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Mike Scopa

The Disney Internet Friends Primer

A shared love of the Mouse brings people together from around the world

Friday, August 5, 2005
by Mike Scopa, staff writer

So a friend comes up to me the other day and says, “How the heck do you figure out what to write about when you sit down and write? Don't you run out of topics? Where do you get your ideas?

The answer was simple: “It's the readership that dictates the topics!” I quipped.

It's true. E-mail is one source, but more importantly, there is one other source I turn to validate what I feel is a hot topic: The Disney Internet communities.

It pays to lurk and participate in these communities to find out just what is on everyone's minds and to hopefully help them answer some questions.

However, over the past few weeks I have noticed a phenomenon that seems to be picking up steam and I just can't ignore anymore. Actually, I should say we cannot ignore anymore, and it involves all of us.

Phenomenon Revealed

OK, I'm lurking and participating and I finally realize what I've been missing. Beyond the topics being discussed, things like Soarin' and Extra Magic Hours, I have been noticed a phenomenon that has been growing on several boards and it made me sit back and realize that I've been caught up in this phenomenon myself.

The phenomenon doesn't really have a name ,as its just something that seems to be happening throughout the Disney Internet community. During the course of Disney discussions, friendships and relationships are being spawned and nurtured every day.

I see it on many threads and chats, and I wondered how Walt Disney would have reacted to this phenomenon. After all, the common denominator here is old Walt himself. The individuals drawn to these boards have a love for Disney, Disneyland, and in the case where I've been lurking, a strong love for Walt Disney World. For the purpose of our discussion we will focus on Walt Disney World—big surprise.

So let's explore this phenomenon and see if we can establish a roadmap for making that Disney friend connection on the web. We'll also take a look at how to enjoy a Walt Disney World experience with these friends, our extended family.

During our discussion keep in mind that Mouseplanet is just one of many sites where ideas regarding all things Disney are exchanged and connections are made every day.

The Roadmap

I'm sure that somewhere along the way, you have found yourself going to an online Disney board or forum and spending some time reading a thread or two. Perhaps you were looking for an answer to a question about Mission: Space or needed help in understanding the Magic Your Way Ticket Program, or maybe you were just in the throes of trip planning and were wondering if those Extra Magic Hour mornings and evening were really worth it.

Regardless of topic, you may have found yourself diving in and reading countless threads on many Disney and Disney theme park subjects.

Maybe you read a few threads here and there and have also participated, as well, then felt even better when someone responded to your note. Perhaps you posted a bit more, and you saw that they were responding to you and calling you by name.

You've become connected.

Of course, Internet chats are another way of communicating with others who are Disney-driven. Chats can serve as great vehicles for defining one's personality. Unlike forum threads, chats are real-time conversations and could shed some light on just what kind of person is sitting at the keyboard.

Notice I was cautious and said “could” shed some light. Let's face it; there will always be some doubts surrounding anyone you encounter in a chat room until you really get to know the person. That will take time, time well spent.

So let's continue on this roadmap.

The Connection

Somewhere down the line you hit another milestone. As you become more involved in the discussions, you begin to recognize names and remember the person behind each name. You may even get a sense as to which of those people appear to have something in common with you besides a love for Disney and Walt Disney World.

This common denominator could be things like location, family makeup, age, you name it, there is just something that strikes you that indicates some compatibility feature, such as:

• Disney Values – For many years Disney has been associated with quality. Obviously we all know about the wholesomeness of the Disney culture as well as the quality of the products and services and how they strive to be top shelf. It's understandable that those who are in the Disney community are drawn to Disney by these two important factors. Therefore since you put these high on your list it goes without saying that others within the community would also share these same values.

• Family – The Disney Internet community draws people from all situations, singles, couples, young families, not-so-young families, empty nesters, and so on. There are probably a gazillion people on these boards who are very similar to you. Sometimes that is how the connection is made, one family becomes connected with another family, retired couples may find other retired couples who love Disney, and so forth, with similar beliefs, similar lifestyles, same love for all things Disney.

• The Disney Zone Factor – Yes, you know I'd bring this up. I have to believe that everyone who has jumped into a Disney forum has experienced a bit of zoning at Disney, and that serves as a discussion point for any relationship. I have defined the Disney Zone as being a state of mind in which Disneyland and Walt Disney World guests no longer care about problems or the time of day, but are released from the stress of everyday life, replaced by a feeling of carefree happiness. You know when you've met someone who has “Zoned.” The key is when they relate to a special Disney them park memory that invokes a bit of emotion in their voice.

Once you've started thinking about that common denominator you may also find yourself wanting to know more about this person. So what do you do? Well for starters you may send a private message via the board you are on, or if available, maybe even send an e-mail.

The e-mail may just be a simple question that may lead to a number of future exchanges.

Soon the e-mail become more frequent, soon they are not enough, and the thought crosses your mind: “I wonder if I should pick up the phone?” For the first time, you hear the voice behind the name. You have now stepped into a new path along that roadmap.

The phone calls become more frequent, you begin to share thoughts that you would never put in a public forum.

Before you know it, you have established a friendship with one of your Disney Internet community connections.

Is this how it all happens? Well, it's just one example of how the Internet can spawn a Disney friendship.

I can tell you that for myself I have taken many different paths and regardless of how you make the journey, the rewards can be priceless.

What's Next? The Ultimate Milestone!

You've made the connection, gone through the e-mail and the phone calls. Are you ready for that next step? It's a big one, and may make you a bit uneasy: It involves arranging to meet face to face, at a Disney theme park.

I know that there's always the fear that you'll be meeting an Internet freak. I think we all go through that train of thought. The key is to invest some time online and on the phone to really be sure you are comfortable with this person.

Invest the time needed to reach that comfort level.

When you've reached that comfort level and are ready to take the next step you begin to work out the details. When can this meeting take place; which park and where in the park?

More importantly, you may want this to be a group meeting. That is, don't limit this initial face to face meeting to just one person. Make it a small group meeting in which you will meet up with several “new” friends.

You've heard the phrase “safety in numbers” and that phrase sort of works in a different way here A group encounter makes for a comfort level you may not find in a one on one meeting.

In putting this plan together you may find yourself asking the question, “What will we do?”

Well, you've come to the right place as here are some suggestions:

• Attraction Touring – What is your favorite attraction? The best way to begin is to ride the attractions you all love and you'll see some very strong bonding taking place.

• Dining – This is also a great way to bond. Find a restaurant you enjoy and if we are talking family then maybe a character meal is in the offering.

• Parade & Fireworks Viewing – Think of it, there is time to talk before and after the parade and show and perhaps some zoning takes place during the actual event.

• Special Events – There are always special events going on in WDW and sharing this event with someone can be very enjoyable. Here are some that come to mind:

o Road races – Are you a runner? There are races held throughout the year in WDW. Perhaps your new found friends are into running. Why not do a race together?

o International Flower Show – Maybe you and your new friend are into gardening. April is a wonderful time to visit.

o Food & Wine Festival – This is a great time of year to meet friends in WDW. This Festival is very popular, the crowds are low, and if you go in early October there is always Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party.

o Mousefest – You may have heard me talk about it, you may have read about it somewhere else. Mousefest is the ultimate meet, where all the Disney communities meet and gather to celebrate the WDW gift of joy and fun, why not try it? If you are real nervous about meeting someone than Mousefest can help as there are many Disney Internet friends who attend this event.

Of course just about anytime of year is perfect for meeting friends in Walt Disney World.

Fast Forward Friendship

Spending time with Disney friends in WDW will result in another phenomenon, that is the fast forward friendship.

This phenomenon may result from the relaxed atmosphere. You will find yourself opening up to your new friends and finding yourself really getting to know them in a setting that just makes you feel safe and relaxed.

Many people have mentioned to me, and I have witnessed this firsthand, that some of their closest friends have been drawn to them through the Disney Internet community and from visiting a Disney theme park, especially WDW. These friendships grew very close after a visit or two together while in a Disney theme park.

Why do these friendships nurture so fast? Again it comes down to the love of what the Disney culture stands for, when we talk of quality we usually think of Disney, we subliminally want to replicate that in life and so we find ourselves being very aware of our friends needs and cares and we react similarly to how the top level cast members act, with care for one another.

The intensity and joy of a WDW vacation will also contribute to this nurturing. If you are having a good time it's obvious that this will be associated with time spent with your friends. This means whenever you see, talk, or e-mail your new found Disney Internet friend you will notice a warm spot suddenly making an appearance in your heart.

So don't be surprised if you happen to strike up a relationship with someone on a Disney board and it turns out to be the beginning of a journey to a very treasured friendship.

After you've made this ultimate connection you will find yourself eager to get back to your favorite forum or your favorite chat room. You now know faces, voices, and the persons behind the name you see on your screen, your new found friends.

Give it a chance, there's nothing better than enjoying a trip to Walt Disney World with friends as they will certainly help you…

Remember the Magic!

Hint! Hint!

It's only fair that I provide some help to that little scavenger hunt I discussed a few weeks back. Here are some hints (but no answers) to help you with these adventures:

• The Deed Transfer Picture in Mr. Toad's Ride is best found if you are on the left-hand side of the ride vehicle.

• The Hidden Mickey's at Carrousel of Progress are a challenge but look for shadows and clouds.

• The Birdhouses at Splash Mountain are best discovered when riding the Walt Disney World Express.

• The Optical Illusion at Epcot can be seen from a World Showcase spot that peers across the lagoon towards Morocco.

• The Maypole/Ferris Wheel can also be found at World Showcase but not year round. They can be found near a train.

• The Musical Instruments have Oriental origins, oops.

• The Colored Lights you walk on are quite innovative.

• The MGM Movie Props are found within 50 yards of the Prime Time Cafˇ.

• The Hidden Mickey just above the Eyes in Epcot is best discovered when looking at a crowned figure.

• The Voice in the Hole at MGM is “well” hidden.

• The location of the ToonTown Washroom Key is a real gas.

• That Optical Illusion in MGM would have been noticed by Quasimodo.

Next Time

On my recent visit to Walt Disney World I was watching Cinderellabration and “The Question” popped into my mind. It's a question that will call for debate and some thought. We'll discuss Cinderellabration and “The Question” in detail next time.


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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