Behind The Parkeology Challenge with Ted Tamburo and Shane Lindsay

Articles

News / Articles 210 Views

After visiting a theme park multiple times, sometimes a visit can get stale, especially if you’ve experienced every attraction the park has to offer. But what if you challenged yourself to ride every ride in the park during one operating day? What if that park was actually the four parks of Walt Disney World, and your challenge was to ride all 49 rides that make up the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom in one day?

Enter Ted Tamburo and Shane Lindsay of Parkeology, creators of the WDW46/WDW47/WDW49 challenge, now known simply as the Parkeology Challenge. With their challenge, the goal is to ride all 49 rides at Walt Disney World in one day. While it may seem fairly easy and straightforward, the challenge for 100% completion has only been completed 18 times with countless attempts.

As more than 20 teams get ready to take on their own Parkeology challenges this week, Ted and Shane were gracious enough to answer a few of our questions about just what goes into the challenge, and what it takes to  be victorious at the end of the day.


Coaster101: For our readers who might not know, tell us a little about yourselves?

Ted: I am an advertising photographer in Chicago, I used to work for Disney many years ago (Jungle Cruise Skipper and I also worked on Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea). Today my family (wife and 13 year old daughter) visit the parks as often as we can including all the international ones, which we really enjoy!

Shane: I’m a Midwest transplant who finally got tired of cold winters and spending all my vacation time at Walt Disney World. I now live in Central Florida and can go to Disney World whenever I want. Naturally, this means I spend my vacation time at Disneyland, on Disney Cruises, and at least one trip to Tokyo Disneyland. It’s sad, really.

I’ve had a love of writing and a love of Disney parks ever since I was a kid, and that’s how Parkeology got started.

Coaster101: What is your personal history with Walt Disney World? When did you start visiting?

Ted: I was very little when WDW opened in 1971 (but I’m old enough to have been alive!) but we didn’t visit until 1976, I think. My father had a business trip to Orlando and somehow visited while there, he came home raving about it! Remember, back then many people had been aware of Disneyland but never had the chance to go all the way out in California, so this was an entirely new experience. He tried to explain what it was like but it was just impossible to understand. This was before “themed” experiences at restaurants and all over the place like we have today. But I very clearly recall falling in love after that first trip. It suddenly all clicked into place and made sense. It was like entering a real life Wonderland, or the candy factory from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It made the 8-year-old me extremely happy and that really has stuck with me my entire life.

Shane: According to my parents, my first visit was in the womb. I was born a couple of years after WDW opened and we made annual family trips all the way through when I graduated college. I got married shortly thereafter, honeymooned at Disney World, and it’s never really stopped. Since I was going at such an early age, I don’t really have that “ah-ha” moment that hooked me. It’s just a place that felt more like home than anywhere else.

Coaster101: Do you have any particular memories from those early visits?

Ted: A big family story goes back to the first visit, shortly after Pirates of the Caribbean opened at WDW (it was not an opening day attraction). My father had ridden it previously but again, this was all new and very difficult to comprehend as a child. We were in line and he explained how pirates attack us, shot guns and cannons at us and caught the town on fire. I was scared beyond belief! I’m standing in a spooky cave hearing that we are going to be attacked by gun-wielding pirates trying to kill us! I cried my eyes out and begged not to go… it made no sense to me. Moments after the boat left the load area I understood and I took that trip transfixed by what I was seeing, I was IN a movie. No more crying, no more worrying… I only had a desire to do it again and again and again!

Shane: We always seemed to be living out some version of a Griswold family vacation. One time we went with some family friends and all stayed in a single Motel 6 room to save money. 7 kids, 4 adults, 2 beds. Then we all caught some sort of virus that left the van and the motel room perpetually smelling of vomit. Another time I was supposed to meet up with a friend who was down at the same time. My parents dropped me off at Epcot in the morning, but the friend never showed (pre-cell phone days). That was my first time wandering around Disney World by myself. At one point that day, I park hopped to the Magic Kingdom and ran into my family walking through Cinderella Castle. They hadn’t planned to be there, but had ridden the monorail for fun (we were cheap), and some Cast Member literally forced them through a turnstile, thinking they were part of another group. It’s one of those weird serendipitous miraculous moments in life.

Then there was the time when my dad caught some sort of hacking virus thing, confining us all to the hotel for a few days. Just when he thought he was getting better, my brother got the tip of his finger chopped off in a Pizza Hut restroom door and we spent the night at the emergency room. Fortunately we were good to go the next day and we were excited to watch the Space Shuttle launch. This was January of ’86. I’ll let you figure out the rest. Probably the biggest memory as it relates to Parkeology today is for what we DIDN’T do. In all these trips, all the way through college, we never spent more than 1 day at the parks. We were a large family and Disney was expensive. So one day a year is all I got. I would drive my family nuts trying to cram in as much as I could into that day. And the Parkeology Challenge (previously called WDW46, WDW47, WDW49) all started with that.

Coaster101: What’s your favorite Disney ride or attraction and why?

Ted: You know this is probably the most common question we get and also the most difficult to answer. I think it is pretty much impossible to create a better ride than Pirates or Mansion… they are almost perfect in every way from the theme to the music to the environments to the detailed execution. So if we are talking about classic rides those are the kings. However time marches on and technology allows things to happen today that could not have been dreamt of 50 years ago, so in regards to modern attractions I think Flight of Passage is just amazing. It’s the first attraction that could possibly fool someone into thinking it was real. I also just love Journey to the Center of the Earth at Tokyo DisneySea. I am a huge fan of detailed environments and what they have created there is unparalleled. From the queue to the load area to the giant animatronic lava monster and the thrilling escape at the end… it is amazing. I could name a dozen more… there are many GREAT Disney attractions.

Shane: Like Ted (and a million other Disney fans), I consider Mansion and Pirates to be the top of the mountain. Ted and I are alike in that we both value total immersion in storytelling. Our tastes are very similar, but I do have a soft spot for rides that evoke childhood magic. I am a massive fan of Disneyland’s Fantasyland. The dark ride gauntlet of Mr. Toad, Peter Pan, Snow White, Alice, and Pinocchio are completely and utterly charming to me, though I’m not sure any of them would land on most Disney fans’ lists of the best attractions. And I will defend Magic Kingdom’s Swiss Family Treehouse to my dying day. It perfectly captures the essence of boyhood adventure.

How did the idea for the first #WDW46/47/49 Challenge come about?

Ted: I will let Shane talk more about this because the original genesis of it really stems back to his childhood obsession with riding every WDW ride in the one day visit he was allowed.

Shane: As I mentioned earlier, the challenge came about because of all those frustrating trips when I could only do Disney World for one day. Ted and I had been running parkeology.com for a few years and I had done several posts on the nostalgic aspect of Disney World. And one night, the idea just sort of struck me out of nowhere that now that I lived here, I could actually try to relive those past vacations by doing as much as I could in a single day and get a good blog post out of it. Obviously Disney had grown so much since my youth that I knew seeing everything was impossible — rides, shows, parades, fireworks, exhibits…There’s just not enough time. Only when I decided to focus on just the rides (anything with a vehicle) did it just click into place. Rather than trying to see as much as I could in one day, I suddenly began to wonder if it was possible to ride every ride. I immediately counted them all up (there were 47) and realized I had to try. I didn’t even know if it was possible. I shared the idea with Ted and he loved it because it was just completely insane. We shared it with a few people leading up to the first attempt, and everyone — right down the line — predicted failure. I think almost everyone thought we’d be lucky to break 30. Initially I was going to run it solo, because Ted lived in Chicago and there didn’t seem to be much point in him making a special trip down for us to ride a few rides and fail miserably. But as we planned, we became believers and thought we had a chance to pull it off. So Ted timed a family trip to be here during the challenge and we did it as a team. The best part was, we had known each other for nearly 20 years, but the challenge was the first time we had ever met in person.

Coaster101: How much preparation went into your first attempt?

Ted: Short answer, A LOT! This had never been done before, things that today seem basic (for example the idea that not all rides operate on the same schedule and that splitting parks up and revisiting the same park several times during the day may be advantageous) were all foreign ideas. How we would eat, how we would get from park to park, which rides would be ridden when and on and on. It was all discussed in GREAT detail for weeks in advance. This was also well before the days of the My Magic app. The first run was done with old-fashioned paper FastPasses. That meant you had to physically go to the attraction to obtain the pass, you could only hold at most two passes at once (getting the second after the ride window for the first opened up) and you had to predict when the ride window for your FastPass would open. Getting a FastPass that was not active for three hours may actually hurt you more then help you.  All that was discussed and factored and much more.

Shane: I think we both feel a great sense of pride in coming up with a blueprint that teams still follow to this day. Some aspects of the game have changed a lot. In-app FastPass pickups are a lot different than running to a paper ticket kiosk. But figuring out all the early closers, juggling the park hours, and accounting for every ride (including pesky rides on nobody’s radar like the Main Street Vehicles)… all that came from our very first run. we also had a lot of unconventional tricks up our sleeves that are routine today — like splitting parks into multiple segments instead of seeing everything at the park before moving on. That seems counter-intuitive, but the time spent park hopping can easily be offset by shorter lines.

Coaster101: Is it true you were unsuccessful on that first attempt?

Ted: Sadly, yes, but it proved the concept. People flat thought it could not be done, pretty much everyone we spoke to (frankly including myself) thought that this was an exercise in futility…but the only reason the first run was not a completion is because a massive rain storm shut down 2 outdoor rides at the end of the night and they never re-opened. We had plenty of time and in fact rode other rides to sort of prove that it could be done. Nonetheless, under our self-imposed rules, the first one was a failure.

Coaster101: How did your strategy change between first and second attempts?

Ted: Many changes, not the least was that we rode those outdoor rides much earlier in the day for fear that rain may come later… we were not going to make the same mistakes twice. We also were much more prepared and had a much better understanding of what type of physical preparations we needed to make. The second run was much easier in that regard. Other aspects made it more difficult, but we did complete this time.

Shane: Our strategy changed substantially on the second run, but ironically it was not by choice! On literally the very first ride of the day, our carefully laid plans went up in smoke. Toy Story Mania (then the toughest ride to get) had a delayed opening, which cascaded throughout the morning. Two hours into the challenge, we were about 5 rides behind schedule and things were looking very grim. Ted invented our mantra of making up ground two minutes at a time, and we hustled our butts off throughout the rest of the day to get back on track. We did have some other things that we planned differently out of necessity. During the first run (paper FastPass), you could not reserve anything in advance, so our FastPass strategy was to pick up Toy Story Mania first, then Soarin’ 2 hours later. With round 2, they introduced the ability to reserve 3 FP ahead of time, which we elected to use on Epcot attractions. That meant we were hitting Toy Story Mania as the very first ride (short line), and saving Seven Dwarfs Mine Train for the very last ride (last minute hop on before park closing).

Coaster101: You completed the “Redemption” Challenge on your second attempt. How did that feel?

Ted: Hard to even explain. My greatest enjoyment in all our runs has always been hanging out with Shane, he understand the parks like I do, maybe even more so. Being able to make silly jokes or obscure references and having him totally understand it made the runs so much fun, so sharing this success with him, especially since that day got off to a horrible start, was special. It ranks as one of my all time favorite park memories for sure.

Shane: There was pure elation, not just for completing it but also having come back from such a difficult morning. I think also because we both knew how difficult it would actually be. I’m not sure that our video or twitter feed conveys exactly what is going on throughout the day. You might see the occasional jogging shot or some random musings about strategy, but it’s a constant physical battle — picking the shortest routes between rides, positioning yourself near exits, visually scanning and processing data and having to make snap decisions.

Coaster101: Have you two attempted/completed the challenge since your first full completion?

Ted: We have done it together several more times but have not completed it again, the most annoying one was when Frozen first opened, we had a great plan and endured an unbelievable series of crazy set backs but were in position to easily complete the challenge and then Frozen broke down. We were in line waiting for it and it simply never reopened. We ended up finishing the rest of the rides and ended the night having ridden every ride EXCEPT the broken down Frozen… but that is all part of the game. Shane finished a solo completion last year without me to become the first two-time finisher.

Coaster101: Of the people who attempt the challenges, what percentage of people succeed?

Ted: Very low. I don’t know the math but 18 teams have finished, many more have attempted.

Shane: Around 10 or 12%. Some just don’t have the right strategy, but there’s also a luck factor involved. Ride breakdowns or weather can wreak havoc on perfect plans.

Coaster101: What are some strategies/realizations that people might not think of when attempting the challenge?

Ted: Boy… there are so many nuances. Big obvious things and super small detailed things but one of our core rules calls for no outside help. That means no help from other people during the run (bringing you food, standing in line for you, driving you around, whatever) and it also means that we feel each individual team needs to come up with own their own stategy, something that works for us might not work for them.

Shane: Many people when first hearing about the challenge don’t stop to consider what it means to ride EVERY ride. They think “Well, I’ll start at Studios, then move on to Animal Kingdom…” But that’s inviting failure. In our challenge, we don’t care anything about total number rides. In real life, Splash Mountain is a much better, more meaningful ride than the Wildlife Express at Animal Kingdom. But in our challenge, they’re equal. Splash may have a 90 minute line and Wildlife Express may be a walk-on, but if you try the challenge, you better be aware that more people fail on Wildlife Express than Splash.

Coaster101: If someone is going to attempt the #ParkeologyChallenge for the first time, what advice or hints would you give them?

Ted: Today’s challenge is different then the original incarnation because the app now allows FastPass pick-ups on the fly. This makes it a little less physical and there is less of a need to crisscross all over the parks, but even so it is more physical then one might expect. Teams are covering 20 miles or more by the end of the day over 17 or so hours in Florida heat and with very little if any food or rest. Most of the really super long rides are now closed which helps a little in affording more time but hurts in not having those rest breaks… so make sure that you are physically prepared!

Shane: From the very beginning, we’ve always had a policy that teams need to figure out the strategy on their own. No outside assistance allowed. So the recommendation is, do the basic research. There are definitely wrinkles to certain rides that are critical to success at the challenge.

Coaster101: How will the addition of Toy Story Land affect strategies for upcoming challenges?

Ted: Lets watch and see!  So far the runs that have happened with TSL have been able to blow through those rides and all of Hollywood Studios in record time but they are yet another hurdle that must be accounted for someway.

Shane: As we saw last year with Pandora, sometimes Disney offsets the problems of new rides by adding extra operating hours. For instance, Hollywood Studios is now open earlier than all the other parks, which helps mitigate some of the Toy Story Land issues. But it now creates a dilemma for Pandora, which teams may have to play differently than they did last year. There’s always the next big thing. Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge will change the game yet again, and then there’s Ratatouille, Guardians of the Galaxy, and the Tron Coaster… All of these additions will cause ripples through the challenge. Someday, 7 Dwarfs Mine Train may be one of the easier rides to get.

Coaster101: When did you come up with the idea of the DL54 Challenge?

Ted: Well this is a bit of a long story but the short version is that we planned a cross country challenge in which we were going to ride all the rides at WDW, get on a plane and then ride all the rides at DL (55 at that time). The WDW portion was a train wreck! Rock and Roller just never opened all day… it made us fail really before we even began. So we flew the next day to DL and decided to just have fun. A couple years later there was some interest in DL version and so we added it under the same rules as the WDW version. Only a couple teams have tried with one successful run so far.

Shane: It made sense to offer a similar challenge for the West Coast. We’re huge Disneyland fans as well, and for half the country, Disneyland might be the easier trip to make.

Coaster101: Why do you think fewer people have accomplished the DL54 Challenge (Looks like there’s only one winner)?

Ted: There really is not enough data to know much about the DL version as only a couple teams have tried. For whatever reason people seem more into the WDW version. I think the idea of having to span so much space over so many more parks just feels more exciting and “crazy” then at Disneyland where the parks are next to each other and the rides tend to be close and often shorter.

Shane: I’ll echo what Ted said that the park hops at WDW lend a drama to it. It’s a huge commitment to leave a park at WDW, because it’s usually a minimum 30 minutes to move on, and you have to make strategic decisions because the time penalty will catch up to you. And with double the number of parks, it really adds to the intrigue. People who have never been to Disneyland don’t realize how tiny both of the parks actually are, and how close together they are. Going between Disneyland and Disney California Adventure is essentially like walking the length of Magic Kingdom’s Main Street. So park hopping is not a huge deal. They also do not have long rides that Disney World has. WDW has 20 minute beasts like Kilimanjaro Safari, Carousel of Progress, Wildlife Express, Liberty Bell Riverboat, and a dozen more that are all over 10 minutes long. There are also a dozen or more rides with operating hours different from the rest of the park. Fitting all these jigsaw pieces together makes the strategy endlessly fascinating. Whereas at Disneyland, a 10 minute ride is a rarity. The vast majority are sub 5-minutes, and only a few are running on different hours than the parks. However, Disneyland has a large volume of rides, and I would venture to say that it has more “popular” rides (long lines). I’m in no way discounting the achievement or difficulty of anyone who completes the Disneyland version of the challenge. It is an awesome feat and would place it roughly equivalent in difficulty. I just think the drama tends to lean more in WDW’s favor, so that makes it more popular.

Coaster101: Anything else you’d like our readers to know about Parkeology or the Challenges?

Ted: We are about to alter the rules of the challenge to include recognition even if the challenge is run on days that not every ride is open. Previously we consider these “auto-fail” days meaning since every ride was not open it was impossible to complete. But many people are not local, unable to reschedule if a ride suddenly goes into refurb or only have one visit that they can take and perhaps a ride is down at that point. We want this to be inclusive of everyone so our new rules are going to allow EVERYONE and EVERY run to be included! Please visit parkeology.com for all the rules and info on the challenges and also for some fun off beat content all about less serious fun sides of the parks and Disney!

Shane: It’s funny because Parkeology was always intended to be a place for us to obsess over obscure Disney park details. The challenge just sort of happened, and now we’re known for being the crazy guys who ran ourselves ragged doing a theme park challenge rather than the highly knowledgeable Disney experts that we are! But that’s okay, it’s opened us up to a huge community of like-minded competitors who are just as obsessed with the challenge as we are. We always say that just trying the challenge is a worthy goal. it shouldn’t be about who can do it fastest, bestest, or mostest. It’s just you against the park. I hope more and more people give it a shot.


Thanks to Ted and Shane for their time. Be sure to follow the progress of Parkeology Challenges (there are at least 20 attempts being made this week) by following Parkeology and the Parkeology Team on Twitter: @Parkeology | @ParkeologyTeam, and you can follow the progress of individual teams by searching for #ParkeologyChallenge on twitter. For a full list of challenge rules and teams who have completed it, visit www.parkeology.com.

Comments