Approximately 37% of families say that vacations make them happy, and there's arguably no better place to take a trip with your loved ones than the Happiest Place on Earth. Some people love Disney parks so much that they wish they could live there. And in a certain way, some Disney fans have managed to do just that. They may not live in Cinderella's castle or on Main Street, USA, but they visit so often that the Magic Kingdom is like their second home. In many cases, these fans document their magical experiences on social media for all to see. A select few have even managed to create a massive following and foray their love for Mickey Mouse into full-fledged careers -- without ever working as a formal Disney employee.
AJ Wolfe doesn't even live in the Sunshine State. She resides in Texas, where she's been writing her Disney Food Blog for the past decade. But you'd never know she wasn't a season pass-holder, considering how frequently she posts and how in-depth her features can be. Her mouthwatering photos delight her social media followers, who engage regularly with her account to stay on top of all of the latest Disney park food trends. With 438,000 Instagram followers (and counting) and millions of monthly website readers, Wolfe was able to turn her passion for magical eats into a lucrative career.
Although Wolfe still resides in Dallas, she now employs staff members who do live in Florida. She also makes a trip to the parks approximately once per month to check out what's new. When she travels, she does so alone -- and she schedules four to five meals per day so she's able to try as many items as she can. Although her Disney days can last from 6 am to 2 am (far beyond the "rope drop to fireworks" mantra that many diehard Disney fans adopt), she told People that every experience is still as magical as it always was.
Wolfe explained, "I started the blog because I love the parks. They just carry a real enchantment for me. I always like to build in time for myself to hang out in the parks and ride some rides. That's part of the benefit of doing this as a job."
Not only does Wolfe live solely off her blog earnings (thanks to the in-depth Disney food guides she has available for purchase on her site), but she's also had a hand in making a number of new food offerings go viral. And unlike many influencers, she's been able to maintain a certain degree of anonymity; she purposefully tries to keep a low profile so that Disney cast members and others don't know who she is when she shows up to conduct her research. Although she says she's had managers offer to comp her meals, she always pays her way for the sake of transparency.
"I’ll go up to them and say, ‘I’m sorry, but this is something that we have to pay for in order to remain unbiased for our readers,'" she explained to People. "And frankly, it's better for them as well because if I have to write a review that says you paid for it and it's a good review, nobody's going to trust that."
And trust her, they do. Wolfe is seen as a food authority in all things Disney, due to her continued presence on various social networking and content creation platforms. You can scarcely conduct a search about eating at Disney World without stumbling upon one of her posts -- and many fans wouldn't dare plan a trip without consulting her blog or Instagram first.
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But Wolfe isn't the only one whose devotion to all things Disney has transformed into a professional path. Bloggers like The Disney Chef and influencers like Styled By Magic have found a bit of fame and fortune, thanks to Disney-related content. Disney has also made moves to embrace social media influencers, hosting events for content creators and forging partnerships to promote new offerings.
Of course, if you want to get in on the magical action, you can't simply email Disney's PR representative and request tickets -- not without having something to back it up, at least. You'll need to work on growing your audience and creating stellar content that will appeal to fellow Disney lovers. Not only will you likely need to outsource SEO services to ensure fans can easily find your blog, but you'll also want to focus on a specific niche of the Disney lifestyle to cover. Instead of food, that might be fashion (like new clothing lines sold in the parks or the Disneybounding trend) or hidden secrets of Disney history. While there are already successful bloggers and influencers doing both, carving out your little corner -- and doing it better than anyone else -- is one of the best ways to get noticed.
That's all easier said than done, especially given that these platforms are becoming more saturated by the day. What's more, it will take a lot of hard work to make your Disney dream a reality. But as Walt Disney would probably tell you, "it's kind of fun to do the impossible."
Whenever I visit Disneyland or Walt Disney World, a visit to The Haunted Mansion is an absolute must. I love the place, though The Rock Daughters got a little freaked out when we took them to Disney World last year (they haven't paid a visit to California just yet). That said, it's pretty cool that The Haunted Mansion has made its way to Disney XD this month, hitting the airwaves for a series of entertaining stop-motion animated on-air promos that find Disney characters from "DuckTales," "Big Hero 6 The Series" and "Star vs. The Forces of Evil" on their own adventure hosted by Haunted Mansion ghosts. The promos, a collaboration between Walt Disney Imagineering, Stoopid Buddy Stoodios and Disney XD are airing now through Halloween, with more to be found online.
I made my first trip to Walt Disney World in Florida in 1988. It was a unique experience in that I went by myself - sans parents - at age 12, the winner of a contest held by the Star Newspapers here in Chicagoland. I was a paperboy - a "newspaper carrier" - and as part of a yearly push for great customer service and increased subscriptions, the top carriers were rewarded with a trip to Disney World. I was one of them, and the experience marked my first ride in a limousine, and my first big adventure away from home (under the guidance of two chaperones). The Magic Kingdom is, indeed, a magical place, and in 2016 I returned for the first time as a parent, my wife and I taking our girls on a Florida adventure. On the west coast, I'd never been to Disneyland until December of 2015, when I attended as a guest as part of the Global Media Event for STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS. Five hours in the park and I was hooked. I did return this week (more on that later), but at the recent D23 Expo in Anaheim, I was on the show floor, live-tweeting announcements about what the future holds for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. There's a whole lot of Marvel... a whole lot of Star Wars... a whole lot of Pixar... some new ships... new hotels... and a ton of magic to be experienced. Here's the full rundown...
Brand unity is something that the folks at Kia Motors USA have really nailed over the past few years. Whether you're driving an entry-level model, or a fully-loaded luxury vehicle, the experience is distinctly Kia, and there's a comfort level in that feeling that's hard to surpass - no matter if you're in a car, crossover or minivan. When I last found myself behind the wheel of their best-selling nameplate, the Kia Optima, it was the 2014 Hybrid model. While we enjoyed that car, the 2016 Optima has been redesigned, and I recently had the opportunity to do a little roadtripping in Florida at the helm of the SX Turbo Edition - the perfect family ride for rockin' the road.
The folks at The Walt Disney Studios have been dropping some major bombs at their D23 Expo in Anaheim this weekend, and it's no surprise that many of them are coming from a galaxy far, far away. The STAR WARS news is big and plentiful, covering everything from the next couple of movies to the long-awaited announcement regarding STAR WARS expansions at the Disney Parks. Here's the rundown...
Today we have a guest blog from a fellow Rock Father - Tom Stevens, guitarist/vocalist of NOKTURNEL, expert snake handler, and Disney aficionado. Together with his wife, Eloisa, they've got Orlando down to a science, and today Tom's dishing on Disney's BoardWalk Villas.