If you have a hobby or an interest, no matter how unusual, chances are someone else has that same hobby or interest. Thanks to the internet, it is now very easy to find those kindred souls. Online communities spring up overnight, and the next thing you know, it’s a whole new world. (And yes, that is a song reference…)
I’m a Disney fan, going back to the earliest days of Walt’s first TV shows. I was an East Coast kid who dreamed of going to Disneyland, and did, a couple of times, including opening year 1955. My generation was brought up on Walt. Between his nighttime shows, the Mickey Mouse Club, the movies and the park, Walt Disney was ubiquitous. My parents even visited Walt Disney World before it opened in 1971, when it was still just a Florida swamp with promise. That Disney stuff ran deep in our family.
The internet makes it possible not only to be a Disney fan, but also to find other fans, and to embrace the Disney culture as part of a large community. And if you are so inclined, you can go all the way into total Disney geekdom. You won’t find yourself alone there. To start your journey, here are 7 great entry points to the Disney community on the Web. If you’re already a Disney geek yourself, this will all be old hat, but it you’re new to the game, or just curious, you really are in for that whole new world.
1. Walt Disney, the man
First of all, as time passes, it’s easy for people to forget that Walt Disney was a real person, and that Disney isn’t just the name of a big conglomerate. So start at The Walt Disney Family Museum, a very real brick and mortar museum located in San Francisco. If you can’t visit them for real, visit them online. There’s galleries, a blog, educational opportunities for kids who might be budding animators or imagineers, plus information on visiting the museum. Walt used to all say it started with a mouse, but as all all Disney geeks know, it really started with a man. Here’s your chance to meet that man.
2. Disney on your iPod
Next there’s WDWRadio.com, where host Lou Mongello holds court on his weekly WDW Radio show podcast. There are plenty of people who do podcasts on Disney subjects; Lou’s is one of the best. He talks about Walt Disney World from a travel perspective, but also from a fan perspective (“Top Ten Smells at WDW” or “Top Ten Water Attractions” might be the themes for a given show, for instance) and a historical perspective, interviewing legendary figures from the Disney corporation or the future legends who are building what we’re going to see tomorrow in the parks. The podcast runs about an hour or so, and is well worth putting on your iPod.
3. Visiting the parks
If you do want to go to WDW or Disneyland, you absolutely must follow a touring plan. Make that a capital T Touring Plan. The creators of The Unofficial Guides to WDW and Disneyland have a website, TouringPlans.com, with a blog, step-by-step visiting guides, and every imaginable piece of park information for planning a trip . If you want to wait on a lot of lines, you can skip this site completely. But don’t blame them, or us, if you spend more time waiting than riding.
4. Disney music
One way to enjoy the parks without getting out of your chair is to listen to the music. Simple enough: The WDW Live online radio station brings you music from the parks, plus links to other Disney music venues. If playing any sort of Disney music doesn’t immediately cheer you a little when you’re in a bad mood, you need to turn the volume up. The next thing you know, you’ll be buying park tickets.
4. Behind the magic
2719 Hyperion.com represents Disney geekness at its deepest, and most fun. There’s articles about obscure Disney characters, analyses of classic cartoons, studies of how animation was used outside of the movies (for instance WWII armed forces insignia), freeze-frames linking one movie with another, and just about anything else that fits the concept. Site author Jeffrey Pepper also writes on non-Disney pop culture subjects, and you can find links to his other sites as well.
6. The daily newsletter
An easy way to keep up with everything Disney is the newsletter from LaughingPlace.com. You can sign up here. You’ll get news pretty much every day, aggregated from a variety of sources on every possible Disney subject, from the parks to the movies to the history to whatever. If you just wanted one link to Disneyana, this would be it.
7. The official fan club
And when you’re finally ready to admit that you’re a hopeless Disney geek to the bone, sign up for D23. This is the official Disney fan club, run via the auspices of the Disney corporation. The D is for Disney; 23 is shorthand for the year 1923, when Walt founded the company. A couple of years ago the Disney corp came to realize that there was a vast fan community on the internet, and rather than try to beat them, they joined them. They have an extravagant oversized quarterly magazine, Disney expos, special merchandise—everything you’d expect from a fan club writ large in Disney terms.
And there you are. Most of these sites have links to other sites, so if you get hooked, you’ll have plenty of places to go. Bon voyage! (And as a bonus, here’s a list of great books on the subject of WDW, from another great site, Imaginerding.com.)