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The SATURDAY SIX Celebrates Ten Years with TouringPlans

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This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks back at TEN YEARS with TouringPlans! It is hard to believe it has been a full decade since the following message slid into my DMs…

It is hard to put into context how shocked I was to receive this message. It arrived in my inbox a couple minutes after I was followed by Len Testa on Twitter. That might not sound like much to people reading this, but to those of us in the theme park community who were on Twitter at the time, it was a Big Deal. Len Testa did not follow many people in the community. In fact, the total amount of people he followed at the time was under 50. The feeling of seeing Len Testa follow you on Twitter is what I imagine what it must feel like to be knighted by the King of England. You are now in rarified air.

The story of what led to Len Testa sending me a message is a long one and, quite frankly, next level bonkers, but a quick summary goes like this: the website I had been blogging for had mysteriously – and without notice – closed up shop on a random Wednesday morning. I actually found out about the site shutting down on social media, as the owner didn’t let us writers know about the shut down until after he had posted the news on Twitter. I was in complete shock. I had just communicated with the site’s owner the previous night about the plans I had for articles coming out over the next month. The site was now gone, and the email us writers got after the fact let us know that it might never come back.

At the time, I did not know many people in the theme park community. I reached out to Josh easyWDW to see if I could write for  his site, but was told by Josh that he didn’t have the budget for a second writer. Several hours later, I received that message above from Len Testa. Right away I could tell the difference between how Len runs a business compared to others. Len asked to call me. I had been writing for various websites for about ten years at the time and do you want to know how many times the owners of any of those sites asked to talk to me? Zero.

The conversation with Len was brief – more because of my nervousness than anything else I imagine – and he made his pitch for me to join the TouringPlans team. The site I had been working for previously was hyper focused on Universal Orlando, so Len was looking to bring me in to help beef up the Universal content at TP. While on the phone call, as Len was making his offer I wanted to scream, “Yes! A thousand times YES!”, but I had to pretend that I had some level of professionalism, so I told Len I would think about it and get back to him. I emailed Len about an hour later, agreeing to his terms and officially joined the team.

An interesting cap to the story is what happened with my previous site. As mentioned, they publicly shut down the site early that Wednesday morning. The reaction to this shutdown on social media was a bit harsh, and that’s being generous. The owner took so much abuse that – again, for reasons unknown still to this day – he brought the site back online later that same night. I received an email that night from the owner, letting me know that the things we had discussed previously were back on schedule, as if nothing had happened. I had to write back and let him know that during the hours that the site was down, I had accepted an offer with TouringPlans. This went over about as well as you can imagine with a mercurial owner, including a hastily written article that unsuccessfully attempted to besmirch TouringPlans, but that’s a story for another day. I was now with TP, and my first pitch was…

# 6 – The Outlet Report

Naturally, when you’re hired with a mandate to focus on Universal Orlando Resort you pitch an article series based on Disney, right? Well, I did, and that’s because it was something I always wanted to do for my previous site, but was constantly told “no.” As a person who followed all the Universal and Walt Disney World blogs, I didn’t understand why no one covered the two Disney Character Warehouse stores located in Orlando’s outlet malls. These were stores owned by Disney, staffed by Cast Members, and sold products directly from the parks. At the time, the general consensus in the blogging world was that no one cares about the outlets. Well, I’ll make them care.

I pitched a once-a-month recap of the Disney Outlet Stores, Len agreed to it, and The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! series was born.

The very first edition of the Outlet Report only covered a handful of items in the store, including Vinylmation, a Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom t-shirt, and a turkey leg hoodie. Here are some other items seen on that very first trip…

American Idol Experience trophy.
Shirts for E-Ticket attractions that no longer exist in that form.
2012 Food & Wine shirts.

One thing that was for certain, this wasn’t going to be like your normal run-of-the-mill theme park merchandise blog, of which there were plenty. Most merchandise-based blogs would just post pictures of the items and their price. I added commentary throughout the Outlet Report, and if I thought an item was ridiculous, I let people know. Well, this type of honesty didn’t go over well with a segment of the readership who have spent their entire online time reading websites filled with nothing but press releases and pixie dust. The very concept that Disney wasn’t infallible was completely foreign to them, and they made sure to write in comments that I was being too negative.  So we adjusted the logo to promote “Now with 22% more positivity!” You can check out the 2021 Turkeys Addendum to see why we went with that number and why 22 comes up so often in my posts.

So we continued on with Ye Olde Outlet Report, every single month – without fail – for years, and a funny thing happened, the stores started to become more popular. This led to one of my all-time favorite criticisms of the blog, that I didn’t HONOR THE LOCALS.

Over the years I tried to fit in as much wackiness as I could, including having annual Outlet Store Anniversary articles. In 2016 we included fake testimonials from theme park icons Jim Hill and Len Testa as well as a person who would go on to become President of the United States. Also, let the record show that I saw who Bob Chapek really was very early on and tried to warn everyone. I think one of my favorite things in the history of the Outlet Report, or anything I’ve done for TouringPlans actually, is channeling Bob Chapek and showing the disdain he would have for a blogger like me with, “The sheer irony of me writing a congratulations note to him, when it clearly should be the other way around.”

Another anniversary article I enjoyed doing was in 2017, when I recreated classic cartoon strips such as Peanuts, Family Circus and The Far Side.

This Garfield strip blow makes more sense in context when you understand that – for years – The Outlet Report was released on the last day of the month. Eventually that would change to be the last Saturday of the month. I’ve always believed in training the blog audience like Hollywood movies and television, getting people to anticipate the days which blogs would be released as compared to what it seemed like most sites were doing: articles just appearing whenever they were done and hopefully you see them when they come out.

At one point in time, vloggers saw the content available at the Outlet Stores and descended upon them like locusts. Shopping in Outlet Stores is generally a pretty awful experience, but you’re entering a circle in Dante’s Inferno when you also have to listen to a person live-streaming their experience. “HEY GUYS! BE SURE TO HIT THAT LIKE BUTTON AND SUBSCRIBE!” During this moment of insanity, Rumors and Innuendo circulated that the Outlet Stores had banned filming inside the stores. So we had some fun with that thanks to the digital maestro Scott Walker.

That joke above is tying into another plague of the Outlets, eBay resellers. These guys (and gals) were absolutely awful, and began to make me (and many others) start dreading going to the Outlets.


Longtime readers of the Outlet Report had seen the rise of resellers over the years and just how brazen that “industry” has become. These resellers/eBay “pirates” would bring carts, totes, and everything you can imagine to buy Disney out of stock and then put the items online with much higher prices.

So many people would be upset about that and complain about Disney shutting these resellers down. As a person who was living in that world, I had a hard time explaining to readers that not only did Disney not care about the resellers, they actively encouraged them. This was probably best seen during one Outlet Trip where I pictured one reseller casually going to the store and back multiple times carrying multiple Frozen castle toy sets on each trip.

On one of the reseller’s trips to his car, he was joined by a Disney Cast Member, who was helping bring more Frozen toys. Would you like to know how many times a Disney Outlet Store Cast Member over the years offered to help me bring items from the store to my car? You guessed right: Zero.

Another thing that happened to make life miserable at the Outlets, was Covid. Like everywhere, the Outlet Stores had to enforce social distancing measures.

This made lines to get into the stores seem never-ending. In fact, they became so long a Virtual Queue was instituted and often you would get estimated return times of hours later. This virtual queue was just for the privilege of being able to get into the regular stand by queue, where there you waited as the stores had a one-out one-in policy.

Eventually, I was dreading each month’s trip to the Outlet Stores. This was something I looked forward to for so long, and I helped it become a monster that I wanted nothing to do with.

I was briefly buoyed with the addition of Outlet Report reader Christela McC. She lived out in California and alerted me to the fact that there were Outlet Stores on the West Coast which primarily stocked items from Disneyland and DCA (whereas the Orlando stores mostly carried stock from the Walt Disney World parks.) I was able to live vicariously through her photos and get the same visceral reaction I imagine readers were getting from my Outlet coverage here in Florida.

Howard the Duck plush from GOTG: Mission Breakout.

Unfortunately that dopamine effect can only last so long and eventually it was time to just end the Outlet Report and move on to something which I would personally enjoy doing more. You can read The Last EVER Disney Outlet Store Photo Report by CLICKING HERE. As they say, there’s no rest for the wicked and the very next month I started up the Theme Park Enjoyment Index and haven’t looked back.

The legacy of the Outlet Store will always live on. Many items that I saw over the years are highlighted in the Disney Merchandise Hall of Shame (which gets continually updated with new inductees.)

LeFou’s Brew high-end t-shirt, as seen in the Merchandise Hall of Shame. (artwork by Juliette Elton)

Let’s check out some of the items  I bought over the years at the Outlets, including the bane of my existence, Metal Earth products…

Read the story of how I finished my Metal Earth Landspeeder Death Star by CLICKING HERE.

If you only knew how many MONTHS I saw this insane Pandora: The World of Avatar pen set on the shelves and waited because I just knew it would drop down in price. Originally it was a bonkers $24.99. It went down to $12.99. Months later it would go down to $8.99. It still sat on the shelves. I mean c’mon, who is this pen set for? It is literally skulls of animals. Imagine if they sold one for the Kilimanjaro Safiri and it was skulls of elephants, cheetahs, and flamingos? Eventually it finally made it’s way down to $3.99 and I bought it.

Turns out, even at $3.99 I was getting ripped off. The colors on the bottom of the pens have absolutely no relation to the ink color. They all write in black. There is also no cover for any of the pens, nor a way to retract the tip, so it’s just a matter of time before they all dry out. This may be the most ill thought out pen design in the history of mankind.

Cheapest item I’ve ever seen at the Outlets? This Disney Cruise Line coaster.

This Mickey’s Personal Disney Assistant is what I would consider the Holy Grail of all Outlet Store Merchandise. I think seeing it is what sparked the idea to even do the Outlet Report. This was my Inception.

Mickey’s personal assistant

Coolest item I’ve ever seen? Possibly this elaborate Peter Pan snow globe. Just amazing.

Jungle Cruise glassware by artist Shag.
Dog tags using incredible mash-ups of Star Wars and Disney old timey attraction posters.
You can’t even fathom how many Tsum Tsums I bought at the Outlets. My favorite? Of course it was the Dog with Key from Pirates of the Caribbean.
E-Ticket Fort Wilderness keychains.
Figment MagicBand, and for only $1.99 during the Great MagicBand Dump of 2017.

Best item I ever bought? Probably this awesome Tree of Life playset.


Worst item I ever bought would be tougher, but basing it on how much I wanted them to be great and how awful they ended up being, I have to go with the light up flip flops from Pandora: The World of Avatar.

The concept of these was straight up E-Ticket.

Here is a photo of me wearing them. The effect is actually really cool and exactly what I wanted but what the picture can’t get across is HOW MUCH IT HURT TO WALK IN THESE FLIP FLOPS! I can put up with a lot of stuff, and tried multiple times, but sadly they had to be tossed in the trash.

I can’t even tell you the amount of items I bought at the Disney Outlet Stores over the years and how happy they made me and my family.

I do miss the Outlets. Enough to want to go back? No. But we will start incorporating more of The Outlet Experience in TPEI each month so keep your eyes peeled. Click on the Archives below if you ever want to go back and check them out.

# 5 – A Picture Is Worth 1,000 Words

Well, I’m only the best because I work with the best.” – Harry S. Stamper (Bruce Willis) Armageddon

I recently binged watched the second season of The Bear on Hulu (and if you haven’t watched that show yet, stop reading this article and go watch…NOW) and the season finale focused around “Friends and Family” night at a new restaurant. There’s no spoilers here, but the episode was based around a dinner service that was served before the official opening of the new restaurant. This dinner service was designed to find where the flaws were, so that they could be fixed before paying customers dined there. I’ve always thought of my blogging career as being in a constant state of a similar stress test, trying to find out what my weaknesses are so that I could fix them.

One weakness I have personally is my skills as a photographer. I know how a good photo should look, but I can’t take one. What I can do though, is find people who I think take amazing photos and beg, plead, and harass politely ask them to help. Over the years the SATURDAY SIX has been blessed to feature the work of people I believe are some of the best to have ever picked up a camera in the theme park world. Thanks to these spectacular men and women, we’ve seen justice done to our favorite Disney and Universal attractions, shows, restaurants, and hotels.

To start off, Brandon Glover carried the SAT SIX on his back for years. In fact, if you see in the above section the original logo for the Outlet Report starts off with “Derek Burgan and Brandon Glover Present:” Why? Because the original idea was that we would go to the Outlets together, he would take great photos of the merchandise and I would do the write up. We realized immediately that this concept was impractical and was way too much work to put in for a Dumbo coffee cup on clearance, but Brandon was and always will be my “ride or die” and still helps out the SAT SIX when needed.

Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular. (photo by Brandon Glover)

The SAT SIX will never be known for being “first” to cover something, but I hope thanks to the fantastic work of these photographers that each and every reader knows they will be getting something that is worth their time, such as The Definitive Guide to Pandora: The World of Avatar that came about thanks to the tireless work of shutterbug Michael Carelli.

Floating Mountains.(photo by Michael Carelli)

Thanks to a photographer like Hunter “Elvey” Underwood, we can say goodbye to attractions like Poseidon’s Fury with respect.

Taylor, holding Poseidon’s trident. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

I’m a huge fan of Christmas movies and one of my all-time favorites is It’s a Wonderful Life. I watch it multiple times every year. My heart soars during the ending on each viewing, but where I tear up… every single time … is when a character comes in and says, “I wouldn’t have a roof over my head if it wasn’t for you George.” This moment is at the 5min 30sec mark in this 9 minute clip. This moment comes after all the “bigger” names we’ve seen during the course of the movie enter the house and thank George. As far as I can tell, this was just some random guy that George had helped over the years. To me, this subtle moment – which literally has me crying every year – shows the impact that we can make on other people’s lives without really even knowing it. I say this because I hope that all the photographers in this section, including Hedgehog’s Corner who took the photo of Hogsmeade Village below, knows how deeply they have improved my life over the years.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Hogsmeade Village. (photo by Hedgehogs Corner)

“Hedgey” is also the best in the business when it comes to taking photos of merchandise at Universal Orlando, and she is your Go To Person if you ever need something from the parks.

E-Ticket popcorn bucket. (photo by Hedgehogs Corner)

My friend Brian Carey is a world class theme park photographer, but has set his sights on bigger fish to fry in the cruising world and can be seen (literally) on Must Watch vlogs covering Royal Caribbean, Disney Cruise Line and other cruise ships. He is “living the life” as they say over at Views and Queues channel on YouTube. We don’t ask for much from you, Dear Reader, but if you’ve enjoyed something we have done over the last decade, consider heading over to Brian and Kerry’s YouTube channel and subscribe. It costs nothing, you’ll enjoy the videos, and you’ll also be doing the entire SAT SIX team a solid by helping them get to 20,000 subscribers. To quote the character of The Wolf in Pulp Fiction, “Pretty please, with sugar on top.”

Bruce the shark. (photo by Brian Carey)

I absolutely love doing articles on the runDisney phenomenon, but have literally no interest in participating in a runDisney race. Thankfully, ace photogs like Heather Winfield are there for me and got my back.

runDisney race medal shot with character meet in the background. That’s what we call a perfect “2 fer.” (photo by @HeatherW25)

I mentioned Christela McC in my Outlet Section above, and she is also part of what I consider to be my Disneyland Crew. These are West Coasters who get to go to the parks Disney actually cares about and gets us photos showing what actual TLC looks like, such as the “Popcorn People” they have out there in their popcorn carts. If we had anything at WDW it would be a microwave in the cart heating the bag of kernels.

Popcorn People. (photo by Christela McC)

Thankfully I pretty much have TouringPlans own Guy Selga on speed dial, so he can quickly get to the parks and snap a pic as needed, such as when Disney had to remove a Mickey Mouse statue because they (once again) misquoted Walt Disney on it.

Oops, I did it again. (photo by Guy Selga)

Captain Cruiseline Scott Sanders of the world famous Disney Cruise Line Blog has been an invaluable help to me over the years, and despite many areas of photography expertise, he’s my ace-in-the-hole whenever I need shots at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort and Volcano Bay water theme park. He may be the only person on Earth who loves these places as much as me and it shows in his pictures.

Cabana Bay’s holiday bar crawl. Take note, THAT’S how you properly photograph something like this. (photo by Scott Sanders)

I’ve even trained Scott to take cup photos in The Derek Burgan Outlet Method (i.e.: showing all three sides of the cup at once in one photo.)

‘atta boy. (photo by Scott Sanders)

Imagine all the things the Permit Princess Alicia Stella has on her plate. Runs an amazing website, hosts a tremendous podcast and Must Watch videos, and is THE person who every television station goes to when they want the Real Deal when it comes to Universal Orlando. Yet with all this on her plate, when I ask, “Hey Alicia, can you stop by Shrek 4-D to get some photos because I’m writing a Love Letter to the Attraction” she’s on it.

We got TWO WORDS for Disneyland’s  Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. (photo by Alicia Stella)

Many longtime readers of this fine blog series have surely noticed the recent amount of articles based in the world of cruising. Why? Because the Disney Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean are almost extensions of the Disney/Universal “rivalry” along with the level of entertainment the theme parks provide guests on their vacations. I am truly blessed to have great friends like Mike Sperduto who can get across in a picture what is so great about these ships and the places they go to.

Perfect Day at CocoCay. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

We can’t close this section without a look back at my first meeting with – hands down – the most amazing person in the theme park Universe. It all started innocently enough back in 2015, when the following tweet was posted on Twitter…

You have to remember at the time, DisTwitter had experienced several stories over the previous year which involved guests being stuck on monorails for an extraordinary length of time. In their defense, there is no entertainment on a stuck monorail and there is no air conditioning. If you feel “trapped” in a closed space with a whole bunch of people you don’t know, 15 minutes will seem like a hour. It’s interminable. In early October of 2015, some guests were stuck on Monorail Yellow for over 2 and 1/2 hours until Reedy Creek Emergency Services could evacuate them.

Less than a week later, Bio was around when Monorail Yellow was once again stuck on the track. So I took his photo and applied a tagline that the candy bar Snickers had famously used for two decades, and posted it on Twitter.

After posting that meme, Bio followed me on Twitter and reached out to me via a Direct Message. A friendship was started that continues to this day. I personally admire his talent, his dedication, and his overall “love of the game,” so to speak. Not only does he have boots on the ground taking fantastic shots like the one below in EPCOT…

Harmonious EPCOT 40th barges seem to be most eye catching when red. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

…but he’s also in the air seemingly every other day posting the most stunning aerial photos of Walt Disney World and the Universal Orlando Resort.

Seven Seas Lagoon. (aerial photo by @bioreconstruct)
Aerial look at Bay Lake area.
Clearing on the shore at right was to be Reflections: A Disney Lakeside Lodge. Adjacent to Fort Wilderness Campground. Clockwise from there are Wilderness Lodge, Contemporary Resort, and Magic Kingdom. (aerial photo by @bioreconstruct)

Remember all the next level bananas photos that bio took of the empty parks during the Covid shutdown? Here’s a look at DHS you may never see again.

DHS ghost town in late March 2020. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

When the parks reopened, Bio was there as well.

An aerial look May 29, 2020 at lighted hearts at hotels in Universal Orlando Resort. (aerial photo by @bioreconstruct)

Incredibly enough, Bio isn’t just in the air in Florida, he’s also done photos high above the Disneyland Resort out in California. Can you believe this shot below getting the entire resort in one shot?!!

Aerial view of Disneyland at left, Disney California Adventure at right. Large green roof building is Grand Californian. (photo taken on May 8, 2019 by @bioreconstruct)

Bio is currently giving the community almost a daily update of Universal’s upcoming Epic Universe theme park being built from the ground up. This is the first time in theme park history that fans have been able to get access like this and it is thrilling to watch.

Aerial look at the dome in center of Epic Universe, and the dual-racing roller coaster. Also seen at right is the second launch of the How to Train Your Dragon coaster. (photo taken on July 2nd, 2023 by @bioreconstruct)

I posted so many pictures from Bio over the years in various editions of the SAT SIX that I figured it was more than time to give him his own series, so we started FLIGHTS WITH BIO.

Of course the Flights with Bio series had to include the iconic yellow arrow that Bio uses in many of his aerial photos. This little touch was added by the digital maestro Scott Walker, who handles the art duties for all of Bio’s header images.

You can read Vol 2 by CLICKING HERE and Vol 3 by CLICKING HERE.

The thing that I respect possibly the most about this incredible man is Bio’s “man of mystery” persona. Despite everyone knowing who he is because of his spectacular photography both on the ground and in the air, no one actually knows who he is. In a world of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Tik Tok, that is incredibly rare. We live in a LOOK AT ME world, but Bio keeps to himself, gives out less-than-zero personal details about his private life, and simply goes about his business producing amazing content for all of us on a daily basis.

Bio isn’t the theme park hero we deserve, but he’s the one we need. (meme by Scott Walker)

# 4 – Making Fun of Blogging

I’ve always been a fan of satire, whether it was Mad Magazine, Saturday Night Live, or The Onion. When I first started writing in the world of theme parks, there was almost no humor whatsoever. One of the writers I enjoyed reading the most – Josh easyWDW – would often make self-depreciating comments in his extremely detailed and insightful articles. Similar to the scientists in Jurassic Park, I wanted to use what he had done before and take the next step…doing entire articles making fun the art of theme park blogging.

Like many SAT SIX articles, this was an idea that sat in my head for years, and finally there was an “inciting incident” that finally convinced me that I needed to move forward with this concept. This event happened in February 2018 when Twitter user @Cheeksadam witnessed a person at EPCOT taking pictures of Disney plush Drinking Around The World.

A team sets up Disney plush surrounded by alcohol to be photographed by several photographers lying on the ground. (photo by @cheeksadam)

Seeing this one tweet had me more motivated that I have possibly been in my entire life, and over the next few months we put together a SATURDAY SIX Special Investigation. This would be an In-Depth Look at Theme Park Photography and you can read that article by CLICKING HERE.

Over the course of the article we discussed how trash cans were a theme park photographer’s best friend…

Brandon Glover using a trash can in the Magic Kingdom’s hub to take a photo of the fabled “rose gold” cupcake.

…the peak physical shape a theme park photographer needed to be in, so that they can contort their body in every possibly way to get the best shot…

Hunter Underwood getting the exact perspective he needed by lying on a ground that hasn’t been cleaned in days… possibly even weeks… solely FOR OUR ENJOYMENT.

…the proper use of camera equipment and more. I’m certainly biased on this one, but I think it’s an article worth going out of your way to check out.

Travis Terrell using an appropriately sized lens to photograph a dessert in Diagon Alley.

Here’s the thing though, as much as I loved that Special Investigation, it was missing something. The article closed with a section on photographers multiplying – like Gremlins when they get wet – whenever it comes to food photography. So the following year it was time for another Special Investigation focused on photographers, this time with A Behind-The-Scenes Look at Theme Park Food Photography, and you can read that article by CLICKING HERE.

From L-R, Hunter Underwood, Brandon Glover, Josh easyWDW, Blog Mickey, and Tom Bricker all photographing a skillet cookie at House of Blues in Disney Springs. There will NEVER be a better collection of world class theme park photographers in one place. Ever.

The very idea of all these great photographers taking glamour shots of a skillet cookie at the House of Blues is just something that tickled my funny bone, and hopefully the readers as well.

Skillet Cookie. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Skillet Cookie. (photo by Josh easyWDW)
Skillet Cookie. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
Skillet Cookie. (photo by Tom Bricker)

The article also touched on important photography rules such as The Camera Eats First

Babydoll and Hunter Underwood touching food and drink before the photographer has taken photos, a breach of theme park food photography etiquette. (photo by Brandon Glover)

…the amount of discount cards a theme park photographer is always equipped with (when forced to pay a check) and more. After ten years of weekly content, it would be almost impossible to narrow down my list of all-time favorite articles that I’ve written but this one is definitely in the top three, and you can read it by CLICKING HERE.

Don’t leave home without them… (photo by Hunter Underwood)

Another SAT SIX Special Investigation was done several years earlier, when a group of friends got together to help me with an article on Walt Disney World Pet Peeves. This covered controversial topics such as groups stopping in congested areas, flash photography on dark rides, not giving up seats on the monorail and more. This was so much fun to put together because I can’t tell you how many posts I would read on places like FaceBook or theme park website message boards with people complaining, and now those very same complaints could be looked at in a humorous fashion. You can read the WDW Pet Peeve article by CLICKING HERE.

From the WDW Pet Peeves article: @ellliphant looking for a poolside chair at the Poly but being told by @TheLeisureProf they are all taken. (photo by Brandon Glover)

When starting with TouringPlans, one long-term goal I always had in mind was to take articles people have seen a million times and present them in a whole new way. If every theme park blogging site has an article on The Best Places to Propose at Walt Disney World, I’m going to do one on The WORST Places at WDW to Propose. That was pretty much the genesis of the Special Investigation series, and you can read this article by CLICKING HERE.

From the Worst Places to Propose at WDW article: @TheLeisureProf asks his special lady to make him an honest man… at Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort. The people in the background were just other guests staying at the resort during the photo-shoot and their reaction was beyond perfect. Better than I could ever planned for. (photo by Brandon Glover)

# 3 – Artist Spotlight

The real world is filled with people who use a ladder to achieve success, and then immediately pull the ladder out to make sure that no one else can follow them up. I always felt it was my responsibility to help others if I ever was given an opportunity to. Working with a well-respected site like TouringPlans, I realized that I could give a creative showcase to people who may not otherwise have an opportunity to get their work featured on a prominent theme park blog. Over the years I have done articles on Artists Inspired by Universal’s VelociCoaster and Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights which featured multiple artists in each, but I wanted to create a series that would shine a spotlight on a singular creative talent, and give them something they could show friends and family for years down the road. For the most part, doing something creative can be a lonely experience, and you have to consider yourself lucky if somehow people get a chance to see the work that you’ve spent so much of your time and passion on.

My personal favorite event at any theme park is EPCOT’s Festival of the Arts, so in 2021 I started the Artist Spotlight series feature which would also showcase creative talent in the theme park community. The Spotlight features are timed so that they run during the time of my favorite festival. You can click on any of the headers below to see the spotlight article focusing on that individual artist. Below each header is a link to the artist’s social media account.

Sam Carter
Sterling Denham
Rob Yeo
Hayden Evans
Jess Siswick
Ava Buric
Marie Catano
Savannah Dawson-Hamilton
Bunny Wars
Brian Cooper

# 2 – Theme Park Turkeys of the Year

When I first started with TouringPlans, there were several things that I wanted to do that I felt no one else in the community was doing at the time. You’ve read about several of those concepts already, including the Outlet Report. From Day One at TP, I knew that I wanted to create the Theme Park Turkeys of the Year, an annual tradition that would take place the weekend of Thanksgiving. In 2014, I created the first ever Theme Park Turkeys of the Year article – which you can read by CLICKING HERE – and, quite frankly, it sucks. Actually, it doesn’t suck, but it wasn’t what I envisioned it to be and that was my fault. There’s a saying that goes “failing to prepare is preparing to fail” and I wasn’t prepared for the amount of work a proper Theme Park Turkeys of the Year article would take. I was trying to remember the goofy stories from earlier in the year and using any photo I could get. The concept was there for the inaugural Turkeys, but the execution wasn’t, and that’s on me.

In 2015, for the Second Annual Theme Park Turkeys of the Year, I was much more prepared. When something next level bananas happened during the course of the year – such as That Time A Guy Climbed The Mexico Pavilion in EPCOT – I made detailed notes of the event and tried to get as many “bloggable” photos as possible (ie: landscape orientation) and adding a bit of flair like the refillable mug photo. The Turkeys weren’t quite yet what I wanted them to be, but it was a massive improvement over the first year.

EPCOT World Showcase refillable mug with added Mexico Pavilion climber.

In 2016, things started clicking. For the Third Annual Theme Park Turkeys of Year I started working with artists to create artwork which could be used for the header image. This was the year that Hurricane Matthew made its way through Florida, and forced both Disney and Universal to temporarily close their parks for safety. This meant that vacationing guests were stuck at their hotels. With the parks and hotel restaurants closed, there wasn’t many options to find food, and for whatever reason Disney took the opportunity to gouge guests for a cheap boxed meal. You can read about that story, along with maybe the craziest in the history of the Turkeys – That Time Someone Photoshopped a TouringPlans Blog Photo to Prove in Court They Were at Walt Disney World – by CLICKING HERE.

Third Annual. Theme Park Turkeys of the Year. (art by Juliette Elton)

In 2017, for the Fourth Annual Theme Park Turkeys of the Year, we featured art for several stories from Juliette Elton and Sterling Denham.

The time someone called 911 for geese pooping in Disneyland (art by Juliette Elton)
That Time a Woman Got Caught Stealing runDisney Bibs. (art by Juliette Elton)
(art by Shelby Denham)
That Time A Woman Choked Out a Teen For Standing During WISHES. (art by Sterling Denham)

In 2018, for the Fifth Annual Theme Park Turkeys of the Year, we had art by Joel Carroll along with the beginning of what would eventually become the Disney Signage Hall of Shame.

That Time the Maleficent Dragon Float Breathed Fire…FOR REAL. (art by Joel Carroll)

2019 was a game changer. For the Sixth Annual Theme Park Turkeys of the Year we featured stories on “some non-descript coaster themed like India or whatever,” an accident on Disney’s Skyliner, and the bizarre Grand Opening of the NBA Experience in Disney Springs (which is somehow even MORE crazy now in hindsight.) It was also the first year that the Turkeys featured art by Brian Cooper.

That time it seemed like Toy Story Land was put together by 10 year old Andy himself and not an actual construction crew. (art by Brian Cooper)

Brian would go on to become the Featured Artist of the Turkeys, as he was able to take non-sensical scribblings from me (like the one below)…

…and create an actual masterpiece, like this header in 2020 for the Seventh Annual Theme Park Turkeys of the Year. The main drawing of the Turkeys involved several stories you would read in the actual article. It was like a recap of the year in one single picture. We were almost there…

(art by Brian Cooper)
2020 Theme Park Turkeys of he Year. (art by Brian Cooper)

…and then the final piece of the puzzle came into place. Artist SonderQuest providing drawings for each individual Turkey nomination. It took years to get there, but the Theme Park Turkeys of the Year were now exactly what I wanted when I pictured the series in my head back in 2013/2014. In fact it was even better than I imagined because I had no idea these talented guys even existed back then, and could only picture my crappy drawings in my head.

2020 Golden Turkey: Wannabe Influencers Taking Selfies in the Middle of World Drive. (art by SonderQuest)

In theory it would be impossible to top that 2020 header drawing, but Brian Cooper outdid himself in 2021 with this artwork for the Eighth Annual Theme Park Turkeys of the  Year. In fact, he stuffed so many references into this one piece of art that we did a second article that covered all the Easter Eggs. It was also where we started adding in “the good stuff” that happened during the year as well, as until now there was some pretty amazing art used in the Turkeys, but it was always the worst-of-the-worst being represented. What if we also gave a little attention to the great stuff that happened during the year as well, which is why you’ll see visual shout-outs to things like Earl the Squirrel, some of the creative team behind Universal’s VelociCoaster, and even the Disney Dish’s own Jim Hill & Len Testa recording a podcast.

2021 Theme Park Turkeys of the Year. (art by Brian Cooper)

My boy Sondy graciously came back for another year of drawings for each Turkey inductee.

2021 Theme Park Turkey nominee: Cardboard Cutout Caballeros. (art by @SonderQuest)

Of course last year we had the most recent installment of these prestigious awards, with the Ninth Annual Theme Park Turkeys of the Year. Once again, this drawing was so stuffed with details that we had a second article dedicated to going over each reference. My personal favorite part of these drawings by Brian were the running gags that would return each year, including @bioreconstruct‘s helicopter.

2022 Theme Park Turkeys of the Year. (artwork by Brian Cooper)

Sondy was back with another incredible series of drawings as well, also filled with little details for the Eagle Eyed reader to discover.

2022 Turkey of the Year nominee: Bob Chapek unceremoniously ousted. (art by @SonderQuest)

# 1 – The SAT SIX Fun Squad

 Wait… look, it all sounds *great* when you say it like that. But the truth is most of that was just luck. I didn’t know what I was doing half the time, I nearly always had help…”

He’s just being modest.” – Hermione Granger

No, Hermione, I’m not.” – Harry Potter, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

IT TAKES A VILLAGE isn’t even the accurate description of how the SATURDAY SIX comes together. It takes a city. This fine blog series only exists because of the talented people I am blessed to work with and call my friends. We’ve thanked some of the photographers earlier (barely even mentioning photog Hall of Famers like Blog Mickey and Tom Bricker who are kind enough to always let me use any photo I need) but also need to make sure other members of the Fun Squad get some recognition for the invaluable assistance they have given over the years.

Megan Stump – who I affectionately refer to as the SAT SIX editor-in-chief – started to help proofread this blog series many years when the amount of typos were driving her crazy. Meg works in education, specifically with young children, so she is used to my writing style. What she wasn’t prepared for was the constant debates I’ve had with her over the years explaining, “no, that’s actually the right word, it’s from the world of professional wrestling.” I am relatively sure she has just completely given up on trying to correct my various its vs it’s, because I’m always using the wrong one.

They say you are judged by the company you keep, and I hope that’s so because when I’m gone I would love for people to think I am half as good a person as Hunter Underwood and Brandon Glover are. Two wonderful human beings who (along with Brian Hyde and @FelipeWWoHP) just so happen to be fantastic with a camera. We are truly blessed to have them in the theme park world.

Parkscope Nick and TouringPlans’ own Joseph Matt (AKA Parkscope Joe) are literally the two guys I created the Fun Squad moniker around. If you remember the movie Elf, James Caan’s “Fun Squad” was a pair of writers whose best idea was…to hire a better writer. It’s a hilarious moment in the movie, and one that encapsulates my relationship with them. I love these guys and bounce ideas off them every single day of the year. I also joke that my obituary will reveal that my greatest gift to humanity are the years I spent protecting you all from the bad ideas that Nick and Joe pitch to me. Not to mention the amount of times on a Friday night they will suggest I ask artists like Brian Cooper or SonderQuest to make massive changes to their artwork hours before the article is posted. Nick and Joe live on another planet, which is their greatest strength.

Speaking of people at TouringPlans I have worked with over the years, I can’t thank Julia Mascardo enough for the help she was in shaping me into the writer I am today. Being in charge of a blog team is a thankless job, and more hassle than it can possibly be worth, but a good leader makes everyone under them better, and Julia was a great leader. Jennifer Heymont is currently with the TouringPlans team in a similar position and is someone I affectionately refer to as my “handler.” Jennifer has given me great direction and tips on improving these articles for you, Dear Reader. You’ll rarely, if ever, see their names, but know they are the bedrock which the SAT SIX stands tall on.

Julia Mascardo helping out for the Pet Peeves article.

I’ve shouted out TouringPlans’ own Guy Selga as my “Disneyland Guy” but he really is someone who will do everything I ask without questioning, no matter how ridiculous. Guy and I share a love of all things Star Wars, but he does have one character flaw in that he hates the Marvel Cinematic Universe with a fiery passion whereas I have watched Avengers: Endgame so many times I could recite every line of dialogue from memory.

Guy Selga, in a bonkers photo-op for Pandora: The World of Avatar

Brian McNichols, Scarlett Beasley, Morgan Crutchfield, David Davies, Seth Kubersky, Dani Meyering, Annette Jackson, Angela Dahlgren, Daisy Lauren, and Laurel Stewart are other members of the TouringPlans team, both past and present, who have helped guide me over the years. True heroes.

Three people who really helped out with the Outlet Report when I had totally checked out and about to lose my mind with the eBay resellers were Rob Issler, Ben Wszalek and Joseph “Doomy” Machado. These guys traveled to Mordor in order to help me, and they have my eternal thanks for it. Rob’s work behind-the-scenes with the SAT SIX in general is more than anyone can imagine and a person in my life I am truly grateful to have. Like @bioreconstruct, I have a hard time believing Rob is an actual human being and not some construct my mind has created because no one’s that good. Well the truth is both Bio and Rob ARE that good. Doomy lives in Polk County, Florida, so there was always a ceiling on how good he could be. Ben is currently about to make all our dreams come true as part of the team behind the upcoming Epic Universe project.

Joe Machado, holding the rear end of a cow that used to be featured in the Twister…Ride It Out! gift shop. As one does. (love ya, Doomy!)

Captain Cruiseline Scott Sanders is just one part of the Sanders Trio who – along with Emily and Izzy – have assisted me on countless articles. Scott is also the only other person I know who has watched every episode of The Love Boat, so we have that shared bond as well.

The Sanders Trio preparing to board a Mardi Gras float at Universal Studios Florida.

Not only has the Permit Princess Alicia Stella made time in her schedule for my photo requests, she even wrote an entire SAT SIX knighting up for – of all things – PizzeRizzo. You can read that article by CLICKING HERE. I kid because I love, and the concept of the Theme Park Hills To Die On series was in part inspired by Alicia’s love for PizzeRizzo. What are things at Disney and Universal that are regularly looked down upon but you absolutely love? For her it’s PizzeRizzo. For me it’s skill games inside the parks. Maybe one day I can convince former Imagineer Joe Rohde to wax eloquently about why Dinoland USA is actually great. Knock on wood.

Alicia, along with master cartographer Tommy Hawkins, are THE people in the community when it comes to Epic Universe and have been a great resource for me to draw on over the years.

We’ve mentioned earlier that Brian Cooper has essentially become the house artist of the Turkeys of the Year, but he has also pitched in with many other drawings as well, including this piece for the 6 Reasons Well Never Forget 2021 (No Matter How Hard We Try) article.

Yes, there was an actual guest who got off a Living with the Land boat and grabbed vegetables. (art by Brian Cooper)

Brian has an exceptional ability to put the characters of “Derek and Bacini” into real life theme park situations with comedic effect. Take for example this photo below, posted by Disney, which showed a typo being printed on a graphic for a soon-to-be unveiled pool slide at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort.

Brian took that picture and adapted it by using the characters of Derek and Bacini for the 6 Reasons We’ll Never Forget 2020 article. Here’s where Brian takes everything to the next level. The character of Derek is often wearing Disney’s worst pieces of merchandise. I suggested that the t-shirt that “Derek” is wearing for this drawing be the Cub Scout Activity Series logo that was a complete knock-off of the Disney California Adventure logo. This story is covered in the Never Forget article.

How great is this? (art by Brian Cooper)

Brian did one better. He created a knock-off of the knock-off, and used Bacini in a SAT SIX logo. No one would even notice this detail except me and exceptionally eagle-eyed readers. I am to this day, years later, blown away by this level of artistry.

(art by Brian Cooper)

SonderQuest is certainly the artist with the most amount of drawings published in the SAT SIX. We’ve mentioned his artwork for the Turkeys, but Sondy also comes back for our annual In Memoriam articles that look back at what the theme parks lost over the previous year.

2022 In Memoriam. (art by @SonderQuest)
The Man, the Myth, the Legend: SonderQuest.

Tommy Hawkins introduced me to the digital maestro Scott Walker and it was one of those “love at first sight” moments. I understand artists who put pen to paper and create drawings, but I’m still wrapping my head around the art people like Scott who can create via apps like Photoshop. For years I wanted to do articles that involved photoshopped items, but never knew a graphic artist good enough to make my insane ramblings a reality. With Scott, I found a kinship with someone who thought the same way I did, and like Brian Cooper and SonderQuest, loved to stuff his creations with little details I never would have thought of.

Wooly Bob Chapek, where you can apply Bob’s Focus Group’d beard at home! (art by Scott Walker)
Just brilliant work. (art by Scott Walker)
Using a moment from The Simpsons for an article featuring @bioreconstruct‘s aerial photos. (art by Scott Walker)

Make no bones about it, I am in sheer awe of Scott Walker’s talent and genius.

Scott Walker, at the Pop Century 90s computer pool. On the screen is the actual very first article I wrote for TouringPlans back in 2013.

We can’t close this section without a return to the person who started it all, TouringPlans’ own Len Testa for taking a chance on me. I joke on TouringPlans Slack that I currently hold the title of “Most Amount of Articles We’ve Had To Turn Off The Comments For” and it’s only a semi-joke as I have put Len Testa through more grief than all the other writers TP has had combined. Despite that unneeded aggravation, Len has always had my back. The last ten years couldn’t have existed without him, because there is no way another sane human being would have signed off on the articles I pitched. You have a team filled with some of the smartest people I’ve ever met, putting together analytical and research-based articles that will save vacationing guests time and money…and you also have me writing an article about my dog ordering room service at Sapphire Falls. But that’s Len, and I couldn’t be more thankful for that fateful day back in 2013 when he texted me for a phone call. I’ll always remember where I was when we talked (I was pulled over on the side of the road in Jupiter Farms, Florida) and my appreciation for him has grown  every day since.  The only person I appreciate more than Len is YOU, Dear Reader, because you have literally a million other options in life and yet you give me your most precious commodity, time. I truly thank you. – Derek

Len Testa, in his Hank Lonely persona.
Hank Lonely and Ouannii on the Galactic Starcruiser. (artwork by Brian Cooper)

Honorable Mention – Goofiness

Let’s take a look at some of my favorite articles that I’ve been a part of over the years. All of them have absolutely nothing to do with the mandate of TouringPlans, but I did them anyway (thanks Len!) We’ll start off with a look at the Walt Disney World locations used in Hulk Hogan’s Thunder in Paradise. Many readers don’t know this, but I came to the world of theme parks after writing for the world of professional wrestling, so of course I was going to do an article that was merging two loves of my life.

The Hulkster and Sting in front of Disney’s Grand FloridianResort.

Years later I was able to get TouringPlans’ own Len Testa and professional wrestler (not to mention theme park super fan) Matt Cardona to recreate the Hulk vs. Sting confrontation at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Have always loved doing articles based around The Disney Dump, but this series has pretty much merged into our annual In Memoriam series.

The Disney Dump. (art by Matt Cleary)

Digital Maestro Scott Walker created a “new and improved” version of the Disney Dump that we update regularly in the Theme Park Enjoyment Index and is more in line with the “dumpster fire” world we live in.

I adored writing the article Using Disney Villains to Explain Theme Park Blogging because it was just so out there.

For me personally, some of my favorite articles have been the ones covering theme park related comic books. Listen, I like professional wrestling and I like theme parks, but I *love* comic books, so look for a new edition of this series in the near future.

The goal of the Theme Park Hills to Die On series was to find people in the community who would defend the things they love, even if most people weren’t fans. If you know someone who would like to be a part of this series, please let me know. Every attraction out there is someone’s favorite, and I would love to hear the case for something like Fast & Furious – Supercharged.

Ace photographer Michael Carelli is the brainchild behind our Plastic in the Parks series. This is where theme park related LEGO pictures would be pictured alongside the Disney and Universal areas they would naturally be found in. From Disney Springs to the Wizarding World and everywhere in between!

“Welcome to Jurassic Park.” (photo by Michael Carelli)

For years I wanted to do an article on my personal favorite theme park attraction scene, the Dog with Key moment in Pirates of the Caribbean.

Speaking of jail cells, the appropriate gift for a 10 year anniversary is “tin.” What is better for a jail cell than a tin cup to rattle across the bars?! (art by Brian Cooper)

Who among us isn’t looking for ways to repurpose their MagicBands?

You do NOT want to know what this cat is thinking. (photo by Laurel Stewart)

The Hall of Shame series is something I am personally a big fan of, especially when it covers Disney food items like the Pop-Tart Sandwich.

Double Secret Honorable Mention – David & Derek (and Bacini)

One concept that I would do every single week if I had the ability is the “David & Derek” series. This was a take on the Goofus & Gallant comics from Highlights magazine. Essentially a Do’s and Don’ts feature. So I started off doing them myself, including this article on Theme Park Guest Etiquette.

About a year later, I did a “David & Derek” on Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

I got so frustrated trying to draw the Millennium Falcon that I just gave up and begged Sterling Denham to draw it for me. They did and I swore at that point I would never draw a “David & Derek” strip again. I loved the idea of this strip and wanted to do it forever, but I hated how my art looked. HATED IT.

Then a funny thing happened, I asked Brian Cooper if he would try drawing one. I think I literally cried tears of happiness when he delivered the “David & Derek” that I always pictured in my mind. Here are a couple examples from the “David & Derek” that looked at the Do’s and Don’ts of Orlando Vacation Planning. This article was inducted straight into the Bad Timing Hall of Fame because it came out three days before both Disney and Universal shut down for Covid and people couldn’t book theme park vacations. Weeks of work that went into an article that was irrelevant two days later. Unbelievable.

David uses spreadsheets to break down the real cost of a “free” dining plan and discovers paying rack rate for his hotel room removes any value. (art by Brian Cooper)
Derek ALWAYS gets “free dining” because all that food MUST mean he’s saving a lot of money!(art by Brian Cooper)

Speaking of “David & Derek” articles that are now irrelevant, how about one on Covid Safety Protocols! Brian really hit a home run with this one art wise.

Brian was also able to introduce my dog Bacini into the series. Bacini is sort of the “moral compass” for Derek, like the old Davey & Goliath morality plays on TV, adding a new dynamic to the strip.

One of the “David & Derek” articles I did before I had Bacini as a pet was this one on Disney’s Dog-Friendly Hotels.

Recently, artist @savaemazz was looking for help with commissions and a lightbulb went off. I can get good artists to fix my “David & Derek” articles. I pitched the request and got back results that I was in love with.

David & Derek sketch. (art by @savaemazz)
David. (art by @savaemazz)
Derek and Bacini. (art by @savaemazz)

Sneak peek at the next strip being reimagined, this time by Brian Cooper..

David. (art by Brian Cooper)
Derek and Bacini. (art by Brian Cooper)

Triple Threat Honorable Mention – Tribute Articles

I have loved writing for TouringPlans over the last decade, but there are a few blogs that I wish I didn’t have to write. Unfortunately the theme park community, and me personally, have suffered some tragedy over the years and I wanted to do whatever I could to help ease the pain of that suffering.

A SATURDAY SIX Tribute to Josh easyWDW – A look back at one of theme park’s greatest bloggers

Josh easyWDW. (art by Brian Cooper)

A SATURDAY SIX Tribute To Ian Barritt – Cherished Friend, Devoted Uncle, runDisney Hall of Famer

Ian Barritt. (art by Brian Cooper)

Matt Cleary was a friend I had from my days in the world of professional wrestling. He was available on a moment’s notice to whip up whatever crazy graphic I asked of him.

Duffy the Bear in a classic photo referencing Lonely Virgil. (art by Matt Cleary)
One of my favorite images ever, a Na’vi “sealing the bond” with a 19.8% APR. (art by Matt Cleary)
Yes, we did an entire article on Disney references in James Cameron’s AVATAR. (art by Matt Cleary)

Matt passed away at way too young an age, and you can read my tribute to him by CLICKING HERE (scroll to end).

Matt Cleary.

You can read the tribute I wrote to my mom passing away in this article based on, ironically enough, Father’s Day: Celebrating the Dads at Disney and Universal (trust me, it will make sense when you read it.)

The other most important person in my life was my Grandmother. My mom and grandmother loved taking me to the parks, and instilled in me the work ethic and sense of humor I have today. I wrote the tribute to my Grandmother the month she passed away in the October 2017 edition of the Outlet Report (scroll to the bottom.)

So there you have it: The SATURDAY SIX Celebrates Ten Years with TouringPlans! 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 THEME PARK ENJOYMENT INDEX, giving a monthly recap of all the theme park news you need to know (and a lot more you don’t need to know, but we’re gonna tell you anyway). You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).

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10 thoughts on “The SATURDAY SIX Celebrates Ten Years with TouringPlans

  • Congratulations to you and the entire Sat Six team, but mostly to Len for creating / enduring all that you do. It’s been a real pleasure to read the content and I’m hoping maybe a podcast will once again rise from the ashes (insert bell graphic here —>> ding ding).

  • I always enjoy reading your work. I’ll always miss your Outlet reports, but 100% understand the need to leave them behind. Congratulations on 10 years.

    • I will never not miss the outlet snark!

  • Cannot believe it’s been 10 years – the Six just gets better and better – thank you Derek and everyone else!

  • Love your blogs and your humor. Hope they continue for another 10 years.

  • Happy 10 years and I take fault that our ideas are bad. We come up with the BEST ideas.

  • Congratulations on a wonderful anniversary. Thank you for all of your wonderful blogging!


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