One of the things Elyssa and I want to emphasize with this site is the great Disney fandom community that we feel fortunate to be a part of. This Interview Series is part of that effort.
Dutch Lombrowski is one of the co-hosts of the award winning Mighty Men of Mouse podcast. Fans of that podcast know him for his humor, analytical thinking, and love of the L’Artisan des Glaces “Croque Glacé” brioche ice cream sandwich. Elyssa and I know him as a friend, and one of the people we are most looking forward to sharing a drink at Trader Sam’s with some day. In other words, he is the perfect person for the first entry in the Rope Drop [dot] net interview series.
NOTE: My questions are in bold, and Dutch’s responses follow. The questions have been cut down from what I originally asked and responses have been lightly edited to make the interview easier to read, but all efforts have been made to preserve their original meaning and substance. All links were added by me.
On Mighty Men of Mouse, you talk about going to Disney World when you were younger. What are some of your earliest memories from Disney World?
My family’s first trip to Disney World was in August 1987 when I was five. My dad had just been hired for a new job and my parents made the decision to head down before his start date. We stayed at either a Quality Inn or Comfort Inn. I can’t remember and I’ve even tried to find the hotel on Google, but I’ve come up empty so far. The hotel was no great shakes either way, but it did have an okay arcade.
I don’t remember much about the trip. I have a dim memory of eating in Cinderella’s Castle on my parents’ anniversary. It was King Stefon’s Banquet Hall then. There’s a foggy recollection of eating at Liberty Tree Tavern and watching the Main Street Electrical Parade. My strongest memory is from our last day. We were sitting at the little table in our hotel room and my mom was trying to hide her tears behind oversized sunglasses. I was so happy when she said, “I think we’re going to come back.”
After that we went every year through the early nineties. From then on and through college, it was two, three or even four times a year. We stayed at Caribbean Beach Resort a few times after it opened. When we received a phone offer to stay at the Beach Club the year it opened, we gave it a try. From then on, it the was the Yacht or Beach every trip.
Have your trips always had such a strong family component?
Trips have always been about family. I took a four year layoff from Disney between 2006 and 2010. That timeframe pretty much accounts for my graduation from law school, getting married, establishing my career and the birth of my daughter. Millie joining our little family is the spark that reignited my Disney passion.
I never took a guy weekend or trip like that down. That’s not because I haven’t desperately desired to. Sometimes the real world can get in the way of our hobby.
The one time I was down there with a friend was a little bit of serendipity. When I was 13 or so, I bumped into my best friend from elementary school and junior high. I was in the big store on Hollywood Boulevard when I saw his grandma. After I picked my jaw up off the floor, she told me their whole family was waiting for a table to 50’s Prime Time. I snuck over there and sat down next to Chris on the couch in the waiting area. He noticed me after 15 long seconds. We all ate lunch and then I got to spend the rest of the day with him. The highlight of the day was heading over to Magic Kingdom during a huge afternoon storm and riding Dreamflight six or seven times in a row. That will probably go down as one of the favorite days of my life.
One of the things that really makes Mighty Men of Mouse stand out is the analytical approach that you guys take to things. How did you start looking at Disney World in this way?
My first few jobs were working on political campaigns and in state government. At a very young age, I learned to take hard looks at things and figure out what worked and why. From there, my biggest epiphany came 2003 with the release of Moneyball by Michael Lewis. Moneyball is about how a small market baseball team was able to succeed on limited resources. At its heart, Moneyball is about the process of valuing things and exploiting market inefficiencies.
It was an easy transition to bring these principles to discussions about our hobby because that’s the way we think about the world. It makes for fun discussions too. It’s easy to just say that something isn’t worth doing because of what Disney charges. It’s much more rewarding and fun to figure out what breakfast at Be Our Guest is actually worth.
Someone comes to you and says “I’m taking a trip to Walt Disney World next year. I’ve got the Unofficial Guide and I’ve started going through it. Anything else I should know?” What do you tell her?
Be at the turnstiles 45 minutes before the park opens and see the most popular stuff right away. If she seems open to the advice, a couple restaurant suggestions tailored to her family situation might be helpful too.
As people who love the parks, we can sometimes really overwhelm “normies” with information and that clutter doesn’t serve them well. Most people care about avoiding lines and seeing “the big stuff.” Getting to the parks early does 95% of the work. TouringPlans is a great service and optimizes at the edges, but it won’t make your day easy if you show up at 2pm.
If the person I’m giving advice is really Type A, I’d also point her to easyWDW. If there’s a review of her hotel or a restaurant she’s seeing, I’d her send the link to those reviews.
First, a huge thank you to Dutch for being our first interview subject. When I thought about doing this, I was kind of nervous if (1) anyone would say yes and (2) if I would be able to ask good enough questions to let my subjects shine. Thankfully, Dutch’s answers were (unsurprisingly) stellar from the get-go, regardless of the quality of my questions.