Moving along to our third DLP fansite owner interview. This week we spoke to Graeme Spence from DLRP Roundup. A Disneyland Paris fansite designed to help you make planning your trip to DLP easier.
How long have you been interested in Disneyland Paris?
Since about 2010, Disneyland Paris was always the Disney Park I was going to eventually get round to, after finally booking it, I didn’t expect it to be such an amazing take on the Disney park idea. It looks spectacular, it’s built with all the shortfalls of the others in mind. Disneyland Paris always seemed like a little brother before, until you realise, it’s actually the refinement of the magic.
What started your interest in Disneyland Paris?
I’ve always been a Disney Parks fan, with it being so close and my first visit, there was no way you couldn’t fall in love with the way the resort is set up. The magic is very real and the Castle hands down shows up the rest with its impressive architecture and setting. Night entertainment when done in Paris, really shows how magic can come alive and how to do it right.
What made you decide to create a website dedicated to Disneyland Paris?
Dreams and its tech are the ultimate in a Disney Park, worldwide with the exception of Fantasmic it just builds on everything that’s gone before it, and then adds a level of competition that outside Disney isn’t seen. I wanted to talk about it, and I enjoy building online tools.
Was there ever a moment when you didn’t believe that your website would succeed?
It really depends on how I feel on which day. On one hand I don’t consider it successful because it simply doesn’t look the way I want it to, and it doesn’t have all the content I want to put up – however hours in the day are limited and I work on it during any free time.
On the other hand I find that it is successful, especially when I see in the logs that are sites are linking to some of the content (especially the calendars) and finding it useful. It’ll never have adverts as I want it to live as a resource people can reference without fearing it’s exaggerating for attention.
How big of a role do you think social media plays in the success of your website?
Twitter is fantastic as a resource for keeping up with the latest and talking with the rest of the community, without it I certainly wouldn’t have managed to meet some of the fantastic people I have. That said, normally short of retweets most of the “news” is out before I’m online so it doesn’t play an integral part as I don’t repost it if the collective already has – the majority of our traffic comes from search engines.
What has been your favourite moment since starting your website?
Seeing the logs for the Calendar, I spent far too many nights without sleep getting it to work with so much data, along with the many hours/days of trying to decipher the live DLP files.
Having people see it as a valuable resource is a great feeling, and makes up for the many times I’ve had to patch/rewrite it to support the ever changing live data.
Roughly how many hours a week do you spend researching, writing articles, creating content, Tweeting etc?
I spend at least an hour a day reading what others are writing and I listen to Dedicated to DLP in the car to and from work whenever Steve puts out a new cast.
As for content generating, a lot less than I wish I could, you’d be lucky if its an hour or two when I’m not on a trip.
What is it like being part of a special group of Disneyland Paris fansites?
It’s definitely very nice community to be part of, one of admiration of something we all share in common, everyone is incredibly respectful, and in real life all fantastic people to meet. Oddly it puts a burden on each site to do better and ensure they’re always right with what they say, you don’t want to get it wrong with so many people watching as experts.
How many times have you managed to visit Disneyland Paris?
I’ve managed to visit multiple times a year since 2010, working my way round the onsite hotels and seeing what each one has to offer. I’m definitely in the smaller number of visits compared to most, however I tactically plan the trips to try and see many different seasons and times of the year.
What is your favourite attraction at Disneyland Paris and why?
The Crush Coaster is very good, as is RC racer, Pirates gets a fair mention especially with its theming, however Space Mountain takes the cake as the top ride for me, its a very powerful coaster to have in a Disney Park and its theming is spectacular.
What is the best tip you could give us when visiting Disneyland Paris?
My best tip isn’t at Disneyland Paris, but rather on getting there, take the TGV train if coming in CDG Airport. Honestly 9 minutes, you’ll barely be in your seat (if you bother even looking) and you will see Space Mountain before disembarking. The bus and taxis are an absolute hassle in comparison.
The first time we tried it, I couldn’t believe how wrong I’d been getting it for so long.
What is your favourite time of year at Disneyland Paris and why?
Christmas, Disneyland Paris seem to put every single resource possible into having a spectacular Christmas season. When you see the end result its always the peak of the resort, and it’s always done with passion and commitment that delivers an experience you won’t forget. I’d trade the majority of my past trips for longer at Christmas time. Disneyland Paris are well aware of this too though, its the season they show off the most.
Do you have any special memorabilia related to Disneyland Paris?
I have a fair few books about Disneyland Paris that always give a few warm tales, when you read up on the design of the resort, the Disney company and imagineers really did expect it to grow bigger than Walt Disney World, they designed the parks and the resort plan to be able to accommodate that and I truly believe one day it may hold a much larger footprint. No expense was spent in the design and it shows with the way the adventure presents itself in the parks.
Would you ever like to work as a cast member at Disneyland Paris? If so in what position?
Who wouldn’t want to work in the magic, I have no idea, I’d want to be involved with the night entertainment, absolutely love it in every park worldwide.
If you could improve/change/add one thing (money no object) at Disneyland Paris what would it be and why?
Free drinks refills on all buffet restaurants, seems strange to charge for something thats dirt cheap to provide on draft. I’d also bring back the night parade either Fantillusion or Main Street Electrical as I think it creates more wow than any day parade.
You have just launched a new tool on your website called DLPwaits.com where did the idea come from and how did you go about creating such a useful feature?
Dlpwaits.com came rather out of nowhere in all honesty. We spent a fair deal of time around November trying to find a way to build a DLP queue time page. We looked at what else was available, and it turned out that all the other solutions required people every day to submit times, and submit often! The problem with that is that it doesn’t hold any accountability to the data and the accuracy just isn’t there.
However a little known feature of the official Disneyland Paris app is that it holds wait times and like opening hours, sort of hides them rather than showcases them. We tried reverse engineering the app a little and seeing where it’s data store is, as it turns out, its a web service, json in particular (which is the new Disneyland Paris’ website format of choice – a change from XML).
The stream though isn’t unencrypted, or even compressed properly, probably to make what we’re doing a tad bit harder. I tried for a few days to read the data but due to the language barrier and it not playing ball I gave up. Out of the blue another member of magicforum had success, an Italian traveller of European theme parks, generously he shared his code with us.
So we had live wait data, we could pull it from DLP’s official app.The problem though, is that the app doesn’t generate traffic in the same way we do. You see the app grabs one attraction at a time and display’s the wait, very small amounts of data. For the whole lot though, we need to grab a few things, first a very oddly format page of times, dates, status, and other random digits (that we’re exploring). We then read through it and match it to a known good list of rides – again DLP sends over data for every stall, restaurant, hotel and ride. So we had to cut a whole lot of data out, and we needed to cache it (store it for a few minutes) to make sure we don’t overload the server giving the data.
We want to be a good part of the community, not hated for taking down the official sites and web apps! We now display in a way consistent with our website, we made sure its perfect on a mobile too. I’d advise everyone to store it on their phone, we even stuck a little picture up so it’ll be able to look good on the iOS home screens.
In the future we’ll build it out further, we’ve started to store hourly wait times, we’ll use this data to further enhance our calendar, to show what waits to expect during a given period. Wouldn’t it be nice to ask, Just how busy is a random Tuesday in January/February’s quiet period, and know the wait times, that level of comparison is what we’re aiming for.
We love Disneyland Paris, and we love Disneyland Paris news, we will always cover the highlights, but our mission currently is to help make planning easier. Over the coming weeks, we’re going to debrand dlpwaits.com – while its our baby, I want to be able to share it with the community on a fair basis and improve these tools as a community, so that the very best information is available in a non competitive way.
Any others comments (feel free to add any more questions, answers and/or notes) We might have missed something important.
I hope the fan community surrounding DLP continues to grow, I hope we get the opportunity to all link up during the year also. Disneyland Paris have a social strategy and I’m happy to see we’re sometimes included but obviously I think we could be a bigger part.