52 million. That’s the average number of visitors to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida every single year.
That is a greater figure than all but 26 of the world’s nations can claim as their population.
Out of that 52 million, only one person, let’s be honest, really counts - the man who has proclaimed to the world that it is his intended destination after winning one of the most prestigious prizes in sport, the Super Bowl.
This year, at Super Bowl LIV, it was the turn of the Kansas City Chiefs star quarterback Patrick Mahomes: “I’m going to Disney World!” the player, comfortably on top of the world, shouted down the barrel of the camera after leading the Missouri franchise to victory over the San Francisco 49ers in The Sunshine State.
Almost seven years after tweeting out to speculate how amazing it would feel to be the quarterback who could make that statement, 24-year-old Mahomes finally got his chance, and did it as the youngest player ever to have been awarded both the league MVP and Super Bowl MVP accolades.
Swiftly after, Mahomes was making the (relatively) short 200-mile trip north to Orlando to share the stage with Messrs Mickey, Goofy et al in front of Cinderella’s Castle, elevating the precedent that has become a recognisable aspect of the Super Bowl aftermath for over three decades.
With just five little words, advertising slogans have rarely worked so effectively when getting the most prominent, name-on-lips athlete in American sports to proclaim that Disney World is where it is at. So when did this all-American, post Super Bow phenomenan first begin?
The advertisement has started after the Super Bowl final whistle since 1987, when the Disney spies find the game’s MVP and get him to make the now-iconic statement down to the watching global audience (“for a reported $70,000 / £63,300 sweetener).
The recognisable line was the brainchild of former Walt Disney CEO Michael Eisner, who was also responsible for ushering in the fabled Disney Renaissance of animation and global domination in the late eighties and nineties.
Truth be told, as the old saying goes, behind every great man there’s a great woman and the praise must ultimately also lie with Eisner’s wife Jane Brekenridge who was also in attendance at a particularly important meeting.
According to insidethemagic.net, in 1986 while working on plans for Disney’s MGM Studios, Eisner attended a dinner with Star Wars creator George Lucas along with Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, the pair known for being the first team of aviators to fly around the world without stopping.
During dinner, the conversation turned towards Rutan and Yeager’s nonstop flight earlier that year in the Rutan Voyager aircraft.
"It was late and the conversation hit a lull as we waited for our food," Eisner wrote in his 1998 memoir “Work In Progress.”
"I asked Dick and Jeana, 'Well, now that you’ve accomplished the pinnacle of your aspirations, what could you possibly do next?' Rutan responded, without hesitation, 'I’m going to Disneyland' And of course I go, 'Wow, that’s cool! You made the right choice.' But my wife interjects: 'You know, that’s a good slogan.'"
Phil Simms of the New York Giants was the guinea pig at Super Bowl XXI and those who have followed include Joe Flacco and Tom Brady. One unfortunate exception was Ray Lewis who, though picked up a ring at Super Bowl XXXV, was under investigation for a double-murder. That doesn’t sit nicely with the House of Mouse.
The MVP is however not ordered to go to Disney and down Main Street with Old Big Ears, with the entire trip typically lasting only for a couple of hours and it often includes the quick run through Disneyland for the parade with a couple of stops at the newest attractions for promotional purposes, of course.
Mahomes certainly looked like he was enjoying himself. Furthermore, on Sunday night, Disney also announced that it would make a $1 million donation in the name of Mahomes to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Who knows? Seven years from now another player to lift the Vince Lombardi trophy may well cite Mahomes’ moment as the catalyst for his own ascendancy. Mahomes Wished Upon A Star, and a star has finally got his wish.