This week on our Because I’m a Lady series, we’re talking Disney Parks favorites and career advice with theme park journalist Carlye Wisel.
Tell us a little bit about how you got started as a theme park journalist.
I went to Walt Disney World for my bachelorette party and was stunned by how challenging it can be to plan a trip if you haven’t been in ages. I wrote a couple stories about my experience when I came back, and slowly found myself obsessing over how people navigate Disney Parks, well beyond my interest in the fashion and lifestyle writing I did at the time. I soon began contributing theme park stories to Travel + Leisure on a weekly basis, and it snowballed to other websites and magazines from there. Now, it’s the only thing I write about!
Did you ever envision that this would be your career when you were in college?
I didn’t! I thought I’d be an executive at a record label or working on staff at a fashion magazine, but that’s what’s so great about being a writer in this era of digital chaos—there are so many interesting opportunities out there. I’ve worked in the music industry, I’ve run social media accounts, I’ve been a video host and email newsletter maestro, and brand copywriter—but it wasn’t until I started covering theme parks that I found my true passion.
Obviously, your job looks like it’s non-stop fun. What are the best parts about it and some of the challenges?
The downside to being able to ride Space Mountain and weirdly call it work is that I have no “off button.” When I go to the Parks as a guest, I’m constantly asking questions and taking notes mental notes, so it’s rare that I’ll bliss out and just enjoy the attractions. My Instagram account may look like I’m a professional 10-year-old, but I promise, it’s real work! On most days you’ll find me far from the rides and instead glued to my computer, editing and filing stories.
Still, as Disney fans know, there’s no greater joy than experiencing a brand-new attraction. Being among the first to ever ride something is the most phenomenal part of the gig. But, if the best part of the job are the perks instead of the work, it’ll drive you mad. I’ve built a career around theme parks because I really, truly love reporting on them, more than just enjoying the rides, and any opportunity that allows me to do so while occasionally devouring mouse-shaped foods is the most fulfilling.
When did your love of Disney begin?
I was into Disney as a child, naturally—I’m pretty sure I had a Minnie Mouse dress attached to my body for two straight years—but I didn’t connect my love of “kid stuff” with Disney until way too late in life. I’ve always loved whimsical entertainment, shoveling popcorn into my face and roller coasters that aren’t *too* scary , but it didn’t click, until I began visiting as an adult, how incredible Disney Parks really are. Now, though, I’m just making up for lost time.
My desk is covered in Zootopia toys and Toy Story bobbleheads, my office is filled with Ear hats with my name embroidered in different languages, and my house is bursting with so many vintage Mickey Mouse finds and
random Disney goodies from the Tokyo and Shanghai Disney Parks that it’s undeniable!
Which Disney character are you most like and why?
I wish I could say Moana, but I am way too scared of authority to have sailed past that reef! I suppose I’m more of an Anna—awkward, a bit strange, and extremely out of place at fancy galas, but with lots of energy, determination and a big heart.
You also love to incorporate some #DisneyStyle into your looks. How would you sum up your fashion philosophy?
I prefer kooky vintage dresses and old Mickey Mouse tees to DisneyBounding, so I tend to load up on Disney accessories—especially from Etsy and the Parks overseas. I’ve got a treasure trove of Muppets earrings, retro Disney sweatshirts, and weird baseball hats—especially from the kid’s section!—as well as some goodies from Danielle Nicole, Zara, and Lazy Oaf’s fantastic Disney collaborations.
What is it about the Disney Parks that inspires you to keep writing stories?
There’s always something new! Last month, I got to experience Pandora — The World of Avatar, Magic Kingdom’s insane new fireworks show Happily Ever After, and Disney California Adventure’s Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! all within 48 hours. It was insane! I’m truly not sure if this career would have been feasible five years ago, but with so much happening and such passion from the fans, it’s been phenomenal.
I do also enjoy that I can meet anyone and tell them what I do, and they’ll have a story or memory tied to visiting Disneyland or Walt Disney World. Just the mere mention of Disney makes the world a bit smaller and closer-knit, and I absolutely love that.
What’s your all-time favorite Disney Parks food?
I’m a plastic cheese sauce goblin, so I’m constantly devouring that at Disney California Adventure—shoutout to Cozy Cone #4! Otherwise, I live for the avocado margaritas at Epcot’s Mexico pavilion, Magic Kingdom popcorn, and everything on the menu at Tiffins in Animal Kingdom, including the cheese plate. It’s Walt Disney World’s best restaurant and you won’t convince me otherwise!
When I’m overseas, I love the Sea Salt Ice Cream Monaka at Tokyo DisneySea, Mickey-shaped pastries at Disneyland Paris, and the quick-service food at Shanghai Disneyland. Those peking duck pizzas and grilled eel bowls are so unbelievably good that I ate two lunches in one day. Ooh, and the pork belly! OK, I have to stop before I drool all over my laptop.
What advice would you give to aspiring theme park journalists or writers who want to break into the industry?
The more niche you can get, the better. Though I bridge the gap between Disney Parks and people who don’t visit as often, other reporters are focused on recording impeccable video of new attractions, the financial aspects of The Walt Disney Company, or even how the rides are built and made! There are so many ways to be a part of the Disney community, and focusing intently on your favorite is the easiest way to take part.