating the debut of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World Resort, it finally dawned on me. After years and years of visiting theme parks, I finally realized what the Orlando theme parks do better than anywhere else on earth. No, it’s not the efficient way they park automobiles arriving filled with visitors, although they wrote the book on how to do it. No, it’s not the meaningful theming, although they do it better than just about anyone else. No, it’s not the thrill rides, of which there are arguably better ones found elsewhere.
And no, it’s not their queue lines, which are frequently longer and more tiresome than those in less-heavily attended parks.
What the Orlando theme parks do best is sell stuff. It’s their skill at merchandising, and the variety of goods they offer. Realizing that guests are making family memories based on their day in the park, they offer many ways to commemorate your visit. There are the T-shirts and hats, of course, but that’s just the beginning. In Orlando, as one exits every attraction there is a retail opportunity to buy photos, clothing, and a variety of trinkets.
Slavic in origin, there is a word for a trinket. It’s called a tchotchke, a small bauble or miscellaneous item. But the trinkets found in Orlando parks are larger, and my father had a name for these. Katzafikoh. More than one is also called katzafikoh. Translated (maybe) from the Latin, it means “dust collector.” And left on a shelf undisturbed, it will indeed collect dust.
I’m sure you’ve noticed as travelers wind their way through the queue line leading to the security check at the Orlando airport, an unusual number of otherwise normal individuals were wearing mouse ears, and that’s just one example. Before the recent IAAPA Expo I spent a day traipsing through Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Studios parks. It was after Halloween, mid-November, but otherwise normal looking adults were wearing wizarding robes and carrying magic wands ala Harry Potter. These are sold in the park, and apparently they’ve sold a bundle of them. Magic wands and mouse ears are katzafikoh.
But it was when I was wandering through Star Wars: Galaxy Edge’s many retail outlets, marveling at the merchandise they offered, that I realized the marketing genius at work here. From make-it-yourself droids to pins and glorified flashlights they call lightsabers, these were souvenirs unavailable elsewhere, must-have katzafikoh. Guests were in the park for the day, but bringing home these items will keep the memories alive for years.
My office shelves are filled with katzafikoh, and I have no room for more. But I was here in Star Wars: Galaxy Edge, thoroughly enjoying the experience. Normally I simply take photos, and photos nicely preserve the memories. In Star Wars I took lots of photos, but I couldn’t go home empty-handed. I didn’t. In retrospect I only wish I had asked myself, “What are you going to do with a droid?”