Meet JENNIFER & DAVE MARX Authors of “Passporter WDW”
This interview appeared in the April 18, 2001 Issue #82 of ALL EARS®
ALL EARS continues its series: Meet the Authors! These interviews give you an opportunity to get to know the authors of various Disney-related books, as well as ask them questions directly.
This month, ALL EARS' Meet the Authors series features Jennifer and Dave Marx, authors of the extremely popular PassPorter Walt Disney World.
Jennifer and Dave have been a team since 1995, when they met… on the computer!
Jennifer, a native of Lansing, Michigan, was working at America Online as the founder and coordinator of an online training academy.
"Dave signed up for a course and I "met" him (online, not in person) when he petitioned to do a special project during the course," Jennifer explains. Soon after, she continues, Dave applied to become a trainer and was invited into the academy. About six months later, they worked together at an AOL conference in Atlanta, which, according to Jennifer, was the catalyst for the start of their partnership. "We realized how much we had in common and how our individuals talents complemented one another. And one year later we embarked on the first field test to Walt Disney World for PassPorter."
Although they're in sync now, the two come from very different backgrounds, and not necessarily the backgrounds you'd expect of guidebook authors. Jennifer, who once spent what she terms "an incredible year in Japan" during a work-study college program aboard a fully functional, sternwheeled excursion boat on Lake Biwa, holds a degree in social psychology from the University of Michigan.
Dave, on the other hand, was born in Jersey City, and raised in Leonia, a small town just a mile west of the George Washington Bridge. After graduating from the Leonia Alternative High School in 1973, he took a year off from school, intending to go to college full-time afterward. Instead, he discovered his position as news, public affairs, and music producer for a New York City public radio station was more fun. This led him to a variety of different positions, including motion picture music editor/production director for a music production company.
"We wrote, produced and recorded music for advertising (jingles) and feature films," says Dave. "Our credits included "Reach Out and Touch Someone," "GE, We Bring Good Things to Life," "Kentucky Fried Chicken, We Do Chicken Right," and "Catch That Pepsi Spirit," among others. I eventually got to work with Oscar-winning film composers (including Alan Menken) and many of the most talented people in the music and advertising business."
Although Jennifer first visited Walt Disney World as a teenager, Dave didn't make the trip until he was 42. ("I'll try to put a good "spin" on this," he jokes, "I was 20 when I first visited Disneyland!") Despite the difference in the *when* of their first visits, they've both reached the same conclusions.
"I vividly remember the sense of awe and wonder I experienced when I visited Horizons and Spaceship Earth," Jennifer recalls. "For the first time, I could envision a wonderful future for myself and my world. My trip to Epcot sparked many fantasies of my future, and encouraged my interest in computers. The wonderful thing is that I can still recapture that feeling when I visit Epcot now."
Dave concurs. "The total immersion in Disney magic hooked me from the beginning, and I think having Jennifer as my personal tour guide helped a whole lot, too! I had been to Disneyland several times over the years, and, while I thought that park was cool in many ways, it never hooked me. Walt certainly was right when he came up with the concept for WDW – you can leave the rest of the world behind as soon as you step on property."
Their desire to share their love of Walt Disney World with others led to the eventual development of the Passporter book, which, as Jennifer explains, they did not want to be just another "me too!" title sitting on the bookshelves with all the other guidebooks.
"There really are many wonderful travel guides to Walt Disney World in print," Jennifer notes. "I am very fond of Rita Aero's guide, and I loved to read it nightly before bed in the pre-PassPorter days. I saw no need to reinvent the wheel."
And so, in 1996, during a typical trip to Walt Disney World, Jennifer found her new idea. As she struggled on a bus ride with the folder she'd brought to hold guidemaps, receipts, and all the other papers inevitably accumulated during a Disney trip, she had the vision of a small pocket.
"The lightbulb over my head must have been bright enough to illuminate the whole Walt Disney World Resort!" she laughs. "The remarkable thing is that the pocket I envisioned on that bus all those years ago is virtually identical to the "PassPocket" that exists today." Dreaming up the PassPocket was easy compared to its implementation, she adds. The pockets had to be designed from scratch, keeping in mind the need for usability, durability, and longevity.
"And finding a printer who could make our design a reality was tough, too," Jennifer adds. "We spent hundreds of hours in research and discussion to get it just right, but it was (and continues to be) worth all the time and effort! Our readers cite the PassPockets as one of their favorite PassPorter features."
Jennifer and Dave realized that to create PassPorter the way they'd envisioned it, they would have to act as their own publishers. Since they'd already published more than a dozen books about America Online, Macintosh computers, and similar topics for other publishers, they felt up to the challenge.
"We've always known that as good as our travel guide is, it's the PassPockets that make PassPorter truly special," says Jennifer. "We didn't want PassPorter to be a stillborn concept, to be told to abandon the PassPockets and publish a conventional guidebook. We were fortunate that both our careers hit a turning point at about the same time and we were able to commit to building a publishing company around the PassPorter concept."
Having recently published PassPorter Walt Disney World 2001, with updates in the wings, Jennifer and Dave have proven that their ideas and their partnership are a winning combination.
Recently, ALL EARS subscribers also had the opportunity to send in questions for Jennifer and Dave. Here's what you wanted to know!
Linda Dragisic Orland Park, IL: I received a deluxe Passporter 2000 for Christmas from my son. Now that you have a new 2001 version, can I get update/new pages to add to my book?
Jennifer and Dave: You most certainly can! You can order just the 2001 text, PassPocket refills, or a complete 2001 Refill Kit with text, covers (with updated "flap maps," planning calendar and phone list) and PassPockets. They're availble at our online store: http://www.passporter.com/store and through our toll-free number: 877-WAYFARER (877-929-3273).
Della Dirickson, Charlottesville, VA: I was so happy when you announced that you were able to secure the rights to add some photographs to the 2001 Passporter! How hard was it to secure the rights? How did you choose the pictures to include? Thanks, I love your guide and recommend it to everyone.
Jennifer and Dave: Thanks for the kind words and support! Word-of-mouth has been the single-most important factor in PassPorter's growth. Sometimes timing is everything. Late last year Disney decided to relax its longstanding policies restricting the use of photos in unofficial guidebooks (as described in Bob Sehlinger's Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World). Perhaps Disney was tired of seeing photos of Universal on the covers of Orlando guidebooks. Anyway, our contact at WDW Press Relations gave us
the good news while we were working on the 2001 Edition, and we jumped at the opportunity. If we had published our "2001" edition in September or October of 2000 (like some other guidebooks we know) we wouldn't have been the first to take advantage of the new policy. We also had the flexibility to delay publication of PassPorter a bit in order to benefit from the opportunity. We hope you think it was worth it! As we think everyone knows, Disney is very careful about the way its "valuable properties" are depicted, but their requirements were quite reasonable under the circumstances – compliance wasn't a serious problem for us. We didn't have time to arrange for our own photo shoots, so we depended upon Disney's own archives. We told them what kinds of shots we were interested in, they provided suitable samples, and ultimately we ended-up with the photos you see in the book.
Margaret Price, Westmont, IL: Hello! Just FYI–I ordered the "deluxe" 2000 passporter for our first Disney (7-day Magic) cruise and for several days following the cruise at WDW. I loved the pockets for collecting various disney items from our vacation. I also jotted down some notes at the end of each day of our trip. I love all the information condensed in one booklet. I hope to make a quick trip to WDW this fall with my family and will purchase the "2001" refill book. My question concerns the Disney Ocala Center. What is your experience/opinion of waiting until the last minute to try for a bargain room at a Disney hotel? We are planning on either early October or early November 2001 to take advantage of the "value" season–or, does the time of year matter at Ocala center? If you have successfully used the Ocala center, what time of year (situation, Disney hotel, etc) did you find the most success? We would love to stay at the Wilderness Lodge again, but, we need to cut costs. Just a note–We did purchase annual passes this past fall for the first time. They will expire Nov. 12, 2001. I'm probably going to try for an annual pass rate for a Disney hotel if I can get them. Just wondering about your thoughts on the Ocala Center. Thanks for any information you can provide!
Jennifer and Dave: We're delighted to hear that the 2000 edition of PassPorter was helpful on your Disney cruise. Regarding the Disney Information Center in Ocala, Florida, we don't recommend that you use it for last-minute accommodations if you know in advance when you're going and are already planning your trip. The problem is that you just don't know what you'll get when you arrive in Ocala, and if you wait until you arrive to secure your accommodations, you may be left out in the cold (or heat, more accurately). Even if you make preliminary reservations now with the hopes of finding something better in Ocala, it will probably be too late to cancel your original reservations when you arrive in Ocala. The accommodations offered at the Ocala Center are best for last-minute travelers arriving by car who don't really care where they stay, and probably weren't intending to stay on-property at all. We ourselves have never found accommodations through Ocala — we're from Michigan and almost always fly rather than drive. As you have an annual pass, we recommend you secure a reservation that you can afford now and then start looking for an annual passholder discount a few months before your trip. Good luck!
ALL EARS: Since you know the ins and outs of Disney World so well, do you ever find yourselves bored? Or feel that you've "done it all" and wish you could find something new?
Jennifer and Dave: Bored? No way! If anything, writing and publishing PassPorter has added to the ways in which we can enjoy and experience Walt Disney World. We've learned to see the "World" through the eyes of our many readers, and to experience everything with your many needs in mind. We've done things for our "art" that we might never have experienced on our own. And as long as we lack the guts to do Summit Plummet, we'll never be able to say we've done it all. There's no need to yearn for something new at Walt Disney World–we all know just how quickly WDW changes and evolves. There's nothing harder than finalizing the manuscript of a new edition–it seems every day there's some new change, either large or small. And the day *after* we finalize the edition, oy vay! Let's just say that's *not* the day to read RADP. That's not to say there isn't a whole other world outside Walt Disney World. We love to travel, so there's no shortage of new places to visit and experience, especially with Disney as your guide. This past December we visited Vancouver, British Columbia, and Butchart Gardens was near the top of our Must See list. Why? Victoria Gardens in Epcot's Canada Pavilion is modeled on Butchart Gardens!
ALL EARS: How do you deal with people who say to you: I can't believe you're going to Disney World *again*!!!
Jennifer and Dave: We're fortunate to have a built-in answer to the "I-can't-believe-you're-going-to-Walt-Disney-World-again" question: "RESEARCH!" Even before PassPorter, we got this question a lot and didn't have such a pat answer. But we always replied unashamedly that we found it wonderfully easy to relax at Walt Disney World, and in this day and age, relaxation is paramount. It's easy to ignore the humbugs and naysayers when you've got Walt Disney World to visit!
Jayne Femia, MA: I travel to WDW by car. It is (or I should say, we make it) a 3-day excursion. I would love to be able to purchase inserts for the passporter to cover these days. It would be nice if it included space to chronicle expenses for gasoline, hotels, restaurants, sites to visit, and of course pockets for reservations, receipts, etc. Are there any plans for this?
Jennifer and Dave: We drove from Michigan to Florida last August and "excursion" was certainly the right word for our little adventure. We took two days to drive down and four days to get home. The Deluxe PassPorter worked perfectly for planning each day of our trip, including all the on-the-road days. We just started with a Day One pocket on the day we left for Florida and we were able to record everything we did during our journey with the daily pockets: we recorded the cities we passed through, places we visited, and meals we ate on the front of the pockets, kept road maps, driving directions (from MapQuest.com), and gasoline receipts inside the pockets, recorded memories of our journey and gas/meal expenses on the back of the pockets. So, in essence, the daily PassPockets already in PassPorter worked great for our car trip! In fact, we're not sure what we would change if we were to do a set of pockets intended solely for road trips. We'd love to hear your ideas, though — reader suggestions are at the core of PassPorter. You can e-mail your ideas and thoughts to email@example.com
Michael R. Boyer: In this day and age of Wristwatch computer's, Palm Pilots, Windows CE and other tiny portable computing devices, are there any plans on releasing a "Softcopy" version of the Passporter which could be downloaded and used on Palm Pilots and their compatibles or Windows CE devices? I believe there might be a considerable market for one!
Jennifer and Dave: Yes, we do want to offer a version of PassPorter for handheld computers. We both have Palms and find them invaluable during our visits to Walt Disney World. Rather than just offer a word-for-word "softcopy" of the PassPorter text, we're looking for the right implementation to really bring PassPorter alive. We're also looking for ways to keep the "PassPocket" concept with the handheld version. Like our travel guide, we don't want to come out with a "me too!" — we want to offer something really valuable and unique! And we believe we will. 🙂
ALL EARS: This last question makes me wonder — Do you have any plans to extend the PassPorter into a series? For example, PassPorter for Disneyland, Disneyland Paris? Or other non-Disney locations?
Jennifer and Dave: Yes, yes, and yes! We intended PassPorter to become a series from the start, and we're on the road to making that a reality. We're in the planning stages for PassPorter Disneyland, which we've had many requests for from our wonderful readers. We hope to have that out by next year. Disneyland Paris (and Paris itself) is also on our list, though we'll probably branch out to other non-Disney destinations first, such as New York City and San Francisco. Essentially, any travel destination too large to "do" in a single trip is perfect for the PassPorter treatment. Our dream is to have a PassPorter for every major destination in the world!
You can reach Jennifer and Dave by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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