Disney Dream Depot Brings Disney to You!

December 15, 2010 at 10:29 pm | Posted in Disney Dream Depot, Disney Travel Planning, Disneyland, Uncategorized, Walt Disney World Mom's Panel, Walt Disney World Resort | Leave a comment
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Do you like  love Disney? Do you like to hear about what’s new at Disney or learn about different things pertaining to all things Disney? Then Disney Dream Depot. (www.disneydreamdepot.com) is for you. Disney Dream Depot was created in late 2009 by some people who didn’t make it through the final rounds of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel interviews. This group wanted to help others plan their Disney vacations and serve as a source of information for people looking to go to Walt Disney World for their 1st visit or their 100th visit. They are not trying to compete with the WDW Moms Panel- they are simply trying to share their love of Disney.

The website consists of several different areas: blog posts, forums, friends, events, groups and more. The site is open for anyone to start a forum question. You can also find Disney Dream Depot on Twitter (@disneydreamdepo) and on Facebook.  

Every Thursday night from 9:00-10:00 pm EST, you can find the Disney Dream Depot chat. Two “Dreamers” host a live web chat on www.disneydreamdepot.com discussing various Disney topics. You will even hear guest hosts that are pretty familiar with different Disney things. There is a chat room available for the listeners to ask questions. It’s a lot of fun, and everyone should join. If you can’t make the chat, you can also download them at a later time on ITunes.

Come join the Dreamers as they answer your Disney questions!

Megan, Pennsylvania: Megan is the mother of 3 awesome Kiddos, and a lover of all things Disney! With 2 self proclaimed princesses, Megan has lots of ideas to help you make the most of all that Disney has to offer your little princess . . .want to find Prince Charming? Ariel? Dine with Royalty? She’s here to help you do just that. Did you know that you can find Cinderella’s pals Jaq and Gus in the Castle? She’ll tell you where!

But don’t be fooled into thinking she doesn’t know what the little guys want either…her oldest is a guy who loves all that Disney Parks have to offer him.

Sprinkling pixie dust over itineraries for her family and friends quickly fills what little spare time she has between caring for her family, working as a guidance counselor, and managing her custom photo gift company.

Jennifer, Pennsylvania: “I’m the Disney mom of a Disney family. I have one son, 6, whose favorite game to play in the car is “What ride am I thinking of at Disney?”. I work at home as a freelance clinical editor, and spend much of my free time volunteering at my son’s school and in his activities.  I have been to Disney more than 10 times. I have been as a teenager, married-no-kids, pregnant, and with my son. I am currently planning a holiday trip with my parents, who have never been. I love learning about Disney and sharing my tips and tricks with others.”

Lynne, Texas: “I am a single mom living in Houston with a beautiful teenage princess and a lifelong love of Disney. We are currently planning our 20th trip to the world for next summer, and love to try new restaurants, events and activities every time we go. I especially love to help “first-timers” plan their trips to share a little bit of the Magic. I love all kinds of Disney Trivia, and have also visited Disneyland Paris and the Original Disneyland! To me, there are two kinds of people – those who love Walt Disney World, and those who don’t know it yet!”

Mike, Pennsylvania: “I’m a father to my Disney loving son and a husband to my Disney loving wife. I really enjoy being a part of a Disney family now because I really didn’t grow up in a Disney family. I grew up in Arizona and I only got to Disney Land twice as a kid, and Disney World was out of the questions as it was to far away. The addiction for me really didn’t start until I was an adult and had to attend a business meeting in Orlando. Since I was already going out to Orlando, I decided to bring my wife and spend some time before the meeting at WDW. All I can say about that trip was WOW. It was then that I really began to love Disney World. In fact, my wife and I loved it so much we even flew her parents out to watch our young son while we took an adult trip to WDW. A few years later, after our son turned 4, we returned to WDW and brought him with us. It was so amazing to watch his face as we introduced him to the magic that is Disney. It was then and there that the addiction really raised its little head. By the next year we owned annual passes and went on 3 family trips to Walt Disney World. All in all, I’ve been to WDW and Disney Land a total of 13 times. The addiction remains healthy and is now to point that we start to twitch if we don’t got about every three months. I hope you enjoy reading and talking about disney on the site and will continue to use us as a resource for you future trips.”

Lea, Texas: “I am a working mother of 2 wonderful kids! I was raised going to Walt Disney World every summer. As I got older, I fell in love with Disney even more, especially once I began bringing my children to Disney. I am a Disney Travel Planner as well as an outside sales professional. I love chatting Disney with whoever will listen! And I am THRILLED to be a part of the Disney Dream Depot so I can help others plan their magical trips!”

Shaene, North Carolina: “I have been to Disney World 20+ times.
I got married at the Wedding Pavilion at the Grand Floridian in 2007 and honeymooned on Disney Cruise Line.
I have been to Disney Land once.
I have no kids, but I have taken foster children to Disney World twice.
I believe in sharing the Disney magic with everyone I can and truly believe in the motto of “Faith, Trust, & Pixie Dust”.
As Walt said “It was all started by a Mouse…”

Jim, New Jersey: “Hi! My name is Jim and I am a married dad of two (my son is 11 and my daughter is 7). I have been to WDW somewhere in the 40 times range and find new experiences every time I go. I am a DVC member since 2001 and love all things Disney! I didn’t start loving Disney only when the kids came, because about 25 of my trips were without kids PRIOR to kids! Very excited to be part of the Disney Dream Depot team…here to answer any questions and help plan vacations at the BEST place in the world!”

Rob, Virginia: “Hello hummmmmans! I am Rob, a Disney obsessed husband and father who works in the maritime industry in order to fund my addiction. My Disney life began at the ripe old age of two when my Aunt took me on my first trip (of many as a child) to Disneyland. As an adult my wife and I had our honeymoon at Disney World in 2006 and have been addicted ever since. That addiction eventually led to us becoming DVC Members in 2009 and sufficiently infecting our two boys with a love for Disney as well (and we have to start on a third one in February!). I love helping people figure out the ins and outs of Disney vacations, getting the most out of their experience. I am happy to answer any and all questions you might have, especially about DVC!”

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Meet Zanna! A True Disney Mom!

May 19, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Posted in Disney Travel, Disney Travel Planning, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Downtown Disney, Epcot, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World Mom's Panel, Walt Disney World Resort | 1 Comment
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As you all know, I have a bit of an obession with all things Disney. While reaching out and finding others who share my passion, I found Suzannah DiMarzio, or Zanna (you can read her wonderful blog at www.zannaland.com) on Twitter. In the year that I have “known” Zanna, she has proven to be a wonderful person and friend. Her love of her family and of Disney come through with all tweets and blog posts. I am truly looking forward to finally meeting her in person this October during the 5K weekend.

This past September, Zanna began the process of applying for the Walt Disney World Mom’s Panel. The Mom’s Panel is made up of several moms and dads who are true Disney fans. These people are the epitome of Disney experts. All of us on Twitter knew from the start that Zanna would be a perfect fit for the Mom’s Panel. We all cheered her on from the time they announced they were accepting applications, through her 2nd and 3rd round interviews and then finally when she made the announcement that she was selected to join this great group of people!

Read on for more information on Zanna and how she incorporates her love of Disney into her every day life, including being a mom and wife!

1.  Tell us about your childhood interest in Disney…

My dad grew up in Ocala Florida and his family still lived there, so I know visited Magic Kingdom at about 7 months old (so 1974) and again at around I think 4 or 5, but I don’t remember those visits at all. The trip that changed my life and made me a Disney fan was in the summer of 1983. My parents decided to drive down and make stops along the way over and back to various historic sites (Philadelphia Baltimore, Washington DC, Charleston and Savannah). In the middle, we spent some time at Disney World. I don’t remember how long, it must’ve been a week though. We stayed at the Lake Buena Vista Villas which were located in what is now the Saratoga Springs area. It was beyond amazing to me, at 9 to check into a townhouse-like ‘hotel’ and get our own golf cart and be able to drive to the then Lake Buena Vista Marketplace. I fell in love with EPCOT Center then too. We visited again with my older siblings the next year, and the year after that, my parents and I moved to Ocala. They opened a homemade ice cream shop (named after me) and we’d visit EPCOT almost every other Monday when the shop was closed. I can’t really describe the magic that exists at Walt Disney World, but I think it’s mostly the feeling of being able to leave the real world behind and let your imagination take over. 
 

2.  How did that change as you got older?

As I moved through 6th – 8th grade, it was well-known by family and friends that we were just always at Disney. We visited other areas in Florida, and we’d join my mom’s family when they would vacation for the summer in the southeast part of Maine, but Walt Disney World became home. We built up so many memories there that, to paraphrase a quote from fellow Moms Panelist Andi, it became a living book of treasured memories. 

In the middle of 8th grade, we moved to Lynchburg, VA. It was during that time that our multiple visits to Disney World stopped, but we did try to go once a year. It was then that we discovered Disney’s Beach Club resort. We fell in love. Being originally from New England and having the resort be so close to our favorite Epcot, it was just perfection.

In the middle of high school I moved back to Massachusetts with my mom. We didn’t get down there too often, but I did find several other Disney fans in school. As a result, the senior trip that usually took place in Caribbean each year, was split into two groups, because so many people wanted to go to Disney World instead. That was a fun trip too. After that, I didn’t get to the parks too much, but after trying out a few majors in a couple of colleges (Creative Writing for Children and Public Relations among them) I realized that what I really wanted to do was work for Disney as one of the people that booked the vacation packages. I then switched gears to a smaller school to get a degree in Travel and Tourism Management and use that to get a job in the travel company at Disney. The only problem was when I moved down there, the travel company had no openings. I took a job on Main Street, USA and hoped to transfer. However, in the meantime, I found a position in an actual travel agency and decided to start there. The company was just starting out, so I was able to move up quickly and become the leisure and cruise department manager. I left when I had my first son.

3. What is your family like?

I met my husband in high school. He played guitar and wanted to play music for the drama club, but got roped into acting because so few boys tried out for parts. He was a natural but it wasn’t until senior year that we started talking more and hanging out. I introduced him to musicals and he introduced me to Led Zeppelin. 😉 Luckily, he liked Disney too. His family had been when he was 13, but that was it. I remember knowing everything would be fine when we drove down to Disney during Spring Break of 1994 and stayed in All-Star Music together. We had a such a great time. I was able to convince him to move to Florida in 1995 with my mom and I and we all worked at Disney for a while. We were married in 1996 and had our reception at the Walt Disney World Dolphin hotel. Our first son was born in 1999, our daughter in 2000 and our youngest son was born in 2008. My husband is a Systems Engineer and also writes tech books. Our oldest son is very into video games, usually on Xbox 360. He also loves to read and write. He has a killer sarcastic wit, which assures me daily that yes, he is mine. Our daughter is into gymnastics, swimming and loves helping with her baby brother. She detests pink much to my dismay, but she is still a princess in her own right. Our youngest son is a bundle of energy that keeps us laughing, smiling and warms our hearts daily. He is fearless and so far he shows all the signs of being a Disney fan too. My mom lives nearby and is a cruise agent. She likes to plan most of our family vacations to Disney and is very much like a fairy godmother to all of us. 

4.  Do they share your love of Disney?

Oh yes. They would live there if they could. My older two are at the age where they don’t like to admit they like it as much as they do, but they always find something new to make each visit special when we go. My oldest son in particular is very into finding Hidden Mickeys. They both collected pins for a while, but never got into the act of “trading” them. 😉 They now both love Vinylmation which has become a family activity (being obsessed with them).
 

5. How many days a year are you in the Disney parks?

This is something I really wish I’d kept track of, but sadly I never did. I’d love to know from day one exactly how many visits, including working there and being Florida residents, I’ve had. Before starting the blog and being chosen for the Walt Disney World Moms Panel, we’d probably go once a month, with a couple of longer stays throughout the year for birthdays. Since I started blogging and connecting with people on twitter, there haven’t been too many weekends that I’m not in the Parks. It’s been a completely different experience visiting the Parks solo, or with friends vs. with family and I’m very lucky and grateful that I’m able to do both. 
 

6. What is your favorite Walt Disney World restaurant?

My answer seems to change every week when I do my Meet the Moms Panel series on ZannaLand and read their answers. Just when I think I have one favorite, I read their choice and think “ooh, that’s a good one too!” I really do love Citricos though and that’d probably be my top pick if I wanted a nice dinner out with my husband. California Grill would be next on that list. For the whole family, we love Japan’s Teppan Edo, Les Chefs de France, Germany’s Biergarten, Le Cellier, Kona Cafe…I really should stop. 😉

7. What is your favorite Walt Disney World Resort and why?

It really is hard for me to pick one, because I have 3 top favorites: Disney’s Beach Club, Wilderness Lodge and Animal Kingdom Lodge. I love them all for different reasons and would feel at home at any of them. Beach Club reminds me of New England and of course the pool there is just amazing. I love its convenient location too. Wilderness Lodge is just comfort defined. I feel so at home there and love the sights sounds and smells. Animal Kingdom Lodge has a similar feel, and I love that there are just so many areas to explore within the lobby alone. There is nothing that quite compares to waking up to zebra and giraffes grazing outside your window. For me, the resort has always been as much a part of the vacation as the Disney parks and other attractions. I love the relaxing feel you get as you leave the real world behind and make your Disney resort your home away from home.  

 

8. What is your favorite Walt Disney World attraction?

My two favorite attractions actually don’t exist anymore. The original Journey into Imagination and Horizons. I have such love for them because they represent a time when EPCOT Center was new and really made me love Walt Disney World. I thought the original Imagination ride was a complete work of art and it saddens me so much that whoever was in charge made the decision that it needed to change. It was a perfect representation of the different parts of imagination and things like the white room and the senses room and the science room were just amazing. I loved the photo at the end too, with no attempt to sell you a picture, it was just part of the magic of the experience.

Horizons was reminiscent of Carousel of Progress, which has always been a favorite too. I loved that there was a *story* to the attraction and the extras like the orange grove smell and the ‘choose your ending’ parts really made it unique. I understand that rides have to appeal to a broader audience and most people want action vs. story, but those two rides will always be my favorite for those reasons. I loved World of Motion too. I have most of the original EPCOT Center album memorized. 😉

Of existing rides, I love Soarin’. I wish there were about 5 more theatres so it wasn’t quite such a long wait for a short ride, but I still love it and think it’s a wonderful ride. I love Toy Story Mania! too and think it’s a great example of combining story with new ride technology. Outside of that, I’m a sucker for the classics; it’s a small world, Peter Pan’s Flight, Pirates of the Caribbean, the TTA (which will always be the Wedway People Mover to me). I love Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain, but I’m always going to love the older, simpler attractions because of the history they have. 
 

9. What is your favorite Walt Disney World theme park and why?

Epcot. Or I should say EPCOT Center circa 1985. 😉 I still love the park despite the changes. I walk through that park and thousands of memories flood over me. I love all of the countries and how you can have a different experience every time you visit the park. Magic Kingdom I love because I worked there, so I have great memories of that park, plus so many with my children. I love the Studios because it was my dad’s favorite park, but I do miss the old Residential Street and original backstage tour and special effects tour. Animal Kingdom I will always love because it is a park of discovery and you can just explore and drink in the surroundings. So…I like them all for different reasons, but I think Epcot wins out by a little. 

10. Tell me about your decision to apply to the Walt Disney World Mom’s Panel…

I hadn’t heard about the Moms Panel until the end of 2008, when the application process for the 2009 panel began. I believe it was in the allears.net newsletter that I saw a little blurb about it and thought, “oh, Disney? Moms? online? I can do that!” So I wrote out my answers in Word, pasted them into the little boxes, hit submit, and promptly forgot about it. Then in October I got an email about the Mickey Moms Club, realized that I didn’t make it and thought “aww.” but that was it. It wasn’t until starting to interact with other Disney fans on twitter and meeting some of the 08 and 09 moms there, that I felt like “wait, I HAVE to do this.” I’m sure the buzz online contributed to my obsession. I realized how much fun the panelists had with each other, and wanted to experience that in the context of helping others plan their Disney vacations, something that was really second nature to me. I knew with my experience as a visitor alone I could help, but combining that with my cast member experiences, my travel agent knowledge and my time online, I figured (and hoped) it would be a perfect fit.

Of course I found out during the application process that when you paste answers in, they can come across completely garbled and unreadable. So I wasn’t sure if my first attempt had been foiled because of that, or more likely, because I approached the first application like a resume, trying to “prove myself” worthy. The second time, I spoke from my heart and shared personal experiences vs. facts and figures. I’m not sure if that made a difference or not, but I’m of course extremely grateful that Disney saw something in me and I made it onto the panel. 

11. Can you describe the process of the Mom’s Panel?

Well, in the past, during the month of September, www.DisneyWorldMoms.com will have a link to apply to the WDW Moms Panel. On that page, you answer 3 questions in 100 words or less about you, your family, and your experience as a Disney fan. The questions vary slightly each year. I have no insight into *how* they choose people from the 1,000’s of applications they get, but I can only advise to put your passion into words. Don’t just say “I’m really passionate” show them how you are. With that many applications, they really have to weed through any spelling or grammar errors, so watch out for those. Just be yourself, and let the real you shine.

After that first cut, somewhere around 200 people advance to round 2, which is another set of three essay questions. Usually they are a little more in-depth and may ask for examples of your planning tips or skills, or what makes you unique and a good choice for the Panel. In the past, it’s usually been narrowed down to around 40 or so, but we aren’t sure how that went last year since there were double the amount of panelists added. Round 3 is a phone interview where you tell executive cast members about your experiences and why you feel you should be on the Panel. From there, the final Panel is chosen! It is an extremely exciting, nerve-wracking and exhilarating experience. It’s equally as much fun as it is ulcer-inducing. 😉

I know from speaking with a lot of people online, that sometimes it’s really hard to understand how the panelists are chosen and why some people with vast Disney knowledge or experience may get passed over. I have no answers for this because even after making the panel, we are not given any insight into how we were chosen or how future panelists will be chosen (and rightly so, it would taint the process if we knew). All I can say is that there are a LOT of people that love Disney. Disney loves and appreciates all their fans, and however they decide choose to select members of their panel, that decision should not diminish your love and passion for the Parks and Resorts. Keep spreading the magic and making memories, because that’s what it’s all about. 

12. What was one unexpected thing you discovered on the Mom’s Panel?

As a shy person in the real world (online is another story), I was worried that I wouldn’t fit in or be accepted by the rest of the panel. After all, how often do 21 (or 43 altogether) people actually have enough in common at first meeting to become friends? But the power of pixie dust is strong, and we all became instant friends. That in and of itself is such a powerful gift that I thank Disney for each day. There isn’t anyone on the panel that doesn’t want to help other people, and as much as it of course makes sense, it was an unexpected reality.

The other thing was just how addictive answering questions on DisneyWorldMoms.com can be. As my time approached to start answering questions, I became nervous that I wouldn’t be able to do a good job or that I’d even feel overwhelmed by the ‘job’ part of being on the panel. It was just an instant fit and the only downside is that I don’t have enough hours in the day to answer ALL the questions I see on there. 
 

13. What is your favorite thing about the Mom’s Panel?

Without a doubt, being a part of such an amazing, diverse group of moms and dads. I’ve learned something from each of them and I’m so grateful to call them all “friend”. The cast members in charge of the panel and other aspects of Disney Parks are all wonderful too. It’s been such a treat to get an insider’s look at some areas of how things are run, and of course it leaves you with wanted to do more with Disney. In addition, the support on twitter and other places online for the panel in general has been overwhelming. There are so many people with such a great love and knowledge of Disney, it’s nice to know that we are all one big family online.

Knowing that you are helping people head on their way to a magical Disney vacation is a wonderful feeling too. It’s especially nice when you get people that liked a previous answer you gave and come back and ask you more questions personally. I had one mom ask me about 3 different questions about her trip and it was so cool to know I was helping her plan a great trip. 

14. What are your family’s thoughts on the Moms Panel?

My husband and mom think it’s amazing and are really proud of me. The big kids didn’t really get that it was a big deal, until they got *their* picture in the paper too. 😉 Now they think it’s pretty cool. They love meeting other Moms Panel kids but what’s funny is they think that *everyone* I meet in the Parks now is on the Moms Panel. 

15. How does Disney impact your role as a mom and a wife?

It’s definitely made me appreciate my family more, and made me take stock of ALL the memories we’ve experienced over the year that turn into Disney traditions that they will hopefully pass on to their children as well. It’s definitely made me want to visit the parks more and gain even more experience to share with others who ask questions on the Moms Panel, and readers of my blog.

Disney was such an important part of my childhood and for a long time I avoided ’embracing’ my love of Disney World because so many people I met just didn’t ‘get it’. Becoming involved in twitter and finding so many other people that felt the same love for Disney really helped me embrace my passion and find out how to share it with others and help them create wonderful memories too. I am really lucky to have such an amazing support system in my husband, mom, children and friends that allow me to pursue my dreams. I’m even luckier to have Disney be a major part of those dreams.

I’d like to thank Zanna for taking the time out of her busy life to answer my questions! You can find her on the Moms Panel site, www.zannaland.com or on Twitter.

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