I’m Going to Disney World!: 7 Facts About Disney’s Super Bowl Commercial

I'm going to Disney World!
2023 Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes at Walt Disney World. Image: Disney

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It starts with the ever-familiar lyrics, “When you wish upon a star…,” but we’re not looking at Mickey Mouse, Tinker Bell, or even Jiminy Cricket. The dreamy tune is set against that backdrop of a football player with a stadium full of fans behind him. This is how every Disney Super Bowl commercial starts. But what has stuck with Super Bowl fans over the years is the ending, when the winning team’s star player proclaims “I’m going to Disney World!”

The moment feels organic. You’ve just achieved a major victory and, high on that win, you’re asked how you top this? There’s no better answer that captures the promise of dreams come true than “Disney.”

So what is the history behind Disney and those Super Bowl commercials? We’re sharing the story with seven facts about Disney’s Super Bowl commercials.

1. “I’m going to Disney World” was inspired by a real conversation.

Rutan and Yeager
Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager autographed photo.

In 1987, Michael Eisner and his wife Jane were having dinner with Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, two pilots who had just completed a historic flight around the world without stopping to refuel. After such an amazing feat, Eisner asks, “Well, what are you going to do next?” Rutan responds “I’m going to Disneyland.” Jane noted what a great slogan that would be for an ad campaign, and the rest is history.

While the victories in these tale are different, the heart of the story has been captured and retold at nearly every Super Bowl since.

2. The commercial was once recorded on the field before the game had an official winner.

After Scott Norwood failed to kick a game-winning field goal during Super Bowl XXV, camera man Mark Allan and other crew members ran to the 50-yard line to have Ottis Anderson dedicate the win to the troops in Desert Storm, forgoing the famous scripted line that year. Only problem? The game wasn’t actually over yet. Panicked, they ran off the field until the game officially ended and could re-do the moment. Allan claims the second take wasn’t as good, so they used the original.

3. Disney’s Super Bowl commercials have provided a few fairy tale stories.

In 2013, Malcolm Butler was earning $7.25 an hour working at Popeye’s. In 2014, he was the only-client of lawyer-turned-NFL-agent Derek Simpson and went undrafted. Simpson helped Butler secure a free agent contract with the New England Patriots, putting him on a team that would come to compete in the 2015 Super Bowl. Butler could not have imagined that he would be the star of Disney’s famous Super Bowl commercial. But that’s exactly what happened after Butler secured the win for the Patriots by intercepting Russell Wilson in the end zone during Super Bowl XLIX.

Our second football fairy tale also begins 2013, when then-17-year-old Patrick Mahomes tweets “I bet it feels amazing to be the quarterback who says ‘I’m going to Disney World’ after winning the Super Bowl.” Ten years later in 2023, he was delivering those lines himself after he helped the Kansas City Chiefs win against the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LVII.

4. Disney has used the same ad campaign in different sports.

Boston Red Sox in 2004 Disney World Series commercial.

Formerly known as Disney’s “What’s Next?” campaign, it has been used in other major sports tournaments, including the NBA Finals, World Series, Olympics, and Stanley Cup. But nowhere has it made an impact like at the Super Bowl.

5. They record two versions: one for Disneyland and one for Disney World.

Left: Disney World castle. Right: Disneyland castle. Image: HarshLight

The players record a version for each park so the ads can be placed within the markets that best serve each park.

6. The player featured in the commercial is usually the MVP, but not always.

Trent Dilfer
Image: Baltimore Ravens

On some occasions, Disney has chosen not to use the team MVP for the commercial. Most noted was for Super Bowl XXXV when Trent Dilfer was chosen over MVP Ray Lewis, which many speculate but Disney has never confirmed was due to Lewis’ previous involvement in a murder trial.

On the topic of choosing players, Eisner told Sports Illustrated, “It didn’t always have to be the MVP. Sometime in the fourth quarter, Tom Elrod [then Disney’s President of Marketing and Entertainment] would call me and we would discuss who we wanted to feature.”

7. Phil Simms was the player who appeared in the first Disney Super Bowl commercial.

Phil Simms, quarterback for the New York Giants, originally did not want to do the proposed commercial, believing it would be a distraction from the game. A relentless agent ultimately got him to agree to the deal, and the Super Bowl XXI MVP was featured in the first Disney Super Bowl commercial in 1987.

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