I'm the creator of @FakeThemePark, Twitter's longest-running comedy project. After almost 12 years of satirizing the Disney and Universal parks, I'm ending the account on March 5. Ask me anything!
The Twitter and Facebook accounts are based on my time as a tour guide at Universal Studios Hollywood. I now work in television and live in New York, and do comedy writing on the side.
Proof: https://imgur.com/a/9pmtPh5On Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/fakethemepark
EDIT: Wow, thank you for all the great questions! I'm thrilled there are still so many people who enjoy FTP and are celebrating/mourning its conclusion.
Tweets will continue -- 90% comedy, 10% sappy gratitude like this -- for the next month. After that, you can scroll through the content on Facebook or Twitter anytime, listen to the songs, or watch the music video. And you can talk to Princess Rainbow, Murph Gantly, or Jimmy Jaguar "in-universe" on the FTP Twitter and Facebook accounts. If you'd prefer to talk to boring old me on Twitter, my DMs are open.
If you want to keep some of the best jokes in physical form, there are two books on Amazon, in both paperback and Kindle. Thanks again! See you 'round the internet!
The park will cost the same amount as always: "Too much."
Dude, I've never heard of you before and I've never even been to a theme park but you have me rolling. Hilarious stuff. Good luck and Godspeed.
Thanks! Enjoy the content! If you get tired of scrolling backwards there's always the books!
Is there any truth to the rumor that the closure is due to the mounting legal problems caused by Princess Rainbow having random park guests beheaded?
(Going to miss the account. Good luck with whatever comes next.)
The park is technically not within the jurisdiction of either the United States or the Geneva Convention.
So if you take a selfie with Princess Rainbow and then don't make all the editing and Photoshop changes she demands, you will be beheaded (first warning) or burned at the stake (second warning).
Two questions: What did you learn from running Fake Theme Park for so many years, and what will you miss most?
Well, I learned that Universal/Six Flags/SeaWorld fans are different from Disney fans by several orders of magnitude. Only Disney fans could hate any and all changes to the Disney parks that much.
I learned that, while I intended the account for the general public, it has really resonated with theme park employees around the country, both current and former. They tag each other on Facebook and refer to inside jokes that I don't understand. So it's been interesting to see that working in a theme park -- the joys and the sorrows -- are small-u universal. And apparently conditions haven't changed much since my first day, many years ago.
I will most miss interacting with fans. I like retweets, shares, likes, etc., but having an actual in-universe dialogue is great fun. It's a combination of writing and improv.
As a sub-section of the fans, I think I'm safe in assuming that what we will miss the most is interacting with you.
The writing prompts that you've given us over the years has led to an immense amount of imagination, construction and enjoyment. Ultimately, I think most people want to be creators like you, even if though most of us don't have the energy or proclivity to create something unique ourselves. In lieu of that, many of us attach ourselves to something we like, such as theme parks. Your writing style and your imagination has influenced thousands of people. I think, at the end of the day, that's an amazing achievement for your project. Fake Theme Park has transcended reality. And, we thank you for it.
Thank you so much! Anyone can be a creator. You just have to start doing it...and keep doing it.
Have theme parks changed since you started in 2010?
Yes! When I started, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter had opened just a few weeks before. Then Disney bought Lucasfilm and Marvel, bringing in all those characters and opening Galaxy's Edge. Then SeaWorld had its issues with captive breeding. Then came a pandemic which closed all parks worldwide for the first time in history.
For the average fan (like me), I think the biggest effects were the new philosophy around ticketing -- virtual queues, lightning lanes, etc. -- as well as the general cost of visiting even a single park for a single day. The result is an expensive, complicated process that requires a lot of planning and ends with a lot of frustration and disappointment.
When I started at Universal, it was $39 for one day. There was no front-of-line pass or single-rider line.
I'm not sure if you've seen it, but Defuntland's YouTube documentary on the fast pass system is really interesting. It seems to come to the same conclusion that you do - that the modern Disney experience rewards the power users who have the time (and often also money) to take full advantage of the new scheduling system. They tend to do ride more rides than previously, but at the expense of visitors who aren't power users.
Thoughts on if that's the way things are going to be for the foreseeable future?
It's a completely difference experience than it was 20 years ago, maybe even 10 years ago.
Disney (let's face it -- Universal is a follower here) wants less crowds, more predictability, and more money. I guess the new Genie Pass system gets them all three? But read r/Disneyland and r/WaltDisneyWorld and you can see even the superfans are rebelling against the expense and complexity.
And how does Disney go back to it being a free-for-all? Guests probably want to be able to reserve at least one must-see ride, especially if it's a once-in-a-lifetime visit, which at these prices, it will be.
I don't know. Maybe going virtual is the way to go.
Do you have a favorite theme park? Favorite roller coaster?
I'll let you in on a secret -- I'm a big chicken when it comes to coasters. I've done Space Mountain once. Jurassic Park once. Going upside-down? Forget it.
But I do love simulator rides, or controlled-track rides where you never go too fast. So my favorites include Star Tours, Indiana Jones, Forbidden Journey. At my own park, I thought Terminator 2:3D and Back to the Future were great.
And of course...the Universal Studios tour. Orlando may have more and better rides, but the backlot at USH is the genuine studio with 100 years of film and TV history.
I can't tell you how refreshing it is to come across another theme park enthusiast that is also a ride wimp like myself.
Don't think of it as "wimpiness." Think of it as an inner-ear condition. Alan Shepard had something similar and he ended up walking on the moon.
After he had surgery.
I’m assuming you have spent a lot of time at US H. Serious question, do you enjoy the Fast and Furious and King Kong segments, and what they’ve done with the studio tour in general?
Maybe I’m an outlier, but I liked the old tour, even if it wasn’t “exciting”. Watching King Kong murder a T Rex was way too much for the 3 year old with her parents a row up from where I was sitting, and all I could think was “Who is this all for?”. The F&F segment was way too loud, and I swear, Jimmy Fallon isn’t funny on TV, and now he’s narrating the whole tour. The Jurassic World (formerly Jurassic Park) ride actually has some great improvements, and I really like the way they added the mosasaurus part in the beginning, it’s a clever mix of digital and practical effects.
King Kong 360: 3D is an incredible experience. But the tour I gave featured the giant puppet, with real flames, a (not real) helicopter crash, and banana breath. I still think it's superior.
The Ice Tunnel / Mummy's Tomb wasn't that great, though the video aspect we played on the tram screens enhanced it. I guess F&F is better, but don't we look at enough screens?
I liked the old King Kong so much more then the new 3D show. It was the right mix of intensity, practical effects including fire and the banana scented air, and not being 10 minutes long. I felt like the new one is flashy but not enjoyable. I like the Waterworld show, too, and that’s hokey AF. It feels like they upped the volume and the intensity but lost the heart of what made US H special. It was always about Hollywood movie magic, and a good mix of practical and special effects can be magical. Heck, that’s why I like the Jurassic World ride so much, it’s a fantastic mix of practical and digit. The tour always had that mix but now it’s just screens and loud noises.
I agree. All the practical effects left on the tour are the Flash Flood, Earthquake, and Jaws. I hope those never go away.
Last time I went, they didn’t even talk about the falling bridge that the tram used to drive over. Even if the tram doesn’t go over the bridge, it’s right there when you drive past, it’s easy to talk about, but I feel like they cut all sorts of “behind the scenes” parts to make room for F&F and KK and still get back in an hour. Is that overly nostalgic? Maybe, but it’s costing them ticket sales because I live close enough to go occasionally with my kids and there’s literally nothing there for them or me. I know I’m a small sampling but do you think it’s like Disneyland losing that nostalgia as part of Chapek’s reign?
Universal has always tried to be Disney, even though there are 50 reasons why it can't be (I'll give you one: No outdoor coasters due neighborhood noise issues). I think we can agree that the Harry Potter stuff is top-notch, so they have an edge there.
But think of the tour. When I first start giving it, there were no DVDs with behind-the-scenes featurettes, or deleted scenes, or director's commentaries. There were no YouTube videos explaining how the special effects were done. And people couldn't look up movie trivia on smartphones, which didn't exist. There weren't even video screens to watch in those days -- it was either the tour guide's voice, or film music, or movie quotes.
Now, everyone knows how movies are made. And most effects are made on computers, which aren't interesting to watch or easy to understand. And celebrities are on Twitter revealing their innermost thoughts. So the tour had to change, somehow. I agree it would be fun to go over the Collapsing Bridge, but that's really just a symptom of a bigger problem. How it gets solved, I don't know.
Why have you decided to stop? I'm really going to miss this page
Thank you! I will miss it too.
I've posted on Twitter literally every single day for 11+ years. Most of that time on Facebook, too. I thought I had said everything there was to say about parks...and then the pandemic came along, which was a whole new opportunity for comedy (sometimes darker than I was used to). I last gave the Universal Studio tour in 2008, so maybe I'm not the best person to joke about parks anymore.
I do write on the side, but it will be something of a relief to have a small part of my brain back each day, to concentrate on other projects.
I noticed you said other projects. What other projects do you have plans to do or are already doing?
I was hired to write several low-budget fantasy movies. The first one is now streaming. The second just wrapped production. I'm also shopping other movie and TV scripts around. I write articles, like this one for the Daily Dead (still connected to Universal; I can't escape). And I may continue to do comedy in some form, whether on TikTok or as a podcast guest or on a new Twitter account. Stay tuned!
Why don't you effectively crowd source updates? Have current employees submit drafts for you to review and push?
It's not that kind of site. I have no agenda. This isn't Angry Waiter or Hotel Confidential or all those vindictive projects. Don't get me wrong -- I think all theme park workers in every department should be unionized, paid well above minimum wage, and treated with respect. But my focus is on comedy, not advocacy. And it's in my voice, so the voice of others doesn't quite work.
What does princess snowflake think about the park closing?
I don't think she knows. In fact, I'm not sure I will actually "close" the park. The final tweets are still being worked out, but it might be more satisfying if the park just goes on, even if I'm not chronicling it. Sort of like how the original Star Trek series ended. There was no big farewell. It was "just" another adventure. And of course there were a zillion more adventures with the books, animated series, movies, etc.
Am I saying @ FakeThemePark has as much cultural impact as Star Trek? Yes I am.
If you’re Kirk, who is your Spock?
My wife? She was also a tour guide and we met in the Universal break room.
Can't wait to hear from the K/S folks now....
How far can you punt a regulation CFL football?
Are you saying Canada has its own football league?!
Wait until you find out they had a team called the roughriders and another team called the rough riders.
I do like the Argonauts, being a Jason and all.
As a Disney Adult myself, what is the most toxic and the most heartwarming/wholesome thing you've seen or learned about while running the account?
No one hates Disney like Disney fans. I understand -- it comes from a place of protection, and nostalgia. If you rode a ride as a child, and went back every few years to experience that joy, and then suddenly the ride is removed...that sucks. But the fury that results is also kind of funny, because the stakes are so low. Your memories and photos aren't being erased, after all. This isn't Total Recall.
I've gotten a lot of mileage out of mocking this attitude, even beyond FTP.
As for something heartwarming, I honestly never expected employees to tag each other and share their inside jokes in the Facebook comments. I'm happy to see that I brought current and former workers some kind of joy. I saw this during the pandemic closures and reopenings too, when employee anxiety was at the highest it has ever been.
Also, I'm touched by the how many podcasters were willing to host my alter ego, the venal park founder/CEO Murph Gantly, just so I could go on their show and insult them for an hour.
Are you ending the project because Disney has already become a satire of itself?
You know, you're not that far off from the truth. I used to feel sorry for anyone writing political thrillers -- how can they possibly compete with what's happened over the last six years?
But theme parks are heading that way too. And I really started to worry when the Universal Twitter accounts started getting snarky. Back in 2010, it was easy to make fun of Disney's accounts because they were all so staid and safe and cheerful. But when the social accounts become humorous, what's left for me to satirize?
Which will be more Princess Rainbow's style once she's out on the streets next month: sparkly bindle or enchanted shopping cart?
As I mentioned, I very much doubt the park is going to burn down, or go bankrupt, or whatever. Princess Rainbow will land on her feet. As long as children love her, she can absorb their life energ... I mean, be content.
We know that Walt was in Demolay prat of the Freemasons. What secret societies does Murph belong to?
He was a founding member of the most feared, mysterious secret society of all: The Triluminasons.
To be safe, you should now delete your question, delete your Reddit account, and throw your computer in the river (but not a river controlled by the Triluminasons).
What OG cheeto is best, crunchy or puffy?
More serious, do you believe it is possible to get into comedy writing/freelance while remaining in a rural area, now that remote work is more prevalent, or do you believe the urban move is necessary for success?
You know what I've gotten into lately? Baked Cheetos. Still a great crunch but slightly less bad for you. Pick up a bag today! (This post sponsored by Frito-Lay)
I think it depends on what you're writing. If it's TikTok videos, and you perform them yourself, no one cares where you live. If you want to do stand-up or sketch in clubs, then a big city is usually where the clubs are. If it's a TV show or movie, you really just need your agent or manager to be in L.A. or New York, while you just fly out there occasionally. Same with a novel. As long as your reps are where the action is, you don't have to be there permanently. The whole world is used to Zoom now anyway.
What made you think to start it? What made you decide to call it quits?
My next job after Universal was at a digital agency, making web videos and doing viral marketing on social media. Back then, that meant MySpace. Twitter was still pretty new, and Facebook was VERY new. So I learned Twitter because of that job (and managed to secure a pretty good handle).
Then the recession came and we all got laid off. So I had a comedy background, theme park knowledge, "skills" at Twitter, and a lot of free time. And I saw no one was using Twitter to satirize theme parks, an industry which -- though I love -- absolutely merits parody. So I started an account, and created my own rides and characters, so I could include everything: coasters, studio tour, princesses, killer whales, etc.
That was close to TWELVE years ago. The account grew to include Facebook, two songs, a music video, two books, merchandise, and interviews on blogs and podcasts, and in the Orlando Sentinel. But I'm starting to repeat myself, and the project has done about all it can do for me. And again -- my last day in a theme park uniform was 14 years ago. I'm not sure I'm qualified anymore to comment on the inner workings of the industry. So I want to quit while it's still fun, and people still care.
Any opinions on the content produced by Defunctland?
Yes! I'm a big fan. I love theme parks, history, and theme park history.
So... Dracula's Doom Dome will never happen?
The Park has brought joy to many of us, sad to see it go, but understandable. Do you know if any of the parks animatronics will be auctioned off?
You have to admire how theme parks can make money even as they dismantle attractions that their fans have loved for decades.
If you too want a souvenir for something that (soon) no longer exists, I do sell park merchandise via RedBubble.
How do I become funny?
Some are born funny, some achieve funny, and some have funny thrust upon them. (Apologies to William whats-his-name).
I am absolutely not an authority, but one thing I try to do is make connections. If I can find a hidden connection, then reveal it to people, it's either a joke or wisdom. I'll take either.
For example, many people noticed that The Mandalorian and The Witcher were essentially the same show: A badass loner killer actually has a heart of gold, adopts a child with hidden powers, fights monsters, etc. Somewhere in there are jokes: Which needs more repairs, Geralt's horse or Mando's ship? Mando never takes off his helmet but Geralt always takes off his shirt. Mando needs Max Rebo writing songs about him the way Jaskier does for Geralt. These are all off the top of my head, also called "first drafts" also called "not really funny."
George Carlin was a master of this. For example, he noticed many baseball terms are "happy" while many football terms are "sad," and made a whole routine of it. Once you hear it, you realize he's right, you never noticed it, and it's funny.
I hope that helps? I wasn't expecting questions like this?!?!
Ha!! No I'm glad you went with it, I actually don't think I'm that unfunny or dry, I just feel sometimes child like or fundamental questions cut through to the passion stuff I love hearing about :-) and are the other way around back you know
Also who knows maybe I could be more funny, I mean, probably
But yeah okay that's much to think about... and I can see those now that you worded them, I kind of think humor as a form of art or text that pokes at laughter, you can poke and poke and sometimes you get a giggle. And I'm eternally grateful for people in my life that make jokes, it is a decision as well I guess, to look at life and ask "what's funny?" and stay connected with the play we started as children.
I wish more than anything that my future partner is going to be funny... then I can deal with the arrangement
Yes, find someone who matches your sense of humor. My wife -- a fellow tour guide whom I met in the Universal break room -- once said that I make her laugh at least once every day. It's the nicest thing I've ever heard.
Some are born funny, some achieve funny, and some have funny thrust upon them. (Apologies to William whats-his-name)
Have you ever met a genuinely clever bus driver?
If you mean tram driver, who drove the Universal trams around the lot, they were a mixed bunch. Some were taciturn and seemed downright grumpy. Others laughed and loved it and became part of the performance. A significant amount were veterans, particularly of Vietnam. I have no idea why.
Have you thought about selling it instead of ending it?
People have made offers. But the brand is closely tied to my name. Heck, I put it on resumes. So it can't be in anyone's voice but mine.
Since I started, other comedy accounts have come along that mock theme parks in general or Disney in particular. If people really need a fix, maybe they can get it there.
Did you make any money?
A little, through two means:
- The books, which are $20 paperback, $5 Kindle, and $0 Kindle Unlimited (stupid subscription service!).
- The new merch store on RedBubble.
I'd like to humbly suggest, if fans have enjoyed the free content on Twitter and Facebook and YouTube over the years, a small purchase would be greatly appreciated.
I bought the hat. I will wear it proudly until I lose it on the Matterhorn.
I'm not kidding... It'll happen. I've lost so many hats on that ride. And from that day forward your hat will be entombed in the historical structure that is Disneyland's first rollercoaster. They will become one.
I'm guessing the maintenance crew finds them.
What happens to them next, I shudder to think...
What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?
My rule: If it ain't chocolate, it ain't dessert.
This thing that I never knew existed had such a profound impact on me that I just have to say thank you.
I have a unique connection to theme parks: my mother had me when she was very young, and was one of two children to a single mother herself.
My grandmother, mother, and uncle worked at Busch Gardens and I spent many many days being shuffled from a wax candle shop, to an old western photography shop, to a traditional Italian restaurant’s break room as a child. Coloring books and (eventually) gameboy in tow. It was no skin off my back, because after one of their shifts ended we got to go “play” for a while. Looking back it is kind of like any kid’s dream, but was just normal and something I didn’t think much of at the time.
Probably is something that couldn’t happen today (this all took place in the early 90’s), and I’m starting to lose sight of what I was initially trying to say but it’s essentially; looking through your gigantic catalogue of content stirred up some long-forgotten memories of a simpler, happier time all while being a treat to consume as an adult due to the nature of your work. So thanks, nice to meet your content, and sucks to see you go just as I walked in. Best of luck!
Have you ever been to Busch Gardens, Williamsburg? If so, how did you like it? I’ve been to many parks and that one stands out as the best overall experience (obviously biased though).
That's very kind. I know what it's like to feel connected to a theme park. Not only was it the site for great memories, and inspiration for this 11-year comedy project, but I also met my wife there. She was a tour guide as well, and went on to host Backdraft, Cinemagic, and even was in management for a while. I recommend her Instagram, especially if you like architecture.
I've never been to Busch Gardens, but your description of your time there makes it sound like a fun destination. I'll add it to my list.
What ultimately will become of Murph Gantly? Do you think there could be a spinoff in the future, like Fraiser or, on the opposite end of the intellectual spectrum, Joey?
It's hard to keep a good billionaire down. And Murph is an evil billionaire, so it's doubly hard.
The character has been a lot of fun to play on podcasts, because I get to unleash my id and just insult everything, including the hosts. And since I don't think the park will go bankrupt or burn down or close (final decision TBD), he should be OK with living off his animation royalties, his investment in Sprelger Chemicals, his yacht, his super-yacht, his mega-yacht, his five houses, and his four ex-wives.
How can you end it when I’ve just discovered this delectable corner of los internets?
Thank you! The accounts will still be there to scroll through forever, and you can buy or stream the songs. And of course, there's always the books.
Big discount on Merch!?
I'll say! Just look at these great deals!
Looking back, it was not a great idea for Murph to build his European park exactly on the Ukrainian/Russian border.
Do you monetize on such a thing somehow? I've always wondered this about Twitter accounts. I don't use the platform much.
Not through Twitter. My only income from the account is from people buying the songs on iTunes, buying the books on Amazon, or buying the merch on RedBubble.
What are your thoughts on the pedestrianisation of Norwich City Centre?
I moved to New York shortly after starting FakeThemePark. I'm pro-pedestrian and anti-car.
I'll be honest, I'm dead against it. People forget that traders need access to Dixons
I defer to you on this matter.
Are you opposed to the idea of fans continuing the Fake Theme Park saga in their own fan fiction, or would you rather leave the universe as-is in case you ever want to pick it up in the future?
Several kind-hearted folks have offered to take over the account, but I have politely declined. The brand is heavily tied to my name and is all over a Google search. So I don't want it to leave my hands, but if people are connected to the characters and to the world, and want to create their own fan fiction, I can only say that I'm flattered.
The Twitter and Facebook accounts will stay up, frozen in time, so you can scroll back and enjoy as much as you want. If that grows tiresome, may I recommend the books, which compile the most popular posts from both platforms along with original material found nowhere else?
So. . . What now?
I write on the side. Here's my first produced screenplay, starring Corey Feldman and Jeffrey Combs. The next one just wrapped production.
I also write freelance, like this article for The Daily Dead about the Universal Monsters (I just can't escape that company).
I'm shopping around other spec pilots and screenplays as well.
I still want to do comedy. Whether that's a blog, a TikTok account, or even a new Twitter, I don't know yet. I need to see what life is even like without FTP.
What do you think about Epic Universe?
Any worries about it or anything you are really looking forward to?
I'm a lifelong fan of the Universal Monsters. A whole land based around them could be pretty awesome.
Why does the @ FakeThemePark, claim you aren't them?
My version of "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain." Except I go one step further: "The man behind the curtain is an idiot."
Why are you ending your account?
How did you get to where you are? Does most of it come from the Twitter account? My friend has been a PA in NYC for a bit now and hates it. His dream is to be in comedy writing or to just have a bigger role on set somewhere, but it seems super hard to get there.
My career path, significantly simplified and condensed:
- Was in an improv troupe at USC
- Graduated and formed a pro sketch/improv, doing shows around L.A.
- Got to make videos for National Lampoon when they launched their site
- Made more comedy videos, mostly just for fun
- After Universal, got a job at an agency making comedy videos for social media
- Got other social media jobs at agencies and entertainment sites
- Got a social media job at Discovery
- Transferred to digital, working on Discovery Channel GO
- Transferred to Discovery Plus when it launched in 2021
Some of these jobs were through connections. One of my friends knew someone at Playboy, which got us a gig making comedy videos for them. But I had no connections to Discovery, which has been my home for five years.
My one piece advice is to make your own opportunities. Even if you have a day job, even if that day job isn't in the industry (For me, steps 2 - 4 were during my time at Universal). So for comedy writing, that can mean, having a comedy Twitter (ahem), a comedy blog, TikTok, YouTube. It can mean doing stand-up in clubs, doing improv or sketch comedy. It can mean writing stuff for your director/producer friends, for free, just to see it produced. Then put together a packet and send it to agents and managers. Enter contests. Join online writing, TV, screenwriting, or comedy communities. Trumpet any successes to "fake it til you make it" (see: this entire thread).
And if that doesn't work -- are you sure you're funny?
Dismaland went up in 2015.
My account started in 2010.
Why are you ending it? Sorry TLDR the whole thing
How come you're ending the actual account?
- I've been posting every single day (yes, literally EVERY SINGLE DAY) for 11+ years, and I'd like some of that time back.
- I'm starting to repeat myself. While there are infinite jokes to make about theme parks, Harry Potter, Marvel, Star Wars, etc., I can only make so many of them.
- My last day working at a theme park was April 2008, so I'm increasingly unqualified to make jokes about them.
- I started the account to get attention and as a writing sample. I've achieved as much as I'm going to.
- I want to end it while it's still fun and people still care (judging by the upvotes and comments, they do). If it peters out and dies quietly and nobody notices, that would be tragic (to me, at least).
- After 10,000 posts I can state with certainty there is no money in it.
Dang man. That's an impressive feat. Are you deactivating the account or just leaving it as a ghost so people can look back on these tweets? In turn leaving it a hobby account that you log into and smile at all the funny reactions people have?
It will still be up, frozen in time. On Twitter and Facebook. The songs will be on Soundcloud, the music video will be on YouTube, and the books will be on Amazon.
Can I take over for ya?
You aren't the first to offer! But the FTP brand is tied tightly to my personal brand. It's been in my voice all this time. It comes up in searches for my name, and vice-versa. So I can't ever let it go.
Will you be reducing admission price for the final days?
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