Taking a moment to gather his thoughts before meeting up with Roy for his first board meeting after finding out he was a Disney, Daniel looked out the hotel room window. Daniel had come back with his new cousin to Southern California, where he made everything official at Disney’s corporate offices. He chose to stay at the Disneyland Hotel close to the park. When they got to California, he had a choice to stay with Roy or anywhere he wanted. Daniel wanted to be alone but close to the park so he could channel Walt and the dream that was Disneyland. Roy made sure that he got Daniel his gold pass. That pass would allow him to enter any park around the world at any time, even after hours.
Daniel spent a couple of days around the Disneyland park, riding a few rides that were not at Disney World like the Matterhorn and California Screamin’.
He missed his Kim Possible, or whatever her name was, but was trying to forget about her. He did not think Roy would live up to his side of the bargain and bring her back. He did not see her before he left Orlando and she was not there either.
While in the park, Daniel saw many characters in the park giving him a wave as he passed. Goofy even high-fived him as they passed each other walking down Main Street. They seemed to have either gotten the “memo” about Daniel or were the real deal.
Daniel still had trouble telling the difference between real characters from the cast members. For sure after time, he would be able to tell the difference just by looking at them. Daniel passed Ariel’s Grotto at California Adventure. He glanced inside and saw some of the Disney princesses inside entertaining some of the park’s young guests. Ariel noticed Daniel just inside the door. She excused herself from her guests and walked over to him. “Glad to see you here, Daniel.”
“Me too. Thanks for everything back in Florida.”
“No problem, just doing what I knew was right. You needed to be here.”
“I know,” he kissed Ariel on the cheek. “Thanks.”
Just as Daniel kissed Ariel, one of the young guests saw and shouted out, “You can’t kiss her, you’re not Prince Erik.”
Ariel and Daniel laughed, Daniel left, and Ariel went to assure her little friend that he was not there to take Prince Erik’s place.
Since Daniel decided to become a Disney, things had felt different to him. He did not feel like he was there to run the place, he did not even feel that he was there to change anything. Even though Roy said he would be taking Walt’s place as the idea guy to the magic, Daniel did not feel how that would be possible. That was what the Imagineers did. That was their job. He felt like he was just a face.
Roy told Daniel that as soon as he had agreed to be a Disney, a memo was sent to all cast members announcing him and even explained how Daniel was created. Within the memo, no photo was sent so Daniel could have what personal time he had left.
During the days before the signings, Daniel walked around the park and introduced himself to many cast members who were working in the park, from souvenir store workers, cooks, ride operators, and janitors. He talked to them, asked them questions about who they were, and answered questions they had about him. Many of the same questions were asked, most of them being about how he was created and how he felt about just finding out that Walt was his dad. Daniel took everything in stride.
Back at the hotel, Daniel looked out over the parks as he waited for his ride to Burbank. He heard a knock on his door, his ride must be there. They were a little early, Daniel thought. He opened the door and an older woman, in her seventies stood.
“Can I help you?” he asked.
“I’m your sister,” she responded. Daniel smiled. He invited her into the room. Diane came to pick up Daniel and take him to the offices. “My husband is in the car, but I wanted to meet you before everyone else gets to you.”
Listening to her talk, Daniel thought about how different they were in age. Daniel in his twenties, Diane in her seventies. A lifetime between them. Diane spent her life growing up in that life with Walt, their father. Daniel would never have that. A family, even though that family was one of the most famous families in the world.
“It’s nice to meet you,” Daniel said to her as the two sat in front of the window of the hotel.
“Same here. Glad to see Roy was able to talk you into this adventure.” Diane responded.
Daniel laughed when she mentioned it was an adventure. “Yes, it has been an adventure. I just am trying to do the right thing.”
“You know, I wasn’t in support of this whole cloning experiment. Each time it failed; I was happy. When Roy told me that they succeed, I did not know how to feel. I think it has taken me all this time to be comfortable enough to talk to you. To see you. I would not even look at photographs Roy sent to me.” Diane explained.
“Understandable,” he responded.
“Roy tells me that you have a lot of my dad’s,” Diane corrected herself, “Excuse me, our father’s visions. You have a lot of him in you.”
“That is what I am told. I wish I could have met him.”
“I have never agreed much with Roy, but I am sure he would never lie to me. I am taking his word at it.” Diane seemed a little put off at the fact that everyone was comparing Daniel to Walt.
“I hope that I am and that you can see it in me, too.”
Diane paused to glance at her watch, “We better get going. We don’t want to keep them waiting.” Diane rose and headed for the door. Seeing that she seemed uncomfortable with everything, Daniel tried to change her attitude.
“You know Diane, I never wanted this. I was happy with my life before. Now after everything Roy told me about what is going on and who I am, I feel like I need to do it. I don’t want to upset the Disney family for being around. I hope that one day, we can get to know each other as a family because I really could use some right about now.”
Diane turned around and saw the sincerity in his eyes. She held out her hand to take him to the car.
Walking up to the Burbank studios was amazing. The building seemed to be held up by the Seven Drawfs. Diane explained that it was the Team Disney building and explained how it came to be and its history. Daniel agreed he would need a tour guide with him for a while until he got his bearings.
Everyone inside the Team Disney building was excited to finally meet Daniel after much gossip about his arrival. Many were surprised to see Diane bring Daniel to the offices. The two of them headed straight to Iger’s office so they could finally meet face to face.
Roy was already in Iger’s office awaiting the arrival of Daniel and Diane. They chatted for a while, small talk. Iger had lots of questions for Daniel about his creative ideas, changes, and a whole bunch of things that Daniel had yet to even think about. Roy assured Iger that once everything sunk in for Daniel that he would start to have ideas for them to work from. Roy used the phrase, “Disneyland wasn’t built in a day” metaphor to describe Daniel’s delay in ideas.
Roy, Iger, and Daniel took an executive lunch break. Diane left so the “boys”, as she called them, could “be boys” before the board meeting. Roy gave Daniel his new identification, passports, and everything needed with his new official name as Daniel Disney.
Daniel took that time at lunch to remind Roy about their deal about Kim Possible. “Roy when do I get to see Kim, I mean my girl again.”
Roy laughed, “Work first, then you can play.”
Iger questioned what girl they were talking about since he was not in Orlando when they made the deal.
Roy explained to Iger, “Daniel thinks he is in love. We had to keep this girl away from him until he agreed to focus on Disney.” Daniel blushed a bit.
After lunch, the boys headed back to Team Disney for the board meeting. They first met with the Senior Executives like John Lasseter, one of the heads of Disney and Pixar, Alan Braverman, who oversaw all the legal affairs for Disney, and Thomas Staggs, who oversaw the finances of Disney. Staggs had been steadily working on the stock purchases so that Daniel could own 51%.
During the meeting, Staggs mentioned that so many of the stockholders were willing to sell back the stock to bring Disney back to the family, that Daniel had quite a bit more than 51%. He mentioned the stocks that were still out there had risen a significant amount since Disney announced the buyback. That made everyone happy, except Daniel who had no idea what it all meant since Staggs spoke in business terms.
The group headed to the boardroom to meet with other board members. That was where signed the official papers and documents. A photographer began to shoot pictures as soon as Daniel came into the room as those would be the first official photos of Daniel in his new role. Daniel looked around the room, all he saw was a bunch of suits. A bunch of corporate people who looked alike in his mind. Daniel had shown up in a pair of jeans and one of his favorite Disney t-shirts that he had gotten at the park in Orlando. Daniel had no plans to become a suit.
In the room of board members Iger introduced, there was Judith Estrin (JLabs), Fred Langhammer (Estee Lauder), Aylwin Lewis (Potbelly Sandwiches), Robert Matschullat (Clorox), John Pepper (the chairman of the board for Disney), Orin Smith (Starbucks), Steve Jobs (Apple), and some others that Daniel thought he would never remember.
They started talking, bringing up issues, jobs, and other things that again Daniel thought he would never remember either. Steve Jobs brought up the idea that if Daniel were there to bring ideas to the company, he should become a member of the board, also.
The thought of that shocked Daniel. Roy said everything was to stay the way it was; Daniel was there to bring ideas to the creative team and that was what everyone agreed.
Nothing about the business side had ever been discussed. The board members agreed it would be wise for Daniel to have more say and should be part of the board. Roy looked over at Daniel, who was still in shock, and said “I think that would be good. Walt was on the board most of his life here. I agree.”
The meeting lasted most of the afternoon as they discussed all the company’s issues and planned the yearly corporate meeting at the Magic Kingdom, which was about a week away. Daniel only sat and listened to them talk. He agreed with most things but there were some ideas that he did not like, nor thought were good, even though he decided not to say anything. He smiled and nodded most of the time, signed the papers they put in front of him. He did not read anything they gave him to sign. He just took their word on everything. Daniel figured that he had nothing to lose since he had nothing to start with.
After the meeting, Roy and Daniel set off for some relaxation before the announcements in Orlando, they went to the mountains in Colorado. Roy had a house there.
They also met with Roy’s lawyer, who was going to help Daniel with his money decisions. Roy trusted his lawyer and knew that he would take care of Daniel. The three of them worked over the final numbers of stocks that Daniel had from the stock buyback. Daniel had about 54% of all Disney stocks. He only needed 51%, so Roy recommended that Daniel sell off the 3% he did not need so he could have money to live on as well as investments in other companies. It all sounded Greek to Daniel but agreed and put his trust in Roy and his lawyer.
After a few days of rest in Colorado, Daniel and Roy headed to Orlando for the corporate announcement. Daniel stayed in his personal room at the Contemporary. Roy stayed at the Grand Floridian when he was at the parks, he had his room just like Daniel did. The first night they were back, they had dinner with Iger at Victoria & Albert’s, one of Disney’s most elegant restaurants. Daniel did not know where they were going, so he had dressed down. No one questioned Daniel’s attire when he walked into the restaurant. Everyone was incredibly happy to see him. Accompanying Iger was his secretary, Marcia who had worked out Daniel’s speech at the meeting.
After dinner, Daniel took a water taxi over to the Magic Kingdom and wandered the world for a while. Trying to decompress from all the business talk, Daniel started to feel alone again. He missed anything resembling a family. He had not gotten close to Diane in California. Roy was there but there was nothing “family” between them except business. Roy’s promise to bring Kim back took way too long in Daniel’s mind. He moped around the park.
The next day, Daniel met with Marcia to go over the speech and to go shopping for some business attire. He had lunch with some of the executives from ABC, who were there. Dinner was spent with executives from the animation department. Roy made sure Daniel knew everyone and they knew him. Daniel’s inexperience made it hard for him to remember so many people so fast. He had a bad habit of mixing up people’s names though everyone seemed to be forgiving.
After all the meetings and meals, Roy hung out with Daniel back at the Contemporary Hotel. Roy admired the view from his room, “Boy, this is much better than the place I have at the Grand Floridian.”
Daniel smiled, “Well, you gave it to me. You should have taken it and given me the Floridian.”
They conversed over a few bottles of wine and Roy shared stories of his youth, his dad, and Walt. Daniel could not have been happier. He had started to feel like he was becoming part of the family, even though he would never meet most of them.
Daniel asked Roy, “Do you think Diane will ever think of me as a brother?”
Roy thought a moment, “You know, I don’t know. I probably would say no. Walt’s decision to create offspring from his DNA was not your typical request. Walt was never typical. He loved science and if science could bring him back in any way, shape, or form, then Walt wanted it. That is why you are here. Walt decided to have someone create a son despite what Diane wanted.”
“What about her children? She has kids, right?” Daniel asked.
“Seven of them. The youngest is Patrick. He is about forty now. I spoke to him once after you were born. He wanted to meet you, but until you grew up, I couldn’t let anyone get in the way.” Roy responded.
“But maybe, if I had Disney family around me, I would have been able to do something else or been better.”
“We can all say what if. I don’t know what the right and wrong thing was to do. Everyone in the family knew what we were trying. Few people wanted to be involved with the project when we started. It caused many problems between Diane and me. We already had too many problems before you came. The wedge was just dug a bit deeper when we began your experiment.” Roy explained his decisions.
Roy sighed, “I think, in a way, bringing you on at Disney has helped. Diane has been coming around more and we have had more talks since the decision was made. And possibly, you can fix the family feud, too.” Roy smirked at the thought.
Daniel woke up the next morning with a bit of a hangover. Roy did not leave until late, and they polished off a good amount of wine celebrating and talking. He showered and got ready for his presentation. It was scheduled for around noon, so Daniel had a bit of time. He looked at the clothes that Marcia had picked out for him, a dress shirt, tie, jacket.
“Ugh,” Daniel thought. A suit.
He was not planning to become a suit, no matter what title Disney wanted to give him. Daniel was against the suit. He thought that was the cause of most of the internal problems at Disney, they were too corporate. They all needed to lighten up, he thought. That could be a change he could implement. He realized he would pick his battles later, but for today he was going to be himself. Or a version of himself.
He tossed the shirt and jacket aside, put on a pair of khakis, and a Disney polo shirt. Casual but not sloppy, he thought as he looked at himself in the mirror. Dress-wise, he was ready. He went over his speech again. Was the public ready to meet Walt’s experimental son? He was about to find out.
Many cast members were staying at the hotel. People had come from all over to attend the meeting. Disney’s radio and TV managers were there. Many were waiting for friends or rides to the park. Daniel came down and greeted them. He introduced himself and the business vibe just started to become second nature to him.
As he introduced himself, he met a Radio Disney station manager. “Hi, I am Laura Peña. Station manager for Radio Disney Albuquerque. It is a pleasure to meet you.”
“Same here, Laura.” Daniel noticed the visor she wore, “So, you like Expedition Everest?” He continued as he looked at her visor which had the ride logo on it.
“Oh My God, I love that ride.”
“Well, if you don’t have plans. After the meeting, let’s head over to the Animal Kingdom for a ride. Front row if you are up for the dare.”
“I love the front row. It’s on,” she said.
“Like Donkey Kong,” Daniel replied as he held up his fist. Laura put her fist up and the two sealed the deal with a fist bang.
A bus pulled up to take everyone over to the park that was just across the way. Daniel decided that on such a beautiful day he would walk over. The cast members there saw Daniel start walking over, so they decided to follow his lead and walk to the park. They were all herded in and the group headed over to the front of the castle. There was a stage set up where the executives would be making the presentations to the public. Tons of cast members were there already. Daniel left his group and went behind the stage to get ready.
Roy and Iger were there. Iger was not impressed that Daniel decided not to wear what his secretary had picked out. Roy knew that Daniel would not succumb to the corporate world that fast. Iger did not mention anything about it, but Daniel could see how he felt.
The meeting started with Iger discussing many of the upcoming events and expansions to happen in the upcoming years, including the announcement of a Disney Vacation Club resort at the Contemporary. From the reaction of the crowd, one could tell they were excited about that addition. Afterward, Thomas Staggs came on stage to discuss the finances for the past year and the predictions for the upcoming years. Iger then introduced Roy, who came up on stage to discuss Daniel and the Disney legacy. As Roy spoke, the crowd remained quiet. They seemed to be holding on to his every word. As he continued to explain how Daniel came about, the crowd got bigger. Daniel watched from backstage. He was a bit nervous. His palms were clammy, and he had butterflies in his tummy.
As he waited there, someone tapped him from behind and pointed off to behind the rope that divided the public from the executives. He looked over and there was his Kim. Was it possible? Kim came back to him. He forgot about the speech that was taking place on the stage, he went to see her.
“I’ve missed you,” He said as he grabbed her and hugged her.
“I’ve missed you too.”
“Are you okay?” He asked.
“I’m fine. They told me everything and said I could see you after today. I couldn’t wait.” she said.
“It’s okay. I have stuff all day today. Can I see you later tonight or tomorrow?” Daniel asked.
“Tomorrow is great. Let’s meet for lunch at your hotel.” Kim replied. By that point, Roy was about finished with his speech. The handlers motioned Daniel over to take the stage. Daniel kissed Kim on the cheek and agreed to lunch.
Roy introduced Daniel to the public and the media went crazy. Everyone was ooohing and awwing over him, clapping, excited cheers. They welcomed Daniel with open arms, even though how he came to be a little controversial. He pulled out the paper that was written for him and placed it on the podium. He started reading from it. He had all but memorized it from practicing so much, that he stopped reading it about four sentences in. He wandered off track and just spoke to the people. He even decided to take questions from the audience to answer, which was not what Iger wanted to happen.
Iger glanced over at Roy concerned about what was happening.
Roy said to him, “He is just like his father, unpredictable.”
Daniel continued until Roy came on stage with him. They posed for some family photos and Roy brought Iger back on stage to close the meeting. It was a success. Everyone seemed happy with the current future for the Disney Company. Only time could how long the magic would last, they just knew it was not ending any time soon.
As the executives left the area, the station manager Laura made her way to them and ask Daniel if they were still on.
“I was just coming to look for you.” He hollered over to Roy, who was talking with one of his grandsons, “Hey old-timer, you ready to take on the mountain?”
Roy smiled and the four of them head toward a back exit so they could be taken over to the Animal Kingdom.
The cast members were so excited to see Roy at the parks. When they made their way to Expedition Everest, the wait was not too long. The cast member on the fast pass line told Roy and Daniel they could go to the front of the line.
Roy said to the nice lady, “Now, we don’t have fast passes so that would not be fair would it.”
Roy chose to wait in line with the rest of the guests who did not have passes. It did not take long but it showed Daniel that Roy did not think he was above anyone else because he was a Disney. That was something that Daniel would learn from his cousin. Just because you had the name, and the title did not give him the right.
When they got to the front of the line, Daniel and Laura took the front row while Roy and his grandson were in the seat behind them. It was an experience of a lifetime for Laura, which was what the Disney name was all about.
Daniel bought the ride photo for himself and gave a second one to Laura so she could have the memory of riding with Roy and Daniel. Laura cried.