Backward and Forward: 2002 in Review

By Deb Wills
Editor-In-Chief

Feature Article

This article appeared in the January 7, 2003, Issue #172 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)


Happy Birthday to US!

Do you remember Deb's Disney Digest? Well, if you do, you've been with me for seven years! That's right, this month ALL EARS®' affiliated website, now known as Deb's Unofficial Walt Disney World Information Guide (or wdwig.com for short), celebrates its seventh birthday! It's been quite a journey thus far -- and I'm so excited about the future.

I remember the first time I was on the internet (somewhere around 1995) and found a website devoted to Walt Disney World. I thought I had reached nirvana and dreamed about it for nights! I lurked on the net for a long time and then found the rec.arts.disney.parks (RADP) newsgroup on Usenet. I discovered that not only were there websites out there, but also lots of people who felt the same way I did! I soon became involved in discussions and several of us began to compile documents answering Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Walt Disney World. I also started collecting menus from my trips to WDW and wanted to get them online to share them with other vacationers. Those pages needed a home... so Deb's Disney Digest was born. NEVER in my wildest dreams did I imagine it would grow to become the professional website it is today!

Each time a door has opened for me concerning the website, I have walked through it, sometimes blindly... unsure where it would lead. But each door has led to new discoveries and opportunities. This ALL EARS® newsletter is a perfect example. It began in September 1999 as a way to notify readers when wdwig.com was updated. It quickly became a more sophisticated way to communicate with readers and evolved into the weekly newsletter you read today! In the last 12 months, subscribership has increased by more than 10,000 -- we now have more than 30,400 readers, and later this year we will celebrate our 200th issue!

One of our biggest accomplishments in 2002 was the redesign of wdwig.com and allears.net (the newsletter's website), spearheaded by ALL EARS® Senior Editor Debra Martin Koma. After months of planning and behind-the-scenes design, her efforts refreshed the entire look of AllEarsNet, making it easier to use as well as easier on the eye. Your feedback has been incredibly positive, which reassured us the decision to move forward in this regard was the right one.

The year 2002 ended on several high notes for us, most notable of which was being named in the Winter 2002-2003 Issue of Disney Magazine, which said about wdwig.com: "Make sure you set aside lots of time to peruse these pages. The site is packed with Walt Disney World information on everything from how to travel with toddlers to how to survive in the summer sun." We also won a Golden Web Award from the International Association of Web Masters and Designers lauding the site's new look.

And while ALL EARS® and wdwig.com have grown into a business for me (operating now under the umbrella AllEarsNet), I have not lost my fascination with the magic of the Mouse. Every trip I take is different, I always find something that's new. Walt Disney World is dynamic and the attention to detail never fails to enchant me. In how many other places can you dine in France, colonial America, the Caribbean Islands, the Pacific Northwest, Japan, a Coral Reef -- all within the same day, if you choose? Only at Walt Disney World can you admire and inhale the fragrance of the All-American Award winning Rose Garden, watch fireworks 15 floors up while enjoying incredible cuisine, walk a sandy beach, see IllumiNations, visit Endor, dine with Tigger and Pooh, and so much more, all within the span of a few days.

In keeping with its reputation to constantly change and grow, Walt Disney World celebrated several openings in 2002: Chester and Hester's DinoRama was completed, with the addition of Primeval Whirl; the newly redesigned Journey into Your Imagination reintroduced our favorite purple dinosaur, Figment; the Princess Storybook Breakfast in Epcot's Norway began; and the new Disney Vacation Club Resort, the Beach Club Villas, opened. In addition, the Disney Cruise Line's Disney Magic began a new itinerary: a 7-Day Western Caribbean Cruise, with stops in Key West, Cozumel and the Grand Caymans!

As we do at the start of every new year, we not only reflect on where we've been, but look forward and wonder where the coming months will lead us. At AllEarsNet, we plan to unveil new features on wdwig.com, including a comprehensive section on the Boardwalk and Epcot Resort Area. We also plan to run more contests and WDW-related prize giveaways to thank our loyal readers. We're embarking on a new strategic alliance with our exclusive travel agency sponsor MouseEarVacations.com, a relationship that will lead to additional special features on the website, including more savings and benefits for our readers.

Although it's nearly a year away, we're already anticipating December 2003 -- which will mark our first MouseFest, a week full of fun events at WDW for Disney fans of all ages! For seven years now members of the rec.arts.disney.parks (RADP) community have met at WDW in early December for a weekend of activities, meals and meets. In 2003, we hope to include more ALL EARS® readers, as well as Disney fans from all over the Internet. MouseFest 2003 will begin on November 30 with a four-day cruise on the Disney Wonder. Joining me on the cruise will be my good friends Jennifer Watson and Dave Marx, Passporter WDW Guide Book authors. We're hoping that many of our friends will be able to join us, both on the cruise, and during the MouseFest activities. Stay tuned for details.

For Walt Disney World, it does not seem that 2003 will bring as many changes as past years have. As always, annual events like Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival in the spring, and Super Soap Weekend and Epcot's Food and Wine Festival in the fall, will highlight the calendar. There are only a few new attractions scheduled to open, like Mission: Space in Epcot and Mickey's PhilharMagic in the Magic Kingdom. The 100 Years of Magic Celebration will come to an end at the end of February, which means that some other "celebration" will probably begin. The Disney Club is being phased out, while a new Disney credit card is being introduced. Perhaps we will even see the much-anticipated opening of the Pop Century Resort soon.

But, there are always unexpected challenges and surprises to keep us on our toes... and that is part of the excitement! No matter what happens, the AllEarsNet team will continue to uphold its reputation as the website with the most current and accurate information in an effort to help you maximize your WDW vacation experience.

As we begin a new year, I want to personally thank EVERYONE who has supported AllEarsNet in so many ways -- by faithfully reading our site and newsletter, participating in contests, sending in reviews and ideas, patronizing our sponsors, purchasing items through the stores. Thank you to everyone who writes! Your letters lend us encouragement and keep all of us at ALL EARS® Net going.

Here's wishing you all peace, love, and Mickey Mouse in 2003!

I hope to meet you at WDW real soon!

Deb Wills
ALL EARS® Editor-in-Chief


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Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.