It's come and gone. Mousefest 2004 is history and let me say at the outset that my week was the most memorable week I've ever had in Walt Disney World. Although I am currently putting together a very detailed trip report, for today's session I'd like to give all of you a taste of what my Mousefest week was all about.
Writing such a report is a real challenge for me. There is so much to report but I want to hold off details for my trip report.
So bear with me and hopefully I can not only give you an idea of what Mousefest was for me but also get you thinking about Mousefest 2005.
I knew that Mousefest would offer a great opportunity to meet many friends and colleagues from many Disney internet communities. I purposely did not commit to any special Mousefest meets and instead played the week by ear. This annual gathering has become such a meet-filled event that you can overbook yourself. I thought it best to try and plan a spontaneous week.
My expectations included a very exciting chance to spend a Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party with my colleagues from Mouseplanet. I knew that night would be special and was looking forward to spending a magical Mouseplanet night with them.
Of course a big part of my week would be spent catching up with Deb Wills, Jennifer and Dave Marx, Bob Sehlinger, Len Testa, Jim Hill, Steve Barrett, Cara Goldsbury, Lou Mongello, and others at the Mega Mouse Meet. These folks work hard towards bringing the magic to everyone either via a Web site or some form of guidebook and besides being WDW experts they are some of the most delightful people you would ever want to meet.
Finally, since it was the Christmas season, I was excited about Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom and the special rendition of the Wishes fireworks program at the party. I was looking forward to the Candlelight Processional at Epcot as well as the Lights of Winter. I was very curious to see the special Christmas tag that was added to Illuminations.
I was also looking forward to the return of the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights at Disney/MGM Studios. Would I be disappointed?
Of course just being in a Christmas atmosphere 24/7 speaks for itself. The decorations and music would have even seen Ebenezer Scrooge skipping down Main Street U.S.A. arm in arm with the Grinch.
So were my expectations a bit too high? Was I going a bit overboard in anticipation of what this week would bring?
Here is my best attempt at giving you some idea of the highlights of the week. Keep in mind that some of what I describe to you may have also been experienced by others who ventured to WDW last week.
First let me tell you how I was surprised by several friends of mine.
On Wednesday night after watching Illuminations I went to Pleasure Island with some friends to meet up with others who had flown in to WDW that day.
We were to meet these friends at the Adventurer's Club. When we arrived we could not find them so we spent some time enjoying the show in the Mask Room.
While we were sitting in the Mask Room we saw our friends out in the lobby area and we waved to them.
After the Mask Room antics we went out to greet our friends and as we were hugging and chatting about this special week another show was just about starting and dialogue took place between several of the club members and the butler.
Although my attention was directed about 30 feet in front of me and to the balcony above that immediately changed when suddenly I felt several fingernails running up and down my right shoulder blade.
Okay, what should I do? Is some poor woman just a wee bit too filled with alcohol and has no idea what she's doing? I thought it best to ignore her and hope and pray that she moved on.
Again I felt the fingers, although this time she put a bit more pressure on them to make sure I felt them. Now I'm as nervous as an 8th grade school boy at his first dance. What should I do? What should I say? It wasn't like I could open my phone and say Scotty, lock on to me and beam me up to the ship!
I surely wasn't going to turn around and say, Hey if you scratch my back I'll scratch yours.
I started praying. Please God, direct this poor woman?I assumed it was a woman? ?erh God please direct this woman to some other person, or to fresh air, or to a strong cup of coffee!
Was she moving on? The tension was really getting to me.
Then I felt a little tug and heard someone singing into my ear?They say we're young and we don't know?
Oh my God! I thought and whipped around and shouted out Cruey!!!
Hi Sonny! she said?or at least I think she said that.
Cruey is the stage name for my friend Sharon from Michigan. Sharon and I have co-hosted special Disney chats for the last two years and we had kiddingly called ourselves Sonny and Cher!
Now you know the rest of the story.
Boy was I relieved and excited at the same time. We hugged and began to talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and talk?..this was my first surprise.
My second surprise happened the following day.
We planned to visit Belz Outlet.
Along the way my cell phone rang and my wife, Carol, answered it. It was WillCAD, a friend of mine who lived in Maryland. I had tried to convince Will to come to Mousefest, but to no avail. He had many friends going to Orlando that week.
I am not a fan of talking on a cell phone while driving, so Carol did all the talking. She asked me when I thought we'd get to Disney-MGM Studios. I told her, About 11:30, and then she said that Will wanted me to call him at that time so he could tell the folks on the lunchtime chat what was going on. Sure! I said and she told Will I'd call him then.
When we arrived at MGM, Carol reminded me to call Will. I thought it best to wait until we got into the park but she said, Y'know Will is waiting for your call!
I didn't want to call him while sitting in the train; with my luck I'd get him and wouldn't be able to hear him above the tram noise.
When the tram arrived at the front of the park Carol insisted I call Will. Okay?I'll meet you guys inside the park. I said.
When I called Will?wait! I'll let Will tell you the rest of the story in his own words:
Hi Mike. Where are you right now?
We're just getting off the parking lot tram at MGM.
Perfect, thought I, they'll be coming through the turnstiles in about 2 minutes.
But they didn't. Mike kept talking about the weather, and the stuff they had seen and experienced since they arrived at WDW on Tuesday; this was typical, since I always grill him mercilessly about every detail when he's there and I'm not. But he wasn't coming into the park. A few minutes later, Carol and Holly appeared before me; I cupped my hand over the phone and said, Where the heck is he?
He's standing at the bag check. He doesn't walk while he's on the phone. But Mike kept on talking. Carol took the opportunity to snap a picture of me, talking to Mike from only 100 feet away. Normally I hang on every word when he's talking to me from WDW and I'm at home, but this time I was itching to tell him, Shut up and go into the park! At one point he even noticed the excessive background noise coming from my end and asked, Are you in the car?
No, I replied, grinning at Carol, but I am outside!
After a good 10- minute conversation, I finally had to tell him, Mike, I'm sorry but I've got to hang up. I'll have to call you back in about a half hour, okay? We said our good-byes and I replaced my phone in my utility belt.
And STILL he didn't come into the park!
Carol went over to the turnstiles and looked out; she reported that Mike was putting his phone away and adjusting his waist bag. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Mike approached the turnstile and fed it his pass. Carol stood just inside with her camera at the ready and Mike stopped just inside the turnstile with a cheesy grin and cocked head to pose. But he still didn't see me.
He looked around and spotted Holly (his adult daughter), who was standing about six inches away from my left arm, and began walking toward her.
But he still didn't see me.
When he got about 10 feet in front of me, I yelled out, Hey Mike, should I call you back now?!
The expression on his face was priceless.
Will certainly surprised me and many more of his friends.
Some of you may recognize the name. Deb's husband Ed was a true Disneyholic and was the webmaster for the Badger Disney Countdown Page. Ed had a heart of gold and built a great community with his Web site. He used his Web site as a vehicle to help needy children and others who were dealt a tough hand in life. He was a good man.
About 10 years ago Ed and Deb attended a WDW Vacation Seminar I used to deliver. After that, Ed and I were friends for 15 years before he passed way earlier this year.
Well, here I am at the Mega Mouse Meet at the Swan Hotel and things are in full swing. People are having a good time and there's much chatter in the ballroom and it's just a great atmosphere.
As I was looking in one direction I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and saw Deb and she said, Hi Mike!
Deb? I cried out. I hugged her and started to cry. She also started and said, I'm sorry if I startled you!
As we were wiping the tears from our eyes she told me she had moved to Tampa and knew that I'd been in Orlando this week. She made a special effort to come see me. I think Ed was there with her in spirit as well.
We talked for a while and I was happy that she had decided to visit on this day. She and Ed have so many happy memories of their time in WDW that I felt it was only fitting that she now live close to the Happiest Place on Earth.
So there are my three surprises?one happy?one funny?and one?emotional. Chalk it up to Mousefest.
I could go on forever but that's what trip reports are for.
Here are, minus the three surprises I just told you, my top 10 memories of Mousefest 2004. Keep in mind they are in no particular order.
I never really thought much of this Magical Gathering promotion that we've seen over the last year or so. I haven't heard many people rave about it. Is it a success? I have no data that would help answer that question.
I do, however, have a lot of data regarding Mousefest week. I do know that people rave about it. I do know that it's a success. I can answer that with firsthand knowledge.
As I spent my last night alone on Sunset Point I finally understood what a Magical Gathering was all about. I now understood what components were responsible for making it magical
My trip was most noteworthy because of the many friends I got to see. I know I sound like a broken record but at least four out of every five Mousefesters will probably say the same thing.
During my week I visited only six attractions. I had other important things to do like shake hands and hug members of my extended Disney family.
It all comes back to Walt Disney. I know you've heard it before but it bears telling one more time. Walt Disney's plan all along was to build something that not just children would enjoy but whole families could enjoy together.
In his own indirect way Walt Disney was very much influential some 50 years ago for what happened this past week.
Was last week Mousefest week? Not to me.
Last week was Disney family week and I will always? Remember the Magic!
As a result of a conversation I had this week I need to discuss my thoughts on vacationing in WDW with very young children. Join me next time.
Happy holidays everyone!
(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.