Friday, May 1, 2009

Minnie's Case of the Madness

My former roommate Alicia was friends with a girl named Heather who in turn was roommates with another girl named Becca. Our two apartments were basically extentions of each other as we shared many similar interests and fun times together. No time was more fun than when the four of us teamed up to take on Minnie's Moonlit Madness.

Minnie's Moonlit Madness (or MMM for short, in order to preserve my dexterity) was a Disney company based competition that takes place every May on the hollowed ground of Disneyland. Only one of the team members needed to be a mouse house employee - Heather was our in, working in their DVD department. MMM combined a team's knowledge of trivia with the experience of a scavenger hunt inside the gates of the happiest place on earth.

Did I mention that all four team members were tethered together at all times using a rope? This added the unique challenge of being forced to stick close together. The only time people could unclip was for one of the designated restrooms or if a task required it. The bathrooms were monitored by a Disney employee. Any team caught unattached would be disqualified. The whole event was timed, which caused people to move at speeds that shouldn't be attempted while dragging three people with you. It was serious.

Anyone who knows me knows how much of a Disneyland maniac I am. I have read countless books on the park, I have the whole park soundtrack on my I-pod and went there at least a dozen times during my last full year living in southern California. Needless to say our team was excited for the competition - enough so to make matching team shirts with one of the "Lands" on the front. Heather was Frontier, Alicia was Adventure, Becca was Fantasy and I was Tomorrow.

In the pre-game application each team would choose the difficulty of their ten clues, ranging from hard to easy. Being novices, we opted for two or three hard and the rest were easy. The hard ones brought in more points, but well, they were also harder and we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.

The Disney company closed the entire park at 6:00 for the event. We might have been at a disadvantage being from the Burbank offices, since many of the competitors were employees from the park. They would have the clear advantage of knowing more. Team captains signed in at the designated ticket booths and received their team packets. The envelopes contained team numbers, pens and pencils, a lanyard, a blank standardized testing bubble sheet, maps of every Disney park in the world and a flag of a foreign country. Our bib number was 216, which I thought was lucky, because at the time I had just started dating Lindy, and this was her Cleveland based area code.

Opening session took place in the Snow White theater. Minnie and a cast member explained the rules, followed by 50 rapid-fire multiple choice trivia questions ranging from theme parks to ESPN, basically anything that resided under the Disney company. Each question was only on the screen for a few seconds, so we tried writing down ones that we didn't know right away. A sample question: "Disneyland opened to the public on July 17, 1955. What day of the week was it?"

Disney voluntEARS (their pun, not mine) collected the answer sheets and all of the teams were instructed to head outside to Small World plaza. Each team was instructed to rope up as we were greeted by a video projection on to the front of It's a Small World. There was a long introduction which featured random clips of hundreds of Disney movies. The facade went dark and random International flags appeared on projected in various bubbles. We were given no instruction aside from "your first clue is at this location," just the flags. In front of each flag was a clue written in that country's native language. We had an Italian flag, so when I found that on the screen, I noticed two key words in our clue - "rosa" and "pizza". I didn't know what the other words meant, but I my context clues told me we should go to Red Rocket's Pizza Port, located in the center of Tomorrowland.

At this point it's important to mention there were nearly 300 groups, totalling 1200 people all jammed into one big Disney cul-de-sac. We attempted to navigate towards Tomorrowland, but there were at least 25 flags, so people were headed in every direction possible. Clusters of four were running into each other and getting tangled together. If another group was headed towards us I'd yell out which direction we'd take, in order to avoid a collision. When we made it, taped to the front of the restaurant door was a box with clues in it. We grabbed it and it had the answer, which we had to return to clue central, at the central hub of Main Street USA.

Each answer was only one word. These were figured out by completing a task or solving a complex puzzle. You wrote this word on an envelope and turned it in to clue headquarters to get the next clue. Some required you to venture into the park, others were mind puzzles you could sit down and do right there.

From there the night took off and everything was a blur. We darted all over the park, mostly in the Main Street/Fantasyland/Tomorrowland vacinity, never too far from the Matterhorn or Castle. Some of the more insanely detail oriented clues included:
  • A musical clue where teams were given sheet music and access to a keyboard. Thankfully Becca retained enough of her childhood piano prowess. She played the notes and we had to identify the movie which the song belonged in and take one indicated letter of the movie title. After doing this ten times, we had to unscramble all of the letters. The whole thing felt like when Andie had to play the giant bone organ in Goonies.

  • Walking up and down Main Street and looking at every single window display. Each display had a characters from a Disney movie with a book opened next to them. We had to read the paragraph on each book, answer a comprehension question and unscramble the clue from the fourth letter of each answer.

  • One clue said go to "Where 13 is lucky." We went with our first hunch and high tailed it to the Haunted Mansion and there was nobody there but a very confused janitor. It turned out we needed to find the place on the map numbered 13, which was the Coca Cola pavillion.

  • All of the International maps were used, including having to trace lines between landmarks located around EPCOT's lagoon. These lines would form certain letters which spelled our an answer. The clue only said "Italy, France, Mexico, Canada," which meant put your pen down at Italy, trace to France and so on. This one took us so long to figure out, the woman at the station practically gave us the correct method after we kept asking for hints.

  • Another clue took us to the Mad Tea Party, better known as the Teacups. We had to dash from cup to cup (not easy to do while tied together) and read a trivia question about Alice in Wonderland. The questions were written in a spiral, so we had to keep rotating in order to read them.

In the end, only the top 3 teams got prizes, which ranged from a cruise to hotel stays to dinners. If you weren't one of the winning teams, your results wouldnt be released until a few weeks down the road. We were all very shocked to learn that our team had come in 23rd place, the highest finish ever from someone in Heather's department. To this day her co-workers still talk to her about it.

We returned to the Madness in 2007 and came in 34th (or something close to that). I blame the drop in rank on the fact that it took place across the way at Disneyland's less popular cousin, California Adventure, and the theme was High School Musical.

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