We’re going to try something different on this trip and try to post some more updates during the trip (in addition to coverage once it’s completed.) Here are some thoughts about the first night and day of the trip:
Homecoming turned out to be pretty good (even if I was a little miffed at some of the seating mishaps when we arrived.) The “famous fried” chicken was good, and Elyssa enjoyed her “dinner of sides” (mac & cheese, mashed potatoes, and biscuits.) I can think of a couple of local NC places with better fried chicken, but not to the point where I wouldn’t go back to Homecoming. Getting to enjoy the meal with Eric and Kristi certainly helped things, too.(BOATHOUSE is still our top choice, but Homecoming & Morimoto are pretty close to each other in second.)
Kona Cafe breakfast is still fantastic. We had a 7:30AM ADR to load up on Tonga Toast (Elyssa, as always, was a “big kahuna”) before heading over to watch the Welcome Show at the Magic Kingdom (which we sometimes forget to enjoy because we’re too amped to get to our first attraction.)
Rope drop remains a great way to get a bunch of stuff done as your start your day. (We had a number of our favorite attractions–Buzz, Under the Sea, Jungle Cruise, Pirates–done before 10 am with–essentially–no waiting.
When it comes to viewing Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire, Josh from easyWDW is not wrong when he recommends standing right near the top of the slope in back of the partner’s statute. I walked to that spot about 30 seconds before the show started and got an (almost) unobstructed view of the whole thing (thanks, random guy with the giant balloon who moved up front for the finale.) It was a great vantage point for a really fun, enjoyable show.
Of course, the highlight of our trip so far was getting to meet up with friend of the site, host of Mighty Men of Mouse and all around great guy, Dutch Lombrowski. Dutch took some time out of his night to come join Elyssa and me, ride of Splash, and catch up all various things (that have happened over the 3+ years we’ve known each other.) As an added bonus, always entertaining Gosh Jonzalez joined us for the last hour or so of the night as well. It was great hanging out with both of them.
That’s all for this early trip update. The idea is that we’ll post more soon (but we’ll see how that goes.)
One of the things I enjoy about working on Rope Drop [dot] Net is finding out about new and upcoming resources for Disney information. Though I’m woefully behind on updating the Disney Podcast directory with all of the most recent submissions, one recent recommendation by friend of the site Dutch Lombrowski piqued my interest: Backside of Magic. With the recent departure of the original cast from WDW Today, I have been looking for a replacement Disney podcast that fills that same informative, analytical slot in my playlist, and Dutch’s recommendation was all I needed to give Backside of Magic a shot.
Summary of the Show So Far
To date, there have been 3 actual episodes of the show (and 2 mini / placeholder-type ones.) So far the format of the show seems to be:
A summary of important Disney World news;
“Preposterous Ponderance”, in which one host gives the other host a “preposterous” scenario and asks for his opinion on it (James Rosemergy would be proud); and
The weekly topic.
The first episode’s weekly topic covered resources the hosts, Ryan and Jeremy, use to gather their information. Though probably not earth-shattering information to seasoned Disney travelers, knowing where they get their information helps validate their authority. (Yes, they did mention reading this site. I thank them for that, but it was really Dutch’s recommendation that got me to listen, not any kind of quid pro quo as a result of a site mention.) The second episode was a discussion about certain challenges that might arise when planning a Disney vacation (e.g., how to get Fastpass+ selection for a large group with different check-in days). Again, not particularly Earth-shattering information, but it does hint at the level of detail that hosts Ryan and Jeremy may be able to reach as their show continues to develop.
The weekly topic, saving money on Disney gift card purchases, was equally enlightening. The hosts provided 4 levels of “difficulty” in getting increasing amounts of discounts on Disney gift cards, and then explained how to apply those gift cards to your upcoming vacation. Even as someone who has previously written about managing Disney gift cards, I still learned a lot from this segment. (That said, I’m still firmly in the “you can’t pay your rent with a gift card” camp, and I encourage everyone to be smart about your gift card purchases when you have other expenses, limited funds, etc…) The segment also made me excited about the tips for saving on airfare that were teased for next week’s show. If that discussion is half as a good as the gift card one, I think it will be a real winner.
Looking to the Future
After listening to 3 episodes, I’m optimistic that Backside of Magic can be a strong entry in the Disney podcast space. Ryan and Jeremy seem to have a knack for making analytical connections related to certain news items, and I’m interested to see how they continue to apply that skill as the show continues to grow. With such a young show, there is plenty of fresh ground they have not previously covered that is ripe for their analysis.
Of course, as Tony Kornheiser tells aspiring radio hosts: “Anyone can do a Monday show. What’s your Thursday show going to be?” In other words, what are you going to do when all the major topics have been talked about. It’s too early in the life of Backside of Magic to know what they’ll do on their “Thursday” show, but if these first 3 episodes are any indication, I think they’re going to be fine.
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.