One Triviateer's Story
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Matthew Walker and his famous friends
One Triviateer's Story
by Matthew Walker
I was flipping channels on TV the other day and caught a glimpse of ESPNs "Two-Minute Drill" program. I was truly in awe of how much sports information the contestants knew. I have long been a fan of sports and of trivia but I didnt nearly have the breadth of knowledge that these contestants displayed. Offer me Disney trivia though and its a different story all together.
I am intrigued by the pixie dust of Disney and have tried to absorb as much as I could about the films, characters and theme parks of the Mouse House. I remember finding The Official Disney Trivia Book at my local K-mart and asking my mom to buy it for me. Written by two guys who simply liked Disney, the book asked questions from every realm of the Magic Kingdom. At Knotts Berry Farm, I found Goldens Disney Trivia game with a ton of great questions. A Disney version of Trivial Pursuit would later follow but since only a couple of questions per card were geared to Disney, I preferred the Golden Version.
I was lucky enough to live close enough to Disneyland growing up that I was able to visit with at least some regularity. I was lucky enough to be able to subscribe to the Disney Channel, where I would watch great programming like classic movies and behind-the-scenes looks at the theme parks. Each months Disney Channel programming guide came with a column by Dave Smith, head of the Walt Disney Archives, featuring insight into the history of Disney by answering viewers questions.
I was also lucky enough to be hired to work at the Disney Store in Northridge, California shortly after graduating from high school in 1991. I always wanted to work for Disney and here was my big chance. On the first day of work, I took part in Traditions - a brief training program that highlights the Disney way of doing things. One part of the program was answering trivia questions in our Traditions manual. Mine had actually been filled in by someone else but there were some wrong answers, which I corrected. The other two new hires were amazed that I knew all the answers to the questions.
And if it wasnt enough that I now received checks with Mickey Mouse in the corner each week, I found out that there was a Disney trivia contest that the cast members participated in. It was something that I would be involved with for the next five years - from the store level to the national finals at Disneyland.
(l) The trivia pin given to all trivia competitors at the district competitions. (r) The trivia pin given to the Disey Store National Finalists beginning in 1994. Probably one of the rarest service pins out there because on 8 (one year 9) people a year were presented with these.
I could bore you with the details and rules of the contest (and I tried to), but after I wrote three pages on how the contest worked, even I wasn't interested enough to read it. So let me try to explain how this worked without putting you to sleep. Twelve questions would come into each Disney Store on the first of the month from January until July. Cast members would work together to answer them and if a store scored a certain percentage right at the end of July, they qualified for the district contest. Winners of an in-store contest would represent their store in the district contest and the top eight finishers from these district contests from across the U.S. and Canada would get to go to Disneyland for the finals. After a bunch of questions, one person would be crowned champion and get to take home the trivia trophy to display at his or her store. That's the Disney Store National Trivia Competition in a nutshell.
My store had already missed qualifying for the district competition by the time I hired on in July of 1991. It would be a year before I would get the chance to take the test to represent my store at the district competition. I did all right on the in-store quiz, scoring 18 out of 25 questions to beat out another cast member by 2 or 3 points. I had no idea of what I would be getting myself into by participating in the district competition but it would form the basis of a madness that drove me for the next five years.
Our district competition was held at a nice hotel in Pasadena, California. I think there were eight of us competing that year. Three of the contestants had previously appeared in the Nationals at Disneyland. Did I stand a chance against them? Nah. I finished fourth but gained a lot of confidence by sticking with the pack. The winner of our district's competition would go on to win the whole enchilada that year. I was able to see the National competition at Disneyland that year and knew that's where I wanted to wind up.