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Mike Scopa

It's Mousefest Time

Walt Disney World becomes the nexus for the online community

Tuesday, November 30, 2004
by Mike Scopa, staff writer

It seems like only yesterday when the curtains were drawn for the first Mousefest. That year went by fast, didn't it?

I described the Mousefest 2003 event from last year (link) as the largest Walt Disney World gathering of Disney fans from around the Internet. This year, we may see numbers that far dwarf what we saw last year.

Mousefest co-founder Deb Wills describes Mousefest this way:

“Mousefest is the time when Disney fans from across the globe and across the Internet can gather at WDW and on the Disney Wonder cruise ship to celebrate and enjoy Disney magic in one place, at one time.”

I think that says it pretty well.

Dave Marx, another organizer for this event, adds:

“MouseFest means many things, but mostly, it means that the thousands of Disney fans on the Internet who share their love of Disney parks, resorts and cruise ships throughout the year have a chance to meet in person at Walt Disney World and/or on the Disney Cruise and have a great time. Even without MouseFest and all the community meets, early December is a wonderful time to be at Walt Disney World—MouseFest is some very delicious frosting on an already fabulous cake.”

The scoop on Mousefest

Mousefest is held annually in Walt Disney World in early December and offers fans of online Disney communities a chance to meet and connect with their Disney online family.

This family includes such communities as the rec.arts.disney.parks (RADP) Usenet newsgroup, All Ears Net, Mousesavers, Magical Mountain, Tagrel, JimHillMedia, and others, as well as our own MousePlanet.

The Disney guidebook community also takes part in Mousefest, with representatives for the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, Passporter WDW, Hidden Mickeys, A Field Guide to Walt Disney World's Best Kept Secrets, The Luxury Guide to Walt Disney World, and The Walt Disney World Trivia Book.

This year's Mousefest celebration takes place from December 5 to December 13.

Mousefest origins

The first Mousefest event with that moniker took place in 2003, but its predecessor goes back several years, with the gatherings of subscribers of the rec.arts.disney.parks Usenet newsgroup. The RADP (pronounced “rad-P”) community started holding some relatively informal “meets” or get-togethers both at at Walt Disney World and at the regional level. These meets provided opportunities to meet face-to-face and get to know one another on a more personal level.

Over the past few years, the Disney Internet community has exploded into myriad Disney fan sites, message boards, forums, chats and other vehicles through which Disney fans could connect. Deb Wills and the authors of the Passporter books (Dave and Jennifer Marx) spearheaded a formal sponsorship of the outgrowth of the annual WDW RADP meet and gave it a new name: Mousefest.

Mousefest meets in December for several reasons. The objective was to settle on a time when crowds would not be a factor with an “off season” week being ideal. So what better time to meet than early December after the Thanksgiving crowd left and prior to the Christmas crowd.

There were many attractive factors for gathering this time of year; the light crowds, the off-season room rates, the relatively mild weather, and of course the festive holiday atmosphere offered by the WDW resort.

A look back at Mousefest 2003

For many of us who were there, we thought we had an idea of what to expect, but never anticipated the numbers and community participation.

Deb Wills said:

“Mousefest 2003 was an incredible experience—it reminded me of the saying from (the movie) Field of Dreams, 'If you build it they will come.' I was overwhelmed! It was very emotional for me to see all the authors/webmasters that came together for the Mega Mouse Meet, just amazing! I was very pleased with the turnout and even more pleased with the feedback we received after the event. We had around 100 names on our pre-meet mailing list and over 400 showed up. CanŐt beat that.”

As Deb recounted, last year's main highlight, Saturday's Mega Mouse Meet, saw triple the number of expected visitors. As I recall, there were 470 Mousefesters who came to see the authors and the webmasters.

This year's Mousefest mailing list has over 600 people. Are you doing the math?

Dave Marks adds:

“I was blown away! I was expecting MouseFest to be an evolutionary step up from the many community gatherings that take place at Walt Disney World in early December. Some communities had already been cooperating and sharing meets, and author and webmaster appearances had also been around for a while, so this would just be more of the same, right? Well, the whole is often more than the sum of its parts, and this 'grand gathering' was no exception. Not only did we have more of everything, but the quality of the events was better than ever, and the addition of many more communities, the Disney cruise, and the indoor Mega Mouse Meet at the Dolphin 'plussed' Deb's vision in many unexpected ways.”

I echo Dave's comments and would like to add that there was a special “mood” in the air. It seemed that the passion for all things Disney just made for a joyous celebration of fans and friends—lots of fans and friends—brought together via Disney magic.

Events at Mousefest

There are so many activities at Mousefest that it's impossible to list them all here. Each community that participates in this event organizes its own special activities, but also joins in on the at-large Mousefest celebrations.

Some of the more popular Mousefest activities are special tours with some Disney guidebook authors, and opportunities to sit down and talk with the Disney Webmasters and others who work towards bringing Disney magic to the online community.

The best source for finding out what's happening at Mousefest is the Mousefest Pocket Guide which can be seen at the Mousefest Web site (link) as well as the Mousefest page at All Ears Net (link).

After innumerable requests to hold a MouseAdventure in Walt Disney World, MousePlanet will tease people some more. This year, all Mousefest participants are encouraged to try their hand at “Mini MouseAdventure,” a brain teaser puzzle published in the official Mousefest Pocket Guide (page 14). The first 150 who drop by the MousePlanet booth at the Mega Mouse Meet and show us their solved puzzle get their very own special Mousefest edition Mini MouseAdventure button!

Even if you don't have a chance to work on the Mini MouseAdventure puzzle, we encourage you to drop by and say “hi” at our MousePlanet booth. Not only will we be giving away free MousePlanet buttons (while supplies last) and sharing past MouseAdventure quest and trivia sheets, but we're bringing in some real familiar MousePlanet names, like Brian Bennett, Mark Goldhaber, Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix, Lani Teshima, Sheila Hagen, and yours truly. C'mon by, even if it's just for a brief chat, handshake, or snapshot.

Many communities have members who are fans of thrill rides and will try to meet as groups to enjoy such attractions as Mission: Space, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, and Space Mountain. And I'm sure this year Stitch's Great Escape is on many lists.

There are the popular breakfast meets, where communities can get to know one another. And then there are also special parties and get-togethers that are held throughout the Walt Disney World Resort. Some of these are private, while others are open to the general public.

Basically, there is something for everyone at Mousefest.

Making a good thing better

Deb Wills says they learned quite a bit from organizing last year's event:

“We took our 'lessons learned' from last year and tweaked Mousefest 2004 to make some improvements. We know there will be many more folks in attendance. The number of Disney cruisers alone has doubled over last year and our mailing list has over 600 members! The community message boards were buzzing after Mousefest 2003 and that generated lots of interest for this year. Many folks are returning. We have more MouseFest meets that are hosted by more communities and some groups have even joined to co-host events for Mousefest attendees. Because of the increase in numbers, our MouseFest travel agency, MouseEarVacations.com was able to offer a private party at the Adventurer's Club for those booking special packages. How cool is that?”

Dave Marx said that the Mousefest participants also learned a lot last year.

“Hopefully, we're a year older and a year wiser. As exciting as last year's Mega Mouse Meet was, and as carefully as we had planned, it was the first of its kind for us. While I don't have to go into details, we've made a lot of small adjustments that will help make this year's Mousefest even better. Also, last year's Mousefest was a 'first.' While veteran holiday meet-goers had an idea of what to expect, we also attracted a large group of first-timers.”

According to Marx, last year's success makes this year's Mousefest a different sort of animal. “Now, MouseFest has a reputation, folks know what to expect, and this has contributed to an anticipatory 'buzz' and excitement that I don't recall from last year. What's really gratifying is just how many of last year's Mousefesters are returning this year and just how excited they are to be back.”

Such is the case with those who are returning to Orlando for Mousefest 2004.

The Mega Mouse Meet

The centerpiece for Mousefest is the huge Mega Mouse Meet gathering at the Swan hotel from 1 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, December 11. It is at this meet that all the Disney webmasters and guidebook authors gather under one roof to meet and greet the Disney Internet community. If you aren't sure about which Mousefest function to attend, this is the one not to miss.

Let's look at which Disney webmasters and leaders are scheduled to attend.

  • AllEarsNet.com and ALL EARS Newsletter – Deb Wills, Debra Martin Koma, Andrea “Anita Answer” McKenna, Dotti Saroufim, Cathy Bock, and Glo from Miami.
  • DisneyCentral.com – Scott Liljenquist
  • JimHillMedia.com – Jim Hill
  • MagicalMountain.net – Nathan Rose
  • Tagrel.com – Dave Card
  • TheMouseForLess.com – Binnie Betten, Pam Forrester and Linda Stockwell
  • Mousesavers.com – Mary Waring
  • MousePlanet.com – Brian Bennett, Mark Goldhaber, Sheila Hagen, Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix, Mike Scopa, and Lani Teshima.

The Disney guidebook authors appearing at the Mega Mouse Meet include:

  • PassPorter WDW and PassPorter's Field Guide to the Disney Cruise Line – Jennifer Watson Marx and Dave Marx.
  • The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World – Bob Sehlinger and Len Testa.
  • The Hassle-Free Walt Disney World Vacation and Hidden Mickeys, A Field Guide to Walt Disney World's Best Kept Secrets – Steve Barrett.
  • The Luxury Guide to Walt Disney World – Cara Goldsbury.
  • The Walt Disney World Trivia Book – Louis Mongello.
  • The Other Orlando and Universal Orlando – Kelly Monaghan
  • Making Memories on Your Walt Disney World Vacation 2004 – Josh Fippen and Dann Hazel.

Mousefest park days

There are designated park days during Mousefest 2004. These special days offer Mousefesters the opportunity to share some fun with their favorite attractions:

  • Thursday, December 9 – Epcot
  • Friday, December 10 – AK
  • Sunday, December 12 – Magic Kingdom
  • Monday, December 13 – Disney-MGM Studios

These designated days usually include some special activities for those parks. Again, the Mousefest Pocket Guide is the best source for all activities.

The future of Mousefest

When an idea comes to fruition you hope it meets expectations. Mousefest 2003 went beyond anyone's expectations and understandably this year's event appears ready to dwarf last year's. So what does this mean for the future?

Deb Wills said:

“It's my hope that MouseFest will continue to be an annual event for a very long time. We will be talking with those involved to get their feedback and ideas for the future. We will also work to get those communities/websites/authors who have not yet participated interested in the event. We believe the possibilities are endless! Like Walt said, 'If you Dream it, you can DO IT!'”

Dave Marx said that he sees all sorts of possibilities in future Mousefest events. “Would folks be interested in Disneyana exhibits, banquets, special guest speakers, movie screenings, special parties, tours and in-park events?” he said. “If there's enough interest, some or even all of these things may be possible. There are special in-park events that require fairly large groups to be practical—wouldn't it be cool if we could hold an after-hours party in one of the parks?”

Dave does note, however, that at the core of Mousefest is the spirit of friendship and sharing, with enthusiastic volunteers creating meets to visit with other like-minded members of the Internet community.

“Volunteer!” Dave suggested. “Each community will continue to develop its own roster of events to be shared with MouseFest, and we certainly do need help here at 'MouseFest Central.'”

To learn how to get involved with MouseFest Central planning and/or to coordinate your community's activities with MouseFest, visit the MouseFest.org Web site - you'll find our contact info there.

Mousefest 2005

If you miss Mousefest 2004, it's not too early to plan on attending Mousefest 2005. Next year, Mousefest will be held December 2 to 8, with the Mega Mouse Meet scheduled for Saturday, December 3, before the MouseFest 2005 Disney Wonder cruise, which happens December 4 to 8, 2005.

Now if you will excuse me, I need to start packing for Mousefest myself.

Next time

While shopping on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving), I came up with some stocking stuffer ideas that I'll share with everyone.


Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Mike here.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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.

Mike brings his experience to MousePlanet in a series of lessons to help you with all the phases of planning a WDW trip.

Mike pays special attention to all the details that ensure your family has the best possible time at the Happiest Place on Earth.

You can contact Mike here.

OTHER LINKS

Here are trip reports that Mike has written that are part of MousePlanet's archives:

Michael Scopa -- August 1999 -- Walt Disney World (CSR)

Michael J. Scopa -- July 1997 -- Walt Disney World (WL/CBR)

Mike Scopa -- July 1994 -- Walt Disney World (WL / CBR)

Also, don't miss Lani Teshima's column, “The Trip Planner” for more travel planning information.

Get the latest info about the resort at “Park Update: Walt Disney World.”

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