Reflections of MouseFest 2004

Feature Article

This article appeared in the January 11, 2005, Issue #277 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

Last year at this time, we were reflecting on MouseFest 2003 -- an event that we scarcely believed would ever come to fruition.

Really, who would have thought that hundreds of Internet community members who shared a love of Walt Disney World would ever manage to get together all in one place at the same time? And yet, somehow, that's what happened. MouseFest 2003 was the culmination of a dream to bring together people from around the world who had the common bond of Disney -- a chance for folks who had only met in cyberspace to make real contact, with the added benefit of being able to meet the Disney webmasters and guidebook authors they had been reading about.

But having done it once, would the organizers be able to pull it off again?

Apparently, the answer is YES. The first week of December 2004 saw yet another MouseFest. This year, nearly 200 people sailed on the Disney Cruise Line for four days, while even more Disney-lovers joined in the fun and festivities that followed on land at Walt Disney World. With 10 meets aboard the Disney Wonder cruise ship and more than 60 land meets, there was a wide variety of activities to choose from and in which to enjoy the magic with fellow Disney fans from around the world.

More than a dozen unofficial Disney website representatives and WDW guidebook authors attended a variety of get-togethers throughout the week, most notably the huge MegaMouse Meet held Saturday, December 11. More than 300 people visited the MegaMouse Meet, stopping by to chat with the webmasters and authors they only knew as names before.

As we observed last year, while the news media is quick to cover all the negative aspects of the Internet, one seldom hears about the positive effects this technology, which unites people from around the world, can achieve. Here are just some examples, illustrated by a few highlights of MouseFest 2004:

MouseFest 2004 Cruise: After a wonderful time on the MouseFest 2003 cruise, we wondered how the 2004 sailing would measure up. Well, it didn't take but a few minutes in Port Canaveral to know it was going to be a special time. Shouts and hugs were prevalent as folks reunited after a year apart. New faces were quickly brought into the group and we even picked up some folks who were nearby in the boarding line! It was very special to see so many people happily enjoying life and each other over the course of the four nights. With 200 MouseFest cruisers, it seemed you were always passing by someone wearing a MouseFest button, or a cabin door with a MouseFest magnet. There were quite a few meets, among them Dave Marx's tour of Nassau, Deb Wills' early morning walk on Deck 10, and Steve Barrett's Hidden Mickey hunt. Several folks sailed solo, and as one person put it, "I was traveling alone, and they made sure I was made to feel welcome and part of the group." Many folks even signed up for the 2005 MouseFest cruise before leaving the ship.

Kilimanjaro Safari Meet: The fifth annual Safari meet kicked off a weekend full of events at Walt Disney World. About 85 folks awoke early to tour the savanna and get rid of those poachers. We filled several jeeps and had the good fortune to not only see the baby elephant, but also have a great view of one of the mandrills. Many thanks to the Kilimanjaro Safari Cast Members who did their best to keep us all together.

Mousy Mindboggler Animal Kingdom Adventure: Rain, rain, go away! Florida's December weather is so unpredictable, and we had one of those really "iffy" days on December 10, for the Mousy Mindboggler's Animal Kingdom Adventure. Never mind, nearly 30 intrepid, poncho-wearing riddle-lovers, both young and, well, younger, showed up at Pizzafari that damp and dreary afternoon. After hearing what the Adventure entailed from Chief Mindboggler Deb Koma, the groups divided into teams and gamely agreed to go on a Mindboggler scavenger hunt, solving riddle clues to find creatures in four different areas of Animal Kingdom despite several rainstorms. (Hey! We said it would be an Adventure!) In a true display of the bonding power of MouseFest, winners of the Adventure were three women who decided to team up rather than work as individuals -- they had never met until that day, and yet they banded together and managed to solve all four riddles first to capture first prize: a Deb Wills Tchotchke Special bag of mixed Disney-related trinkets. Congratulations to Lisa Berton, Amy Stoll, and Susan Rehwalt!

The MegaMouse Meet: What a day! The meeting rooms that we occupied at the Walt Disney World Swan hosted a steady steam of Disneyphiles from 1 to 3 p.m. on December 11, as folks anxious for the chance to meet their favorite Disney guidebook authors and webmasters, as well as members of the Internet communities of which they are a part, gathered for the second annual MegaMouse Meet. Greeters welcomed all comers and folks mingled with (to name just a few): Disney guidebook authors Jennifer and Dave Marx (PassPorter), Bob Sehlinger (Unofficial Guide to WDW), Dann Hazel and Josh Fippen (Making Memories), and Steve Barrett (Hassle-Free WDW Vacation and Hidden Mickeys Field Guide), as well as Disney website owners including Deb Wills (allears.net), Mike Scopa (mouseplanet.com), Mary Waring (mousesavers.com), Dave Card (Tagrel.com) and Binnie Betten (themouseforless.com). We were excited to see many of our cyberfriends from the newsgroup RADP (rec.arts.disney.parks) stop by after their annual big meet and greet as well. And we tried not to forget our younger Disney Internet fans -- while the adults circulated at their leisure, children were occupied at the new kids' table with coloring books, stickers, and pin-trading, under the supervision of MouseEarVacation.com travel agents Coleen Bolton and Joy Gray. The turnout exceeded all expectations, and wheels are in motion to make MegaMouse Meet 2005 even better!

Adventurers Club Private Party: Folks who had booked a MouseFest package through MouseEarVacations.com were able to take advantage of a special treat -- a private party at the Adventurers Club on Saturday night. What an extravaganza! The evening began with a hot buffet arranged around the main salon of the club, which was decked out in its Christmas finery. The food was outstanding -- two kinds of ravioli, chicken satay on skewers, grilled mixed vegetables, spring rolls, and the most tender beef medallions. There was also a good selection of cheeses and crackers, and fresh fruit. The tables in the Library were set to accommodate diners, while servers came around taking orders for complimentary red or white wine or soft drinks. The club members soon came around to entertain -- just about the entire cast of characters was in attendance, from President Pamelia Perkins to that rogue Hathaway Brown to Emil Bleehall and Graves the Butler. There was even a rare appearance by gypsy Madame Zarkov, who made mystical prognostications and even sang. Partygoers were also treated to special shows in the Mask Room, and it wasn't long before Babylonia herself took to teasing PassPorter's new dad, Dave Marx. Hot cha cha, what a dancer! After a scrumptious light chocolate cake, topped with white chocolate frosting and fresh fruit for dessert, not to mention lots more entertainment from the Adventurers, the private party drew to a very happy conclusion.

Magic Kingdom Tours: DisneyCentral's Scott Liljenquist hosted Magic Kingdom tours by Jim Hill: "Over the course of two days, 50 people endured the weather, the walking, and the nonstop commentary of Mr. Hill during this year's MouseFest tours. Although folks had to search for cover from wet weather more than once, all in attendance were treated to wonderful tours filled with all sorts of Disney facts, trivia, and rumors."

IllumiNations Cruises: All totaled, 200 Disney-lovers enjoyed this year's IllumiNations Cruises as part of MouseFest. The boats cruised the waterways for nearly an hour before settling under the bridge in Epcot to watch the fireworks and laser show. Everyone got an upclose and personal view of the beautiful holiday finish to the traditional IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth. It was a very, very special treat.

Trivia Meet: Monday afternoon, Lou Mongello, author of The Walt Disney World Trivia Book, hosted -- what else? A trivia meet. The day was absolutely perfect weather-wise, in the 70s. The group staked out a spot by the outside umbrellas at the Backlot Express, with the Star Tours AT-AT walker looming overhead. Lou was amazed at the number of people who attended and had three rounds of play plus some tie-breakers. Some notables tried their best at winning their round, including Dave Marx and Deb Wills (who finished behind SamIAm), as well as Disney trivia buff James Dezern. Winners had a choice of WDW Trivia Books, shirts, or pins, as well as signed copies of Cara Goldsbury's Luxury Guide to WDW and beautiful Epcot lithographs kindly donated by Jason (TrendyMagic).

Breakfast at Fresh: One of the last MouseFest meets on the schedule, held Monday morning at the Walt Disney World Dolphin restaurant Fresh, was billed as a "Breakfast Meet with Allears.net's Deb Wills, and The Unofficial Guide's author Bob Sehlinger." Sadly, Bob had a family emergency and couldn't attend, but he sent more than capable Len Testa and Fred Hazelton armed with giveaways galore -- autographed copies of books in the Unofficial Guide series (yes, they write about places other than WDW!) and t-shirts. About 40 people managed to get out of bed in time for the early morning buffet (yes, 8:30 a.m. is early when you're on vacation!), while Deb Wills and members of the Allears.net team, including Senior Editor Deb Koma, Photographer Dotti Saroufim, Anita Answer columnist Andrea McKenna, and Cathy Bock (technical support), had the chance to exchange stories with their readers... and new friends!

There were so many more scheduled, as well as impromptu, meets, dinners and gatherings, that we couldn't possibly include them all here -- we guess the best thing is for us to sum up with the very old clich "A good time was had by all!"

MousePlanet's Mike Scopa put it so eloquently: "During my week I visited only six attractions. I had other important things to do like shake hands and hug members of my extended Disney family. It all comes back to Walt Disney. I know you've heard it before, but it bears telling one more time. Walt Disney's plan all along was to build something that not just children would enjoy, but whole families could enjoy together. In his own indirect way Walt Disney was very much influential some 50 years ago for what happened this past week. Was last week MouseFest week? Not to me. Last week was Disney family week and I will always Remember the Magic!"

THANK YOU to everyone who participated in MouseFest 2004: the MegaMouse Meet special guests and greeters, and the staff at MouseEarVacations.com for volunteering where needed, and for arranging such great land and sea accommodations and extras. And of course our very special thanks to all of you who attended -- you are why we did this, and why it was such a great success!

We have already begun planning for MouseFest 2005, which begins with the land events next November 29, and is followed by a four-night Disney Wonder Cruise on December 4! For full details check the new MouseFest website at: http://mousefest.org

See you next year at MouseFest 2005, OK? Plan on it!

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Want to read how it all began? http://allears.net/ae/issue221.htm

Want to see some photos of the festivities? We're building a scrapbook -- check back here as we add more to it, and if you have photos you'd like to share, please send them along: http://allears.net/btp/mf/mf2004.htm

Also, for those of you who participated in MouseFest this year, please take our MouseFest Survey at: http://surveymonkey.com/s.asp?u=41073785290

To make next year even better, we'll need your help and honest feedback!


-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-

Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.