The Journey to Your Happily Ever After


I’d wager a Mickey Mouse pin and two turkey legs that you’ve been to a Walt Disney theme park once in your life. Maybe twice or more. You might be planning a trip even now. In 2015, Disney theme parks worldwide welcomed 138 million guests. (That’s nearly half the U.S. population.) How do you explain why Disney parks attract so many guests? (And nearly twice the number of visitors to the next most popular theme parks?) 

I don’t claim to be the expert on much, but with three decades of experience around the castles of Disney, working in twenty-two positions at The Walt Disney Company, I have a credentialed opinion on this.


Disney promises its guests and fans around the world the possibility of magical moments and a happily ever after for every story. You know --- Adventure in the great wide somewhere, at the line where the sky meets the sea, around the river bend and up to the highest heights in a dazzling place we never knew where anything your heart desires will come to you?1 

the journey to your happily ever after with Jody Dean Dreyer as featured in Belong Magazine ISSUSE 08

Sprinkle that with a little pixie dust and, bibbidi-bobbidi-boo, you have something our hearts are formed to seek. And while a trip to Disneyland or two hours with Belle and her beast might transport us for a time, the real question is...

How do we bring the magic of Disney into our everyday lives? Where’s the wonder in our daily routine? Can we even expect to discover magic there? 

Spoiler alert: yes, you can. Finding everyday magic is a journey that starts by understanding who you are. Are you a princess or pixie? 


During my tenure as head of Disney Corporate Synergy, the company began assembling our beloved princesses under a distinct “Disney Princess Brand” umbrella. That venture required a unanimous answer to the logical preliminary question:

So what’s a princess?

Is Cinderella a princess? (Of course.) Is Belle? (Well, yes. By marriage.) So then, Tinker Bell…yes? (No. Not a princess.) I called the heated meetings where we made these determinations, the Princess Summits. And let me tell you, heated doesn’t describe the emotion of the exercise. Anyone who works at Disney is passionate about Disney princesses. Princesses are cherished—and they’re big business, too. Just a couple of years ago Bloomberg valued the Disney Princess Brand at over $5.5 billion dollars. One writer has called it the “princess industrial complex.” 

Just as it was no frivolous exercise to differentiate a princess from a pixie or a fairy from a heroine, neither is determining who you are and what your purpose is. Resources abound to help you narrow your working (and evolving) sense of self. You can explore your natural strengths, the sources of your inspiration and those opportunities that feed or deplete you.

Don’t short-change the importance of self-discovery, or spend time wishing you were a princess when you’ve been given wings instead.

Go do that thing that Frederick Buechner says is your true vocation, “the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” In the process you’ll begin telling your one-of-a-kind story. 


What I like to call story-telling, some people call brand management. Even the management of your personal brand. I have never been particularly fond of the word, “brand,” princesses notwithstanding. Maybe I’m unable to shake the memory of a meeting I once had with Roy O. Disney, Walt’s nephew. He once invited me to his office to talk through concerns he had about Disney’s absorption with branding. Once I arrived and settled in, he said to me, a twinkle in his eyes, “Jody, you know that branding is what you do to cattle.” In our conversation I learned more of Roy’s heart – that the idea of a “Disney brand” seemed ephemeral and wrapped in buzz, bluff and bureaucracy.

Disney had a heartbeat, a story to tell, and a heritage to protect.

At the 2003 annual meeting, he addressed a crowd of shareholders, analysts and media explaining that Disney wasn’t a brand, but an American icon standing for “something real and meaningful and worthwhile.” He said Disney’s mission was to be “bringers of joy.” And in Disney tradition, that happens through great storytelling.

I happen to believe we all engage in storytelling. Every day.

Who we are is communicated and furthered through the stories we participate in and the stories we tell.


Think about those things that matter to you and your story: the family you love; the nonprofit you support; the place you work; the business you own; the values you uphold; the faith you hold dear. Speak well about all of these, remembering that your actions may be your most compelling message. 




Jody Head Shot  DSC_0726_edited-1.jpg

A 30-year Disney veteran, Jody Jean Dreyer was a member of Disney senior corporate staff. She led worldwide synergy, headed Disney’s global outreach initiatives, and held various marketing positions in both the theme park and motion picture units. Among many projects, she performed a major role in the grand opening of Disneyland Paris. In 1986, she traveled the world as the Walt Disney World Ambassador. Jody is also the author of Beyond the Castle: A Guide to Discovering Your Happily Ever After. She met her husband, John, former head of Disney’s Corporate Communications, at a Disney company Christmas party. They have been married 25 years and live in South Carolina. Follow Jody at

Stacy Windahl, Kenyon College graduate with an MBA is a wife, mother, MOPS mentor and freelance writer. For 16 years, she has worked with Young Life Communications. She writes from her home along the Lake Erie shore where she and her family celebrate all things Cleveland. Stacy and Jody share a love of Young Life, pixie dust and fairy tales. Read more at

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