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"Mousejunkies!" takes an affectionate, irreverent look at Walt Disney World's appeal

Jim Hill

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"Mousejunkies!" takes an affectionate, irreverent look at Walt Disney World's appeal

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Okay. It's confession time. I know that the following statement may be hard for Disney hardcores to hear. But when you make your living as I do -- writing about The Walt Disney Company five days a week, 52 weeks a year, year in, year out -- there really is such a thing as too much Mouse.

So when I start to feel Bibbidi-Bobbidi-burned out ... Well, I just reach for my copy of "Mousejunkies!: Tips, Tales, and Tricks for a Disney World Fix: All You Need to Know for a Perfect Vacation" (Travelers' Tales, June 2009). And as I page through this paperback, I then recall what it was exactly that made me fall in love with Walt Disney World in the first place.

Copyright 2008 Travelers' Tales. All rights reserved

Now it's important to understand here that "Mousejunkies!" is not your typical WDW guidebook. By that I mean: You could read Birnbaum's Walt Disney World 2010 from cover-to-cover and never once come across a meal description like the one that this book's author cooked up for the food served at Epcot's San Angel Inn:

... the beef was bone dry, the tortillas tasted stale, the chips were slow to refill, and the presentation looked as if a hose filled with a mix of mud and beans was being fired at the plates from across the kitchen.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Which (I'll admit) doesn't make dining at World Showcase's Mexico pavilion sound all that appetizing. But you have to admit that the above excerpt does feature some funny, flavorful writing.

That's because "Mousejunkies!" is written by Bill Burke. Who's this somewhat crusty New Hampshirite who has very little tolerance for pretense. Having spent the past 12 years writing for the infamously feisty Boston Herald, Burke calls them the way he sees them. Which is why - when Bill was asked if the Imagineers had created an authentic looking Cape Cod-style resort when they designed & then built Disney's Beach Club Resort - he replied:

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

No, not really. There aren't any scratch ticket stores on site. If they could staff the entire place with cast members named Sully or Fitzie and tuck a Dunkin' Donuts between the guard shack and the lobby, I'd say it came close though.

Which - I know - makes Burke sound like something of a smartass. But Bill and his fellow Mousejunkies do have their Mouse-shaped hearts in the right place. Which is why -- when they finally get around to talking about what it is exactly about the Walt Disney World Resort that gets them to come back again & again & again ... Well, that's when this 288-page paperback will really strike a chord with Mouse House fans.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Take - for instance - this particularly evocative passage that Bill threw together:

The sun was setting over Epcot as the park was just coming to life.

The sky was painted a vivid orange color over a cooling breeze that wafted in from the lagoon, carrying on it the sound of swelling music. This was punctuated only by the staccato blasts of the Friendship horns as they ferried guests from one side of the World Showcase to another. A festive atmosphere filled the air and all around us families laughed, held hands and enjoyed the evening.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

And yet I was miserable.

It was the final night of my first Walt Disney World vacation as an adult. I had just spent a week in a place where every one of my expectations was exceeded, and within twenty-four hours I'd be very far away from it all. I had no idea when (my wife and I would) be returning, and like a petulant five-year-old, I wanted to stomp my feet and refuse to leave.

Instead, like a petulant thirty-one-year-old, I opted to keep my mouth shut, take a few final pictures, and exert every ounce of energy I had not to explode with envy at every happy face that I saw.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

I had no way of knowing at the time that I had just taken the first step toward complete addiction, and that I'd be back standing in that very spot dozens of times in the next few years. All I knew was that I had been swept up in something very tangible, and it was about to go away.

(The Walt Disney World Resort) has a way of sneaking up on the unsuspecting and ensnaring them in subtle yet enduring ways. There are a lot of arguments about why it works. I can only attest that it does work.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Maybe it's the carefully planned way you're plucked from reality and slowly immersed in a world with no cares. Maybe it's the music - how it slowly fills the background as you move from your everyday existence into a fantasyland come to life. It could be the architecture - recalling the romantic past or predicting a too perfect, exciting future full of hope.

At this point (in "Mousejunkies!") I know there are people who will scoff. Disney, to them, is a multinational conglomerate that only cares about separating mouth-breathing yokels from their vacation dollars. Call me naïve. Slow on the uptake. Blinded by commercialism. I'll cop to it. All I know is I bought into it and I'd glad I did.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

It's writing like this that helps me get through those days when all I seem to hear from Disney insiders is talk of tentpoles and/or how the Studio doesn't make movies anymore (i.e. "The Walt Disney Company creates branded content which is then leveraged across multiple delivery platforms").

Is "Mousejunkies!" a perfect book? Well, I could have done without Burke's story about that exploding diaper. Or Mousejunkie Jenna's way-too-graphic description of the bathrooms next to 'Ohana (i.e. "[They're] way too small for the area [that restaurant] serves and [this bathroom] tends to get messy and soggy fast").

Mousejunkies! author Bill Burke and his daughter Katie

But those minor quibbles aside, this not-really-a-guidebook is great fun to read. "Mousejunkies! Tips, Tales and Tricks for a DISNEY WORLD - All You Need to Know for a Perfect Vacation" is an affectionate yet irreverent look at what makes the WDW Resort so appealing to so many folks. Which is why I can't wait to get my hands on the "Mousejunkies" sequel that Bill Burke and his cohorts reportedly already have in the works.

Your thoughts?

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  • I think that you've sold me on purchasing a copy of Mousejunkies and reading it.  Thanks, Jim!!!

  • When WDW first opened cast members hated dealing with "pin heads" from New York who complained about everything.  I would agree that people from the Northeast do complain way too much.  I don't think I would care to read a book by another new englander who believes it is his responsibility to "tell it like it is" in WDW.  The San Angel Inn is a sit down restaurant and a lot of people love it, they have steaks and enchilladas, I don't know what he means by the "beef" being dry.  Maybe he is confusing it with the counter service restaurant across the way.  Some people save up years to go to WDW, and this guy goes so much there is stuff to complain about.  Please.  If he had behind the scenes info or actually researched the history of place that would be a different story.  This just sounds like someone's glorified opinion.

  • Sam - You should really read the book. You would see that Bill really loves WDW. People need to be told the the truth and sometimes, it is not what you want to hear. The book is fantastic, funny and VERY informative. What makes it great is that it is anecdotal and not a dry and stuffy "the ride is here and you have to be this tall" type of book. My wife and I are former Cast Members and now run our own Disney travel company and we recommend this book to everyone we talk Disney too. As for Bill telling us his opinion, well, he has actually been there enough to have one. He didn't just read the first two paragraphs of someone's review and decide he knew enough to comment.

    Oh, and as a former cast member and Imagineer, let me tell you - his description of the food at the San Angel Inn is spot on. It is terrible.

  • Trust me, he wasn't confusing the San Angel Inn with anything else. But really, this is not a book of complaints. Quite the opposite, in fact. And whenever you may come across a complaint, it is balanced with something wonderful about The World. This book is a can't miss for Disney Lovers.

  • I have read this book cover to cover many times myself and I can tell you each time I love it.  It is well worth the money.  I look forward to his second Mouse Junkies Books.  The anecdotes provided by all the Mouse Junkies from Amy to J are wonderfully pleasing to ones Disney pallet .

  • I love this book.  It feels like a a collection of the stories my friends and family tell about their trips to WDW.

  • Jim, I enjoy visiting your site but as a fellow Mouse Junkie, I must point out your typo in the second paragraph.  Assuming you're alluding to the classic song from Walt Disney's "Cinderella," the correct spelling is "Bibbidi-Bobbidi" ... not "Bippity Boppity"!!  (You certainly wouldn't be the first to commit this fairy-tale faux pas!)

  • Jim, your second paragraph is correct.    It is bibidy bobidy boo.    I don't know whether I spelled it correctly, but that is how the words are pronounced.   Love my Mousejunkie book by Bill Burke.   Very funny &  informative.   Bill is a true New Englander....not crusty at all...lol    Absolutely non-pretentious...great guy & such a good writer.

  • I meant the *counters* in the bathrooms at 'Ohana, Jim! The *counters* are always wet and soapy! And they don't empty the trash can often enough during dinner service. I'm glad you like the book. You have no idea what your review means to Bill.

  • Your review of the book sounds like one long complaint and one long obsession. Sorry, not on my reading list. It is certainly a strange way of describing the resort's appeal by telling us the worst aspects. There should be few stories about dirty and smelly restrooms. Yet, that is what most people encounter. So the more you visit, the more you'll encounter bad food, bad sanitary conditions, and much regret for leaving an imperfect, yet completely attractive, vacation. This stuff about hope and romance is a bit yukky. Give me a break. This is a theme park. The marketing has really gotten to you. Just hope Disney hasn't taken away your retirement fund to fund your addiction.

    BTW, my best vacations does not involving visiting theme parks and standing in line. A good time needs to not have crowds and over priced food, and stinky toilets.

  • Jim, I think this is one of your best articles. Concise, charming and funny. This phrase in particular: "the Studio doesn't make movies anymore (i.e. "The Walt Disney Company creates branded content which is then leveraged across multiple delivery platforms")" is so painfully true. Anyway, Mousejunkies sounds like a great book and I'm definitely buying it. Many thanks for the rec.

  • excellent article to which I could immediately relate!  My wife, daughter and son began vacationing @ WDW in the mid 80's and look forward to our annual visit as if it were the first!  Thanks for an excellent article Jim and thanks to Bill Burke from a South Carolinian who considers himself a Mouse Junkie!

  • Himbo, so a book about Disney World should not have complaints, nor should it speak of hope and romance? What exactly would be in your perfect Disney book? Oh, you don't like Theme Parks, so no book about Disney World would make you happy. So, why read and comment on a site that's focused on the very thing you dislike?

    That aside, I love writers that tell the entire travel story, warts and all, and still make us want to visit a place. Thanks also Jim for a great review, I'm really looking forward to reading this one!

  • Himbo = Idiot

  • Jim, Thanks for bringing this book to our attention.

    The 2nd floor lobby restrooms at the Polynesian are just that, and were not designed to handle one table service restaurant, let alone two! (Hint: there are also restrooms directly below on the first floor that obviously don't get as much traffic.)

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