Maternal Instincts: Round Two

Be sure to check out Maternal Instincts: Round One, in which I explain what the Disney Parks Moms Panel is and detail the first part in my attempts to become a Disney Mom myself.

When we last left our intrepid hero (that’s me) I had just found out that I was selected to move on to the second phase of the Disney Parks Moms Panel application process. After waiting patiently for over a month, it was now time for another round of essay questions designed to show my Disney knowledge and my ability to write in a coherent fashion.

NOTE: my wife may remember that “waiting patiently” part very differently…

For round one, my goal was to get the essays completed as quickly as possible. The applications would be closed if they reached a certain number, so I didn’t want to take too much time and risk getting shut out and when they opened the process in the morning on September 9th I wrote and edited as fast as I could to have mine submitted before the end of that day. I got the email about my advancement on October 18th, which said that the link to the next set of questions wouldn’t open until 3:00pm on the 21st and the applicants then had until 11:59pm on October 24th to submit our answers. So I took a little more time with this round, editing my thoughts* until the evening of that last day.

*My wife was invaluable during the entire process as my editor. I would email her my drafts while she was at work, and she would offer advice and tweaks. I would incorporate them or not, and sometimes her suggestions led to other ideas that got worked in. Basically I wouldn’t have sounded nearly as intelligent if she hadn’t been helping. For the record, she also edits Magic & Misadventures. Trust me, it’s better for everyone involved.

In Maternal Instincts: Round One I posted summaries of my essays because I didn’t think to keep copies of the final versions. I have some of the close-to-final edits, but when I typed the essays into the online application there were some more tweaks and variations before they were finally submitted. With round two I did keep copies, so I’m going to put those here and then explain a bit about my thought process for each one.

What are the top 5 words that come to mind when you think about a Walt Disney World Resort vacation? (in 5 words max, of course.)

I went with: magical, special, memorable, immersive, and super (califragilisticexpialidocius).

Yes, that’s exactly how I put that last one. I actually went through a lot of words that could have fit before settling on these five. To be fair, they were all more or less synonyms of what I ultimately went with.

In 71 words or less, we’d like to know: what is your favorite “land” in the Magic Kingdom park, and why?

“Definitely Tomorrowland! As a child, outer space and science fiction fascinated me, and Tomorrowland offered a magical glimpse into a futuristic world. Astronomy, aliens, and rockets captivated my imagination. Disney’s vision of tomorrow brought the future to life and allowed me to play in a world I had only dreamed about. Now, Tomorrowland still reminds me of that I was once that child, awestruck by seeing a futuristic world made real.”

This one took a bit of work, as I’ve never really thought about which land was my “favorite” before. I considered going with Liberty Square simply because it’s home to my favorite attraction, Haunted Mansion, but I don’t really find the rest of the area very compelling. I wrote up a draft about Adventureland because I love the aesthetic as well as Pirates of the Caribbean and Jungle Cruise, but it didn’t seem quite right. Finally I settled on Tomorrowland. Earlier versions mentioned specific attractions, like Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, but I think the final version works really well and I’m really happy with it. 

In 82 words or less, please tell us which Walt Disney World Resort hotel you’d recommend to a friend who wanted his/her family to enjoy a splashtastic time in the hotel’s swimming pool(s), and why.

“When friends are all about water fun, and they want to make the whole family happy, I recommend Stormalong Bay at the Beach Club Resort. Stormalong Bay has such a variety of fun (and wet) options: hot tubs for those looking to relax, water slides for the thrill seekers, and even a lazy river for those who just want to go with the flow. There’s something for everyone, and I tell people that it’s a more a water park than just a pool.”

I don’t have much experience on this subject, so I had to turn to the web rather than first-hand knowledge. On the family trips growing up, and on many of my adult trips, I’ve usually stayed with nearby family and not on property. I have stayed at a few of the resorts, most recently Caribbean Beach, but while I think the pool there is neat I opted to write instead about Stormalong Bay at the Beach Club Resort. It’s basically a small water park, with multiple slides and a lazy river and more, so it seemed like the “right” answer to go with. As I’ve never actually seen it in person I did a lot of research and did my best to not make it sound like I was pulling my essay straight from Google searches. While I was please enough with the final version, though, it never felt quite right. Not because I felt like I was “cheating” or anything, but because I felt that the writing suffered due to the lack of personal experience.

In 89 words or less, we’d like to know: If a friend asked you for a Walt Disney World Resort restaurant recommendation, what would be your first choice, and why?

“The Coral Reef in EPCOT offers a great menu, with a particular focus on delicious seafood choices. The restaurant’s underwater theme, plus getting to look right into the aquarium of The Seas With Nemo and Friends while you eat, offers diners the sensation of enjoying a meal under the sea. Watching sea creatures swim by while enjoying gourmet food is a unique experience everyone in the family will love, making Coral Reef one of my top Walt Disney World restaurant recommendations.”

I’m familiar with a good number of the restaurants in the parks, but my general tendency is to just grab something quick (partially for financial reasons, but mostly to minimize the time away from the attractions). I’m also just not big into fine dining. My wife is the foodie, whereas I think the toppings bar at Cosmic Ray’s–the burger joint in Tomorrowland–is the height of fanciness (she successfully talked me out of writing about that). Ultimately I went with the Coral Reef, which I haven’t eaten at recently but I recall being really cool and I could see myself recommending it if someone asked. Side note: I wonder how many times, per day, their servers get some guest pointing to a random fish in the tank and saying “I’ll take that one”. Probably a lot.

In 98 words or less, which Walt Disney World Resort attraction, restaurant or live show/parade/fireworks stands out to you as the quintessential “Disney Parks experience.”

“Of all the amazing experiences Walt Disney World has to offer, Wishes Nighttime Spectacular at Magic Kingdom stands out. Wishes is so much more than just a fireworks show, it’s a magical tale that only Disney can tell. It’s plussed with pixie dust, weaving a special story above Cinderella Castle. The music, fireworks, and of course Tinkerbell’s amazing flight makes Wishes an experience that can’t be found anywhere else. It honestly brings tears to my eyes every time, it truly embodies Disney magic, and it’s an experience that simply cannot be missed.”

I knew my answer to this one as soon as I read the question. I considered other options, of course, but I kept coming back to Wishes. It still took some work to settle on exactly how I wanted to say it all, and this one went through lots of variations and edits just like the others, but I think that this is my favorite out of all my round two essays.

Fun fact: Each of the word count numbers for those first four essays corresponds to the opening year of a Walt Disney World park. Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, EPCOT was 1982, Disney/MGM Studios opened in 1989, and Animal Kingdom’s grand opening was in 1998.

In 100 words or less, tell us a little about you.

“I’m a theatrical stage manager in Boston, a job that I really enjoy– being in theatre means that every day is different and I’m never bored! I’m a video game geek, a Star Wars fanatic, and a Halloween lover who often goes a bit overboard with decorating. Walt Disney World has always been a big part of my life: I was a cast member long ago, and my wife and I went for our honeymoon (after our Disney-themed wedding). I may be an adult in numerical terms (I’m thirty-nine), but there’s a  part of me that refuses to grow up.”

I had a pretty hard time with this one, truth be told. It was far easier to write about Disney-specific subjects than it was to come up with something about myself, and of course doing so within the word limit meant boiling it all down to what I felt was really important to say. In hindsight I wonder if I should have cut out the Disney stuff from this. I’ve already mentioned being a cast member in other essays, and given that I’m applying to be a Disney Mom it’s safe to say that I’m big into Walt Disney World, so I wonder if making half the essay Disney-related pushed it away from what they were looking for.  

In 100 words or less, tell us a little about your family.

“My seventeen-year-old daughter is smart and weird (just like her dad), and she’s a dancer who has competed as far away as Germany. Her mother and I separated when she was three, so for years it was just us and we’ve formed a special bond that’s as much friendship as anything. My wife and I got married in May. She’s a graphic designer, and she’s given me a new appreciation of the world because she sees such amazing details that I’ve never noticed. There’s also my dog, Stitch, a samoyed whose badness level is unusually high.”

Because “man, what a bunch of freaks” seemed inappropriate.

In 100 words or less, we’d like to know: what is the number one reason you’d like to be a part of the Disney Parks Moms Panel?

“Walt Disney World has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, and some of my happiest memories involve being at the parks. Being on the Moms Panel, I would have the opportunity to help people make their own happy Disney memories. I would be able to share my passion and knowledge with others to help them get the most out of their Walt Disney World vacations. In my own way I would be a part of the Disney magic, and that’s my number one reason for wanting this opportunity.”

Another difficult one, because just writing “it seemed like a good idea at the time” didn’t seem like a solid plan. I did really think about why I was doing it, and what I wanted to get out of it, and finally settled on an essay that I’m pretty proud of. Given how much fun I have with helping friends plan their own Disney vacations, the part about sharing my passion and knowledge rings true.

Imagine you have one day to spend at Walt Disney World Resort. In 150 words or less, give us an idea of what your “schedule” might look like.

“With only one day, we’d probably spend all of our time in Magic Kingdom! We’d arrive at 8:50 for the Magic Kingdom Welcome Show, and will be through the gate at rope drop. After quick stops for Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom cards, and a smattering of Pixie Dust at Castle Couture, it’s time to wander! Starting in Fantasyland, working into Tomorrowland, we’ll grab lunch at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe at 11:30. We’ll give ourselves plenty of time to get a good spot on Main Street for Celebrate a Dream Come True at 3:00, then we’ll cross into Adventureland. Moving through into Frontierland and then Liberty Square puts us at the Columbia Harbor House at 6:00 for dinner, then we’ll wait right outside until 8:00 for the Main Street Electrical Parade. After the parade passes, it’s Wishes at 9:00, then we’ll wander the Main Street shops until the Kiss Goodnight!”

This one was tough in part because I didn’t know exactly what they were asking. Did they want a detailed essay? Just a list of what I wanted to see when? I jumped between multiple versions and formats several times before writing this one, which sort of met in the middle. An early version included some park-hopping as well, but in reality if I only had one day it’d probably just be at Magic Kingdom so my thoughts were eventually focused there. I added things like Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom and the Kiss Goodnight to highlight my Disney knowledge, but I wonder if going with the times for meals and such was a bit much. I did it for specific reasons, to indicate that I had a grasp of when things were and how long they would take, but now that I’m re-reading it I’m not convinced it added anything to the essay.

The final ‘question’ on the application was not an essay, but a video:

Imagine you and your family have one day to spend at Walt Disney World Resort. Give us an idea of what your “practically perfect” day might be like. Video must be 60 seconds or less.

I initially typed up a long list of things to do, which included events like a character breakfast as well as park-hopping for specific attractions. At times, while I was writing up a rough script, I felt that it had a lot in common with the previous “schedule” question and I was working hard to differentiate them from one another and not just have a video version of that essay. Eventually I settled on a different tactic entirely, making it less about specific attractions and more about spending the day with family.  We (my wife and I) shot several takes and tried a few variations before we felt confident. We then edited the video, which included pulling out individual frames in order to get it under that 60 second requirement. It was tough in part because I had gotten sick with a nasty cold that week, and while I could write essays in between my Nyquil-induced stupors I didn’t want to be sniffling or zoned out during the video. So we didn’t get the video done until the evening of the last day when I was at least feeling good enough to fake it, and I submitted the entire application just a few hours before the deadline.

Having no idea what the selection committee was looking for, or what any of the other applicants wrote, I really had no expectation about what my chances were of moving on. I felt confident in my essays (for the most part) but once I submitted my application it was back to crossing my fingers and waiting. Getting selected to move on to round two really bolstered my confidence, and I felt that maybe I had a shot at moving on again and maybe even getting all the way to the Moms Panel. Sadly, though, on November 14th I received the email that stated I was not moving on. I was bummed, of course, but a bit relieved. This whole experience was fun but definitely stressful.

Of course, somewhere along the line I realized how much fun I was having writing about Disney. The questions really made me think, and I started considering what I had to say and the best way to get my Disney-related thoughts out into the world. Eventually that led to the creation of Magic & Misadventures.

So that’s where my Disney Mom adventures end, at least for the time being. I’m not eligible to apply this year because I haven’t been to Walt Disney World within the last twelve months, and honestly I’m not sure if I would even if I could. My life can get pretty crazy to the point that even trying to post a weekly blog can be a challenge, so having to answer something like twenty questions a week could be too much. I may still apply again in the future, but for now I’m content simply to say that I gave it a shot.

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