In October of 1972, my parents brought me to Walt Disney World for the first time. From that day forward, I fell under the spell of the region.
As a travel agent in the early 1980s, I had the opportunity to visit Walt Disney World on several occasions on “familiarization trips,” paid excursions to show us the virtues of the resort as a travel destination. When I joined the Navy, I went through boot camp at Recruit Training Center Orlando, followed by another year of training here. Over the next two decades, my family would return over and over for vacations, coming from as far away as Tokyo to spend time at the resort. We even rode out Hurricane Charlie inside one of the villas at the Old Key West Resort in 2004, as the eye passed just east of the property.
Throughout this time, I always expressed a desire to someday relocate back to this area, to live here. Finally, in 2011, I had the chance to move back to central Florida. My family circumstances had changed, I’d ended my naval career and become a writer. Now here, I was close enough to Walt Disney World to consider some of the more interesting ideas I’d imagined over the years. Here’s how I described it at the time.
I had this dream of being able to do something cool. Something amazingly cool. Something incredibly cool that no one I knew had ever done or tried to do before.
This is that something.
I have always loved everything Disney, especially Walt Disney World. From my first visit soon after it opened, my family and I would come back and visit, over and over and over again. I became the family’s Disney trivia expert – so much so that no one wanted to play against me (well, that and because I was also something of a jerk about it… but I digress).
I often wondered, what it would be like to be able to spend all your time here with the parks. Would being among them all the time make the Magic become the Mundane? Or is there enough unique out there that you could spend an entire year at the resort, doing something different each day and not run out of exciting and interesting experiences, not just to do, but to write about?
My structure was simple – write about something new within the boundaries of the Walt Disney World Resort every day. I had a set of rules, which I explained in a letter to my mother about the project:
Every day, I am going to try to d something at Walt Disney World. It might be a ride, or a party, or a restaurant. It might instead just be a moment – something happened that was just so breathtaking I had to share it. Every day must be unique – no repeats. Walt Disney World is such a wonderfully unique place that finding 365 unique things should be relatively easy.
I can also post updates – just to keep track of things that change. Because Walt Disney World isn’t static. It is ever evolving. That’s why it’s always a New World! But an update is NOT a post.
Each post must be at least 1500 words. 2000 words is the goal.
There will be days when, inevitably, I won’t make it to the park. I have other obligations, and life is a funny thing sometimes. On those days, I still have to post something Disney-related. Something fresh every single day.
Pictures and videos are good as well. But they still need words.
Along the way, I will be also acquiring the occasional souvenir and knick-knack. When I do, I’ll send them along, so you can share a little vicariously.
It was an ambitious project, especially on my own, self-funded and with no formal recognition by Disney. It turned out to be a great idea in theory, but often, life has other plans.
My first attempt, Don’s Disney Year, bounced along from late May, starting with the opening of first D23: Destination D event. But travel issues in late August and a health issue got in the way of writing time for me. I ended missing posts for a period of six weeks, and I learned once you get out of the habit on a project like this, it is tough to return to it. My focus shifted instead to writing my first novel.
Three months later, in January 2012, two things happened. Disney asked everyone what they would do with one more day. 2012 was Leap Year, and Disney chose February 29 to have their first 24-hour party, called One More Disney Day.
At the same time, my mother received a diagnosis of breast cancer. She became a fighter. I decided to reformat my blog. I would again do one experience per day, but now, I would share them with her. Each post would be in the form of a “Dear Mom…” letter.
One Disney Year started February 29, 2012. It continued until I was called out of town to spend time with her in Sedona, AZ while she was undergoing treatment. It felt odd, writing her the daily posts as letters while I was there, so I stopped work on the blog. When I returned, I became distracted by other creative projects.
I still believe this is a good concept for a blog, but the execution is ambitious, especially without a proper support system. In my case, somewhat momentous outside events distracted me enough after a certain period of time, so that I did not have the momentum needed to keep the project going. Still, I’m not sad for these attempts. I view them as learning experiences. Writing on deadline was inspirational, and some of the pieces – the piece on the Shuttle Atlantis launch, and my American Idol experience, for example – are work I’m especially still proud of.
I’m glad to share a few selected posts from the blogs once again with you. And who knows? The third time might be the charm for A Disney Year.
Here are some sample blog posts from:
Don’s Disney Year
- No Malice in Blunderland
- Contempo Cafe
- Backlot Express & Cupcake of Karma
- 4th of July Fireworks at the Magic Kingdom
- Guest Communications
- Mission:Space / Space Shuttle Atlantis
- The World Of Disney Annual Passholder Sale
One Magic Year