Friday, February 16, 2018

2018 Minnie's Moonlit Madness - An After Hours Scavenger Hunt around Disneyland

Once again, February has rolled around and it's time for Minnie's Moonlit Madness. An after hours scavenger hunt for Disney Employees and their friends, and a chance for top teams to put their knowledge of Disney trivia to the test.

Ruston, Jacob, Theresa and I all had a blast competing together as a team, all the way up until 2015 when the event got so popular that instead of requiring only 1 Disney Cast Member per team, they started requiring 2 Disney Cast Members per team. Our party of 4 only has one cast member, and with that, all our hopes for competing together again were gone.

Since then, I've had a blast being a volunteer for the event, seeing some of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into putting on an event like this. But there's nothing quite like competing...

Fortunately every once in a while, a little Disney Magic can happen.

All the way back in August 2017, a friend let me know that there was an auction with various Disney items, benefitting CHOC (Children's Hospital of Orange Country). CHOC is a great hospital that was the beneficiary of Minnie's Moonlit Madness donations back in 2015. In the auction, amongst the other items was a VIP entry into the 2018 Minnie's Moonlit Madness. Not only did the winner get special VIP treatment on the night of the event, but they also only needed to have 1 Disney Cast Member on their team! Whoa!

After consulting with Ruston, Jacob, and Theresa, we all decided we definitely had to bid. Now the question is, how much were we willing to pay? Entry into the event the normal way is $100/team. We ended up paying a bit more than that, but the important part was, WE WON!!!

Fast forward to January 3rd and registration for Minnie's Moonlit Madness opens up to all teams. Along with registration being open, we get a glimpse into this year's theme! Disney Musicals! And in preparing for the event, I even found the artist who did the design for this year's theme, Adelya Tumasyeva! Very nice work.

So now that we know the theme, it's time to focus on prep work. Outfits of course, because it's always  fun to dress in costume at Disneyland. The four of us threw around a few ideas from popular Disney Musicals, like Beauty and the Beast and Little Mermaid. I thought Tarzan could be an interesting one to dress as... But in the end, it was the Newsies that Seized the Day!

Now, on to the knowledge prep work. We certainly have fun participating in MMM, but I want to do well too. You can't expect to do well by sitting on your laurels. You need to put in some hours brushing up on the source material. Disney Theatrical Productions from wikipedia was the obvious place to start. While I've seen a few of these shows in person, I certainly haven't seen all of them. In the weeks leading up to the event, I'd listen to the soundtracks, watch recordings and fan videos from Youtube, and study up on all the Disney Musicals I could, as well as watching some of the source material like High School Musical, Camp Rock, Hunchback, Lion King, and more.
Of course I reviewed some of my past write-ups to re-familiarize myself with the types of trivia and questions that we'd be seeing.

The Sunday before Minnie's, Ruston and Jacob came over and again we talked through strategy. Thinking through how we were going to tackle trivia, line up for walking the park, talk through what worked best in the past for solving clues, etc.

Finally Feb 15th arrived! Theresa and I got off work early to brave the lovely LA traffic, reaching Disneyland after 1:30 when on a normal Saturday morning it would take us 40 minutes. Ruston had it even worse, taking nearly 2 hours to reach the parks. Jacob happens to work close, and got to the parks early, spending the time wandering DCA, looking at all the fine details in various locations, just in case they happened to be used for clues later in the evening.

We spent the rest of our extra time in Downtown Disney, enjoying Earl of Sandwich for dinner and learning the ins and outs of Snapchat, which would be used for a bonus clue later on in the night.

At 7:30, we made our way back to the Esplanade and saw many of the other teams checking in.

And said a quick hello and thank you to the voluntears.

At 7:45, the side gates opened and the long line of teams were allowed in.

Part of our VIP experience tonight included express checkin, being greeted by Michelle with our captain's packet and a few other goodies.

Having the captain's packet signed with messages from members of the Clue Crew was an especially nice touch.

Michelle walked us in to the park and up to the Hyperion Theater.

At the theater, ushers checked everyone for wristbands before entering.

One extra special perk of winning the auction was a very special Charity Bonus clue, worth an unspecified number of points. We were allowed to start working it as soon as we received our captain's packet, so we took the time before we were let in to answer the clue.

And I took a few minutes to run over to the merchandise table to see what was offered. Posters, shirts, and the very important clipboards.

A lapel pin that was being sold at the merchandise table.

The pin we got as part of our VIP packet.

Just after 8:30, while all the other teams were lined up outside, we were led into an empty Hyperion Theater.

Empty except for one very important person. Minnie Mouse!

Our VIP experience gave us a few minutes with her to get photos and hugs.

Michelle brought us to our assigned seats (front row, center), and we said our goodbyes.

At 8:45 teams all started coming in. We got ourselves setup while we waited. Yes, there were laptops involved. Trivia can be really tough. Speeds however dropped considerably when everyone came inside.

Playing on the big screen were cartoons and even the Muppets, where the theme was musical stage performance.

Jacob showing off our lanyard. By the end of the night, we hope to have all those boxes punched out signaling that we completed all 10 of our clues.

At 9:10, the theater was full and it was time to get started!

We welcome our Producer for tonight's preview performance of Madness in the Moonlight, Dylan White!
Dylan has hosted for the past 11 years and I was really wondering if he'd be back for year 12. Since leaving the Aladdin show back in 2016, he'd moved to Texas to pursue opportunities there. A week before the madness though, his Facebook page made mention of Minnie's along with hints that he'd be back. He does such a great job, I was really happy to see him here again.

Dylan quickly welcomed current Disneyland Resort Ambassador Alexa Garcia to the stage.

And Alexa soon brought out tonight's charity. Moms Orange County provides support for new mothers and newborns.

Dylan and Minnie came out a giant check, contributed in part by everyone's team sign-up fees.

Now it's time to start the Madness!

Producer Dylan started off by changing the name of his play from Madness in the Moonlight to something that included Minnie in the title. How about Minnie's Moonlit Madness! He then went into a great monologue he wrote that had everyone laughing.

Next everyone checked their Captain's Packet to make sure they had everything they would need for the night.

And we said a big Thank You to the members of the Clue Crew who help put this all together every year. Over 3000 hours gets volunteered by these hard working cast members to help put this event on every year.

Time for everyone's favorite part of the night! <sarcasm> Trivia!! </sarcasm>
There's 50 trivia questions, each worth 3 points each. For the top teams, it's usually trivia that determines how you place overall. That's why it's really important to go in with a plan. Ruston was key to keeping us on track with trivia, tracking which questions we'd finished, and which questions still needed answers. That along with his large breadth of Disney knowledge that kept us from having to research every single trivia question.

Each multiple choice question is only on the screen for as long as it takes Dylan to read through it twice. About 25-30 seconds each. If you don't immediately know the answer, you don't have a lot of time to look it up. I'm happy to say that our system worked out pretty well I think. Out of 50 questions, I think we got at least 44 correct. Let's take a look at some of my favorite trivia questions.

Question 1 and I already know the answer! I thought Weird Al's Skipper Dan was hilarious! I see that they've upgraded the look of trivia on the screen too! Now questions are duplicated 3 times on the screen, and all the text is moved to the bottom 2/3rds of the screen. That should solve some of the sight-line issues in the theater.

Some questions aren't too difficult to figure out. Some are just evil. Asking an obscure detail on a parade from 16 years ago. Trying to find that answer quickly was difficult. Plus it's surely going to be a photo, so the slow speeds are going to make the search even more difficult. Thanks to Yesterland the answer was A. Blonde.

Sadly we missed this one. T and I have stayed at the Grand Californian hotel and while we were there we paid $30 for parking. It was one of those cases of trying to do too many things at once and not reading the question carefully. I learned afterwards while going through all my photos that it called for non-hotel guest rates and that the correct answer, based on the Disneyland Parking website is D. $100. Grr. I hate missing easy ones.

There's a lot of parts to this next question. It's just a lot of data to read through.

Hey! I play Tsum Tsum! The signal was so poor in the theater though that I couldn't get the game to load to check. I also know that there was an update at the beginning of February that added another Mickey to the list. Hopefully that was taken into account when determining the right answer.
By my count, there are 9 Mickey's you can play. Classic Mickey, Pumpkin Mickey, Holiday Mickey, Sorcerer Mickey, Horn Hat Mickey, Conductor Mickey, Steamboat Mickey, Parade Mickey, and Musketeer Mickey. That's a lot of Mickey's.

Not too difficult with a quick google search, but I like seeing these types of twists on the classic trivia question.

This was another one that was really difficult to search for online. In the end, I think I happened to find it as a photo on the Yelp review of the Disneyland Railroad.

Another clue that was difficult to search for online.

Not only do you have to find a list of the previous ambassadors, you also need to find their picture, since there's no names associated with this clue.

I still can't find the answer to this one. We guessed it was A.

Last year, questions 46-50 were double or nothing, and it was brought back again this year. If you wanted to do double or nothing, you bubble in #51 on your scantron sheet. If you miss any of the questions, you get 0 points for 46-50. Get them all right and you get 30 points.

Question 46 and 47 were both fairly easy.
Question 48 was written specifically for Dylan White. Check out the video.

Question 49 was also easy. And boy do I miss that tortilla factory. There wasn't a much better snack at the theme park than a warm flour tortilla, fresh off the line. I'm sure I've watched that intro video at least 50 times.

Okay, last question for double or nothing. Boy it's a doozy. I've long since stopped carrying my parking receipt with me, so I couldn't pull it out for reference.
As random luck would have it, we had what Ruston described as a "Slumdog Millionaire" type moment. At some point in the past, when Jacob looked over the parking receipt, he happened to recognize this vehicle code was a few digits off a phone number he recognized. Crazy.

So, that was trivia. There were some evil questions and others that weren't too bad. Going through all the questions and seeing our answers from the pictures I took of our scantron sheet, I think we missed 6 questions at most. We also opted in for the double or nothing, and I believe we got those right as well.
Out of a possible 165 points, I believe we took 147 points in trivia.

I've shown you all my photos, but I was also recording video the entire time. Anyone watching would have gotten a chuckle out of my setup. I had 2 DLSRs in front of me, one with a wide-angle lens, the second with a zoom lens. A gorillapod attached to my knee with my GoPro attached to it recording video. My cellphone taking the occasional photo, plus a Point and Shoot ready to go just in case.
Having the GoPro on my knee, and sitting on the very front row meant that the bottom of the screen was cut off unfortunately. But, any video is better than no video.

Next up was the scatter clue. You can't have all 404 teams leave the theater and descend onto Clue Central all at once. You've got to figure out a way to scatter all the teams across the park. Thus the scatter clue, also known as Clue A.
As we were ready to be dismissed from the theater, Minnie came running up to the stage.

Apparently we've got to find the location of a printing press, and our clue is on the back of the sheet of paper. Yeah, that is not helpful. I think we need more information.

With that, Dylan dismissed everyone into the streets of the Hollywood Backlot.

It was a flood of people leaving the theater all at once.

Hmm. Last year they held everyone at the front of the theater for the scatter clue. Now it seems like everyone is allowed to walk as far as the Disney Junior building. We're told to stay on the streets and off the sidewalks.

As we were walking I saw a bunch of my fellow volunteers from last year, all dressed like Newsies again. I yelled "Natalie, I need a pape!" And I was told I couldn't have one quite yet.

Recognizing more Newsies who still won't give me a pape.

Around 10:36pm, an announcer comes over the park audio and starts the madness. Suddenly a bunch of Newsies start running down those sidewalks we were told to keep clear of.
Teams who saw they were handing out papers mobbed them and then ran off to answer Clue A.

Along with giving a history of the event, The Newsies Banner has a cypher which will be useful for solving the location we need to go to. Reading a little more detail on it and it's got the instructions for the Bonus Clue as well.

The cypher was a simple substitution code and we learned that we should be heading to Princess Dot Puddle Park. The fastest way to get there is fighting upstream from where everyone else is going.
If you haven't read about this event before, there's one more peculiarity about this scavenger hunt. Your entire team is clipped together with a 6 foot rope for the entire 2 hours! It makes navigation just a little bit trickier, and you definitely have to be careful when you're walking around other teams. You might find yourself stuck on their rope.

Upon finding the correct location, we found a voluntear holding a sign that said to write The Bronx on our Clue A envelope and head to Clue Central.
Count 100 points for solving Clue A.

It's not too crazy here now, but it's certainly going to be crowded later. Because of the construction going on in DCA, there is a fenced off area taking away valuable walkway space.

We made our way to the very very end of all the clue tables. Even though the sign says 391-400 our clue giver confirmed we were in the right spot. We quickly learned his name so we could let him know we were coming (and he could have our clue ready), and we were off to solve our first clue.

Regarding clues, when the team captain signs their team up in January, they decide whether they want to solve easy clues (worth 100 points each) or hard clues (worth 125 points each). Since we're going for big points we opted for all 10 hard clues. The whole event lasts 2 hours, and in that 2 hours you have to solve the scatter clue and your 10 other clues. That averages out to be just over 9 minutes that you can spend on each clue if you want to finish everything before time runs out.
In years past, we've found that we do really well on time when the clue is a "logic problem" style clue and you don't have to go to a specific park location to solve it. What is more difficult is when you have to walk halfway across the park, still solve a problem, and then make it back to clue central to get your next clue.

Our first clue took us right back over to A Bugs Land. Using the outlines of the bugs on the Cowboy Crunchies cereal box, we used the letters in their names to answer the question "What is the bugs' favorite part of the show?" We figured out that the bugs' favorite part is "the company bow during the curtain call". Then we rushed back to Clue Central.

Our next clue sent us all the way to the animation academy. Along the way we passed Newsie Isaac. Inside the bonus clue envelope were pennies, and upon giving him one, he gave us a strip of paper with a column of letters on it. From the looks of things, we have to collect 10 of these strips of paper to get the entire clue. Hopefully we'll be able to solve it without collecting everything.

Inside the Animation Academy we had to identify 20 different Disney villains by some distinguishing feature that was sketched about them, and a minor description. I thought this was a lot of fun. The only ones that gave me trouble were 1) Identifying the Big Bad Wolf by just his hat and a clue that he was a fan of pork, and 2) The Bowler Hat from Meet The Robinsons. I thought it was Michael Yagoobian (Bowler Hat Guy), but the real villain from that movie is the automated bowler hat Doris. Jacob figured out the Big Bad Wolf. We were told to take another look at the Bowler Hat one. Once that answer was corrected, we got our completion sticker and hustled back to Clue Central. This clue took a lot of time to get to, complete, and walk back from. I was really hoping the rest of our clues would be shorter.

And our next clue was! We didn't have to go anywhere to solve it! We found a nearby location and worked to translate Disney song lyrics from Italian, German, and French, into their English versions. From that, we used letters from those lyrics to identify the Name of the Singing Whale from Make Mine Music. He might be from Make Mine Music, but I recognized Willie the Whale from his poster on the WDW ride Mickey's Philharmagic.

Our next clue sent us to Cocina Cucomunga. We were instructed to unclip and handed a plastic sword. By only using words we had to direct a team member into a fencing pose to match a card we were given. "Stick your right arm straight out. Point the sword tip up. Right foot forward. Left foot 90 degrees. Left arm in the air. Hand cocked and pointing forward." That sort of thing. After every team member successfully completed a different pose, we received a sword sticker.

The next clue took us back into A Bugs Land. We had to do math based on features we identified around the land. It was a fun idea, but we ran into a couple problems with how some things were described. The first told us to identify the number of circular grates around the end of a hose with a nozzle. Well the hose we see has a sprayer on the end of it and not a nozzle, but we still identified 40 circular water grates.
The next line had us identify the 7th and 8th digit of a UPC and doing math. This is probably the case of having too much knowledge. The problem is that all UPCs tend to have the format 0 12345 67891 0. That leading 0 identifies the numbering system and isn't technically part of the UPC. So did the clue writer know that and expect us to know that, or should we just count all the digits?

In the end, we used the numbers we calculated to fill in the values on a clock, and identified our answer as 1:23.

Making it back to Clue Central we learned our next stop was back at the Animation Building. Along the way we ran into a couple more Newsies and we finally had enough information to solve the bonus clue. It read something like "What is the first name of the character from the musical Newsies who is a combination of two characters from the film? Spelling counts"
The character Katherine Plumber from the Broadway musical is a combination of Bryan Denton (the reporter) and Sarah Jacobs (Davey and Les' sister). We wrote Katherine on our envelope and were happy to have the bonus clue under our belt.

Over in the Animation Building we had to match 30 characters from the movies they were from. You can see from the picture that many of these are background characters who have very little screen time. Thankfully we know our Disney movies pretty well and only had to correct 2 of them after our first attempt. We got our completion sticker and hustled back to Clue Central.

Four more clues to go. Paradise Gardens was our next stop. Here the music playing over the park speakers was from various rides along Paradise Pier. There are 6 different tracks playing here on a loop. Our job was to identify the ride the music was from, and then arrange ourselves in the position that we'd sit in if we were actually on the ride. We had to complete 5 of the 6 to receive credit.
The first was an attraction that has since gone to Yesterday, but I loved it a lot and quickly identified the music from The Maliboomer. We arranged ourselves in a line and all took a seated pose.
Next we heard the music from Mickey's Fun Wheel (and sat two by two facing each other).
Then Toy Story Midway Mania (also seated, but this time back to back).
And the Silly Symphony Swings (sitting two together, then others staggered around us).
And finally the carrousel.

The carrousel was the most fun to act out. These interactive clues are really fun. Quickly we made our way back to Clue Central.

Three clues left. Let's hope we don't have to do much walking.

Ha! So much for that. We hustled over to Guardians of the Galaxy and after solving clues and unscrambling 17 letters, we came up with the phrase "I'm Mary Poppins Y'all". We identified Yondu as the speaker of that line and hustled back to clue central. Side note, I thought it was really cool seeing Star-Lord here at the attraction.

Two clues left and time is running out. Of course we had to walk somewhere to solve it. Over to Flo's where we were given a stack of fastpasses to help solve our next clue. The number of hours between the return times corresponded to a letter, and by figuring out all the letters we'd identify a ride. After sorting all the fastpasses by times, we came up with a bunch of Rs, a few Ss, and a bunch of other letters. Consulting the DCA map that was provided, Radiator Springs Racers sure seems to match up to those letters. We counted the letters in the title and confirmed it matched the number of fastpass letters we had. I wrote Radiator Springs Racers on the envelope and we hustled back to Clue Central. On our walk back, the park announcer came over the park audio system and stated that we had 15 minutes left before the madness was over. Let's hope the last clue goes quick.

Well it looks like we're headed back to A Bugs Land and all the way down the queue into It's Tough to Be A Bug. And at first blush, it looks like we've got a lot of things to solve. Fortunately once we got there and started working the clue, it turned out to not be as bad as I thought. By finding the bug's version of movie posters in the queue and answering true/false questions based on them, you made your way down the ant trails on the clue sheet. Once you reached a "chamber" you wrote that answer on your envelope. We worked through the clue quickly and were back out and headed to Clue Central.

There's just one more thing we have to do! To get a 50 point bonus, certain areas of the park have been set up with a Snapchat geofilter. Taking a picture with your team number visible and emailing it to the organizers or posting it on a public social media page gives you the extra points.

Clue Central was a tangled mess of teams (as expected) at the very end of the madness. Jacob led us through and by the time stamps on my photos, I saw that we reached Michael with 3 minutes or so to spare.
Now that's what I like to see. A completed lanyard. Every single clue answered.

We turned in our team rope before time expired for another bonus 100 points.

Thanks Michael for always being ready for us tonight! At first I was worried that with 14 potential teams here, we might be stuck in line waiting for other teams to get their clues before we got ours, but that worry was not realized. I think there was only 1 time we ended up waiting on another team all night.

Go Newsies! Nice work team! I'm really excited to see how we do this year.

Afterwards, I met up with some friends to see how the race went for them. You might recognize Andrew from micechat.

And I was happy to run into Craig, William, and a host of Newsies to say thank you before taking off.

Well team, I think we did pretty well tonight. We'll see when the results come out how we ended up doing! I think we prepared as best we could, and unless we made a simple mistake somewhere, we should do pretty well. As soon as the results are posted, I'll follow up with another report.

Seize the day!

Update 2/22/2018

The results are in!
We won!!! First place for Team Ruston! Nice job team!


  1. I was wondering how you all got to compete again. That's a cool idea for an auction item! Do you know of any other teams that have had the same issues in recent years?

    1. As far as I've heard, this was the first year for anything like that. Now I'm curious if it will be back again next year.

  2. Hi Joe,
    So glad to see your team back in action again! The answer to Question #45 was D.: Looks like you team had a great time! Thank you again for your donation to CHOC!


    1. Thanks William! That one had us stumped.
      Keep writing those difficult trivia questions!

  3. Another entertaining and fun write-up. GREAT JOB, Newsies! Anxious to read the blog when you get your results... :)

  4. Great job! Congratulations on quite a feat. Enjoy your blog for this event. Do you know if there was a logo lapel pin offered on the merchandise table this year?
    Thanks in advance for your reply. >> Tina <<

    1. Thanks Tina. Going back through my photos, it looks like yes, they did offer a lapel pin at the merchandise table. I've included a zoomed in view of the lapel pin, as well as the pin we got in our VIP packet.