This week’s SATURDAY SIX is a very special one as we use Disney Villains to Explain Theme Park Blogging! Now, many of you reading this know the online Disney blogging community is one filled with many unique and colorful characters. What kind of person would spend 10 minutes photographing a single piece of Frushi at Epcot’s Flower & Garden Festival from every possible angle? What kind of adult man has an awkward meet and greet with Elena of Avalor in order to be #First? With all the white noise, a hapless person at home trying to plan a vacation may be overwhelmed. Today, the SATURDAY SIX is here to help guide you through this wacky community – using some Disney Villains to put everything into context – and get you the info you need to achieve a great trip. Let’s kickoff the list with…
# 6 – SYNDROME – “Because when everything’s BREAKING, nothing is…”
A recent trend in all of blogging – including our precious theme park world – is websites using the term “BREAKING!” to cover pretty much anything. For those of us who like movies, the Hollywood blogs have become inundated with BREAKING! and EXCLUSIVE! headlines only to reveal the casting of a minor character, played by someone you’ve never heard of, in a movie coming out in three years. For those of us inside the theme park bubble, we get subjected to BREAKING! reports of a new cupcake being offered in the Magic Kingdom or the EXCLUSIVE! news of merchandise coming out for Flower & Garden (the best part of all the EXCLUSIVE! reports is that every single one of them is just copying the exact pictures and verbiage from the Disney Parks Blog.)
The reason “Fake News” has run rampant is because so many websites are more interested in getting you to click on their links, rather than making sure what they are telling you is based in any sort of fact. The good news is that there are plenty of theme park news options available that avoid the sizzle when giving you the steak. Some of my favorites are TouringPlans’ own Rikki Niblett, theme park icon Jim Hill, Attractions Magazine, and the Orlando Sentinel’s Caitlin Dineen.
# 5 – GASTON – The Shameless Self Promoter
Ah, the most vain blogger of them all. This type of theme park blogger retweets themselves on Twitter, making sure to tag every single person they know in every single post. They watermark their pictures, as if there is some sort of black market offering big money for photos of theme park attractions. They even do podcasts talking endlessly about the parks because they are secretly in love with the sound of their own voice. Who are we kidding though? We love these devilishly handsome scallywags!
# 4 – TAMATOA – Disney eBay Pirates
If there is one type of person that even the various cliques of theme park bloggers can agree on to hate, it’s the dreaded Disney eBay Pirates. These are the individuals who quickly buy up all the limited edition merchandise in order to resell it at a marked up value. From Cinderella Carriage Popcorn Buckets to D23 Expo Tsum Tsums to the recent Haunted Mansion Tiki mugs at Trader Sam’s, there is no item these true villains will not scalp. Disney has tried to put in protocols to help limit the abuse, but there is only so much they can. One thing not many people realize is that a lot of Disney Parks merchandise can be bought at the Disney Store online and the Shop Disney Parks App.
# 3 – SHERIFF OF NOTTINGHAM – Patreon Supported Bloggers
There are some who consider Patreon a form of online pan-handling, but the reality is the crowd funding site is playing a large role in being able to connect theme park content providers with the readers and listeners who appreciate them. Other ways to support great theme park work is over on Bandcamp, where you can name your own price for the Must Listen podcast The Disney Dish with Jim Hill and even iTunes, where Lou Mongello has some pretty nifty Audio Guides to Walt Disney World.
# 2 – RIPSLINGER – Bloggers In The Sky
For Disney and Universal, bloggers who rent out helicopters in order to take aerial pictures of the parks probably drive them absolutely crazier than all others combined. Both theme parks put a lot of work into making sure guests can’t see into construction areas, but they can’t stop bloggers from snapping hi-res photos from 8,000 feet in the sky. In a way, for us fans it’s like forbidden fruit, as being able to see parks from this viewpoint is pretty fascinating.
On the ground, the theme park community is truly blessed with some incredible photographers who make you feel in the parks while sitting at home waiting for your next vacation. Some of my favorites include Tom Bricker, Blog_Mickey, Bioreconstruct, Trevor A, Travis Terrell, Mark Willard, and Brandon Glover. There are also those inside the parks regularly, giving you a better idea of what to expect when you get into the parks. People I would recommend following include Seth Kubersky, WDWNT, and Guy Selga. Don’t forget TouringPlans’ own Dani, Julia, and Daisy every Thursday with their Best Week Ever series.
# 1 – URSULA – Bloggers Who Have Traded In Their Voice For Access
One of the trickiest parts of navigating the world of theme park blogging is sifting through the people telling you what you need to know rather than what you want to hear. This was a lesson I learned many, many years ago when my family would always get the Birnbaum guide to Walt Disney World. I loved the pictures and used the book obsessively to help plan trips. Then one year my parents bought The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World. The Unofficial Guide didn’t have the glossy paper or the color photos, but it was giving me a more realistic view of a theme park vacation that actually helped my family’s trips get better. It was a “warts and all” look at Disney rather than a Pixie Dust version and it wasn’t long before I stopped buying the Birnbaum book and stuck exclusively to The Unofficial Guide.
The theme park blogging world is a bit tougher to figure out who has been completely co-opted because disclosure might as well be a four letter word in the community. Bloggers have been put up in hotels for free, given meals at restaurants, and afforded luxuries at the parks that a regular guest would never see, such as exclusive meet and greets or unlimited The Grey Stuff from Be Our Guest Restaurant. Along with some those perks come a quid-pro-quo of toeing the company line rather than giving an honest viewpoint. As a vacationer, you should be able to trust that the people you are reading (and listening to on podcasts) are telling you things that are in your best interest, rather than in the best interest of the parks. The phrase “truth will out” from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice tells us that, in time, you will discover everyone’s agenda. The good news is that their are a lot of blogs and bloggers who are legitimately out to help you plan a successful vacation, just be careful of the ones who are only out to help themselves.
So there you have it: Using Disney Villains to Explain Theme Park Blogging See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. If you enjoyed yourself, be sure to check out The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! articles, or, for your listening pleasure, check out the E-Ticket Report podcast. You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).
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Special Thanks to crack staff photographer Brandon Glover, theme park community Rookie of the Year winner Kinny M Brown (who also has a terrific Instagram account you should be following), High In the Sky Blogger MickeyXtreme, and blogger to the stars Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. Be sure to also check out Brandon on The Park Blogger podcast with goofballs co-hosts Aengus Mackenzie and LitemAndHyde , while fellow Potterheads may enjoy Meg’s work on the Central Florida Slug Club.
FINAL PLUG! Did you know The 2017 Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando has a special edition of the SATURDAY SIX in it? Finally, someone came up with an actual reason to read a book. ORDER this baby now and support SIX NATION (boy do we need a better name than that.)