Hi all! So excited to have Matt Ferrell on the blog today. He is the author of Thirty Days in the Kingdom, a book I reviewed in early November. I loved the premise of his book and the feeling like I was touring Disneyland and making myself at home there. I hope you enjoy this peek into his writing process, his love for Epcot Center, and more!
I have to ask. Thirty straight days to one park is really crazy to think about. How long of a break did you take from the parks after your project was finished?
Matt: I initially took a few days off, but I think I was back to Disneyland in less than a week. I wanted to go a few times without feeling that I had to write. I actually did all of the writing inside the park, so it was fun to go and not write, even though it gave me more ideas. Living so close to the parks, I would sometimes just go and meet a friend for coffee on Main Street or lunch. Of course, I’d normally go on at least one attraction. Mid October I returned to NYC until the end of the year, but I was back first thing in the new year before all the Christmas decorations came down. I love the holiday version of Small World.
I was really surprised you only visited Disneyland regularly and not California Adventure. What played into that decision?
Matt: Well, I really just wanted to focus more on Disneyland as a big part of writing deal with memories of my childhood. Although I had never really visiting Disneyland (only Disney World) I knew the layout and attractions were similar. I wanted to experience those attractions again as an adult and let that affect me. To be honest, I did visit California Adventure several times during my visits, but I would always come back on focus on the time I spent inside Disneyland.
What are your top recommendations for an infrequent Disneyland visitors?
Matt: I would recommend taking your time and allowing yourself just to relax, if that is at all possible. When I was a child, I remember just always wanting to get everything done, because in my my mind, I had to do it all. There was a lot of stress involved if lines were too long, or something was temporarily closed. It is such a joy to explore and hang out in lesser traveled areas and really soak up the environment. Yes, the attractions are incredible and fun, but make sure you take in ALL the design, because every little inch of Disneyland is thought out and planned. When you find yourself in line or feeling flustered or stressed, just focus in on the amazing details of the park or the amazing people watching to be had. I found that when I was able to slow myself down, I realized that I really was just happy “being” there.
Since your trip was in 2008, there was a definitely an absence of social media influence in any of your park excursions. How do you think your book would be different if you had this adventure in 2013?
Matt: Well, I certainly would have instagrammed and tweeted more and hopefully developed a wider Disney fan base. There is such a HUGE fan base of all various levels, as I’m sure you know, and sometimes it can be difficult to be noticed. I had never been a “public” Disney fan and honestly, didn’t realize how huge the social media opportunities were in the Disney universe. I am hoping my book will slowly find a voice in those communities. Whether you agree or not with my observations and ideas, hopefully other fans will see my love of Disney throughout.
If anyone wanted to follow in your footsteps and spend 30 days visiting a Disney theme park, what would you suggest be in their survival kit?
Matt: Sunblock, good shoes, a good amount of money to enjoy it all, a fascination with people and a love of all things Disney.
Do you favor one park over the other? What’s the biggest difference to you after spending so much time on both coasts?
Matt: I love all of the parks, but I have an affinity for EPCOT. I convinced my father to take my family to the opening in October of ’82 and I was obsessed. I had been following the construction and read everything I could get me hands on, so it was so incredible to me when my teenage self actually saw the real thing for the first time. I loved all the dark style rides that taught you about space or energy or history or the Earth or imagination and how they lasted so long and the feeling of World Showcase and getting lost in those themed countries. At that time in my life, I had yet to travel outside of the United States, so I really felt transported entirely to another time and place. I’m sad they replaced some of those original EPCOT attractions and wish they’d build another EPCOT that housed those originals. Actually a park of all attractions now gone away would be fantastic. I still miss “If You had Wings” from WDW back in the seventies. Disneyland is so special because it is the first park and has such nostalgia and history attached. The designers have to be so specific with what is there, because of space limitations and it feels more like an incredible time capsule than the parks in Florida, which have much more room to grow and expand.
What are you working on now? Any chance for another Disney-themed book?
Matt: I’m currently working on a book about my experiences backstage at Radio City, more specifically my day-to-day experiences while working on the Christmas Spectacular. I would love to write a book, similar to Thirty Days in the Kingdom, tackling everything in the Florida parks in a similar vein, “Around the Worlds in Eighty Days”, perhaps?
Big thanks to Matt for answering my questions today!