Today it is my great pleasure to interview Ricky Brigante, the owner and host of InsideTheMagic.net. His site launched in 2005 and has been featured in Fox35, the Orlando Sentinel, Perez Hilton, and Time. His favorite attraction is the Magic Kingdom’s Haunted Mansion. His YouTube videos have gotten over 25 million views and he produces the best and longest-running Disney podcast around.
What Inspired you to create Inside The Magic?
Inside the Magic began as a very simple weekly podcast in the early days of podcasting. As soon as I heard of the new medium, I knew I wanted to get involved and there was only 1 other podcast in existence that focused on Disney theme parks. That show has come and gone, leaving Inside the Magic to continue to be the longest-running Disney podcast around. As the number of listeners rapidly grew (much to my surprise and delight), I saw opportunities to expand to a longer show and ultimately a full web site, delivering news, information, and entertainment on a daily basis and covering even more than just Disney topics, though keeping Disney as the primary focus.
But the main reason behind it all is because I love it! I’m a big fan of Disney and theme parks and working on Inside the Magic enables me to stay connected to those worlds while bringing them to those who can’t always physically be “inside the magic” of it all. Not everyone can live 15 minutes from the Magic Kingdom, so my goal has always been to help spread that Disney magic to the world.
What was it like to move from Miami to Orlando? Do you ever get tired of visiting the Orlando theme parks?
I grew up in Miami and lived there for around 18 years before moving to Atlanta for college. Growing up, my parents took me on Orlando vacations once every few years. Once I moved away, I began frequenting the city as often as I could, culminating in moving here straight of college. Of course, the fact that I had met my now-wife who lived in the Orlando area helped too! Since I regularly attend special events happening at all of Orlando’s theme parks, it’s tough for me to get tired of going. There is always something new and different to see as the parks are constantly changing. I do occasionally take some time away from the parks, particularly during the crowded, hot summer months.
What’s your favorite theme park restaurant or snack from any of the Orlando theme parks?
Epcot’s restaurants are easily the best of all four of Walt Disney World’s theme parks, with Le Cellier and Via Napoli among my favorites. It’s actually tough to pick favorite theme park foods in Orlando because the options available at Disneyland in California are so much better. Outside of the Epcot Food and Wine Festival, which I absolutely love attending each year, it can be difficult to drool over any particular theme park restaurant. As a local, I don’t frequent the table service restaurants in the parks since reservations are so difficult to get and it’s often less expensive to eat outside the parks. Disneyland caters to locals and passholders far more, offering a better variety of dining options for those who frequent the parks there. It seems like every time I grow attached to a particular food item at Walt Disney World, they change or get rid of it.
With all that said, I always love getting a pineapple and vanilla swirl Dole Whip.
What is your favorite Disney resort?
The Grand Californian is my favorite Disney hotel at Disneyland and Animal Kingdom Lodge is my favorite at Walt Disney World. Both feature similar layouts and construction styles, designed by the same architect. The grand lobbies are a marvel to look at and comfortable to relax in. I particularly enjoy sitting by the fireplace in Anaheim and fire pits in Orlando. The arts and crafts style of the Grand Californian creates a wonderfully warm feeling throughout and Animal Kingdom Lodge features a rustic, worldly, and yet modern look and feel. Plus the restaurants at both are fantastic, with my favorite being Boma.
What was it like to sail on the Disney Fantasy on it’s inaugural preview?
The Disney Fantasy is an amazing new ship that features everything great about the Dream and improves upon it. Inaugural sailings are always a mixed bag of fun and work. I was happy to have an extra day on board over the 2-night Disney Dream Christening Cruise last year, but the extra time simply meant I could pack even more into my schedule. It’s always exciting to be among the first to experience anything Disney produces, particularly something as massive as a new cruise ship that will sail for many years to come. But I was invited with the purpose of covering the ship and its many amenities, so I take that as an opportunity to use every moment I’m on board to experience as much as I can, documenting it along the way. It’s exhausting, but thrilling at the same time. And even with all the work, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
Which Disney cruise ship is your favorite?
I’ve only sailed on the Dream and Fantasy and prefer the latter for its improvements in the adults-only areas and the addition of the AquaLab, which is a wonderfully fun extension of the AquaDuck water coaster, my favorite part of both ships. Satellite Falls on the Fantasy adds a relaxing 18+ area to a fairly dull portion of the Dream with a unique new water feature. And the themed nightclubs and lounges of Europa are much more interesting than the fairly ordinary ones found in The District on the Dream.
Video: Disney Dream
What’s the most memorable event you’ve experienced while visiting a theme park?
Grand opening events are always the most memorable, as they heighten an already exciting new theme park experience with the addition of a huge one-time-only spectacle. I’ve had the opportunity to hear Jodi Benson, voice of Ariel, sing twice at Disneyland related to The Little Mermaid ride. I’ve seen George Lucas and a handful of Star Wars celebrities celebrate the reopening of Star Tours. I’ve seen celebrities arrive down a “blue carpet” for the premiere of World of Color and had a chance to chat with some of them during the after-party. And best of all, I’ve had a chance to talk to countless Imagineers and other designers about the attractions they’ve just completed. It’s amazing to hear the relief and joy in their voices when they’ve just wrapped up a project and are celebrating its opening after years of work. I’ve gotten to know the extraordinarily friendly creators of Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando and always look forward to talking to them about their achievements at each year’s opening night. And it’s always fun to see the twinkle in all designers’ eyes as they think about their next projects, which are often already in the works by the time I talk to them. For a theme park fan like me, these events are definitely among the most memorable.
Video: World of Color premiere
Other than theme parks, where else do you like to travel?
I recently went on a fantastic first-time trip to San Francisco, exploring the culture, riding the street cars, and devouring the local cuisine. Of course, there was a bit of Disney thrown in too when I visited the Walt Disney Family Museum, a must-see for any Disney fan. I also attended the San Diego Comic-Con for the first time last year, which was an unforgettable 4.5-day adventure that I look forward to duplicating again in the future. But I rarely travel anywhere that doesn’t involve some sort of Disney, theme park, or special event connection.
What would you have done differently when reimagining Disney California Adventure Park?
From what I’ve seen so far, the improvements made to that park are nothing short of a miracle. The previously skippable park is now becoming a worthy counterpart to the original across the esplanade. I’m personally not the biggest fan of “Cars,” but I do look forward to seeing what Imagineers have created in Cars Land. I hope it is able to entertain even those who don’t like the films. Of all the changes, I’m not thrilled with the Pan Pacific-themed entrance. It looks great, definitely better than the previous turnstile area, but it’s nearly identical to that of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I would have preferred a unique entrance for the park. That’s probably the biggest part that I would have done differently. I’m sure there’s another classic Hollywood icon out there that could have acted as the inspiration to that area.
Video: *Update* Carsland recently opened, check out Ricky’s playlist
Which theme park attractions do you look forward to see opening in the coming months?
Though Cars Land is massive and Radiator Springs Racers will surely be fun, I’m particularly looking forward to seeing Buena Vista Street and the Carthay Circle Theatre. It should be a fun journey through time to the California that Walt Disney saw when he arrived there. And the live entertainment seems like it’s going to be a lot of fun.
I’m really looking forward to seeing Universal Orlando’s new nighttime lagoon show, Cinematic Spectacular, debuting next month. I hope it’s even half as good as World of Color. If so, I’ll see it regularly.
Get the latest scoop on your favorite Disney theme park at InsideTheMagic.net.
Don’t miss my exclusive interviews with Robert Niles from Themepark Insider, author of Stories From A Theme Park Insider, Chris Christensen from The Amateur Traveler Podcast, and don’t miss my interview with famed entrepreneur and author Cameron Johnson.