Friday, December 19, 2008

MouseFest PTR

So last weekend I had the oppurtunity to experiance my very first MouseFest. I had really high expectations for the event, because it was talked about in such high regard from all the big Disney websites & podcasts, the event not only lived up to the hype, it exceeded it. I had an absolute blast, met sooooo many people, made a lot of friends and had a time I will remember for a while.

I arrived in the Orlando Airport right on time and hopped on the Magical Express bus to Disney property. Check In at the Carribean Beach resort was very slow, probably due to the fact that all the cast members working the desks were members of the international program. I like the fact that the CM's you meet are from everywhere, but they should really spread them out more cause they are far slower then the regulars. If there was one part of the trip I wasn't thrilled about it was staying at the Carribean Beach Resort. The place although very well themed, was just too big. You had to get on a internal bus system to get from check in to your room or your room to the food court, I didn't like this at all. I won't be staying there again for a long time.

I had a little bit of time so I headed over to Downtown Disney. Of course because I wanted to punish myself, I had to walk past the closed Adventurers Club.

Sad, indeed. I did grab a drink at the outdoor bar across the street from the Adv Club, but unfortunately they weren't serving the Kungaloosh that night. I did ask the bartender and she said they do serve the Adv Club concoction, but only one bartender knows how to make it.

With drink in hand I explored the rest of Downtown Disney. I checked out the T Rex Cafe, which was neat, but I think the pictures I have seen make it look cooler then it was. The highlight of DTD for me now that the clubs are closed is the massive World Of Disney Store. I perused for a while and ended up buying a set of 8 action figures (because I'm a huge dork) which features different characters from the famous attractions like Figment & Big Al. I also noticed they had started construction on "Characters In Flight" the large balloon ride being built near the west entrance to Pleasure Island.

But it was off to bed early, because there was Extra Magic Hours at the Magic Kingdom at 8 AM. The MouseFest activities didn't really get going until after lunch, so I spent the morning exploring MK. Here are some thoughts from that:

- Space Mountain is stuck in 1981
- The pirate who used to wear about 5-6 hats..... now doesn't
- The Haunted Mansion upgrades are still great
- I saw a giant Florida bird swoop down and steal a mans churro, one of the funniest/oddest things I ever seen in WDW

I was only in the Magic Kingdom for about two hours before hopping on the monorail to the Polynesian to grab my favorite breakfast treat in Disney World, which is of course TONGA TOAST

If you've never experianced Tonga Toast, its deep fried sourdough bread with bananas inside and topped with powdered sugar. While it is a 'Brick Of Death' it is delicous. If you've never been to the Poly, its one of the best Disney resort, this is the lobby:

After breakfast I moved one stop over on the monorail to check out the christmas decor at the Grand Floridian. Which like the Poly is another beautiful Disney property:

The star of the holiday festivities at the Grand Flo is of course the life size gingerbread house. This is very cool and actually has a shop inside it where you can buy cookies.

Soon after that it was time to head over to the Contemporary to start MouseFest!! Walking around the Contemporary I found this sweet baseball themed skeeball machine:

Then it was time for MouseFest 101 which was a talk given by Mark Goldhaber of MousePlanet and Mike Scopa from WDW Today. They talked about the history of the event, some of the big meets, and some tips for those that haven't been before. Then MouseFest founder Dave Marx from Passporter officially welcomed everyone to MouseFest and we all enjoyed a nice spread of snacks.

The talks were very good, but there wasn't too much time to socialize before it was back to the Magic Kingdom for Mike Scopa's annual Dole Whip Meet. This was one of the more popular meets and had some cool swag that came along with it. That was one of the neat things about MouseFest, each meet you went to the host would give out a pin to hang on your lanyard and by the end of the weekend there wasn't much room left on the lanyards. Shortly after the Dole Whip, I went to the Monsters Inc Laugh Floor (MILF for short) for the Comedy4Cast meet. This was one of the more fun meets because the host gave all that attended Groucho Marx goofy glasses, here is a picture of the group:

We got on the big screen during the show as a group and had a blast. I ate dinner at Pecos Bills (home to the famous fixins bar). Shortly after nightfall it was time for Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. Now not only was this my first time at MouseFest, but it was also my first time at WDW during Christmastime. I really enjoyed all the Christmas things I saw during my visit and I think those during the party were the most well done, as a big part of a day at the Magic Kingdom is that 'Warm & Fuzzy' feeling and that only is amplified with all the extra Christmas activities going on. The most obvious decoration is the lit up Cinderella Castle:

While this may seem great in pictures or youtube videos, it really needs to be seen to be believed, it's a breathtaking sight. I really enjoyed the two live stage shows during the party, both were well done. I was a little let down by the parade, as I had sky high expectations after the awesome Boo To You parade during the halloween party. The highlight of the night had to be Holiday Wishes fireworks spectactular. It was a great show and mixed with the snow on main street made for a great time. The party also included complimentarty cookies and hot chocolate, I didn't care much for the cookies but LOVED the hot Cocoa.

The next morning began with a few hours at Disney's Animal Kingdom. I grabbed a fastpass for Everest and then headed to Africa to grab a delicous pastry and head off to the all ears meet. The All Ears meet had some of the best swag in the weekend including change purses, hats and buttons. The Everest meet was very popular, us MouseFesters took up I think somewhere between 3-4 full trains. Yeti is still in B show for those wondering. I grabbed rides on other DAK classics Kilamanjaro Safari's & Dinosaur before heading to the Studios for the afternoon.

I got to the studios a little bit earlier with hopes to grab a fastpass for Toy Story Mania, but it was a popular day and they were all gone by the time I got there around noon. After lunch the MouseFest gang filled 1.5 starspeeders at Matt Hotchberg's Star Tours meet. I got the whole Muppetvision experiance at MuppetMeets including going through the extend queue which I didn't even know existed, and is filled with posters that are, very Muppet.

Podfest was the next event and was a lot of fun. Podfest is a chance for podcasters to meet their suscribers and each other. There were about 30+ podcasters there and a lot of good conversation. This was held at a restaurant that served beer, which only added to the fun. I have listened to some of the big disney podcasts for years and it was great to put faces to the voices I've listened to forever.

It was a busy day at the studios (Toy Story Mania was at least 60 minutes all day) but I got on the rest of the rides. The upcoming American Idol Experiance actually has a pretty cool looking exterior, and from the outside appeared to be ready to open any day now.

Once night fell it was time for the Osborne Festival Of Dancing Lights which is another one that has to be seen to be believed. The large scale dancing segments were mesmerizing, but the display had a lot of little touches like bikes covered in lights and plenty of hidden mickeys. One thing, I bought a souvenir cup filled with Hot Apple Cider and it was awful. The cider was boiling hot and tasted like pee........... I recommend avoiding it if your at the studios.

After the lights it was back to Carribean Beach for a much needed good night sleep.

But before long it was up for Day 3 at EPCOT. I grabbed a ride on Soarin' & Living With The Land before heading over to the Beach Club for the Mega Mouse Meet. The Mega Mouse Meet is the 'main event' of MouseFest, it is in a big convention hall and has lots of tables from podcasters, authors, advertisers and websites. There are lots of giveaways and raffles at the meet, I didn't win anythingn but had fun.

I caught a ride on the Universe Of Energy with some of the guys from The DPN, it is one of the more boring attractions at WDW.

One of the highlights of the afternoon from me was watching the World Showcase Players. Does this guy look familiar:

That is my favorite performer from the old Adventurers Club and he was absolutely hilarious in his role at EPCOT. He was in a heavily guest interaction re-telling of A Christmas Carol. He noticed a few of us MouseFesters in the crowd that rememberred him from his old role, and promptly gave the club salute and a hearty Kungaloosh. The actor played many differnt roles including Marley & the three ghosts. The best laugh came when he was the third visiting ghost, but instead of 'The Ghost Of Christmas Future' he had a Mickey Mouse hand puppet behind a screen and was 'The Ghost of ChristMOUSE Future' and proclaimed "Think its expensive now, just wait. Its going to be fifty dollars for parking, one hundred dollars for a hamburger and there going to close everything you love!" which had a high level of signifigance coming from the former Professor Otis T Wren. Good show, I highly recommend.

Now I have no idea why they were there, but the guys from Deadliest Catch were signing autographs in the Norway pavillion.

They were very cool down to earth guys and were laughing when I told them of our old Deadliest Catch drinking game we would play back in college when we'd drink every time anyone on the show said 'Crab' or 'Pot'.

After dinner things got really fun. I drank halfway around the world including listening to The Hat Lady piano player for a while in the Rose & Crown pub. I probably had a good 6-7 drinks before Illuminations, which had a special Christmas tag which was spectacular.

Then it was off to the Jellyrolls Dueling Piano Bar meet. This place was a lot of fun and is definetely the bar on disney property now that they closed PI. I got really drunk that night as well, I went in with a pretty good buzz and just drank drank drank. And since it was a piano bar there was plenty of booze inspired singing along from the MouseFesters in attendence, which included some very popular podcasters. This was the drunkest I been in a long time and my memory of the latter half of the evening is spotty at best. I do remember meeting some very cool people ......... and I think the piano player actually played and encouraged a drunken singalong of "Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow". Great Night.

That night was great, the next morning was complete hangover hell. The Magic Kingdom is no place to be hungover. Sunday was kind of a finish up day for me at MouseFest. I met my In The Loop Co-Host Erik Yates for lunch over at the Spectacular Wilderness Lodge.

The only real meet I did on Sunday was Ricky Brigante's Inside The Magic meet. I have met Ricky a few times now, cool guy. This was I think the first time I was ever actually on the riverboat.

Saturday & Sunday, they had a great sale going on including 40% of all T Shirts. I ended up buying four, three by choice and the 'Grumpy' long sleeve I was wearing in the picture above with the deadliest catch guys to avoid freezing at EPCOT, it gets colder then you'd think in Florida December.

MouseFest came to an end for me around 4:30ish for me and the depression hit as soon as I left the magic kingdom that afternoon. I actually was on my Magical Express ride home with a fellow MouseFester who I ended up chatting with until it was time to board the plan. It was those kind of friendships and conversations that really make MouseFest as much fun as it is. I met sooo many people and made sooo many friends. A great time, you can be sure that I will be at MouseFest 2009.

People I Met
Mike Scopa, Len Testa, Matt Hotchberg & Mike Newell (WDW Today)
Lou Mongello (WDW Radio Show)
Dave Marx (Passporter)
Mark Goldhaber (MousePlanet)
Clinton (Comedy4Cast)
Ricky Brigante (Inside The Magic)
Mike (MouseStation)
Jana (LTAD)
Bryan Ripper (All About The Mouse)
Northern Mouse Guys
The Crew From Disney Indiana Podcst

Ride Count
Space Mountain
Pirates Of The Carribean (3x)
Jungle Cruise
Peter Pan's Flight (2x)
Snow White's Scary Adventure's
The Many Adventurers Of Winnie The Pooh
Haunted Mansion (4x)
Mickey's Philharmagic (2x)
Country Bear Jamboree
Monsters Inc Laugh Floor
Tomorrow Land Transit Authority (2x)
Stitch's Great Escape
Castle Light Show
Mickeys Twas The Night Before Christmas
Its A Small World
Celebrate The Season
Christmas Parade
Holiday Wishes
Expedition Everest
Kilamanjaro Safari
Rock & Roller Coaster
Star Tours
Tower Of Terror (2x)
Great Movie Ride (2x)
Living With The Land
Universe Of Energy
Tiki Room
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Liberty Bell

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