Musings From A Newly-Dubbed MouseFest Veteran
by Michelle Scribner-MacLean
[cue fanfare]I’d like to make an announcement. I am now a MouseFest veteran. After three years, I finally feel like I have to chops to give myself this title. Am I allowed to give myself this title? I’m not really sure. There may, in fact, be some sort of a MouseFest Committee that approves these sorts of things, but in lieu of presenting my case to such a committee, I will leave it up to you, dear reader. I will make my case as I describe my trip and allow you to decide if I’ve moved from newbie to veteran status.
Fact #1: Arrived EarlyIn years past, I arrived at MouseFest on the day everything was getting started. Bad move. It was like getting sucked into a whirlwind and I never really caught my breath. This year, however, I decided to arrive a day before things actually got started.
Early Wednesday morning I met my AEN buddy Mike Scopa at the airport and headed off to Orlando very early. (Mike and I make up the New Hampshire Bureau of AllEars). This was a good chance to compare schedules, chat, and for me to hear about the 107 meets that Mike was hosting (okay, it may have been more like 8, but it was making me exhausted just hearing about all that was on that guy’s plate!).
After we got to Orlando and checked into our respective resorts, we headed to Downtown Disney to meet Mike Newell (MouseWorld Radio and WDW Today podcast) and some other friends for a very relaxing, though noisy, lunch at a new restaurant that we all wanted to try, T-Rex.
Overall, I was underwhelmed by the restaurant, which template is largely based on The Rainforest Café: from the store on the outside to the podium where you check in, there are a lot of similarities. The theming has some interesting elements including a very large, animatronic octopus, an ice room, and a periodic meteor storm, but there are a few things other things that detract from the experience. As I mentioned, it was also very loud and not a good place to chat with friends, but also, it was pretty expensive (my salad was $13.99 and it was okay, but not worth that money).
Fact #2: Spent Time With Old Friends, Made New FriendsThe first year I went to MouseFest, I knew almost no one. As with any new experience, it was sort of a risk to go there, but I did go and had a nice time. I met up with a few people and left with the notion that it would be a good idea to get more involved in the Disney community: listen to more podcasts, read more of the writers, and join some of the Disney online boards so that I could get to know a few more people who had the same passion for Disney that I did.
Year two of MouseFest I was lucky enough to know a lot more people before I got there, but I also spent time with some MouseFest veterans, who introduced me to even more new experiences.
For year three, I found that I was approaching my planning in a new way: with my friends in mind. We spent months making plans, emailing schedules, planning ADRs. This year I knew that, rather only than run from meet, I wanted to make spending time with friends a big part of my experience. So I did.
I met some old friends, including Masayo from Japan, and delighted when several people came up to her, knew her name, and asked to have their photos taken with her. Masayo’s generosity, enthusiasm, and love of all things Disney are legendary.
I got to know some friends a bit better. One person who comes to mind is fellow AEN staffer Fred Block. I knew Fred a little bit from MouseFests past and from Magic Meets, but there I always see him race from place to place on a Segway. Fred and I are gadget lovers and got to have fun conversations about that, but on Monday we both participated in the recording of the WDW Today podcast Sip and Snack episode.
Basically, the idea is to choose one drink or snack as you travel around each of the countries at EPCOT. After spending several hours with Fred, I’ve decided that he is one of the most hysterically funny people I’ve ever met and I think he should have his own sitcom: The Fred Block Show. Watching him eat marzipan in Germany was just priceless (although I’m still not convinced that Fred actually knows what marzipan is even now).
I also got to meet some new friends, people who I will look for when I attend future MouseFests. Two people who quickly come to mind are Colin and Elisabeth from Georgia, who were spending their 5th anniversary at WDW and attending their first MouseFest. They brought so much enthusiasm to every meet that we went to that it was a pleasure to watch them enjoying themselves.
Through the kindness of Deb Wills, I was able to offer Colin and Elisabeth a “wish,” tickets to attend an AllEars Illuminations dessert party. As we stood there and watched the show together, I found myself looking forward to meeting up with these friendly WDW fans again.
Fact #3: Took Time to RelaxI’m not going to pretend that I got all of that much sleep at MouseFest – that is one MF skill that I’ve yet to master. However, I did take time during the week to do some really relaxing and fun things, away from the regular meets and meetings that I attended. First, I took the time to look at the holiday decorations at the different resorts. One afternoon I spent some quiet time at the Yacht Club, looking that the toy train set with a Disney touch.
Although I wasn’t staying at DVC resort during this trip, I did take about 30 minutes sitting by Storm-Along Bay at our home resort, Beach Club. It was wonderful, quiet, “me” time and I decided that sitting by this pool is is one of my “happy places” at WDW.
Finally, the most relaxing time of all during the week was courtesy of Deb Wills, who spoiled the AEN staff with a delicious dinner at the Gaylord Palms. While spending several hours chatting with friends was relaxing in itself, we were further spoiled with a visit to Ice. We live with lots of ice in the northeast, but never saw anything like this. I highly recommend this experience.
Fact #4: Tried New ThingsI always try to do some new things when I’m at WDW. Even with all my trips, I’ve yet to experience everything there is to do. In addition to attending several new meets, I tried out a few other new things. During the Sip and Snack, an AEN colleague recommended that I try the green tea ice cream in China. Here’s my reaction.
If you're unsure of what that face means, it means "not my cup of tea." (Pun intended). Thanks for that, Mr. Scopa.
It was also my first time trying the Illuminations Dessert party, a few other new restaurants, and it was my first time co-hosting an AEN meet at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, which was a lot of fun and a huge honor.
So, dear reader….I will leave the verdict to you. Am I now a MouseFest veteran? I think so.
Regardless of your vote, I hope to meet you there next year.
The previous post in this blog was Passholders' American Idol Experience Tour.
The next post in this blog is Capturing the Magic The All Ears Way.