Hunting for Disney Magic – In Convo with Catherine Olen
  Conversations    June 28, 2016     Eric Larkin


I could almost live at Disneyland. Having grown up in Southern California, my inner world is laced with Disneyland memories and imagery from across a broad emotional spectrum. These are not from the movies, these are from the Park – the one, true original – the one Walt himself built.  So, I was pretty excited to see on our events calendar: July 6, 11am: The Great Disneyland Scavenger Hunt – Catherine Olen, author presentation.
Here’s a brief conversation with Catherine Olen…


Eric Larkin: What’s your Disneyland origin story?

Catherine Olen:  I have had a forty-year love affair with all things Disney. From sitting in the dark theater with my mother watching Cinderella or Peter Pan to our annual family pilgrimage to Disneyland resort – the childhood excitement of seeing the Matterhorn towering above the theme park even before we exited the freeway – all fond memories for a small child growing up in Southern California.


EL: Yup – totally relate. What’s one of your best Disney memories?

CO: As an adult, my love of Disneyland grew from the excitement of a child to the passion of an adult. Getting my first annual pass in 1990, I could finally take the time to see Disneyland without the rush of trying to pack all of the attractions into one visit. My love of Disneyland has grown with each year and the theme parks continue to fascinate me to this day.


EL: You’ve been a season pass holder for 25 years. Are there any defunct attractions that you really miss?

CO: Watching the theme park change and grow over the years, there are some attractions I miss. Adventures Through Inner Space was left in the dust to make way for Star Tours in Tomorrowland. While the new attraction thrills, I miss the illusion of shrinking to the size of an atom to explore the makeup of a snowflake.

The People Mover is another of the Tomorrowland attractions that has left an indelible mark on my memory. Riding through Tomorrowland above the crowds to experience the movie Tron or see Space Mountain travelers riding through space.

With all of the changes to Disneyland, I think The Country Bear Jamboree is one that I have missed the most. I loved the characters entertaining with folk songs of Americana and giggling to the antics of Big Al and Teddy Berra.



EL: Yes, to all three of those. I remember as a kid walking around singing, “Thar was BUH-looood on the sad-dle…”.

Your book The Great Disneyland Scavenger Hunt is accurately titled. It is literally a scavenger hunt that will lead you around, pointing out details and secrets in every corner of the park. I know a lot about Disneyland, and I’m impressed. It’s not only for the hardcore fan, but perfect if you’re waiting in line with some restless kids. This is really a bring-it-with-you book, right? There is no way anyone could work all the way through it in one day. How many trips do you think it would take to get everything?

CO: The Great Disneyland Scavenger Hunt is designed to take guests on a tour of Disneyland seeing the loving details Walt Disney painstakingly included in his design. Making sure to create a layout that would allow guests to begin wherever they happen to find themselves within the theme park, there is no way of finishing the entire book in one visit. Like Disneyland itself, you will need multiple days to experience each attraction, let alone answer all of the questions contained within its pages. How long would it take? If I had to guess, I would suggest four to five days to get through the entire book.


EL: How many trips did it take you to collect all these elements? Did you receive any specific support from Disney? They must have noticed the lady running around scribbling in her notebook, asking a million questions.

OL: The Great Disneyland Scavenger Hunt from concept to completion is a culmination of two years of my life. I have spent countless hours riding the attractions, wandering the shops and speaking with cast members, all of which were excited and supportive of my endeavor. While there have been thousands of books written about Disney, none have done something exactly like this.

Speaking with cast members, everyone from custodial to security to managers, I have received positive support and feedback. The cast members are on the front lines, watching guests from all over the world experience Disneyland. When I discussed my vision for The Great Disneyland Scavenger Hunt, the idea was met with encouragement to show guests Disneyland through my eyes, bringing people a new level of magic within the gates of Disneyland resort.


EL: You’ve written other books, The Final Curtain: Celebrity Deaths and The Upside of Undertaking. I also saw you have an app for finding famous Hollywood grave sites. From cemeteries to Disneyland: you’ve got range!  How did you get started writing, and why the shift over to writing about Disneyland?

CO: As an experiences author, I write about the things that excite me. My previous books, The Upside of Undertaking and The Final Curtain, Celebrity Deaths were about my years grave hunting in Los Angeles and my years as a mortician. The celebrity graves were another type of scavenger hunt to find their resting places and to share my experiences with the thousands of people who come to Southern California each year to pay respect to the stars who touched their lives.

The Great Disneyland Scavenger Hunt is a love story to Walt Disney since Disneyland has given me so much joy over the decades. I have watched thousands of guests within the parks running past the wonders surrounding them to stand in line but really not experiencing the theme parks the way Walt Disney intended. You will notice I only write about topics that charge me emotionally, and Disneyland does just that no matter how many times I have been there. I am a large child even though my body gets older. I have tried other professions, but now I have found my purpose for life and every day is completely satisfying for me.


EL: What’s next? Any more Disney projects in the works?

CO: What’s next? I just returned from another extended stay in Florida where I have completed my vision for The Great Walt Disney World Scavenger Hunt as well as The Great Universal Studios Florida Scavenger Hunt, coming soon. Get ready for the next adventure when I take you through the gates of Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Animal Kingdom. Ride along with me in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter or Men in Black Alien Attack at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.


EL: Those sound great. How about one tip for summer visits to the Happiest Place on Earth?

CO: If I could offer one tip to your readers when visiting Disneyland resort, take time to really see the theme parks. Walk through Fantasyland and look up to see the Wicked Queen looking down at you from her tower. Explore Launch Bay in Tomorrowland, and visit with Chewbacca or Kylo Ren. Eat lunch in Plaza Inn on Main Street, a turn of the century mansion Walt Disney dismantled to use in his theme park. Ride along with Mater to the big race on Radiator Spring Racers. Look in the shops to find a nod to the Pixar short Knick Knack.

My favorite part of exploring any of the Disney theme parks is the discovery of something new. I will never call myself an expert on Disney parks. Why? Because I never want there to be a day that goes by when I don’t learn something new about Disney. It will be a sad day if I know so much that I can’t learn something new about Disneyland.


Next Wednesday (11am), come get prepped for your Disneyland summer trip(s) – you lucky lucky cartoon dog.

As you walk into the store, be careful not to look into the Eyes of Mara.

Oh, and as you leave, beware of hitchhiking ghosts.



DG Hunt for Disney


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