The First 100
Mike looks back at his five years of MousePlanet articles
Friday, June 3, 2005
by Mike Scopa, staff writer
Milestones have always been important to me. They represent a lot of things like commitment, success, and acceptance. On this, my 100th column for MousePlanet, I ask that you indulge and also join me in reflecting upon some of those articles which I look upon as being special to me.
I think it's only fitting that I also salute some individuals whom I
would also describe as special, as far as having quite a lot to do with,
well, what you're doing right now
reading my words.
First, the articles.
Unheralded Treasures (link)
Published December 21, 2001
Too many times we tend to overlook the important things in life. Sometimes we have to be reminded to stop and smell the roses and not forget some aspects of our lives that we sometimes take for granted. This article was written in the hope that it would help add a special flavor to your trip
to help you discover another side of Walt Disney World. I think that I was also trying to say that sometimes our lifestyles are too hustle bustle and life will pass us by before we realize how much we miss.
Trip Report Writing (link)
Published January 18, 2002
You would not be reading this if I weren't so analrententive about
writing everything I do on my WDW trips. Anyone can write a trip report,
and this article was put together to try and give hints on how best to
capture those thoughts and preserve them so you can enjoy them years later.
Trip reports not only help you reflect on past trips but also help in
the planning of future trips. I'll tell everyone later how trip report
writing was responsible for me being here.
A Visit with a Trip Specialist (links: part
1 | part 2)
Published March 1 & 15, 2002
For years, I would book my trips myself. Who needs a travel agent? But
then, I sometimes found that I did not have the time to wait patiently
on the phone to book the room. I thought that doing an article would help
those who weren't sure about the pros and cons of using a travel agent,
and that's how I met Sue Pisaturo of Small World Vacations (link).
Not only did Sue help me tremendously with this series, but she continues
to help me with information and insights that I have used to help my readership.
I also got a bonus out of writing this series with Sue
Published April 19, May 3 & 17, June 7, 2002
I know there are a lot of guidebooks out there. I thought that it was
my responsibility to profile what I considered to be the best of the best,
and in the long run help people choose the best book for their needs.
I tried to be as objective as I could and pointed out what each book brought
to the table. Of course along the way I've gotten to know some special
people and understand the amount of work that goes into putting together
a book that helps people plan and enjoy their WDW vacations. It was an
education for me, and one that continues to this day.
Published February 7 & 21, March 7 & 14, April 4, 2004
You know the saying, We know you have choicesand there
are certainly plenty of Disney Web sites on the Internet. I wasn't sure
how the MousePlanet staff would take to me discussing another Web site,
but it turned out that they were OK with it. I realized that most of the
readers would be familiar with these sites so I concentrated on the founders
and webmasters, and got them to tell me what makes them tick. Again, more
bonuses for me in the form of building more friendships.
The Unofficial Guide Review (link)
Published May 16, 2003
This may have been one of the most important columns I have ever written.
In talking with Bob Sehlinger and Len Testa, I was absolutely floored
by the amount of research compiled between the covers of this book. As
a result of my research, I discovered just how much work and dedication
it takes to create a guidebook so accurate and as complete as The Unofficial
Guide to Walt Disney World. Along the way, I developed a truly special
friendship with Bob and Len that continues today. The Unofficial Guide
is without a doubt the most technically sound and reliable guidebook on
the shelves today.
All Alone (link)
Published August 1, 2003
Some of the best articles are spawned from the many messages I receive
from the most important people
you, my audience. I remember one
message from a Disneyland cast member who talked about his first visit
to WDW and how special his impressions were. I asked if I could share
those impressions with all of you, and before I knew it, I had a special
kind of article. One of the draws of writing this article was the fantasy
we all have of being in the Magic Kingdom theme park after hours
that fantasy is always with me.
Published November 21, December 19, 2003; November 30, 2004; January
When I wrote my first article on Mousefest, I had no idea that the subject
would eventually grow to represent the most popular event of the year
for the Disney Internet community. To this day I am in awe of the popularity
of this event. I think back to what my expectations were for the first
Mousefest and they certainly were left in the dust
pixie dust. If
you get a chance, you must experience Mousefest.
Magical Moments (link)
Published February 20, 2004
This is the column that talked about the making of Carrousel of Progress during
the 1964 New York World's Fair and how Joanne StolbergAlger's father
served as the model for the father figure in the attraction. If you haven't
read the article, I won't spoil it for you here. It's one of my favorites
because it exemplifies how magical Walt Disney World really isand
it's all due to those who work there.
The Disney Zone (links: part 1 | part
Published March 19 & April 2, 2004
This could very well be my most favorite article. I wasn't sure how it would be received because I wasn't sure if I could come up with the right words to describe what the Zone was all about. This article not only allowed me to tap into a theory regarding the lure of the Disney culture but also ended up generating the most mail from any other article I have ever written for MousePlanet.
The Howie's Angels Series (links: part 1
| part 2 | part
Published May 7 & 21, June 4, 2004
I knew I was taking a risk when I decided to try and tell the story of
Howie Ditchek and the whole scene about his Angels, and how
they secured Priority Seating requests for others at Cinderella's Round
Table for breakfast. Boy did I get mail
from both sides of this
story. For those of you who took the time to write me, I salute you. Your
letters really helped me to keep an objective vision.
I also received some encouraging mail from some very special colleagues who wished me luck.
The best piece of mail I received, however, was fromwell I cannot
saybut her comment was that unless I tell the story right down the
middle, I will be known as Mr. Light Magic.
Smiles Across the Miles (link)
Published August 6, 2004
This was one of those feelgood articles that showed how to take the magic of WDW and deliver it to those not so fortunate to be able to visit WDW. This article would have never been possible with out the help of the real hero of Smiles Across the Miles
Charley and Mike (links: part 1 | part
Published September 3 & 17, 2004
So was it good luck or bad luck that I just happened to be in WDW when
Hurricane Charley came a knockin'? All I know is that it gave me even
more respect for how the WDW resort is proactive in preparing for just
about anything, and always with the guest's wellbeing at the top
of the list. Oh, by the wayyes, I plan to be in WDW during the 2005
Mike's Surprise (link)
Published April 15, 2005
What can I say? It was nice to be recognized and it was nice to hear
from so many of you who took the time to send me a note congratulating
me on this honor. I think I was most moved by all the dads who wrote to
me and told me of their own special moments with their sons and those
they hoped to experience in the future.
The First 100
That's the article you're reading right now
it has to be a favorite of mine because it is a milestone. Sure, the words are mine and the column ideas are mine, but my words and ideas would not be here if it weren't for so many people.
I thought about naming 100 people who are either responsible for me being here, for helping me along the way, for inspiring me, for teaching me a lot of things along the way, and just for being special friends
but 100 falls way short of those who have been a part of this journey.
I think many of you know who you are
and I thank you.
But you know
there is no way I can leave it at that. I need to acknowledge some very important individuals who have played an important part in this so bear with me as I pay thanks to some special people
Of course my wife Carol has always been supportive of me and she is my
own personal Disney princess. She has to be a princess to let me jump
up in the middle of the night and run to my sanctuary room with inspiration.
Oh how so many nights she would hear me pounding, pounding, pounding on
the keyboard until the wee hours
but never complained. She's my
You're gonna say that? is my queue
for a rewrite. Thank you dear for all your support.
Sue Pisaturo comes next. Sure I mentioned her earlier in this column.
But let me give her another plug. Sue runs Small World Vacations, and
she and I have had countless discussions on what people need for information
on WDW. Many of my ideas have come from those late night phone calls.
Sue actually had a lot to do with talking me into going to the first Mousefest
to represent MousePlanet. Thanks, Sue.
Okay, if I mention Deb Wills I can see all of you nodding your head.
And saying, Oh yeah, AllEarsnet
more than that. Deb is quite the lady. And is there anyone who doesn't
love her for all she does to bring the magic to everyone? I remember the
first Mousefest when Deb had us all together and thanked us for making
the effort to make it a successful event, and she became very emotional.
Heck, she was the catalyst. She does so many things for so many
people andgeemay I make a plug for her book that she and Deb
Koma have written for WDW vacationers with special needs? The title is
PassPorter's Walt Disney World for Your Special Needs (Passporter
Travel Press: 2005. ISBN: 1587710188).
Deb and I are friends, and we share information. I have had the distinct
honor of appearing on AllEarsnet and that pretty much made my day. Deb
is the best, and I thank her for everything she has done for me
hopefully I can return the favor over the years.
You may not know who Dave Card is, but I certainly do. Dave Card has
created the purest Disney community on the Internet. His community is
known as Tagrel.com (link) and it is basically
a site that has Disney discussion forums. I believe that Dave has created
an atmosphere that Walt Disney himself would enjoy. It is one of several
communities I frequent and is my favorite. It is not only an informative
community but a caring and fun place to be. It's a great place for me
to find out what's on everyone's mind and has inspired many an article.
You will never find any bad karma on that site
you will, however,
find some amazing people
some of whom have become some of my dearest
friends, especially in recent trips. I would love to name some but there
are so many I fear I will leave some out
but I need to pay tribute
to Dave. It all starts at the top. Dave has set the tone and it's perfect.
and thanks to all the Taginators.
I can say I knew Jim Hill when
and by when
I mean back in 1989. Yeah, that's right. Jim happened to be working in
the same company as yours truly, and we met on the company Disney board
that I was moderating at the time. It was on that board that Jim made
mention of things that took years to arrive on Disney theme park soil.
He was the first true Disney dweeb I ever met. That's a compliment, Jim.
Jim was very generous with his information. He would meet with my fellow
moderators and bring the most wonderful things. I got an Aladdin
script, and one time Jim sent me artist conceptions of what a Russian
Pavilion in World Showcase would look like.
However, the one piece of artwork that really intrigued me was about
an attraction that was being planned for Epcot's Future World. This attraction/pavilion
was to somehow give guests the feeling of weightlessness. I think the
name of the attraction was constantly changing. Back then the name was
something like Journey into Inner Space or something like that. We're
Those plans finally came to fruition last year. You
guessed it: Mission: Space.
Jim lives but 20 miles from me but would you believe the only time we run into one another is in Orlando?
Jim is an outstanding writer and serves as an inspiration to me. He's
a friend and colleague, and I think that those days on that Disney board
kind of served as a training ground for me
and maybe for him as
well. Thanks for the inspiration, Jim.
It's real hard to say what I need to say about Bob Sehlinger and Len
Testa. Both have befriended me in such a way that I feel I have known
them for years. You haven't done a theme park until you've done it with
Len. You know you've met your match when you ride the Tiomorrowland Transit
Authority and Len recites the script word for word. I think we sort of
push each other to help our respective audiences. I know Len and Bob work
extremely hard to get the best data for their books and especially for
their TouringPlans.com site (link),
which I use myself.
They don't have to work any harder to gain my respect and friendship.
I look forward to those days when maybe Len and I can once again pin an
Imagineer up against the wall, look him straight in the eye, and say,
You mean to tell me you think this Stitch's Great Escape is kidfriendly?
Oh the rush.
Of course number 100 would not be possible without all of you out there who have welcomed me with your many letters. I appreciate all the feedback you have given me and the faith you have in me to help you when you write me a personal note and ask me to help you plan your vacations. The door is always open.
Without an audience a writer's words are never heard. So I thank you for listening.
We are heading down the home stretch and it's time to give a huge thank
you to the MousePlanet staff, who have accepted me as a colleague and
have done so much to empower me with ideas and confidence in all that
I submit. At the top there's Alex Stroup, Adrienne VincentPhoenix
and Tony Phoenix, and Sheila Hagen, and my partner in crime Mark Goldhaber,
of course Sue Holland and everyone else. I thank them all
need to throw a special salute to one person in particular.
That special someone is Lani Teshima. Lani is my editor
or as I
like to think of her, as my own personal plastic surgeon. She makes me
look oh so good
that's what plastic surgeons do. Lani is responsible
for the title of my column Scoping the Parks. If Lani wasn't
such a good editor, then in most of my columns you'd be reading, mouse
OK, maybe I appear to be overdoing it here but you all should know that Lani is MousePlanet. She is the glue that holds me together and without her support and hard work my words would be mush. Actually when I write my articles my main audience is Lani. I write to make her smile, to make her laugh, and sometimes I try to make her cry
in a good way.
Of course I'm probably making her wonder right now when this column will ever end. Be patient, Lani.
My fondest time with Lani was watching the Christmas parade at Mickey's Very Merry Christmas party last December at Mousefest. She got into it and I saw some Disney zoning going on. So Lani, thank you for being so important in keeping me on my toes
and for being a great friend.
So it's been quite a ride and
there is one last piece to this 100th column
not only is it the last piece but the most important one of all
without it I definitely would not be here.
I'm not exactly how far back this happened
maybe as much as 15 years back.
I had just secured an AOL account and I happened to be looking through the AOL chat listings and discovered a Disney chat room. There were several stage names I can still remember today.
First there was the chat host. Her name was Laura237.
But the one person I remember the best
the one who seemed to contribute the most to the chat was someone with the moniker DVClubber. That belonged to a fellow by the name of Brian Bennett.
That AOL Disney chat was pretty special. It was held once a month and so I had to wait every four weeks to get my Disney fix
but it was worth it. One year I posted my 1994 trip report in the trip library and Brian found it.
Brian read my report and found that trip recaps of sojourns to Walt Disney World were great tools for those planning future trips. Eventually Brian came up with an idea of putting together a Web site that focused on trip planning, and in 1995 launched his Disney Trip Planner on AOL's Trip Planner Forum.
In 1996 Brian launched a Web version of this Trip Planner Guide and it soon became the largest Disney trip report archive on the Internet.
Then in 2000, Brian was part of the group that started a site we know as MousePlanet.
In early 2001 Brian contacted me and asked if I would be interested in joining MousePlanet as a Walt Disney World content provider. I was very flattered and nervous. What could I possibly bring to the site? Who would want to read my stuff?
We discussed this opportunity and Brian convinced me that I could add value to MousePlanet. I had been delivering some Walt Disney World trip planning seminars so Brian thought that would be a great start.
Brian can be very convincing and I agreed to give it a try. Mr. Bennett must have been right because I'm already starting my 5th
that's right 5th year with Scoping the Parks."
The last several years have been the most Disneyfilled years of my life and I owe it all to DVClubber.
It is with deep appreciation and heartfelt thanks that I dedicate this column to Brian. If it were not for him I would not have such a huge Disney extended family as I currently enjoy today. I can't tell you how delighted I was that Brian had returned to doing a regular column for MousePlanet because it seems that the universe was out of order unless I saw his byline.
Brian is responsible for making this journey possible
a journey that has brought so much fun, so much joy, and so many friends.
So Brian this one's for you
and most importantly
It's time to roll up the sleeves and start working on #101. In our next discussion I need to talk about a trend I'm seeing that has convinced me that the powers that be down in Orlando want you to stay longer, spend more money, and never, ever leave the property.
I'll tell you all about it next time.
Send Mike your thoughts, questions, or comments here.