Meet the Authors Series: Lou Mongello
by the AllEars® Team
This article appeared in the November 22, 2005, Issue #322 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
To give you an opportunity to get to know the authors behind the various Disney-related books that are on the market, ALL EARS® runs an occasional series called, originally enough, Meet the Authors. In addition to giving you a little background on the authors, we also solicit questions from our readers to pose to our subjects.
This edition of Meet the Authors lets you get up close and personal with Louis A. Mongello, author of the Walt Disney World Trivia Book. You may already recognize Lou's name as an occasional contributor to ALL EARS® in our monthly "Step Back in Time" feature.
Like many of us, Lou has been fascinated by Walt Disney World and (unlike many) has made more than 50 visits to the Mouse. Through the process of researching and experiencing vacations at WDW, he learned everything he could about the history, secrets and inner workings of the resort. When he's not involved with his Disney obsession, he is an attorney, owner of an information technology consulting and web development firm, and is currently the Director of Operations for a medical imaging facility in New Jersey.
ALL EARS®: Many of our readers are avid Disney fans, but few have actually written a book. How did you get started writing a trivia book about Walt Disney World?
LOU: Having been a reference source for friends and family planning trips to Walt Disney World for a number of years, I thought I should do something with all of the "useless knowledge" I had accumulated about my favorite vacation destination. So, the idea for the book was formulated out of personal interest in some of the lesser-known facts about the parks, general Walt Disney World trivia, and the "magic" that drives tens of millions of adults and children on recurring pilgrimages to the resort.
Once I decided to take on the challenge of putting all of my useless Disney World knowledge to some use, I started recording ideas, as well as a basic outline of the book and sample questions. In fact, I usually found myself writing in the middle of the night until around 3:30 a.m., fueled by Pepsi and M&Ms. During that time, I also took a number of "research trips" to Walt Disney World to verify facts, take photos, etc. I put "research trip" in quotation marks, because everyone laughs when I say that. My answer is simple — it was no accident I chose someplace like WDW to write about! As WDW is constantly changing, it was vital that the questions and answers be accurate at the time we went to press.
The entire process took about a year and a half, and was one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences of my life. It's hard for me to describe the feeling I had the first time I saw and held the book in my hands. It was more than the challenge and journey to get to that point — it was really about not only the place that inspired me to write it, but the incredible memories I have of going with my family for so many years that made it all the more special. Believe it or not, writing the Dedication was one of the most difficult parts for me to complete, as it was hard to say in a few words the thanks I have for my parents, wife and entire family, as they are the ones who really continue to make WDW such a truly "magical" place for me.
ALL EARS® asked readers to send in their questions about WDW Trivia Book:
Valerie T. from NJ: I have totally enjoyed reading (and rereading!) your trivia book. I have always wondered, though, how did you come across all of that fascinating information?
LOU: I've been a fan of WDW since my first visit at age 3, just a month after the park opened. As time went on, I grew fascinated with what made this place so truly "magical" for me and my family. I read everything I could get my hands on, talked to any Cast Member that would spend some time with me, and so on. I have an extensive collection of books, magazines, articles, Cast Member items and more, dating back to pre-construction days of WDW. Throughout my ongoing research into this project, I continued to add to my already vast collection of Walt Disney World memorabilia, including rare documents outlining Walt Disney's original plans for his Florida project and materials only available to Walt Disney World Cast Members.
I also talked to current Cast Members, Imagineers, and anyone else who was willing to sit and share some stories. As time went on, I came to accumulate what was affectionately known in my family as a "wealth of useless knowledge." I was looking for a personal challenge, and the thought of actually doing something with that information led to the Walt Disney World Trivia Book.
Steve Barrett from Florida: The new Walt Disney Company agreement with Siemens Co. got me wondering. Who is the longest continuous sponsor for an attraction at any Disney theme park?
LOU: Wow! Is this the same Steve Barrett of Hidden Mickeys fame? I'm honored. Well, Steve, from what I have been able to tell, I know that Eastern Airlines sponsored If You Had Wings from 1971 until 1987, a span of 16 years. However, one could make an argument for General Electric (GE) as being the longest continuous attraction sponsor, as it sponsored the original Carousel of Progress (dubbed Progressland) in the 1964-65 World's Fair, and continued its sponsorship of the attraction during its tenure in Disneyland, and at Walt Disney World from 1973 until March of 1985.
Audress D. Johnson from Colorado: A few years ago, while preparing for a WDW vacation, I found this bit of folklore on some obscure website (not ALL EARS®, and unfortunately I've no idea what site it was!): If, on your last ferry ride from the Magic Kingdom across the lagoon to the Ticket and Transportation Center, you toss a quarter into the lagoon, this ensures you will someday return to Disney World! What a great little tradition! I'm wondering if there are other such bits of folklore associated with Disney World — so far, I have been unsuccessful at finding more.
LOU: Hey, that's a great one! I never heard that, although I have heard of traditions ranging from Cast Members saying hello to "George," the resident ghost in Pirates of the Caribbean, to placing a freshly cut "blood red" rose on Master Gracey's headstone at the Haunted Mansion — both of which are superstitious acts, reportedly done to avoid having problems on the attraction that day. WDW is filled with countless personal and Cast Member traditions, all of which add to that unique "something special" that makes it such an amazing place, where everyone can always be a kid at heart, even if just for a couple of days.
Melissa B. from Miami, FL: On our last trip to the World, my husband asked me how many parking spaces are available in the Magic Kingdom. I checked my WDW Trivia Book, but couldn't find the answer. Can you help us out?
LOU: The 125-acre Magic Kingdom parking facilities can accommodate 12,213 vehicles, all of which will likely be full by 10:00 a.m. on Christmas Day.
Carol Miller: What is the original music (song) played during the "Electrical Water Pageant" shown nightly in front of the Polynesian Resort?
LOU: Ahhh one of my favorite (yet often overlooked by many) things to see while in WDW. The Electrical Water Pageant has been running (weather permitting) every night since October 26, 1971, past the shores of Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake in a procession of barges, each carrying a 25-foot-high, 36-foot-long screen, which displays images of sea creatures and patriotic images. The music used in this water parade has changed slightly over the years, and ranges from electronically-synthesized classical selections, to the addition of newer themes, such as from the Little Mermaid. It still, however, includes an original version of the Baroque Hoedown, made famous from the WDW and Disneyland Main Street Electrical Parade.
The Tatros: When was the wooden walkway along the waterfront in Frontierland built? My first memory of it was in 1999.
LOU: That's a great question! You are correct, in that the wooden walkway, which connects Frontierland near Big Thunder Mountain Railroad to Liberty Square near the Liberty Square Riverboat, was not present from the Magic Kingdom's opening day. I wasn't able to get through all of my old research materials, but in looking through some of my old photos, I was not able to see the walkway in photos before 1999. Without having the time to do additional research in time to get these questions completed, my best guess would be that it was installed sometime between 1997 and 1999. Of course, you now have me curious and I'm going to try and find the exact answer.
Nancy from Canada: Why aren't there any photos from WDW in your book?
LOU: I'm grinning slightly as I answer this, as my first reaction is, "Long story " Well, to be honest, and sum it up as best as I can, the directive that I would not be permitted to include photos came from Disney's legal department. Although I originally believed that I would be able to (and took a trip down to take 3000+ pictures in less than three days), they instructed me not to do so (thankfully before we had gone to press). We are very careful to follow Disney's guidelines, and while I was personally saddened by the inability to use photos from WDW, we of course were willing to wholly comply. I hope you found the book enjoyable nonetheless.
Alex from Virginia: I found a couple of the answers in your book are now outdated. Do you have an area online where you post updates to your book?
LOU: Alex, yes, you are correct. In addition to the inevitable typos that come up as the book goes from an author's hands to an editor, publisher, layout artist and printer, there are some answers that will become outdated. This is due to the fact that Walt Disney World is an entity that is in a constant state of change and growth, so while a question or answer may be accurate one day, it may become incorrect or slightly dated just a short time later. I have posted some updates on my site and forums at www.DisneyWorldTrivia.com, and the second printing of this first volume of the book corrected many minor mistakes.
Linda E.: I heard you were at the Disney fan meet in Pennsylvania this summer. I wasn't able to attend. Can you tell us a little about it and will there be another one in 2006?
LOU: Linda, sorry you missed this wonderful event! On July 9, 2005, about 160 Disney fans from all around the northeastern United States gathered at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Allentown, PA, for a "Disney Fans Meet" organized by my friend, Fred Block. This five-hour party (which actually continued late into the wee hours of the morning) included great food and fun, as well as pin trading and guest speakers. On hand were Deb Wills of AllEarsNet(R) fame (you may have heard of her), Len Testa (the Director of Data Collection and Field Research for The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World), John Rick (founder of the Central Jersey Pin Traders group), and me, who played some trivia games with the attendees. Fred ran an absolutely incredible meet, and had prizes galore for the adults and kids! In fact, many of us stayed overnight at the hotel (and yes, stayed up late just eating and chatting about Disney), and all went to the nearby Dorney Park the next day! I know Deb has some wonderful photos and reports on her site at http://allears.net/btp/atown.htm.
As for 2006, I've already spoken to Fred, who I know is out searching the Northeast for an even bigger and better meet location! A great time was had by all, and if you can make it out next year, I really hope you can all attend! For more information, go to Fred's site, www.DisMeets.com.
Beth: You are listed as attending MouseFest this year, and I know you were there last year. Would you share with us your favorite MouseFest memory?
LOU: Wow, there are so many, I don't know where to start! Being the "new kid on the block," I had no idea how I would be received by others, which was a little daunting. But I have to say that the warm, welcoming reception by the other webmasters, authors and organizers was incredible. In fact, I've become good friends with many of the people I met there — both exhibitors and attendees! That, coupled with the amazing turnout I had at my meet (having no idea what to expect beforehand and convincing myself why people might not show up), really made the entire event special for me, and something to look forward to. Something else that I still remember fondly was the first time someone came up to me at the Mega Mouse Meet and asked me to sign their book. It was the first time that this had happened, and I was so incredibly grateful that not only had they bought the book, but that they wanted my signature on it. (Usually, no one wants my signature, unless I'm signing a check.) It was gratifying and really gave me a good feeling to know that what I had written was really being enjoyed by others.
Of course, beyond the time spent with my wife and daughter, enjoying all that WDW during the holidays has to offer, I really had such a wonderful time meeting and speaking with so many people. I never could have anticipated how this incredible event was able to bring together so many diverse people from all over the country, united by a common love and passion for something as simple as WDW and Disney.
Grace Neville: This question isn't really about Disney trivia but about something I saw in your ad in the MouseFest 2005 pocket guide. You mentioned something about MouseTunes — can you explain what that is?
LOU: Sure! MouseTunes is a Disney podcast. OK, so what is a podcast? Well, simply put, think of it as an Internet radio show that you can listen to anytime, anywhere — whether it be on your computer, MP3 player, in your car, etc. Unlike streaming audio, which requires you to listen in real time, podcasting lets you control how and when you hear your favorite shows. All you need is a computer or MP3 player and you're all set! MouseTunes is a collaborative effort between myself and Nathan Rose of MagicalMountain.net. Regular features from our show include the latest Disney news, visits to the Walt Disney World "Rumor Mill," attraction and dining reviews, trivia and "Did You Knows," interviews with authors, Disney Imagineers and "surprise guests," answers to listener email, contests with great prizes, the weekly Disney Top 10 and much more! Visit http://mousetunes.com/
Genevieve Bouchard: Since I have read your trivia book front and backwards and am burning for some more: are there plans for a second book? Thanks and keep up the great writing. See you in the World!
Rob Sielert: When can we expect another book?
LOU: Thank you both for the questions, and I'm so happy to hear that you're enjoying the book! You can't imagine how rewarding it is to hear that! And thanks to all of you who like the book, I'm actually thrilled to announce that as a result of the wonderful response, there WILL be a Walt Disney World Trivia Book – Volume II! The expected publication date is May 2006, and I will start accepting pre-orders for signed copies on my site very soon!
Laura from CA: Do you have plans for a second book, different from the WDW Trivia Book?
LOU: As I mentioned above, there would be a second volume of the trivia book, which will be all-new, with hundreds of new questions and answers coming early next year. This book will follow the same question-and-answer format, yet all of the material will be completely new. I am also working on a number of other concepts and projects (yes, all dealing with WDW) that I unfortunately can't speak about just yet. If there's something you'd like to see, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know! I'm always open to suggestions!
ALL EARS®: Lou, thank you so much for being our guest and entertaining questions from our readers. Any comments before closing?
LOU: I hope that the WDW Trivia Book is as much fun to read as it was to research and write, and will not only enhance your love for WDW, but spark your interest in what makes the "magic" really happen. Thank you all for the great questions!
Read other features in our "Meet the Authors" series: http://allears.net/btp/authors1.htm
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.