This week, Elyssa and I were fortunate enough to be invited onto the Mighty Men of Mouse Podcast to discuss The Last Jedi. As you probably know (if your follow our Twitter streams), Elyssa and I are huge fans of the movie, but Mighty Men of Mouse host Dutch Lombrowski has more mixed feelings. Known defender of the Star Wars prequels, Matt S was a wild card going in (so I’ll let you listen to see how that plays out.)
As always, it was fantastic being on MMoM and I hope everyone enjoys listening!
Big week for Elyssa and me, as the guys at Mighty Men of Mouse invited us on to talk about one of our favorite movies of all time: The Empire Strikes Back. I felt a lot of pressure for this one, since Empire is such a great movie. I hope you enjoy our discussion starting at the mark in MMoM Episode 321.
One of the things Elyssa and I have really enjoy about running Rope Drop [dot] Net is building relationships with people in the Disney and related communities. So, when someone from that community does something that we think is really awesome, we like to let you know. Today is one of those times.
Recently, friends of the site, Mighty Men of Mouse released a very special podcast (No, not the “learn a life lesson” kind of very special, a “super awesome” kind of very special) where they sample all 43 flavors of donuts from Allie’s Donuts in North Kingstown, RI. It’s an amazing listen as the guys sample and describe some of the best donuts available in the U.S. I highly encourage you to check it out.
Today is a big day here are Rope Drop [dot] Net HQ, as Elyssa and I are proud to announce a new collaboration with the fabulous Mighty Men of Mouse podcast: The Rope Drop [dot] Net Mic Drop. The Mic Drop will be a recurring segment on the MMoM podcast (probably around every 3-5 weeks) during which Elyssa and I will discuss some of the recent happenings we’ve been writing about on the site. If that sounds good to you (and we hope it does), then you can check out the very first Rope Drop [dot] Net Mic Drop in this week’s MMoM episode! In this segment we talk about our recent trip and highlight some of the places that we ate. We hope that you enjoy it. (Also during this episode of MMoM, Elyssa enters the Disney Podcaster’s Studio with Russ Liption and answers “the questionnaire.”)
Of course, this post would be incomplete without thanking Dutch, Russ, and Kip for inviting Elyssa and I to join them on their show. Elyssa and I have been singing the praises of Mighty Men of Mouse since long before we started Rope Drop [dot] Net, and we are honored that the guys asked us to be even a small part of it.
We talked yesterday about the changes coming to Wine & Dine Half Marathon weekend at Disney World, but what are we to do with the news of menu changes, new dessert parties, and (sadly) more price increases? Sounds like it’s time for another edition of the Rope Drop [dot] Net News Nuggets! Before we get to the majority of the Nuggets, we should need to point out one huge item:
With that out of the way, let’s get to the rest of the News Nuggets:
New Wishes Dessert Party Debuts at Narcoossee’s – Huh. I know Disney loves it’s dessert parties, but this location seems like a bit of a stretch. I really like Narcoossee’s, but I don’t think of it as a great place to watch Wishes from.
Special Easter Entertainment Coming to the Magic Kingdom – The Easter season is an especially busy time at Disney World, so it should be no surprise to see Disney adding a bunch of extra entertainment during that period. That said, the other recent cutbacks on staffing, etc… mean these additional offerings were a little more ‘up in the air” than in past years.
I’m surprised no one thought of this sooner, but Elyssa and I recently joined the guys from Mighty Men of Mouse and Wes James to record a podcast about a recent movie that might have slipped under your radar: Star Wars – The Force Awakens.
In this one-off episode, we talk about the staying power of the original trilogy, why the prequels were such colossal failures (I may have been the only one with that opinion), and a host of other Star Wars-related nerdery (that might not be an actual word.)
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.
Sometimes, your heroes are wrong. In Episode 226 of the Mighty Men of Mouse podcast, our friends Dutch, Kip, and Russ attempted to rank the various lands at Walt Disney World. They did pretty well – see their rankings here: Russ’s, Kip’s, Dutch’s – but they also got some things wrong. Put on some potholders, because here are my takes/rankings.
1. Fantasyland. I knew my top 3 lands without a doubt, but determining the order among the 3 was tough. Ultimately, the first place position came down to the number of offerings. The magic I felt flying on Peter Pan as a child is still present in Fantasyland. The expansion has only made it more amazing. There is just so much to take in and enjoy in Fantasyland; the fact that Kip can say Mexico is better with a straight face proves that he is a cyborg.
2. Main Street, USA. I, for one, CAN feed my family on nostalgia. (And corndog nuggets). A trip to WDW does not feel complete for me without going to the Magic Kingdom, even if it’s just for a brief walk up and down Main Street. Seeing Town Square the first time each trip still brings tears to my eyes. This is my favorite place to watch parades. Also, I like shopping and Meet & Greets (more about that below).
3. Adventureland. Jungle Cruise, people. Don’t take it for granite, it’s my favorite. I really like the Swiss Family Treehouse too, which is often overlooked. Finally, it’s like I have ESPN or something and I believe that Skipper’s Cantina will serve booze and will be my new favorite restaurant at the Magic Kingdom. That was not a typo. You better believe there will be Mean Girls references on this site.
4. Africa. The perfection of this theming has been discussed thoroughly, so I’ll just preface some other rankings by taking this opportunity to point out that I really love animals.
5. Echo Lake. This is probably where takes start to get a bit warm. I still love Hollywood Studios. Quite a bit. Echo Lake and Pixar Place are in the order they are in because, at the moment of writing, I like Star Tours a little more than Toy Story Midway Mania. Also, Echo Lake is not just about Star Tours. I think Jedi Training Academy is one of the most adorable things in the universe and my love for Harrison Ford obviously extends to Indiana Jones. Last but not least, I am not ashamed to admit I sang my heart out at the Frozen Sing Along and loved it.
6. Pixar Place. Having Pixar Place so high when it’s basically just one ride, a coffee cart, and some Meet & Greets is probably crazy. But Toy Story Midway Mania is so so so fun.
7. Future World. East and West have been lumped together because I can’t remember the difference and they would have been right next to each other anyway. Soarin’ is my favorite part of Future World, so whichever has Soarin’ is 7(a) and the other is 7(b).
8. Tomorrowland. I agree that the theming could be better, but the attractions are still great, especially Buzz Lightyear. One thing that killed me the whole MMOM episode was that none of you mentioned Meet & Greets. These are a crucial part of my WDW experience, and Tomorrowland has one of the most unique. #IncrediblesSuperDanceParty
9. Liberty Square. Rounding out my top ten are the other two Magic Kingdom lands. It is by far my favorite park and I am quite content to just walk around without even experiencing any attractions. Liberty Square edges out Frontierland because I like the stocks.
10. Frontierland. Splash Mountain is scary.
11. Asia. I don’t even ride Expedition Everest because it’s scarier that Splash Mountain, but there are tigers in Asia. Enough said.
12. Sunset Boulevard. I hold John’s bag when he rides Tower of Terror and Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster. While I hold his bag, I delight in the Citizens of Hollywood Cast Members surprising and entertaining while dressed in their Old Hollywood garb. I also can’t ignore the Beauty and the Beast show, because Belle was my favorite Disney princess when I was little. She’s second to Leia now.
13. Hollywood Boulevard. I mentioned that I like shopping right? I also like movies and the Great Movie Ride will always have a spot in my heart.
Okay, be careful, because the takes are about to get HOT.
14. Rafiki’s Planet Watch. Hey MMOM fellas, your ranking of Rafiki’s Planet Watch was NOT COOL. There are animals, some of them BABIES, and you can PET them. YOU CAN PET THE ANIMALS. It’s also educational.
15. Animation Courtyard. This would have been in my top ten before they closed the Animation Academy and the character Meet & Greets there. The only reason it’s as high as it is now is because One Man’s Dream is still hanging on by a finger. It will break my heart if this does not come back somewhere. I like museums almost as much as I like theme parks, so this is the best of both worlds for me.
16. Mexico Pavilion. What the MMOM said. This pavilion is just phenomenally done. You can also meet Donald, in a sombrero. (For the record, Donald’s in the sombrero.I guess you could be too, if you wanted.)
17. Italy Pavillon. After Mexico, I ranked the Epcot countries based primarily on food, shopping, and Meet & Greets. Italy has my favorite food. I also think the theming at the lake edge is done better in Italy than it is some of the other pavilions.
18. Germany Pavillon.I like Biergarten for the experience. And the beer. I like beer. And caramel. And animals. You know who else likes animals? Snow White. Germany is the best place for you to meet Snow White outside of a meal. She gets swarmed at Town Square.
20. France Pavillon. I think we all recognize by now that L’Artisan des Glaces does really, really good work. France also has good lakeside theming, Aurora, and Belle in her adorable peasant dress.
21. United Kingdom Pavillon. I like pub atmospheres. In terms of Meet & Greets, you’ve got Tigger & Pooh, Alice, and Mary Poppins. They also sell Her Universe merchandise in the UK Pavillon which is awesome. (Instead of Patreon sponsoring, you guys can just buy me Alex & Ani bracelets and things from Her Universe).
22. Morocco Pavilion. Very well themed. You can meet Aladdin and Jasmine.
23. China Pavillon. This would be the lowest ranked country for me except for the fact that the China pavilion is the only place you can meet Mulan outside of ameal. Mulan is a badass.
24. Discovery Island. There are several Wilderness Explorer Badges to be earned on Discovery Island. The Tree of Life needs to be looked at up close. And you can meet Pocahontas, and several other characters (like Dug).
25. DinoLand, USA. These rides are my speed. And the boneyard is quite fun. Even for “grownups.”
26. Streets of America. I think the Streets of America are pretty meh. I obviously love the Osborne Lights, and that puts this land above the next three, but the lights are all that Streets of America really has for me. Lights, Motor, Action is just hot and loud, and I’ve never really been a Muppets fan outside of Muppet Babies.
27. Japan Pavillon. Shopping! With swords! And pearls! I also like the Koi.
28. America Pavillon. Full disclosure: I’ve seen the movie thing like once. I’m also a bit of a contrarian. But really, the food is terrible, and our country has a lot more interesting time periods than the colonial days.
29. Canada Pavillon. Oh Canada. You’re a very nice hat. And Buffalo Plaid is nice. Sorry for ranking you so low, I’m sure you’ll understand.
30. Oasis. I thought about putting the Oasis above America because animals, but that would have just been mean.