My Disney Top 5 - Remembering MousePlanet's Own Steve Russo

by Chris Barry, contributing writer

Welcome back to another Disney Top 5. One of my favorite John Lennon lyrics is from his final album Double Fantasy. The song is called Beautiful Boy and it's an ode to Sean, his son with Yoko Ono. Lennon essentially put his music career on hold in the late '70s to help raise Sean and be a stay at home dad, something he was unable to do with his first son, Julian, during the height of Beatlemania. In the song John sings, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." The sentiment speaks for itself. If you don't slow down and pay attention to life, sometimes it simply passes you by.

About a week ago, after some time away due to life's constant complications, I took the time to peruse our own message boards here on MousePlanet. I was struck by a post that was paying homage to Steve Russo, a former MousePlanet staff writer and trip reporter extraordinaire, who passed away this past August. It hit me that 1) I hadn't stopped to check in with the MousePlanet community of readers and fans for some time, otherwise I would have seen this post sooner and 2) It's been years since I communicated with my old friend Steve and that's something that I now deeply regret. One of the beauties of writing for a site like MousePlanet is being part of the family, a group of disparate individuals that get together to do what we do because of our shared love for all things Disney. To be fair, we seldom meet each other in person. We're scattered around the country. We communicate through postings and emails and a group of us have a long lasting text thread that started during COVID and thankfully never seems to slow down all that much.

I never met Steve Russo face to face despite the fact that we were always traveling to Disney and despite the fact that we lived in the same state, but I was a peer, a colleague, a friend and, perhaps, most importantly, a fan. Steve's writings here on MousePlanet always inspired me. We always seemed to feel the same way about things when it came to our beloved Walt Disney World. He and I shared the same passion for the place and it showed in our writing. We had many great conversations through email over the years when he was a staff writer here and I always valued his kind words and opinions on my articles. I knew that if Steve liked my work, I must've hit the right notes.

About 10 years ago, Steve announced he was taking a step back from regularly scheduled writing for MousePlanet. Of course, Steve loved Disney too much and kept contributing articles for another few years, and most of us here on MousePlanet will always consider Steve the ultimate Walt Disney World trip reporter. I initially thought it was a little odd reading about other people's blow by blow reports of their Disney trips, until I read Steve's and it all made sense. He seemed to capture just what you wanted to hear and presented his trips in a way that made you want to head back even more than you thought you wanted to.

In 2011, when he initially said he was stepping down as a regular writer, I posted the following Top 5 article. I thought the least I could do is rerun it here today and remind you all of some of the great work and musings of Steve Russo. Here's a repost of my Top 5 Steve Russo MousePlanet Articles.

There are a lot of great things about writing for a place like MousePlanet. First of all, I thoroughly enjoy the writing. It's a transformative moment in my day when I start to work on an article. I get lost in the process and it's very satisfying. I also get to write about a subject that I love. The more that I write about Disney, the more I escape into that world, the more I keep the magic alive.

But really, the best thing about this whole experience is the people. It's people that make up MousePlanet. The people that read, the people that take the time to respond and discuss the articles, the people that post on the MousePad are all a fascinating bunch of individuals. Knowing that I'm bringing a little bit more of that special Disney feeling into your day makes it all worthwhile.

Along with all of you, however, are the people behind the scenes at MousePlanet, a talented, diverse, interesting group of individuals working together to make it all happen. With that thought in mind, when I offered to write an article this Friday to fill in the new gap left behind by the already missed Steve Russo and the MousePlanet "powers-that-be" gave me the go-ahead, I wondered, "What exactly am I going to write?" I just wrote a "My Disney Top 5" article last week, so I'm due in my rotation for a "Disney Stuff" article.

But something in my pixie dusted brain said, "Why not write something that fits this particular Friday on MousePlanet? Today is normally Steve Russo's day and it's the first "Steve Russo Friday" without a "That's My Opinion" article in over three years." So, as Steve takes a much deserved break from writing and in honor of his three years and eighty articles here on MousePlanet, let's salute my "other-Friday-guy" friend, MousePlaneteer and great writer, Steve, with my Top 5 Steve Russo MousePlanet Articles.

5 – "It's The Little Things" – 8/28/09

Steve and I certainly share the belief, as do many of you out there, that when it comes to Walt Disney World, it's the small details that make all the difference. Steve hit the nail on the head with "It's the Little Things" from August of 2009:

I've often said that some of the best times we've had at Disney World have come outside of the attractions; enjoying the ambiance and the little touches the Imagineers have placed there for our entertainment. Too often, we miss them entirely as we race past trying to get into the queue for the next ride. Sometimes, it's just nice to take things a bit more slowly and try to enjoy all that the World has to offer.

Very true indeed and Steve's list in this article sheds light on a whole bunch of "little things" like the Main Street windows in the Magic Kingdom, Miyuki the "Candy Lady" in the Japan pavilion at Epcot, De Vine at Animal Kingdom, looking up in the elevator on the Tower of Terror at Hollywood Studios (I still haven't gotten this one?) and these horrifying but interesting chairs in the Boardwalk lobby.

It's an interesting story, but these chairs still creep me out. Photo by Steve Russo.

4 – "Back to the Future" – 7/3/09

"Comedy is hard." Many people have that quote attributed to them. No matter who actually said it, it's a spot on statement. With "Back to the Future" Steve showed his sarcastic comedy chops in this article as he projects ahead and "predicts" future Disney events like the day that Cinderella Castle is converted into million dollar condominiums…

Open House, this Sunday. Photo by Steve Russo.

…and Disney's new airport shuttle service, Disney's Fantastical Express, that utilizes Disney's Hyper-Suction which will "whisk guests via a vacuum tube" to any resort on Disney property. Nice.

3 – "Park Peeves" – 4/4/08

"Park Peeves" came to be known as one of Steve's signature articles. It turned into an annual occurrence. Four installments ran over his tenure here at MousePlanet. This first installment placed a name with all those annoying park-goers that we all know and "love" such as The Dead Stoppers, Wide Walkers, Line Cutters, Seat Savers, Moochers, Center Stoppers and The Menu-ally challenged or Procrastin-eaters.

2 – "Overrated/Underrated at Walt Disney World Parts 1 and 2" – 4/8/11 and 4/22/11 respectively.

Steve writes an opinion column and one thing that exists out here in Disney cyberspace is opinions. Steve's opinions are always well thought-out and well documented. His "Overrated/Underrated" series was no different. He's "been there and done that" when it comes to Walt Disney World and one of the things that people are looking for when they come to a place like MousePlanet are writers with informed opinions. I enjoyed this series and agreed and disagreed with many of his choices. That's how you learn about a place as massive as Walt Disney World, by checking out articles like this and then formulating your own opinions. You have to respect a Disney fan that says that Le Cellier in Epcot is overrated. I still haven't been there so I can't comment, but getting a reservation here is near impossible. Hearing an experienced Disney traveler like Steve say that it's overrated makes me feel like I'm not missing that much. Hearing him say that The Country Bear Jamboree is underrated shows me that he has a soft spot and an understanding of the classic simplicity of this attraction.

You gotta love Big Al. Photo by Steve Russo.

1 – "The Bucket List" – 9/25/09

I appreciated serving as Steve's inspiration for his "Bucket List" article. I wrote an article in July of '09 entitled the "Top 5 Things I Have Yet to Experience at Walt Disney World." I know he couldn't believe that I still hadn't made it on Test Track. (I finally did last spring!) But Steve had a few surprising ones himself, like The Crystal Palace and the Astro Orbiter. We shared many other "still haven't" things like Victoria and Albert's, Mickey's Backyard BBQ and Summit Plummet at Blizzard Beach. It just reinforces the notion that you can go to Disney over and over again and still not get to see or do everything. By the way Steve, I'm with you on the Luau at the Polynesian. No thanks.

I love the Polynesian Resort…but not the Luau. Photo by Steve Russo.

As a reader of MousePlanet I enjoyed Steve's opinions and the discussions that they sparked. As a writer and a colleague, I appreciated his articles and his kind comments about my work. I'm glad that I could combine what I do and what he does in this Top 5.

I wish him all the best on his future magical journeys and maybe we'll finally meet up for a Dole Whip in Adventureland someday.

One of the things that I've always loved about being a contributing member of the vast Disney online community is that it's just that - a vast community of like minded individuals that came into existence all on its own and flourished. Steve was one of us, a significant member of our extended online family who did what he did just because of a love of Disney. His articles and especially his wonderful trip reports here on MousePlanet helped to keep the magic going for countless readers and fans long after we've left the parks and resorts behind. And that's why we do this, isn't it, to keep the magic alive when we can't be there ensconced in it? So, take John Lennon's hard earned words to heart; make sure you don't get so busy "making other plans" that you forget to live your life. It would have been nice to have that Dole Whip with Steve in Adventureland. It would've been real nice to, at the very least, have a few more discussions with him about that Disney magic that we all consider such a central fabric of our lives. I'm truly sorry that I missed out on all of that.

Luckily, we still have his words. All of Steve Russo's MousePlanet articles can be found right here in our archive. Take a moment and give them a read. You won't be disappointed. Steve wrote what he felt and you can't ask for much more than that from any writer. My sincerest condolences go out to his family, friends and loved ones and that includes all of us here on MousePlanet and everyone out there in our extended online family that had the pleasure of knowing him and reading his work.

That's all for this time. Click on the link below to share your thoughts and I'll see you next time with another Disney Top 5.



  1. By Mickey021

    Beautiful tribute to a great guy, Chris. I never got to meet Steve in person either, but as I think I've told you, my Mouseplanet journey began by reading your's and Steve's articles on alternate Fridays for years. His trip reports were always fun and funny and made us feel like we were right there with him. He was, as you said, one of us and will be sorely missed.

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