Diary of a Mousemeeter – Mousemeets 2012

 

Like many of my fellow Mousemeeters this weekend I, and my family, made my way to Birmingham on Friday 4th May so we would be fresh to start the next morning’s festivities.

Saturday dawned, as it has a habit of doing, and we headed over to the Copthorne Hotel. After saying hello to Adam and Zoe, I left the family to it and sat down at the registration table. I love doing this to help out – I get to greet everyone and have a bit of banter before Mousemeets starts properly. I had Catherine Hooper and my daughter Jade helping out for a bit. Once everyone was signed in and issued with a lanyard we settled down at 10.30am for ‘Mousemeets 101’. Basically this was telling everyone what to expect; who our charity was this year, Great Ormond Street Hospital and how to donate (www.justgiving.com/mousemeets2012). There was a video from G.O.S.H. informing us about their history and the work the hospital does today. We also had a run through of the auction and how it would work. We were given information on the following day’s Electric Cinema visit and also on the pin and vinylmation trading event which would continue throughout the entire weekend.

At 11.15am we had a Q&A session with Len Testa, the guy behind the great TouringPlans.comand co-author of the Unofficial Guide to WDW; Len explained what Touring Plans was all about before submitting himself to the following…

Q. What first got you interested in Disney?
A. A trip with my Grandparents back in 1974. Most impressive were Pirates of the Caribbean and the flickering lights.

Q. How technical are your plans? Can you park hop?
A. We do separate plans per park, you input your start and stop times. Buffer time for travelling is included.

Q. Does the unofficial guide cover resorts too?
A. Yes. The accommodation section is the longest chapter in the book! I’ve personally visited every resort multiple times.

Q. How many staff are researching for you?
A. We have 6 full-time staff, plus 10 part-time and 20+ bloggers. We are growing by 2-3 people a year.

Q. The Unofficial Guide is big and the kids version is half the size. Will it be an e-book at all?
A. It is now. The adult guide is available on Kindle, Nook, etc.

Q. How do you generate the information for the crowd calendar?
A. We utilise the wait times to get this information. Certain wait times are better indicators than others, for example, Splash Mountain isn’t a good one as on New Year’s Eve, even though it’s cold, everyone wants to ride it! School schedules and public holidays are taken into account.

Q. Can you tell the Cast Member story please?
A. Sure. I was at The Great Movie Ride and the sign wasn’t reflecting the wait time. I asked a CM about the wait time, he pulls out his phone and uses the Touring Plans wait time app! I told them, you can’t do that, we use your wait times to create the app information! I also discovered that they use the app to work out which restaurant to work at to get extra tips!

Q. Are you a vinylmation collector?
A. No, but my partner Laurel is!

Q. Are you coming over for a revision soon?
A. Yes, I’ll be revising Southern Europe – Barcelona, Venice etc.

Q. What is your favourite resort and attraction?
A. My favourite moderate resort is Port Orleans Riverside for it’s architecture. The manors and bypasses are orderly and represent the distance from the city. Formality is more present closer to the centre whereas the Bayou buildings have trees and swamps. My favourite deluxe resort is the Polynesian because the setting and food are wonderful. Favourite ride has to be Splash Mountain for the theming and the fact that it’s family oriented.

Q. Have you booked into the new Animation resort yet?
A. No. It opens at the end of the month [May] and we will be there within a few days. It looks amazing and the media tour was great.

Q. Have you been to Storybook Circus yet?
A. Yes, it’s amazing. The water fountain underneath Dumbo is very pretty at night when it’s all lit up.

Q. The Fantasyland expansion is the biggest in years and is doubling the size of the area. How are you planning this for Touring Plans?
A. Well, the modelling for this started 6 months ago. If you add up the capacity of all of Fantasyland it’s comparable to 2 Space Mountains! With regards to the Little Mermaid ride, there is one in Disney California Adventure so we know what it will be like. The mine train is guesstimated as it’s a cross between Goofy’s Barnstormer and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. All Touring Plans are tested before the rides even open.

Q. Jim Hill came onto the show to talk Universal Studios, are you adding Universal to Touring Plans?
A. Yes, this year. Harry Potter’s Forbidden Journey queue area is SO detailed it’s unbelievable. The paintings and toilets are amazing, as is the sugar high of Butterbeer! I tried frozen. You could spend hours in the queue area and not see the same thing twice!

Half an hour later, at 11.45am it was time for Adam Goodger hosting WDW: How it all Began. This was an enthralling talk about Walt Disney building his dream. We learned about the progression and building of Walt Disney World. This talk was chock-full of great and interesting information; highlights include right at the beginning in 1963 when Walt had been running Disneyland for 8 years and the 1964 World’s Fair was fast approaching. The attractions that Walt placed there proved to be hugely popular; It’s a Small World and The Carousel of Progress both had huge queues. When Walt had started with Disneyland, he hadn’t bought enough land and once word got out that Disneyland was being built many other companies bought all the surrounding land. So bearing this in mind, Walt began looking for a new location. He looked all over, including St Louis and Washington DC but Florida was perfect. In 1964 Orlando became the chosen location as it was untouched and rural. To keep the secret, in 1965 dummy companies were set up to buy the surrounding land: Bay Lake Properties, Tomahawk Properties, M.T. Lot, Retlaw Enterprises, Reedy Creek Lands Corporation and I-4 Corporation. No-one twigged.

We were shown a press conference film where Walt and his associates talked a little about the Florida Project; it’s always nice to see footage of the man himself. There was also a video of the originally planned EPCOT, which of course was quietly shelved after Walt’s death at the end of 1966. Shortly after Walt died a name change was announced, the park would no longer be Disney World but WALT Disney World in honour of its creator.

The talk ended with the entire history of Walt Disney World in 2 minutes! Breathtaking! All in all this was a fascinating talk and very well presented by Adam.

Now while the adults were enjoying the Q&A with Len Testa and the talk on WDW, the kids were enjoying the first of the days activities aimed solely at them. This session was designing a vinylmation and run expertly by Zoe Goodger – the kids loved her!

The final event for the morning began at 12.30pm and was Disney Dining: Cash vs DDP. Hosted by Your Mousecast’s Chris Speed this was a very informative and in depth comparison of whether you should buy into Disney Dining Plan or just use your cash. This being Chris, there were lots of laughs, but it was also serious with plenty of photographs of the food as well as break-downs of the costs. There were some really great tips and recommendations and I know that a few of us jotted down more than one restaurant name. After a half hour of drooling over images of pizza, desserts and breakfasts (it was lunchtime after all), we were given the hard facts: the adult cost in cash was $722 compared to $721 on DDP and kids were $295 cash as opposed to $211 DDP. Very little in it really. But I’m sure Chris and his daughter enjoyed the research, and we appreciated the effort and information.

We broke for lunch and many of us made a beeline for Krispy Kreme and American Candy. To be quite honest, once we were all congregated again I’m surprised both places had anything left judging by all the bags and boxes!

At 2.30pm we all settled down once again for a bit of fun with Ratatouille’s Mocktail Competition. 2 tables were set up with blenders, glasses and ingredients; there were 2 rounds each played by 2 pairs of contestants; the team stood one behind the other with the player at the back being ‘the hands’ and the one in front giving directions. We had a judging panel made up of the kids here, what a job! Mocktail 1 was Abu Juice – banana, vanilla ice cream and a dash of caramel topped with banana and a cherry. Team 2 (Kymie and Tara) won this round. Mocktail 2 was Goofy’s Ooey Gooey – vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup, chocolate chip cookie and a chocolate swirl. Team 2 (Kimmie and Aron) won this one. The kids had great fun slurping away at, what was by the end, backwash cocktail! As a side note, Mr Craig Lucas nicknamed Adam ‘light-fingers Good-ger’ while wondering where all the Disney Cruise Line glasses came from!!

Once the sticky mess was cleared away, it was time for Your Mousecast: Live. We were treated to an opening video which was hilarious, if a little disturbing!! I must mention young Eve Lucas here, she truly is a star and adds much to the show. The video ended and in walked Chris Speed and Steve Dockree sporting Krispy Kreme hats. Alan Hooper came running in dressed as Mr Incredible! Yikes, hehe. There was a ‘technical issue’ and ‘explosion’ right at the beginning, then the guys started with Jim’ll Fix It starring Jim Korkis; it was hilarious – Jim talked incessantly while the guys ate doughnuts, had a drink and tried to get a word in edgeways. Eventually Jim was ‘cut off’ and the show moved on. All I can say is comedy gold! What we love about Disney was next, looking at and discussing a Disneyland Paris map, it was rather interesting. A real technical issue occurred when a Don Johnson video crashed – uh-oh. Brett Bennett from WDW Fanboys came on the tell us what Disney means to him, the Steve talked us through Photopass share: how to join or run a share. As we have only ever joined one it was enlightening to hear about running one. The lovely Eve was presented with 3 vinylmations as a thank you for all of her amazing voiceover work. Finally it was quiz time with ‘Guess the Ear’. There were 5 ears to guess who they belonged to: Mickey Mouse, Stitch, Lotso, Joe Rody and Jim Korkis. I’m proud to say that, thanks to Raymond, we have a trophy sitting on our mantelpiece. This part of the event was greatly anticipated and I’m glad to say the guys didn’t disappoint the crowd.

After a short break, in which the kids resumed their vinylmation creating – this time painting their designs onto 9” blanks, we regrouped for the afternoon screening of ‘The Grand Opening of Walt Disney World’. This was a really nice film to watch and it started with footage of Disneyland followed by a little about the ‘Florida Project’ and ‘EPCOT’. It was very interesting and lovely to see some historic footage, but it was also sad to watch Walt and his enthusiasm and realise that he would soon be done and never see his dream come to fruition. Next it was footage of the Grand Opening of WDW and it began with a highlight reel of rides and film clips. ‘The Wonderful World of Disney’ flashed up on the screen and there was Glenn Campbell walking through the fields singing along to his guitar. Julie Andrews riding the Monorail singing ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’ followed. Buddy Hackett and Bob Hope appeared. Well, I can’t write about all that happened in the film or I’d be here all day, so I’ll share with you the parts I enjoyed or sat up and took notice of. Firstly I was struck by how energetic the dancers were! Zipadeedoodah and whiplash anyone?

Buddy Hackett took to the screen with “All right you little beggars!” and the strangeness began… Buddy and his ‘family’ were having camping fun – all I can say is poor Margaret!! It was so funny. We left Buddy and co. for the Contemporary Hotel with Glenn Campbell and Bob Hope, who cracked some great old gags. An orchestra swelled and Julie Andrews is singing and dancing her way around the Magic Kingdom, closely followed by more Glenn then the Country Bears playing, and then more Glenn Campbell! There were some great clothes and hairstyles in the background!

The camera took us into The Hall of Presidents and it seemed as if we were going to be treated to the entire show, but thankfully it was cut short to return us to Buddy Hackett and the camping expedition. Poor Margaret was still wiped out after a 2 day drive and when a game of William Tell is suggested the poor woman ran away into the woods! Julie Andrews returned to the screen with a luau, fireworks and the Electric Water Pageant.

More manic dancing ensued with the lyrics “You think you have seen everything there is to see…” Well I did until I say this fabulous dancing!! Honestly, the men had more flounces than a dress shop!

We saw Mickey conducting animatronics, more snippets of film songs and then it was time for the big race. Chuck Hern commentated while Mark Donahue, Bobby Unzer, Jackie Stewart and Leonard ‘Buddy’ Hackett fought over the cars on the speedway track. Buddy ended up with Herbie! It raised a few chuckles.

Julie Andrews sang her way around It’s a Small World before Bob Hope said a few more words. Then it was parade time. A reprise of ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’ ended the film. I thoroughly enjoyed this, it was amusing and fun if a little over-long.

At 6.15pm it was time for Kelly Brice’s Disney Character Masterclass. As usual, Kelly took us through the process of drawing our very own Disney character, this year it was Stitch. It was lots of fun and Kelly has such a knack for getting the information across and making it fun.

There was time for a quick chat before we headed for Nando’s for the group meal where we all ate separately – it never seems to work out the way we’d like it… maybe next year we just bring in the picnic blankets and order in pizza, hehe. After eating some of the gang went to Wetherspoons whilst a few of us headed for Dis After Dark Live in the bar of the Travelodge Bullring. It was very funny and with a happy but spinning head I went to bed.

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Sunday came far too quickly and the hotel had some structural issues with spinning, but I hear it wasn’t just our hotel, so maybe it was something to do with Birmingham…

After breakfast we headed for The Electric Cinema to meet up with everyone for our private viewing of Beauty and the Beast. It was good fun to be in a group like this again. The film was great and enjoyed by all.

We grabbed lunch then made our way back to the Copthorne for Kez Francis’ illuminating talk on ‘Getting Married in Walt Disney World’. Like many of my fellow Mousemeeters, I had already seen Kez and Joe’s fabulous photographs on Facebook, but it was great to hear about their wedding in person. Kez started by telling us where you can get married, your options, prices and locations. She followed this with a run-down of what you need to do before the big day and tips on saving money on videography, photography and webcasting. Another tip was to wear wedding mickey ears and badges in the parks for more interaction. She talked a little about the option of in-park photography which was interesting. Kez also gave us ideas of how to help the folks at home celebrate, with great ideas for the table settings. She suggested having Disney music played for the guests – I love the idea of having a steel band play Disney tunes! We saw a little of her wedding video and I have to say Joe looked very handsome but Kez stole the show and was a stunning bride.

At 1.45pm we had a Q&A session with Disney Food Blog’s AJ Wolfe:

Q. (Joe) Can you take a rice cooker?
A. Yes you can!

Q. (Adam) What is your structure/procedure for booking ADR’s?
A. I’ve been a bit lax really in not booking 6 months out. But I’ve been doing the less popular places such as 9 Dragons.

Q. (Fred) Are you doing the Foody Fest next year?
A. Yes, October 1-8.

AJ talked some more about food and her favourite WDW restaurant, which is Le Cellier.

Q. (Fred) We’ve eaten at Kouzzina on the Boardwalk, what do you think of it?
A. I like it, but I like breakfast better than dinner.

Next up, 2pm, it was time for DisneyBrit: Live! This was the recording of episode 93. Kez ventured into the audience with the microphone getting lots of ‘hi’s’ from us. There was a round up of what had happened so far at Mousemeets 2012 followed by the news. We played a game of ‘Play Your Cards Right – vinylmation edition’ where a few audience members came up to guess whether a particular vinylmation was higher or lower in value than its predecessor. Joe Worthington was the undisputed winner.

There was a question from listener Amanda who wanted comparisons made between Orlando and DLP in December for accommodation and touring times. Suggestions included staying at the Sequoia Lodge or Newport Bay and she was told that the times for early December are not too bad. Christmas Day is fairly quiet but not New Year’s Eve or Day. Although the atmosphere is good it is packed out. Amanda’s 2nd question was regarding a leisurely sit-down meal. How much time would be needed for the 2 parks including this? She was told that 4 days for a laid-back trip including a few meals would be sufficient. This brought DisneyBrit: Live to an end.

At 3pm the kids shuffled off to decorate cakes for an hour and Jonathan Lewis-Jones gave his talk on ‘Becoming a Shareholder’ with DLP. Now as something had come up (probably child-related) I left Lee to take notes. Here’s what he had to say:

DLP opened on 12 April 1992. There had been a choice of sites in Spain, Paris or the South of France; of course Paris was the eventual winner. It opened as Euro Disney and remained named this until 1994. It had been suffering big losses. 1995-2001 saw it named Disneyland Paris and it became Disneyland Resort Paris in 2002. In 2009 it reverted to Disneyland Paris. There are 7 hotels, 5 convention venues and Val d’Europe which is a town owned by Disney, like Celebration. The future of DLP promises The World of Disney, a Ratatouille ride and restaurant, Star Wars land, Villages nature resort and water park, Toy Story Mania, an 8th hotel, a further convention centre and in 2030 a 3rd park.

The numbers for the park are as follows:

There are 14,500 Cast Members
56,000 direct and indirect jobs have been created
€50billion added to the value of the French economy since opening
DLP took €15.7million in 2011
51% of visitors are French
12% of visitors are from the UK
50% of DLP is owned by shareholders

Jonathan told us about the perks and discounts shareholders get which amounted to quite a few savings and the current share values. All shareholders receive a gold shareholders card. All in all a very interesting talk.

It was now 3.30pm and time for the much anticipated charity auction! We had 30 minutes to raise as much money as possible! This is how it went (in no particular order):

Vinylmation Disco Goofy £13
Tron Lightcycle toy £7
Disney Singalong cd & book £6
Signed Princess & the Frog poster £30
Storybook Circus canvas posters:
Canine Cannonball £110
Reckless Rocketeer £150
Wheel of Peril £160
Tiger Juggling £130
Barnstormer £130
Aquamaniac £210
Vinylmation bundle (14) £60
Light up Sorcerer Mickey £15
10 x UK ltd ed/400 4 pin TV character set £40 each
Hades ‘The Truth at Last’ book signed by Gerald Scarfe £11
2 x Signed Jungle Book promo cards £13 each
Florida Project 9” +3” vinylmation £52
1st class return, 2 people, Virgin rail tickets £51
Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage bundle £41
Kermit backpack £23
Rapunzel ltd ed doll £42
Ltd ed 1 of 2 Hand beaded Mickey Ears necklace £12
Framed Ariel cross-stitch £15
Signed Pocahontas Animation Collections doll £55
Full box Vinylmations: Villains 2 £210
Tinkerbell make-up and pin set £31
Irish Leprechaun vinylmation £25
Orange Bird vinylmation £56
Guest Host Spot on Unofficial Universal Orlando Podcast £6
Guest Host Spot on DisneyBrit Podcast £21
Original 1992 Park Release Souvnir poster £52
Signed and personalised Mary Poppins LP £35
2 x random blind bag o’ stuff £25 each

All in all we made £2235 for Great Ormond Street Hospital, with Mark Petar spending the most buying ALL of the Storybook Circus posters!

It was now time for another great Q&A session, this time with Bill Farmer, better known as the voice of Goofy, Gawrsh!

Q. What does it take to be Goofy?
A. Well, I had messed around with mimicry and loved animation, I would impersonate the characters and I found I could ‘do’ Goofy. I auditioned for the part and got it. I can also do Pluto, Mickey and Donald. I am the voice on the ride The Great Goofini.

Q. Which id your favourite Warner Bros. voice to do?
A. Well, I can do Bugs Bunny and Foghorn Leghorn, but I’d have to go with Foghorn Leghorn as, along with Disney’s Goofy, he was my favourite character growing up!

Q. Are you the voice of the DLP Goofy?
A. I am the voice of any English-speaking Goofy as well as in Kingdom Hearts and A Goofy Movie, which is very close to my heart.

Q. Is there any other character you’d like to play?
A. Well, I’d like to be able to ‘do’ Mickey and Donald better.

We also learned that Bill is quite rightly very proud to be a Disney legend and that there are a series of Fab 5 shorts in development.

At 4.30pm we had an hour-long trivia quiz which was great fun before breaking for refreshments or dinner. Upon returning we enjoyed a 1 ½ hour long session of Karaoke which was rather popular and lots of fun.

Before we knew it our time at Mousemeets 2012 was up and we were saying our tearful goodbyes to friends old and new. It was a lovely weekend, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and can’t wait to see what Mousemeets 2013 brings!