From the Disney Parks Blog and written by: Taylor Stevanovski
You may not know this, but hidden behind Magic Kingdom Park is an unassuming warehouse with more than 50,000 different Walt Disney World holiday decorations. And today, one of our best decorating aficionados, William (Ed) Miles, (who knows every inch of the warehouse) is sharing a special look inside and some timeless tips on holiday decorating the Disney way!
Ed laughs that when he first joined the Holiday Services team, people “thought I was kind of crazy!” But his knack for turning the everyday into the extraordinary (think old wagon wheels as Christmas ornaments!) is one of the best-kept secrets behind the magic of the season.
“Ever since I was a child, I was into arts and crafts and woodworking and shop,” Ed shares. But his talent also lies in thinking outside the box. He lugs in old bike wheels and boots, anchors and bird cages, transforming them into decorations that fit seamlessly into the themed areas on property. “Anything can be used for Christmas,” he laughs as he stands in front of a tree designed for Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campgrounds, which features horseshoes, ropes and more.
As Head Designer for Holiday Services, Ed leads his team in planning, designing and decking the halls all over Walt Disney World Resort. But he also serves as an “Indiana Jones” of sorts, hunting hidden Disney Christmas gems in textiles, gardens and contemporaries to find the pieces that fit right into his vision. He’ll usually shop for 10-15 areas at a time, often two years in advance of each season. The result? Thousands of Disney Christmas decorations and holiday props — from dozens of different Santa ornaments to ribbons in every color imaginable — nestled inside Holiday Services, with more constantly being added. The enchantment of the Walt Disney World holiday season truly comes to life inside these doors.
As we tour over 800 trees inside the warehouse, all in various stages of design and assembly, Ed points out the first tree he ever worked on for Town Center at Disney Springs. “This is the wow factor,” he explains as we stare up at the massive tree. “Whenever you’re making something, make sure it’s a show. A good show.” Ed is always thinking about the families who will take pictures in front of the trees he helps design: memories that tens of thousands of guests will hold onto for generations.
To really nail down that nostalgia of Christmases past, Ed likes to bring in props from different time periods, especially at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. “We thought of stuff our grandmothers had,” he shares. “Like the pink poodles, the candy cane kids.” He knew he was spot on when one of his cast members brought in his very own pink poodle, passed down from his grandmother, and reminisced that he decorated with it every year. “That’s why we do this, to find stuff that people can recognize that brings back memories,” Ed says.
After the shopping is complete, the team preps everything: gluing, screwing and wiring it so it can go out onstage. “We look for longevity in everything we do,” Ed explains. “This stuff is handled rough when we put it up and down. It’s not display work. So it has to be not only pretty, but durable.” Then comes one of Ed’s favorite parts of the season: the caravan that transports the holiday decorations from the warehouse to the parks and resorts.
“Our carts are all numbered and color coordinated for all the parks and resorts,” he says as he gestures towards a cart prepped for the lobby of Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resorts. “All those numbers correspond with the decor on those racks. And then those racks also have maps and pictures to show you where everything goes.” It’s a fine art, but with the team’s collaboration and a bit of pixie dust, all goes according to plan.
Ed emphasizes that without the incredible cast members on his team, none of this would be possible. “We’ve got a very good team,” he says. “They’re our family. This is a very close department, and it’s one that people should be proud of.” In fact, he starts every morning by walking the expansive floors of Holiday Services, checking in with the cast and offering words of encouragement. Above all else, he wants his team to feel supported and proud of what they do.
Ed was actually hired by Hank Danes, a personal friend of Walt Disney’s who organized and ran the Decorating and Furnishings Department at Walt Disney World. Under Hank’s mentorship, Ed helped open Disney’s Hollywood Studios, EPCOT and Disney’s Animal Kingdom, worked on countless Disney holiday parades and designed iconic furniture and props all around Walt Disney World Resort. But for the last eight years, he’s been back in the business of making the holidays holly and jolly. His meaningful contributions to Disney’s holiday magic have even led him to receive the coveted and highly respected Legacy Award.
Throughout his 46 years in the decorating field, Ed has seen lots of change and these days, he’s passing down his knowledge — and tricks of the trade — to his cast. He shares, “Don’t be afraid to make a mistake, because the only people who make mistakes are people who don’t do anything.” Like our Disney cast members across property, ingenuity, experimenting and thinking outside of the box (and having fun!) are the foundation of all the work inside Holiday Services!
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