Maternal Instincts: Round One

Last year, I tried to become a mom.

More to the point, I applied to become a Disney Mom.

The Disney Parks Moms Panel is a group of men and women hand-picked by Disney to answer questions and assist guests with planning Disney vacations. They’re not employees, more like independent contractors; When a guest goes to the Moms Panel website and asks something about the parks, it’s one of these trained experts who will respond.

Becoming a Disney Mom is no small feat. They only open up the application process once a year, for just a few days around early September, and only a very small number will ultimately get picked to be on the panel.

The process itself is a series of questions–mostly essays–designed to show your Disney expertise as well as your writing style and ability. The first round is open to anyone, and supposedly can garner upwards of 25,000 applicants. Most of those are eliminated by the selection committee and only about 250 or so are invited to take part in round two. The handful (roughly 50 from what I understand) who get selected from there move on to round three, and then a small number of those will finally become Disney Moms. The final number depends on Disney’s needs for the panel at the time as well as how many current members may be leaving.

When you first submit your application, you are asked to choose a specialty: Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, or the ESPN Sports Complex. From the unofficial poll posted on a Disney fan forum during last year’s application process, it looked like most people (including myself) applied to be Walt Disney World experts.

In my attempt to become a Disney Mom I made it to round two, but no further. I thought it would be fun to share the application experience. I’m going to list the questions (which change each year) and briefly touch upon my answers. I’m not going to post my full essay for each one, but rather just a summary of what I answered and why.

Round One:

The initial process started out with some basic questions:

When was your last Disney vacation? My Walt Disney World honeymoon had been in May, and good thing: you have to have been on a Disney vacation within the last twelve months to even be able to apply, and to the specific park you want to specialize in.

Do you work in an industry that poses a conflict of interest? Nope. Careers such as travel agents or other theme parks disqualify you from being a Disney Mom. 

Are you eighteen or older? Yes. I’m assuming, of course, that they meant physically and they weren’t referring to a mental age.

Do you speak languages other than English? I answered “no” because I wasn’t sure if interpretive dance counted as a language.

Then, the essay questions:

In 100 words or less, tell about your Disney vacation planning experience and how you have helped others plan.

Basically I started out saying that I was a former cast member (because I figured it couldn’t hurt to mention that right off the bat) and that I was the go-to guy amongst my friends when it came to planning trips. I explained how I asked a lot of questions to really tailor the trip, and mentioned that I’ve suggested things like the Pirates & Pals Fireworks Cruise (because I figured throwing in a specific experience also wouldn’t hurt). I also said that I do a lot of research to keep up to date to help plan my own trips as well.

What is your favorite Walt Disney World restaurant and why? 100 words or less.

I immediately knew my answer for this one: San Angel Inn, inside the Mexico pavilion at EPCOT. I love Mexican food, it’s my favorite World Showcase pavilion, and I wrote about the cool view of the Gran Fiesta Tour ride’s river as well as the general ambience of the restaurant. The funny part is that I actually rarely eat there, as more often than not I just hit quick service restaurants while adventuring in the parks, but that wasn’t the question.

Favorite Disney vacation memory and why? 100 words or less.

This one was a little tougher, simply because there are so many to choose from. I considered the recent honeymoon, but ultimately went in a different direction and wrote about the time my mom took my daughter and myself there shortly after my divorce in 2001. I had read somewhere that it seemed like parents were more likely to be chosen for the panel (though it’s not a requirement) so I wanted to work in something about being a dad simply to try to increase my chances of getting picked. That trip was meaningful and my daughter and I took part the Leave-A-Legacy thing at EPCOT, so there’s a permanent record there (well, a little metal tile with our photo etched onto it) of this particular vacation. It was actually tough to keep this one to 100 words.

Estimate how many times you’ve been to Walt Disney World.

This was a pull-down menu. The highest option was “more than twenty”. I went with that one, because “way too many to count with your Earthly numbers” wasn’t an option.

When and how did you learn about the Disney Moms Panel?

I pretty much pulled this one out of my butt, as I had heard of it but knew almost nothing about it prior to applying. I had only started really reading the site because I decided I wanted to be on it and felt that learning about the types of questions they were asked was a good idea. So I wrote something reasonably convincing about the amount of Disney research I do and how I learned about it that way. It sounded better than “my wife told me about it”.

Which Disney character do you most identify with and why, in 100 words or less?

I found this one surprisingly difficult, and it took me a while to come up with an answer. I even took some online ‘which Disney character are you’ quizzes to get ideas (and got a different answer each time) while I tried to decide. After much soul-searching and deep introspection, by which I mean I stared at my shelf of Disney movies for a while, I finally went with one of my favorites: Buzz Lightyear. I wrote about being drawn to space adventures, being loyal to my friends, and my ability to fall with style. I also mentioned my affinity for blinking lights.

Would you rather have A.) gadgets and gizmos aplenty, or B.) whozits and whatzits galore? (*There’s really no wrong answer here. We just wanted an excuse to quote these lyrics)

I chose gadgets and gizmos. They’re more likely to have blinking lights on them.

The application process opened on Monday, and was scheduled to close on the following Friday or when they reached a certain number of applications (whichever came first). From there, it was a lesson in patience as I waited to hear whether or not I was moving on. I spent a fair bit of time on a Disney forum where other applicants were comparing notes, mostly so I would see when other started getting their response emails, and I followed the Twitter feed of someone involved in the selection process who was pretty good about keeping everyone apprised as to timeframes. I knew that I was up against thousands of other applicants, and I had no clue what the selection committee was looking for, so while I knew it was very likely that I would get rejected I still hoped that I would continue on and eventually get onto the panel. I knew I had the knowledge, and I was confident in my answers and my writing, so I kept my fingers crossed.

It would be over a month of constantly checking my email and driving my wife crazy (well, even more than I normally do) before I would get my response and find out that I was selected to move on to round two!

Be sure to check back Friday for my continuing (mis)adventures!

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