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Practical tips for Walt Disney World travel
Top Disney World Internet Sites: WDWMAGIC
Friday, February 21, 2003
by Mike Scopa, MousePlanet staff writer
The Internet has certainly established itself as a tool to help locate all kinds of information, and there are plenty of sites devoted to all things Disney. In this session we will look at some of the best sites devoted to Walt Disney World and get the "story behind the story" on how these sites came about.
In my last column, I profiled Deb Wills' All Ears Net Web site. In today's column, let's turn our attention to a different kind of site.
Today's site is made for the Walt Disney World fan who is looking for more than just park operating hours or theme park ticket prices. WDWMAGIC offers its readers something quite different, and that's what makes this site a favorite for so many fans.
WDWMAGIC is the brainchild of Steve Frearson. The idea for this site first came about in 1996. At that time, Steve was interested in finding information on Walt Disney World. He was especially interested in finding photos and sounds of the Walt Disney World Resort.
More specifically, Steve was very interested in finding sites that had, as he says, "information about backstage and secrets of Walt Disney World." He found a few sites that sort of had what he was looking for, but not quite enough. Steve wanted more.
It wasn't until a trip to WDW in 1996 that things really started happening that eventually lead up to the creation of Steve's initial site. Being a fan of new technology, Steve often found himself taking photos that other people normally wouldn't even think about taking.
For example, Steve would take some photos of the Illuminations barges being pulled out into the lagoon. Steve also captured close-ups of the fireworks hardware, fountains, the crew, and so on. He often remarked to himself how informative these photos would be for anyone curious about what goes on backstage at Walt Disney World as well as anyone interested in the technology being used.
Birth of a Disney site
With only fifteen of these photos, Steve launched a relatively small site that shows the Illuminations hardware.
The site generated some interest, even from some castmembers who worked on the Illuminations show. Steve proclaims that site to be "...the beginning of WDWMAGIC."
Steve decided to expand upon this "backstage" theme and moved on to Splash Mountain and the Tower of Terror. Desiring to make his site unique, Steve complimented textual information with photos, sounds, and videos. It was the latter two features that really set WDWMAGIC apart from all the other sites.
The original name for the site was "The Walt Disney World Image and Sound Site."
A unique site
Steve says, "My main objective was to be unique on the Internet. Rather than republishing information from other sites, I tried to provide something unique, new and never seen before."
This objective caused Steve to focus on news, rumors, and backstage information.
Steve has stated that, "My basic rule was that if I found a piece of information of interest, I would post it on the site for others to see. This focus meant that the site did not, and does not really cater for the new Walt Disney World visitor. It is more for the Walt Disney World fan who is looking for little details of current attractions, and the way things may shape up in the future."
In 1998 "The Walt Disney World Image and Sound Site" transformed into WDWMAGIC. At that time the site began covering more and more Walt Disney World attractions. Steve added mailing lists, and discussion forums. More recently Steve has incorporated visitor reviews.
So how does Steve get all this great information? Steve is quick to point out that "Over the years there have been some great contributions to the site from Walt Disney World cast members, members of Imagineering, and in the case of the Reflections of Earth pages, Don Dorsey, the show's creator. Living in England, it is rather difficult for me to gather information first hand, therefore the contributors to the site really do make WDWMAGIC what it is, and I thank them."
I think Steve should be complimented in the way he has organized this type of information and how he has provided a site that offers ease of navigating through this wealth of Walt Disney World backstage magic.
So what's in the future for WDWMAGIC? I asked Steve for his vision and he mentioned that ahead lies both opportunities and challenges.
Always looking at it from a technological viewpoint Steve says, "On the positive, the uptake of broadband connections will give sites the capability of providing much more media and interactivity to the visitors. Gone will be the day of postage stamp sized videos, and grainy photos, making way for high resolution audio, video and imagery."
As far as challenges go Steve echoes a sentiment of many a webmaster. "On the flip side," comments Steve, "there is the great problem of rising costs of hosting such large-scale sites, and the concept that many people believe everything online should remain free of charge to those using the sites. It is clear that with plummeting advertising revenue and increasing running costs, something has to happen. Be that the closure of many fan sites, or a move towards subscription based services, it will be a challenging time for many non-profit fan sites like WDWMAGIC."
My hat is off to Steve Frearson, who by all accounts is not only a top-notch Disney webmaster, but an Internet pioneer who has brought to his readers a site that offers a bit extra in the form of information.
In our next session, we look yet another Walt Disney World Internet site that stands out because of its special niche.
Photos on this page by Brian Bennett unless otherwise noted
Here's a list of the trip reports that Mike has written that are part of MousePlanet's archives!
Also, don't miss Lani Teshima's column, "The Trip Planner" for more travel planning information!
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