In May of this year, I attended the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration (DSMMC) at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. All told, it was a fantastic event and a wonderful opportunity.
This post is all about the recap — an image-heavy and pixie-dust-free recap. It’s the details of what happened and what attendees got to do and see during the event. It’s long, so buckle down and get scroll happy.
Guest Arrivals/Registration (sponsored by Taylor Morrison)
Pretty standard stuff. Sign waivers and release forms, pick up badges and identification, grab the first swag bag of the weekend. Mickey Mouse was also on hand in the registration room for some photo ops with the kids (and adults).
When we arrived, we had literally just driven 14 hours through the night (to save on five flight tickets), so a photo with Mickey and a glass of cold lemonade were incredibly welcome. It’s the small things.
This was the first official event of the weekend, beginning at 5:00 pm. All of the attendees were bused over to Epcot from the hotel. We entered World Showcase from backstage and made our way to an absolutely enormous convention/special events building secretly sandwiched between the United Kingdom and Canada. I honestly never had any idea it was there, but if you take a peek on Google Maps, you’ll get a sense for how big it is.)
(As a quick aside, our official itinerary for the weekend alternated between the egregiously incorrect and curiously capitalized names Epcot World Showplace and EPCOT World ShowPlace. #nomenclature)
Being the first event of the weekend, this was probably also the most awkward for me. I walked into a room of a few hundred people as one of only a handful of men. And I didn’t know anyone. I’m not good at mingling; never have been.
Thankfully, almost everyone was super friendly, and I very quickly started meeting people.
The welcome reception was held in the front section of that enormous building and was basically a cocktail party (open bar) meant for the attendees to get to know one another. We also got a few brief speeches that set the stage for what was to come.
“Creativity and You” Welcome Family Dinner (sponsored by Disney Citizenship)
Delicious dinner. Open bar. Surprisingly decent DJ. Cool kid-friendly activities. Smoking popcorn. Meet-and-greets with Sorcerer Mickey, Rapunzel, and (best of all) Hiro and Baymax. What’s not to love? This was a fantastic way to kick off the celebration, and they didn’t cut any corners here. Indeed, this was one of the Top 3 events of the weekend.
There were hundreds of people in the room, but I’d honestly never seen so many genuinely happy families before. The dinner had a great vibe, and — like I said — there was probably no better way to kick off the celebration and get everyone excited.
By the way, proof that even Disney has bought into their own propaganda? That quote you see above? “If you can dream it, you can do it” is widely attributed to Walt Disney, especially by Disney fans online. The only problem is that he never said it. It was written by Disney Imagineer Tom Fitzgerald for the Horizons attraction at Epcot, decades after Walt passed away.
It seems like Disney should know this. Indeed, the folks over at D23 know it.
IllumiNations Dessert Party (sponsored by Babble)
From the welcome dinner/party, we were escorted over to Showcase Plaza (again, curiously called Worldview Plaza on the official itinerary) to experience the IllumiNations fireworks show, along with the dessert party.
The IllumiNations Dessert Party usually requires a separate reservation and costs $49 per adult ($29 per child 3–9). I’d always been intrigued by a similar event over in the Magic Kingdom, so I was looking forward to this.
How is it? Well, Showcase Plaza has the best view in all of Epcot for IllumiNations, so that’s pretty terrific. However, since the fireworks are over World Showcase Lagoon, there’s really not a bad spot to watch the show. Showcase Plaza just happens to be front and center.
The desserts? They were fine. None of us was really that hungry since we had just gorged ourselves on a fantastic buffet and open bar, but I took one for the team and tried one of everything. The offerings were yummy, but I’m not entirely sure we got the exact options served at the regular (full-price) dessert party. Looking at the official list online, none of the dessert choices ring a bell. Don’t quote me on this, but we may have just gotten generic desserts. (Indeed, many of the same desserts showed up again on Friday night.)
In any case, I wouldn’t have paid $160 for a family of 4 for what we got. But that may not be a fair verdict to pass on the actual IllumiNations Sparkling Dessert Party.
Breakfast (sponsored by Disney Magic of Healthy Living)
Now we come to it. Friday was really THE day of the celebration that qualified it as a conference. A cool aspect of breakfast and lunch on Friday was that the food was “catered” by different Disney resorts. It was all buffet style, but each table or location featured food unique to one of the on-property hotels or restaurants.
Over breakfast, we got a presentation about healthy food options in the theme parks by Chef Gary, Culinary Dietary Specialist at Walt Disney World. Chef Gary is incredibly friendly and engaging, and he covered a lot of the healthy food initiatives put in place around WDW in recent years, including special diet options and “Mickey Check” kids meals.
General Session (sponsored by Alamo)
The general session ran pretty much all day. It was essentially a string of speakers and presenters, and all of the attendees were encouraged to tweet like crazy. This is not my style, and I’ve also heard a lot of complaints about this aspect of the event.
There seems to be an obsession with getting the #DisneySMMC hashtag to trend nationally, so most of the speakers and organizers devised various “contests” and reasons to tweet so they could achieve this end. I’m not sure what power “trending nationally” has when a vast majority of the people using that hashtag are all sitting in the same room, but I’m not in marketing. What do I know?
Anyway, I read a lot of criticism about the barrage of seemingly irrelevant tweets (to those on the outside) associated with #DisneySMMC. There is a stark divide between the type of bloggers who will tweet and post almost anything for the chance to win some swag (and the type of followers who don’t mind reading such blatantly promotional tweets and posts) and the type of bloggers and readers who think this approach is slightly crass and diminishes the brand. The Hashtag Excess that pervaded much of Friday was a perfect example of why DSMMC is such a controversial event.
I won’t bore you with a detailed breakdown of every speaker, but here’s who appeared on stage throughout the day:
- George Kalogridis, president of Walt Disney World Resort, presented some opening remarks and touched on some of the big changes coming to WDW (e.g., Disney Springs, Avatarland, etc.)
- Eva Smith, head of marketing and communications for Pinterest, spoke about the power of Pinterest and what constitutes a “pinfluencer.”
- Jonas Rivera, VP of production for Pixar and producer on Inside Out, was the absolute highlight of the day. He presented a brief history of Pixar and his long association with the company — he’s worked on every film since Toy Story. He also walked us through the 5-year process of developing a Pixar film, complete with amazing photos, production notes, and timelines. He could have talked all day, and I would’ve gone home happy.
- Janice Balgemino, director of global brand marketing for Disney Infinity, spoke about the upcoming 3.0 edition of the game — Star Wars!
- Vivienne Harr, the 11-year-old founder of Make a Stand, gave a compelling and impressive speech about the power of passion and compassion to make a difference in the world.
- Meghan Maguire, brand manager at Alamo, made a sales pitch for her company.
- Chris Brogan, publisher and CEO of Owner Magazine, made a sales pitch for himself and why it’s important to establish a personal brand.
- Jeffrey Epstein, senior editor of communications for D23: The Official Disney Fan Club, spoke about D23 and the various perks and events associated with the club.
- Tanya Altmann gave a presentation about Disney Imagicademy and their suite of educational mobile apps.
- Donald Driver, ex-NFL wide receiver and founder of the Donald Driver Foundation, closed down the day with a motivational speech about “Why do you blog?” His speech ended up focusing on cyber bullying and the power of passion. I won’t go into my thoughts about his presentation here. Listen to my podcast for that.
Family Meet & Greet Opportunity
While we were all in the general session in the morning, our families were invited to visit a special meet-and-greet opportunity with Stitch! While there, kids were asked to join in all kinds of activities, and apparently there was some top-secret filming also going on…which resulted in the video at the end of this post.
Lunch (sponsored by Hanes)
This is probably the one event that caused the most criticism and mockery online. Hanes sponsored the event and went to great lengths to have all attendees tweet about their company as much as possible. I get it — Hanes make comfortable clothes, and they want to target families and the stereotypical “mommy blogger.” But the flagrant use of attendees to garner some free marketing left a sour taste in my mouth. (And no, it wasn’t the lunch, which was yummy.)
Hanes also brought Jessica Shyba to talk about her personal success story. Again, I get it. Jessica is a blogger who found almost instant fame with the photos she posted of her son and puppy sleeping together. Overnight, her blog became a sensation. She recently published a book collecting some of the best photos. In that respect, it was a perfect fit for the audience — inspirational and heartwarming.
But why Hanes? And why did Mrs. Shyba keep awkwardly turning the conversation to the topic of protecting her personal privacy? And then, when Hanes finished her inspirational interview by asking about her “personal style” and favorite outfit? Poor taste.
But not the lunch, again provided by various Disney resorts! That was delish!
The day ended with everyone splitting up to one of two “breakout sessions.” We were asked to sign up for one or the other in advance, but I must’ve gotten corralled into the wrong room. No worries, though.
I got to peek behind the curtain and see what happens behind the scenes at the Disney Parks blog, and I got to see Victoria Lim give a presentation about how to use video on your blog (which was identical to the presentation she gave at last summer’s Philadelphia On The Road event). Oh well.
Character Meet & Greet Opportunity
When we registered on Thursday morning, we were asked to choose between two character opportunities: Anna & Elsa or Olaf. My kids chose Olaf. In another room were four Stormtroopers posing for photo ops, and the entire Star Wars Rebels gang (statues) were positioned in the hallway. This was most definitely a recipe for happy kids.
“Mickey’s Beach Bash” Family Dinner (sponsored by Mylan)
Friday ended on another high note with dinner on the beach in front of the Beach Club and Yacht Club Resorts. It was another fantastic spread of food with another open bar. No complaints here. There was a great live band and more character meet-and-greets (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy in their beach outfits). No complaints from the kids, either.
Ride-Mount Filming at Magic Kingdom
At some point between online registration and the event, an email went out offering ride-mount filming opportunities. There were four choices: Dumbo or the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at the Magic Kingdom, or the Tower of Terror or the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at Hollywood Studios.
The Mine Train filled up in a matter of minutes. The rest followed soon thereafter. Again, if you weren’t on top of your email at that exact moment or paused to think about it, you were shut out (as many were). I managed to get us a slot on Dumbo.
So what was this? We were brought into the Magic Kingdom (directly into Tomorrowland) before opening and walked to Dumbo in New Fantasyland. They had rigged up a camera on two of the Dumbo vehicles, and we got a chance to ride and be filmed.
Behold, our flight on Dumbo — preserved for the ages.
Morning Movie and Munchies
The “morning movie” was supposed to be a surprise, but Jonas Rivera let it slip during his presentation on Friday that we would be getting an advance screening of Inside Out. We were all taken to the Downtown Disney AMC, where we had to surrender our phones and cameras.
I won’t go into this again here since I think I did an adequate job of expressing my feelings and frustrations about this event on my podcast. In short, we were “treated” to 2/3 of Inside Out, minus the ending, which didn’t sit well with anyone in the audience — particularly the theater full of kids who were so excited to see the movie.
The disappointing Inside Out event was really the only scheduled event on Saturday. The rest of the day was “free time” for families to explore the parks. This was obviously nice for families who were only there for the weekend, but many attendees chose to extend their stays by several days and make a vacation of it. Considering that I knew we were going to have an entire week of park time ahead of us, I would have preferred more structured activities on Saturday.
But of course we still had a blast at Epcot and the Magic Kingdom.
GoGo Fun Run (sponsored by GoGo squeeZ)
We used our “free time” on Saturday to the greatest extent possible and didn’t get back to the hotel until after midnight. I was registered for the fun run (which ran from the Yacht Club through Epcot), but it started at 5:45 am, and there was just no way I was getting up in time. From what I heard, though, it was a great run!
Mother’s Day Breakfast (sponsored by Disney Imagicademy)
DSMMC came to a close on Sunday morning with a Mother’s Day breakfast. Again, there was fantastic food and a great atmosphere among all of the attendees. Some closing remarks, a cute video, and then boom — we were done.
As part of the closing ceremony, they played the below video, which compiled some of the video they took of all of the kids at the family event on Friday morning. Apparently, the interviewer was thrown for a loop when my kids didn’t have a mom attending the event to wish a happy Mother’s Day to. Clearly, they couldn’t wish Happy Mother’s Day to their father!
So all of their footage was scrapped, and they appear only briefly toward the end. Still, it’s a cute video.
This seems like an abrupt end, but if you’re still reading and interested in my personal takeaways and thoughts about the event in general, please do take a look at my FAQ post about DSMMC.