I recently returned from a whirlwind five days in Orlando, and had a chance to meet many people during the huge Mousefest 2003 event held during the first week of December. If you're expecting me to say I had a good time and that Mousefest was instrumental in making the trip worthwhile, you're wrong.
Mousefest was great, and it made this trip fantastic.
In this session, let's take a look at Mousefest 2003 and recap some of the highlights from this event.
On Thursday night, I visited the Celebration Hotel to attend a small gathering sponsored by Sue Pisaturo of Small World Vacations and Mary Waring of Mousesavers. Unfortunately, Mary had injured her knee and could not attend. In her place was her charming assistant Marjorie Treger, who along with Sue welcomes everyone as they arrived at the hotel.
Did I say a small gathering? Here is a list of those who attendeda veritable who's who of Disney webmasters, leaders, and authors:
Most of the discussions were around the big Mega Mouse Meet. The big question was not who, but how many, would come. Deb Wills mentioned how the number of registrants continued to grow over the past several weeks. Her best estimate was somewhere in the area of 300 people.
It was fun for all of us to have access to one another before Saturday. We had so much to share with one another, and you could sense a collective mutual respect within this crowd for what each of us brings to the Disney fan's table.
I think the highlight for me was getting a first look at the 2004 edition of Passporter WDW. Actually I should say my wife, Carol, got a look at the book as she and Jennifer Watson talked quite a bit on the new features for the 2004 edition.
A few of us were taken on a brief tour of the hotel and shown a room or two. The hotel is located in the heart of Downtown Celebration. From what I have seen of the hotel, the best word to describe it is charming. The only other comment I can make regarding the hotel is that it is probably more appropriate for couples than families.
The hotel is about 10 to 15 minutes from the Disney property. By that, I mean the arches that signify you are entering the Disney property.
Unfortunately, my wife and I had only an abbreviated stay at this little get-together because we had plans to attend Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party that evening at the Magic Kingdom.
We left the party around 6:30 p.m., since Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party was to begin in half an hour. As we left and said our goodbyes to everyone, almost every Goodnight Mike! was supplemented with an exciting See you on Saturday! tag.
On Saturday morning, all the Disney leaders, webmasters, founders, and authors met for breakfast at Tubbi's Buffeteria at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort. Tubbi's is a cafeteria, snack bar and sort of a convenience market that is open 24 hours a day.
The group meeting for breakfast included several people who were not at the Celebration Hotel on Thursday night. Among those were:
I hope I didn't forget anyone.
(L to R) Binnie Betten from DisneyDollarless, Cara Goldsbury of The Luxury Guide to WDW, Bob Sehlinger of the Unofficial Guide to WDW, Jennifer Watson of PassPorter WDW (standing), Len Testa of the Unofficial Guide to WDW, and Dave Marx of PassPorter WDW enjoying breakfast at Tubbi's. Photo by Mike Scopa.
This breakfast saw the exchange of pleasantries, ideas, and of course, business cards. Again, the main topic of discussion was the big Mega Mouse Meet later in the day. Deb Wills, the perpetual motion machine, was busy handing out our name tags and her business cards, taking photos, and eating her breakfast, all at once.
After breakfast, we all walked over to the Copa Banana to sit down and discuss how the afternoon would be run.
First, Deb Wills, one of the most gracious people I know, thanked all of us for making the effort to attend, and she also thanked us for all our efforts in bringing our own slice of Disney magic to so many people. Deb was truly moved by the attendance.
Deb Wills of All Ears Net addresses leaders, webmasters, and authors from the Disney community prior to the Mega Mouse Meet. Photo by Mike Scopa.
Next, we each introduced ourselves to everyone and talked a bit about what site or book we represented. We then discussed the logistics of the Mega Mouse Meet. The webmasters would sit on the left side of the Copa Banana and the authors would sit on the right side. All the greeters had a floor plan so that they could direct visitors to the general area where a certain Disney leader could be found.
Of course there was much discussion on the Stanley Gold/Roy Disney/Michael Eisner news and as a group we agreed not to comment on that Disney company situation.
For the Mega-Mouse meet, our greeters would welcome each guest and provide the guest with a nametag. Guests were also asked to fill out a card listing their name, affiliation, where they were from, and how many were in their party. Those who filled out cards were given a grab bag and were also photographed. A future edition of Passporter will have a composite photo of all who were photographed at Mousefest 2003.
The grab bags included all kinds of goodies. Some had books donated by the Disney authors, pens, buttons, note pads, and some lucky guest even won a hooded Mouseplanet sweatshirt.
The Mega Mouse Meet
Many of us got to the Copa Banana at least an hour before the meet was scheduled to begin. I think that we were anxious to talk to one another as much as possible before the meet started. It wasn't long, however, before our guests began arriving.
Greeters welcome guests to the Mega Mouse Meet, held at the Copa Banana in the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort. Photo by Mike Scopa.
I was amazed at the number of people who came to the Mega Mouse Meet. The Copa Banana was absolutely packed. We could have very easily filled a room twice its size.
Over the course of several hours, I observed lines of people waiting to talk to the webmasters and authors. It was truly an indication of just how large the Disney Internet community has grown over the last decade. I found myself engaged in many deep conversations with guests while others waited patiently in line to also say hi to me. It was truly an honor to be there.
The range in age of these visitors was also amazing. You could easily say that the range was from 7 to 70. I found myself talking to children as well as talking to some "senior" Disney fans.
One of the more touching memories I have of Mousefest involves a young boy who wanted to know if the "Man who knows about the hidden Mickeys" was there. When told that Steven Barrett was indeed in the room the little boy's eyes lit up. He then pulled out his very treasured item, Barrett's Hidden Mickey's book; a very mouse-eared edition. The little boy was then led into the Copa Banana and was thrilled to have Barrett sign his book.
A Mega Mouse Meet attendant takes the opportunity to meet Steve Barrett (author of The Hassle-Free Walt Disney World Vacation and Hidden Mickeys: A Field Guide to Walt Disney World's Best Kept Secrets) for some engrossing conversation. Photo by Mike Scopa.
It was very satisfying to see guests in deep conversation with the webmasters and authors as we were all exchanging ideas and thoughts all centered on the magic of Walt Disney World.
I was personally thrilled to meet many people who had e-mailed me for as many as 13 years, and to finally attach a face to a piece of e-mail.
It was also fun to meet up with old friends Brian Bennett and Jim Hill and discuss how we all got involved in what we do. Although it was our first face-to-face meeting, it was as if we had grown up together.
I want to say a special thank you to MousePad member Teri for stopping by to say hi (and also for joining me the next day for a Dole Whip).
I'm not sure exactly how many people I got to talk to but it was certainly a lot. It was very nice to meet some people who were able to tell me how they enjoyed MousePlanet and especially how they looked forward to visiting the site each day.
Halfway through the Mega Mouse Meet, my throat was dry from all the talking I was doing and was looking to set up an IV to hydrate myself as best as possible.
When it was all said and done, I found myself sitting in the middle of the Copa Banana and Len Testa came over, sat down beside me and said, "It's amazing that all these people took time out from their Walt Disney World vacations to come and spend time with us."
Mike (center) visits with Unofficial Guide authors Len Testa (left) and Bob Sehlinger. Photo by Carol Scopa.
It was truly something that I will never forget.
We all walked out of there with a renewed sense of responsibility to each other and to those folks who came to see us, as well as to those who were not able to come and see us.
Deb noted that we are all colleagues, and I could not agree more.
I would like to go a bit beyond what Deb said and say that in the short time I got to spend with these amazing people, I saw them as more than being colleagues; I saw them also as friends.
Jim Hill of JimHillMedia, Deb Wills, Mike Scopa, and Bob Sehlinger enjoying a light moment after the Mega Mouse Meet. Photo by Carol Scopa.
For those of you who were there at Mousefest, thank you for coming by.
For those of you who were not able to make it this year, start planning for next year's Mousefest. It's planned for December 5 to 13, 2004, with the Mega Mouse Meet slated for Saturday, December 11.
We'll start off the New Year by looking at the fine art of collecting memories at WDW and how to prepare for taking videos and pictures while on vacation.
Happy holidays everyone.
Until next year, class dismissed.
(Send an email to Mike Scopa)
Mike Scopa first visited Walt Disney World almost 30 years ago. Planning a trip was simple back in the 1970s, with only the Magic Kingdom and a few Disney-owned resorts in Orlando.
Over the past 11 years, Mike has been perfecting his WDW trip-planning skills as he has hosted chats and bulletin boards about Disney for a Fortune 100 company.