Ryan has been blogging, rhapsodizing and reminiscing at Main Street Gazette for over 9 months. That makes him a blogging grandaddy in the Disney blog-O-sphere! When I approached him about doing the Meet Our Neighbor inquisition, he responded with a resounding yes!
He never ceases to entertain and my favorite posts are always the ones about his experiences at Disney with his family–especially the heartfelt stories about his dad. He has created a series about a personal interest for himself. See, Ryan is a pre-school teacher and he has created a running segment called the Young Adventurer. Ryan presents the different areas of the parks on a level that younger children (and their parents) will take to and hopefully inspire them to learn more (and enjoy the parks more).
So, before I make Ryan blush any further…on with the show!
Don’t forget our other Meet Our Neighbor posts:
- Doc Terminus from Passamaquoddy,
- Glenn from Passamaquoddy,
- Dave from Davelandblog,
- Foxxfur Chapter One, Chapter Two and Chapter Three from Passport to Dreams,
- Richard Harrison from Photos From the Parks,
- Jeff Pepper from 2179 Hyperion,
- Ray from Grumpy’s Hollow and
- My eight year-old son.
What is your earliest Disney memory?
This is always a tough question for me. Since I lived in central Florida, and my first trip to Walt Disney World was when I was about ten months old, I don’t have that first memory that many other children get to cherish. However, I do remember being very young and camping at Fort Wilderness with my dad when a hail storm came through suddenly and we had to take cover in our van. After it had passed various Cast Members (security, managers, etc.) began making rounds through the loops to make sure everyone was okay and if we needed anything. It may me feel very safe to not only have my dad there, but to have Disney looking out for us.
What is your single favorite attraction?
Hands down, this goes to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. It was my favorite as a child, and the layers of story and detail that I continue to discover only continue to amaze me as an adult.
What is your favorite Disney and non-Disney movie?
My favorite Disney movie is an argument in my house. My wife says I act so much like Peter Pan that it must be my favorite movie, but I have always had special places in my heart for both Fantasia and Fox and the Hound. When pressed, I always go with Fox in the Hound; the friends who don’t yet realize they come from two different worlds, the conflicts that arise from their friendship, and how you really feel for these characters as individuals really grabs me. Plus, who can resist the soulful voice of Pearl Bailey.
As for non-Disney movie, this one is easy, Dead Poets Society. I’ve always been a literary sort, and to feel as if I were one of the Captain’s boys and to find that people somewhere understand the emotions of words has, and will always, impress me.
What is your least favorite park?
Ouch, this one is tough! Even though it was my favorite park from the time it opened into my young adulthood, I have to go with Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I feel as many people feel in the community, that the loss of the actual studio elements was a traumatic blow to this park. From that point on I feel that it truly lost its identity and has yet to fully recover. Don’t get me wrong, it has some great attractions, and I think it is gaining back some of the original spirit with the introduction of Pixar Studios, but it still has a long way to go.
What is your favorite park?
The Magic Kingdom. Epcot and Animal Kingdom have tremendous places in my heart, but the Magic Kingdom is full of stories, both obvious and obscure, and it has always been the one park I must visit no matter how short my time in Walt Disney World is.
Who is your favorite Disney character?
Okay, time to cheat a little. I actually cannot get enough of the cartoons where Mickey, Donald, and Goofy share the screen. They all have wonderful personalities on their own, and work well with other characters like Pluto, Minnie, or Chip and Dale, but they all really shine when they have to interact with one another.
What is your favorite Disney song?
Cruella de Vil. For one thing, it takes a special kind of villainess to have her very own theme song. Mostly though, the song has just enough word play, mixed with a dash of jazz, to keep me humming and tapping my foot all day long.
If you could switch places with any historical or living Disney employee, who would it be and why?
I feel like this is going to sound self-absorbed, especially in light of recent events, but it would have to be Ollie Johnston. I actually haven’t talked much about Ollie since he passed away, and I couldn’t even find the words needed to express my heartache at his passing on my site, but he has meant so much to me. He designed, animated, and oversaw some of the scenes I idolized growing up, and then as an adult to realize that they all came from the same man truly touched me. Beyond just his animation, however, he was one of Walt’s Nine Old Men, and those interactions would be memories to cherish. As well, I share his love of trains, his loyalty, and his sentimental nature, so a switch would seem natural, except I can’t draw. My wife is fond of telling me that, in all of the Disney history I have introduced her to, and all of the animators, Imagineers, and characters, she sees more of me in Ollie Johnston than in anyone else. I suppose that explains my affinity for him.
What is your favorite spot at WDW?
The benches along the wooden walkway in Frontierland, just down from the Frontierland Shed, is the spot where you can catch more than a fair share of magic. You can see and hear all of Frontierland, most of Liberty Square, watch the mill on Tom Sawyer’s Island, and along the far end of the bend is the Haunted Mansion. If you wait here long enough you can catch the whistle of both the Walt Disney World Railroad and the whistle of the Liberty Belle. To me, this is the perfect spot to take it all in.
What is you’re must eat food at WDW?
The Raspberry Schuss at the Boulangerie Patisserie in Epcot. This is the perfect sweet treat filled with layers of raspberry preserves, light cake, a creamy custard/mousse, and just a hint of chocolate. Uh-oh, I’m getting hungry now.
Favorite place to stay at WDW?
Port Orleans: French Quarter tends to be the favored spot to lay our heads recently. Not only is it meticulously themed, with a meandering river, and some tasty dishes, but French Quarter is also very secluded and quiet, making it the perfect hideaway for a preschool teacher.
What is your favorite restaurant?
I always have to stop in at Columbia Harbour House. The home of my once favorite chicken strips, Columbia Harbour House has some of the best views available to any restaurant inside a theme park on its second floor. A second floor that, surprisingly, very few people know about.
What is your favorite place to be at WDW?
Anywhere, so long as I have some family, friends, or both with me. After all, that’s what it is all about, right?
What is the first thing you want to do on your next trip?
Check out Toy Story Midway Mania. This attraction appears to be right up my alley, and I cannot wait to take it out for a spin.
What is your favorite fireworks show?
Wishes, just listening to the soundtrack is enough to choke me up. Standing on the walkway to Adventureland, just before the bridge, and allowing the entire experience to wash over me pulls me in every time. Yep, I’m a sucker and a sap!
Where did you develop your love of Disney?
I’ve talked before about how my dad has taken a lot of heat over my love of Walt Disney World from the rest of my family, but to be fair, my dad was selling the parks and my mom was selling the movies and I was buying all of it. It may sound corny, but the stories, the adventures, the music, all of it has always spoken to me and I cannot get enough.
If you had to choose parks or movies, which would it be?
I would have to choose the parks. The movies have great stories, but they are not all immersive, and eventually the credits roll and the lights come back on. On the other hand, the parks never cease to have unexplored elements, no matter how hard we try to uncover them, and as you move through the parks you actually become part of the stories if you allow yourself to.
Does any forensic evidence exist linking you to the Kennedy assassination?
All that I am legally able to disclose is that I have been to the Fort Worth Airport once.
What is the weakest Epcot country?
I’m torn between Italy and Germany, but Italy has a spectacular viewing location, when it is available, for IllumiNations. So, I will go with Germany. Unlike other pavilions which lack an attraction, Germany lacks a certain depth. The gardens of Japan, winding streets of Morocco, and the garden paths behind the United Kingdom give each pavilion something more than dining and shopping, which is all Germany, in my opinion, has to offer. Although, I do love the model trains when they are running.
What is your favorite Disney guilty pleasure?
That would have to be what my wife has deemed the Pop Princesses and Phil. I try to stay away from generic pop music, but no matter how hard I try, eventually the Pop Princesses like Hilary Duff and Miley Cyrus get under my skin and I start singing their songs, which usually leads to me embarrassingly purchasing an album (Thank goodness for iTunes now). Also thrown into this group are the soundtracks from Tarzan and Brother Bear, as penned by Phil Collins
Spaceship Earth, or more specifically the geodesic dome. It is a modern marvel in and of itself, but to then make the interior a functional environment is truly remarkable.
Who is your favorite Disney Princess?
Belle, for four reasons. One, she is French. Two, she is a brunette. Three, she loves book as much as I do. Four, she is feisty, and I adore that in a woman.
Where do you spend most of your time online when in the Disney-sphere?
The Main Street Gazette has taken away a lot of the time I used to have to free to wander around the Disney-sphere, I didn’t realize what a dedication a blog was when I started, but it also give a lot back to me too. Yet, I still manage to check-in with my favorite bloggers (you know who you are), the message boards at both Netcot and Disney World Trivia, and DisFriends every day. (Sorry, Ryan…the correct answer is Imaginerding–all day, all night!)
Would you make any major changes to the current design of any of the parks?
I don’t think I have enough knowledge in any specific design element to be able to say what should or shouldn’t be changed. However, I think it would have been an intelligent move to have created some sort of temporary path around Mickey Ave. when it was closed, rather than just funnel everyone through Echo Lake to Streets of America, and then over to the Backlot Tour, even if only to assist with the crowd control issues.
You are the CEO and you have to cut one division: film, animation, parks, music, ABC, or ESPN. Where do you start cutting?
Ugh, do I get paid the big bucks for making this decision? I’d have to say music, if only for the reason that I couldn’t do without, whatsoever, any of the other categories.
Do you have any money we can borrow or have?
I’ll let you know when the check comes in from cutting the music division.
What do you consider the most historically significant or defining moment in Disney history?
Any of the times that Walt had everything tied up in a venture. From Snow White to Disneyland, if any of the endeavors had failed we wouldn’t have what we all know and love today. A lot of these were, and still are, called Walt’s Gamble, but I take offense to that. He knew exactly what he was doing, and precisely what the public wanted/needed, and gave it to them like no one else was doing. These ‘gambles’ were the brilliance that led to the ability to create worlds-upon-worlds of magic.
How do you feel about Disney’s stance to remove Song of the South and other period specific pieces from its association?
As an educator, I think there is always room to find a way to teach a subject. Song of the South is no different. There are appropriate manners with which to broach these subjects, just as was done with the insensitive cartoons that were sectioned off with a special introduction in the Walt Disney Treasures. Today, with the release of such classics like Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros I feel like perhaps there has been a change in thought internally at Disney, and I am cautiously optimistic that we will see Song of the South and other period specific films released in some form.
If you could change one thing about a Disney Movie, what movie would it be and what would you change?
It would be the Haunted Mansion. I love the effects and story of this movie, but I think the tone, a funny-scary movie, is what hurt this film. If this film had been made strictly as a dramatic adventure, using the same general story, I think it would have been a fantastic feature.
Which Disney Hotel would you like to live in for the rest of your life?
The Grand Californian. I love the elements of the Wilderness Lodge, but the fact that I have to board a boat, bus, or car to get into the parks is the one feature that bothers me, at Wilderness Lodge and Resort-wide. However, if I could take the Wilderness Lodge details, which the similar Grand Californian has, with the ability to stroll at my leisure down to the parks, I could stay there permanently. Not to mention, Disneyland has a much more laid back atmosphere, which I would love to have in my neighborhood.
What is your favorite Disney-related book and why?
The answer to this question is really kind of a cop-out on my part, but I have my favorite Disney-on-Disney book and my favorite unofficial Disney book.
For Disney-on-Disney I have to go with the Imagineering Field Guides. These books are full of fascinating stories and features, but they don’t give so much information that the average guest would be overwhelmed. Instead, for the Disney geeks out there, I look at the guides as starting point. If a particular aspect is of interest to a reader, there are plenty of resources available to further your edu-mouse-cation.
As for unofficial Disney books, I have to go with David Koenig’s Realityland. This has to be the most comprehensive history of the whos, whats, whens, wheres, and hows of Walt Disney World I have ever encountered in one tome. It not only shows the complexity of the construction, upkeep, and expansion, but also shows more than enough of the human elements that make Walt Disney World so, well, Disney.
Don’t forget to stop by his site and tell him how awesome George and Andrew are, ooops…I mean how great Main Street Gazette is. Yeah…that’s the ticket!