Today is a milestone date—it’s the 10th anniversary of the publication of my first column (“A Practically Perfect Day with Hardly Any Attractions”) on MousePlanet.com, so I thought that it would be an appropriate time to take a look back at my time here—my Disney Decade, if you will—and to make an announcement.
Writing for MousePlanet is some of the most fun I’ve had, ever. I’ve gotten to work with some great people, meet other great people, and help even more great people plan their Disney trips. Including this column, I’ve written 480 Walt Disney World Updates, 67 World View columns (and curated 21 more by former Imagineers George McGinnis, Bill Watkins, Paul Torrigino, and Maggie Parr, and Disney Studios veteran Edle Bakke and her family), 16 Business of Magic columns, and 5 other miscellaneous columns. I’ve also recorded 450 MouseStation and 30 MousePlanetWatch Podcasts and written the show notes for all of them. All told, I've published over 1,000 written pieces and 480 audio recordings here at MousePlanet. Wow.
After years of building our audience and reputation, MousePlanet was one of the first handful of websites not affiliated with mainstream media to be credentialed at Walt Disney World (on a “trial basis”), and I covered my first press event (Year of a Million Dreams) in January 2007. Since then, I’ve covered the launch of the two newest ships (the Disney Dream and the Disney Fantasy), the opening of many resorts and attractions and even new lands, many promotional campaign events, a handful of shareholder meetings, and I’ve even had the honor of covering a press event featuring First Lady Michelle Obama promoting Disney’s Magic of Healthy Living campaign in conjunction with her Let’s Move initiative.
In 2004, I was credentialed as media for The Walt Disney Company’s shareholder meeting in Philadelphia, as well as the Save Disney rally and press conference. I was also there the next year in Minnesota, then in Anaheim in 2006, and in New Orleans in 2007. I covered the controversy over Michael Eisner’s departure and Robert Iger’s ascension to the CEO position. I was an early proponent (and perhaps the first in the media) to suggest that Bob Iger would actually be good for the company, and I noted in my story at the time that perhaps Iger would “nurture an army of mini-Walts” in the various divisions of the company.
I was reminded of that earlier this month, when—in a story about Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm—Business Week’s Devin Leonard wrote that “Part of Iger’s strategy is to acquire companies that could be described as mini-Disneys such as Pixar and Marvel.” I've even had the opportunity to meet Mr. Iger at both the New Orleans shareholder meeting and aboard the Disney Dream.
I hesitate to attempt to list people, because there are too many to list, and I’m sure that I will miss many—but I want to give an idea of just how many people I’ve had the pleasure of working with over the years. If I don’t list you here, please don’t take it personally. If I listed everyone I worked with over the years, it would take an entire column to itself.
First and foremost, I’ve gotten to know and spend time with the great current and former staff here at MousePlanet, including Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix, Tony Phoenix, my patient copy editor Lani Teshima, Chris Barry, Brian Bennett, Karl Buiter, Sheila Hagen, Jeff Kober, David Koenig, Jim Korkis, Adrienne Krock, Kevin Krock, Shoshana Lewin, Jeff Moxley, Steven Ng, Lisa Perkis, Andrew Rich, Jennifer Rich, Steve Russo, Mike Scopa, Joe Stevano, Alex Stroup, Stephanie Wien, and—last but certainly not least—my podcasting partner-in-crime, Mike Demopoulos. They’ve supported me and worked with me on short deadlines (and past deadlines) and done the hard work to keep MousePlanet coming to you with fresh content every weekday since the site went live on July 17, 2000. I couldn’t ask for a more wonderful group of people to work with.
I’ve met and interviewed (and had casual conversations with) many wonderful and talented people at Disney, including Imagineers like Chris Beatty, Kevin Rafferty, Scott Trowbridge, Joe Lanzisero, Bob Zalk, Alex Wright, Jason Surrell, and many others too numerous to name. I’ve met lots of folks from entertainment, including Paul Collins of the Jammitors, Dirk Donahue of (at the time) the Voices of Liberty (and now of the Dapper Dans), and others who I enjoy catching up with when I’m in the parks. I’ve also had the pleasure of getting to know many cast members, from guest relations hosts to monorail pilots to attractions hosts and so many other roles.
I’ve interacted with some great and helpful folks in Walt Disney World Public Relations and Public Affairs, starting with my three media representatives over the years—Charles Stovall, Benjamin Thompson, and Laura Spencer—and my Imagineering media reps Diego Parras and Frank Reifsnyder. I’ve also worked with a legion of others, including Steven Miller, Gary Buchanan, Andrea Finger, Tom Smith, Leanne Jacobowski, David Brady, Diane Hancock, Kim Prunty, Jacqui Pollak, Jason Lasecki, Jonathan Frontado, and so, so many others. They have made my job much easier over the years (or more frustrating, when they didn’t have anything that they were allowed to tell me).
I’ve conducted so many interviews for the MouseStation Podcast over the years that it may be hard to pick favorites; however, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my conversations with the wonderful cast from the Adventurers Club during the club’s closing weekend, my chats with Chris Beatty during the construction of New Fantasyland, my conversation with the charming John Phelan about the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, chats with Mark Silverman (the voice of Rod Serling at the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror), and all of the Imagineers I’ve spoken with over the years.
If I had to pick my favorite interview of all, though, it would easily be one of the first interviews I ever did, when I chatted with Bill Farmer, Russi Taylor, and the late Wayne Allwine for Episode 4 of the MouseStation Podcast at the Year of a Million Dreams press event. Bill, Russi, and Wayne did the interview in character as Goofy and Pluto, Minnie Mouse, and Mickey Mouse, respectively. And since a friend had tipped me off that Wayne had brought his ukelele with him, I was able to persuade them to close the interview with the characters singing “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes.” Pure Disney magic.
I’ve enjoyed meeting and becoming friends with so many of my colleagues in the Internet and mainstream media—really too many to mention—from websites and podcasts large and small. It has become something of a reunion when we gather for media events and even occasionally run into each other in the parks.
Most importantly, I’ve also gotten to meet and interact with so many of you. From the huge gatherings at MouseFest to the D23 Expo to MouseAdventure to small MousePlanet meet-ups, to email, Twitter and Facebook interactions, to some online conversations for the MouseStation Podcast, to even some of you stumbling upon me in the parks and introducing yourselves, it’s been great getting to know you, and to know that you're enjoying reading the stuff that I write. It helps to hear first-hand what you think about the information I'm providing you with to help you plan your trips and just stay in touch with what’s going on at Walt Disney World. Some of my favorite words that I've been honored to hear from you are that my reporting is “fair” and “honest,” and that you trust my opinions. I’ve worked hard to earn your trust, and it makes me feel good to know that I’ve succeeded in that.
Over the years, so many of you have also donated to my annual March of Dimes campaign. Since 2006, together we’ve raised over $25,000 together for this worthy cause. I won’t dedicate any further space here about why I raise money for the March of Dimes, or why it’s so important to me (especially since it’s on my fundraising page and you can read it there) but it has been a privilege to be associated with so many generous people over the years, especially those who contribute year after year.
So I mentioned at the beginning of the article that I’m going to make an announcement, and you’re probably thinking “You’re well over a thousand words into this! What is it already?” Well, I’m really quite a bit heartbroken about this, but effective immediately I will no longer be writing the weekly Walt Disney World Update. While I really enjoy keeping all of you up on the happenings at my favorite resort, I just no longer have the time to do it to the standards that I set for myself. This has been a long time coming, and I've kept pushing it back and trying to make it work, but I just can’t devote enough time to do the job properly any more.
While I wish I could support my family on what I make at MousePlanet, unfortunately that’s not an option. My primary income comes from a job as a New York State civil servant, and after an increase in my responsibilities last May, it’s taking up much more time and effort than it ever has before—and that workload promises to increase even more in the coming year.
Family demands are also taking more of my time. Plus, I’m getting older and don’t have the stamina that I used to. I no longer have enough hours in the day. Unlike my early years here at MousePlanet, I just can’t survive on four hours of sleep a night any more. Given a choice between my family, the job that pays the bills, and MousePlanet, it’s pretty easy to pick which one has to give (though that hasn't made it any easier to actually make it happen).
First of all, don’t panic—MousePlanet CEO Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix is taking over the Update in the interim while we continue to find a permanent Update writer. Adrienne has been with MousePlanet since the beginning and wrote the Disneyland Resort Update for about 10 years, so you can assured that the Update is in good hands (and, if you’re interested in helping out, contact us and let us know).
Secondly, stepping back from the Update doesn’t mean that you won’t see me around MousePlanet any more; I just won’t be writing on a weekly basis. I plan to return to writing features, and I hope to produce about one a month. I’ve got a huge backlog of stories from press events and other ideas I’ve had that I haven’t had the time to finish over the last year. While they’re not brand-new any more, they’re still relevant and entertaining. It’s time I finally got them written.
With a less-frequent schedule and no need to track down everything that happens each week, it’ll be a lot easier to get things written. I’ll also continue to help out around the site behind the scenes as much as I can with what hours I have available. Think of it as “semi-retirement.” I just need to spend some time with my family and take care of their health and mine, and getting this time back is a big part of that.
I need to mention my patient wife and son, who have shared me with you for the past 10 years. My son enjoyed making a few guest appearances on the podcast and loves hearing the stories that I bring back. At the same time, though, they have been very patient every week (even when we were on vacation) when "Dad's working on the Update; please don't bother him now." I need to give them a larger share of my time.
I know that many MouseStation Podcast listeners have been wondering where the show has been, and whether it’s coming back. I have been wondering the same thing, and it's another decision that I keep putting off. While it’s not completely dead, (and I really hate to say this) at the moment it’s mostly off the air. The show was the first casualty of my time crunch. While I’m not ready to write it off entirely because I had so much fun doing it, my time needs to get more back in balance (and I need to find someone to handle the show notes, publication, and other behind-the-scenes tasks) before I even think about doing another episode.
It is very difficult for me to step back at MousePlanet because I really enjoy keeping all of you up to date on what’s happening in the World, and because it has become such a big part of my life since I took on the Update in August 2003. In a way, I feel a bit guilty because you’ve come to count on me being there every week. But this is just something that I need to do now for my family and for myself.
So I’d like to thank you for being part of my Disney Decade, and hope to continue to help you and hear from you as I move into a less intensive role here. It’s been a wonderful ride so far, one on which I’m so grateful that you have been able to join me.
See you real soon. Why? Because I like you.