Then, says Moore, eager to get to the good part of the story, "God intervened, and I won a small lottery: $2,100." He asked for permission to take the kids to Walt Disney World in Florida and invited his estranged wife to come along. They got back together. In 1998, they bought a house nearby in the Azalea Park neighborhood, where they live today.

Moore got a job that February as a monorail driver at Walt Disney World, working there for 13 years, until February 2011. During unexpected delays, he would quiz his passengers over the microphone.

"Who's your favorite mouse?"

Pete Werner, 46, near the site of his 1991 Epcot epiphany.
Stefan Kamph
Pete Werner, 46, near the site of his 1991 Epcot epiphany.
At the Magic Kingdom, a real-life "DIS meet" of Disney fans from the online boards.
Stefan Kamph
At the Magic Kingdom, a real-life "DIS meet" of Disney fans from the online boards.

"Mickey!" the children would cheer, as if on autopilot.

"But," asked Moore, his voice quickening, "what about Minnie, Gus Gus, Jaq, Suzy and Perla, Bernard and Bianca?"

For all his cheer, Moore isn't immune to the real world that impinges on Disney magic. Early this year, an exiting passenger dropped a jacket into the deep trench that runs alongside the high-voltage monorail track. The company had tightened its safety rules since a driver was killed in a head-on monorail collision in 2009. Moore was supposed to tell the customer "A manager will be in touch with you" and then report the incident. Instead, Moore decided to perform a simple act of kindness: He got out of the cab and fished the jacket out with a long-handled pair of pincers.

Disney found out and fired him.


Pete Werner was pissed as hell, like really stinking pissed, one morning in early March 2010. "There's only one news story we're going to talk about this week, folks," Werner said in his New Jersey brogue at the beginning of his Disney podcast.

Disney CEO Bob Iger had just been on The View to announce what the company was calling its first official fan community. For $75 a year, members would receive a membership card, four issues of a glossy magazine, access to limited-edition merchandise, and a small discount on a "D23 Expo" to be held, for the first time, in Anaheim, California, that September. Also, a certificate of membership "suitable for framing."

"The frame, by the way, is $90. I'm not kidding," announced Werner. "I'm not sure what they're smoking in Burbank, but they messed this up big-time."

Sharon Reedy, who lived in Coral Springs before moving north to Ocala (a quick 90 minutes from the parks), runs an online Florida residents' discussion group and a corresponding Facebook page. But the group's activity has waned in recent months, and she says tight budgets are one reason.

Reedy (who has no official connection with Reedy Creek Improvement District, the autonomous municipality through which Disney exerts full governmental control over the land it owns) says that many of her fellow Disney fans have curtailed their trips to the theme parks. "A lot of people had financial issues and couldn't afford it anymore," she says. That's another constant concern for the fans on the boards: the best ways to save money.

Disney announced D23 when the American economy was on its knees. Unemployment was at 8.5 percent and climbing, and a newly elected president was ordering up new stimuli. Disney had posted almost $10 billion in revenues for the first quarter of 2009. Nearly a third of that revenue came from its parks and resorts, the chief subject of Werner's fascination and the most discussed topic on the online boards. Still, after a six-month plummet, Disney stock was trading at its lowest price since 2003. Fans like Werner had to shell out more and more to get their fix, as ticket prices climbed year by year. An annual pass to Walt Disney World now costs $552 a year for an adult, or $414 for Florida residents. Werner says that as long as fans are willing to pay — which they are, apparently — the prices will continue to rise.

Sitting at his podcast microphone in March 2009, he addressed the company directly. "Are you even aware how difficult some of your most loyal fans are finding it to pay for their next theme park visit?... Do you have any idea that a large number of your fans have increasingly felt their business is underappreciated?"

Steven Clark, head of D23 since its inception, is one target of Werner's ire. Recently, Clark canceled a scheduled phone interview with New Times. In an email, he sent corporate-approved responses to written questions.

Responding to the gripe that D23 doesn't provide much benefit in return for its membership fee, he pointed out that Premium Annual Passholders, who pay around $100 more for access to extra theme parks around Walt Disney World, are entitled to certain discounts. He said that D23 members will soon have access to an expanded offering of events around the country.

After D23 was announced, Werner noted that Disney said it had looked to existing online communities for inspiration. "They must not have looked at ours," he thought.

Clark wrote, "At D23, we absolutely look at guest and member feedback in all forms, whether it's member surveys of our own to someone who takes the time to write us a letter or post in an online forum. We are lucky as a company to have so many passionate fans."

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68 comments
AngelElement444
AngelElement444

LOL!  Not too surprised by any of it but the forums are fun, though I haven;t had much time to visit this past year.  Funnily enough, I DID have a lot to do with picking the lime green!  it was about the only color not being used to recognize some illness or organization, that would stand out in a crowd.

COS
COS

Circle of sarcasm it's the UnDis!

Songbird13291
Songbird13291

Could barely wade through the article. Former member of Werner's board and current Disney fan. I didn't learn anything about Pete that I didn't already suspect. On my most recent trip to WDW, planbed without Pete's help, I had a wonderful time. Won't be giving him, or his travel agency, any more of my vacation money.

Loot101
Loot101

I think Pete sounds like a cool, no-bullshit guy.  Nice article

JL
JL

hmm...I had to stop reading the article halfway through b/c it was so poorly written but I got the gist of what the author was attempting to say.  Being a long time listener of the DIS Unplugged podcast, and random browser of the DIS Boards, I guess I kinda know Pete's personality and it doesn't bother me at all.  He has a dry sense of humor, he has the NJ attitude, and I think it's hilarious.  He does love Disney and has every right to be extremely critical of the company.  He has the only 'real' opinion in the Disney community, if you ask me.  All the other extremely popular podcasts sugarcoat and gloss over everything.  In their eyes Disney can do no wrong and it's annoying.  Not everything is pixie dust and princesses in real life, and Pete makes sure to point out the flaws.  Bravo to him!

Dark1wolf
Dark1wolf

Pete sounds like a real douche. I run a Disney blog and I've always said that "Disney fans" who don't embrace Walt's optimism and hope for the future aren't real Disney fans. Try to look on the bright side of life once in a while.

JezusC PETE!!!!! :-(
JezusC PETE!!!!! :-(

Pete, if you are REALLY so called "clean and sober", then you have ALOT of amends to make. ie, all the money you owe from the DIScons, banning people, etc, so much more! But, hey! I'm not your sponser, thank God. Keep on thinking, on that third column, "what's MY part?" instead of blaming everyone else. (And sending over a few minions over here to defend you.) Pathetic really.  

Robsmi
Robsmi

If you don't like Pete, don't go to his website.  That seems simple enough.

Besides he said that he used to be annoyed by small kids and since he took a small child he understands.  That's at least a step in the right direction.

So much whining both in the article and in the comments.

David Graff
David Graff

Pete rules, he is a REAL person, he has flaws, imperfections just like everyone of the people who are writing negative comments about him on here. I think he is awesome, he is super funny, he does a LOT of charity work and he does a LOT for disney fans (who else rents out a Ride at Disneyworld at their own cost?) I love listening to Pete, i may not agree with everything he says, but im glad i live in a world where he is allowed to say what he thinks freely. DisUnplugged for the Win !!!

disneyfan
disneyfan

No wonder the atmosphere on the DIS is so negative...look at their leader!  Ask a question and get your head bitten off by "experts".  I have a 10 year old who can give a better, more detailed answer...but he would never listen to her because she was, at one time, sat in"the shin-attacking strollers" having a "red-faced screaming fit".  What an ass...who does he think Walt designed the park for??  A middle aged man with a drinking problem who is making money hand over fist off of Walt?  Or families who want to make lasting memories?  Oh that's right...for Pete - because apparently it is all about him.

missy12
missy12

what a douche bag and people follow him on the Dis?????? WTF???? is wrong with people?

Songbird13291
Songbird13291

Seems there are a lot of unhappy former DIS board members. And a lot of unhappy former customers of Dreams Unlimited. Can it be because of the way Pete treats people?

Scoutfreckles
Scoutfreckles

On that,  you are wrong.  There is nothing "cool" about Werner, and he's so deep in bullshit, he's drowning.

Holy
Holy

Oh, honey, every person on this planet is a REAL person.  To single Pete out for being REAL because his life has been a total train wreck is to dismiss the lives of the other seven billion people on the planet, most of whom have things so much harder.  Try living in abject poverty in a part of the world where help is not available.  When you look at REAL problems, Pete comes off as a whiny, selfish, insecure, insignificant brat who blames everyone else for his own failings as a human being.

missy12
missy12

Keep drinking the juice David, I suppose you think everyone is great and wonderful!  He hates kids and is not a fan of Disney, but he makes his money off of those people, NICE.

Stefan Kamph
Stefan Kamph

"She won't remember much of it, but watching her reactions, seeing it through her eyes, was a whole different experience," he says. "If you want the real experience, come here with someone you love."

Tsmith1005
Tsmith1005

Couldn't agree more, they talk to talk but don't walk the walk. Poor business.

 
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