11.20.2009

Interview with Len Testa

I am so honored that one of the authors of my favorite Disney guidebook took the time to answer some questions. I didn't want to take too much of Len's time, so there aren't many questions, but I believe in quality over quantity! I tried not to ask the boring, "ins and outs of Disney" questions, because honestly, you can read their awesome book for that. I tried to think of some different questions that would let us know more about the personalities behind the book. Here is my "mini interview" with Len Testa.


How did you come up with the concept of a "touring plan"?


Bob came up with the idea after touring the Magic Kingdom with his family in the mid-1980's. Before publishing, Bob taught operations research classes at college, so he was familiar with how to solve scheduling problems.


Are touring plans for all ages, or do they just work best with kids?

We've created touring plans for adults, for seniors, and for 'tweens, teens and every combination of those, plus kids. They work well in lots of scenarios.


What's the ideal length for a Disney vacation, in your opinion?

You'd be hard pressed to see the highlights of WDW in a week. I think six days is a minimum for a first-time visit that includes all of the theme parks. But let's face it - you could be there for ten days and still not do everything.


How do you balance having a detailed plan and just enjoying the magic?

I take the time I save in line by using the plan and go looking for the magic. :-) Think of all the people you know, Ashley, who went to WDW without preparing. Compare them to the people who had a plan. Which group found more "magic" in WDW? Which group had more fun?


Do you have a favorite ride or attraction?

My top three would include Splash Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Spaceship Earth, in that order. Epcot is my favorite park. IllumiNations is my favorite fireworks. I'm chaining myself to the World Showcase Lagoon fence if they ever get rid of it.


If someone does just one thing to prepare for their Disney vacation, what should it be?

Figure out the first six attractions you're going to go on for the day.


Since the holidays are approaching, any special tip(s) for this time of year at Disney?

Unless you've got the dining plan, don't worry about finding a sit-down meal for your children. If they're like mine, most of them don't care about it enough for you to stress over. They'd be just as happy hanging out with you over a burger and fries.


Why are you passionate about Disney World?

The amount of thought and effort that went into creating the parks is just so far beyond what anyone thought possible. I tried in our new book to explain that it's things like Epcot that really show Disney plays at a whole other level when it comes to themed entertainment. And I think Walt was a visionary.


What's one of your personal favorite memories at Disney World?

Hanging out with my brother and sisters on weekend trips when we were old enough to drive ourselves.


What makes the Unofficial Guide special, and why do you think it's so successful?

We're the only travel series in the world to apply math and science to travel problems. My Masters thesis was on minimizing waits in line at theme parks. We have a statistician, a child psychologist and an economist, among other experts. Bob's put together a team of really skilled people, who happen to be huge Disney fans. And we spend far more money than the average guidebook on basic research to stay current and try new thingst. It's hard to match that.


If your life was a Disney movie, which one would it be and why?

Pirates of the Caribbean. Because like Jack Sparrow, it didn't work out between me and Kiera Knightly either.


You've written a super-helpful and successful Disney guide. How do you keep things fresh when you go back to Disney World over and over?

Early on, I was interested in understanding how the parks worked. Now I'm interested in understanding why they work. For example, we just did a set of pages for a new book, where we had our urban designer Sam Gennawey explain the back stories of each "land" in WDW, using the design and architecture of the buildings and landscape to illustrate his points. The tension between man and nature in the Animal Kingdom, for example, and how the state of the buildings in each land represent different stages in that battle. I'll never look at that park the same way again.


Is there a Disney "secret" you can share?

Depending on how full the resort is, who you ask and the mood they're in when you check in, it's possible to get club-level access without paying for or staying in a club-level room.


Is Disney better as a kid or as an adult?

An adult. Even better as an adult when Bob's paying for the trip.


Any final, amazing, world-changing tips? :)

The secret to happiness is good shoes.

I couldn't have said it better myself!



1 comment:

Tiffany said...

Ashley, this was an incredible interview. The best yet:) Wow! And what an opportunity for you. I'm so happy for you;) ~Blessings!