Wouldn’t it be cool to make money just by being a full-time Disney fan?
That’s what I thought on a hot sunny Sunday, sitting in my South Florida apartment. I was in bed, hadn’t changed out of my pajamas yet, and on a whim started watching a Disney-themed YouTube channel called “TheTimTracker.” Tim and his wife Jenn are Orlando locals who go to the Disney parks a lot (as well as SeaWorld and Universal), and vlog about their day-to-day lives. They are charismatic, funny and charming, and I was instantly hooked. They have over 200,000 “subscribers” and film a video every day. Even the videos where they don’t go to the parks and just hang out at home were enjoyable! When I watched some more and found out that Jenn, the wife in the videos, basically made a living out of going to theme parks and editing their videos, I was in awe. She got to stay home all day and edit; when she wasn’t at home, she was out having fun! And I wanted in on the game too.
On my next Disney vacation with my husband, I found myself wanting to do the things I had seen in their videos. I wanted to eat at the restaurants they recommended, I wanted to wear cool handmade Minnie ears like Jenn did, and I wanted to buy the Disney products I had seen in their home. Ever since I started watching their channel, I now eat at basically every restaurant (Disney or otherwise) that they praise, I buy Minnie ears from Etsy (which led me down a whole other path of Instagram and Etsy shops where people make homemade Disney items- everything from bows, to ears, to shirts, to cups and more), and I even buy the makeup and hair products Jenn uses.
This got me wondering- how much money do they make off Disney? Does Disney give them free stuff? Are they paid to advertise certain items and places in their videos? How many other Disney “YouTubers” are out there?
The first few money-related questions are uncertain. Most YouTubers make money from ads or donation links on their sites, but in some videos, Tim and Jenn mention that they were “invited” to places (for example, SeaWorld invited them out to try their new Food and Wine festival, supposedly for free). It totally worked- my husband and I recently went to that same festival and loved it, because we saw how much they enjoyed it and, well, we love food. They also mention saving their receipts from Disney meals (and, I suppose, receipts from their annual passes and other purchases). I’m not sure how it works, but I know that they make enough money for only one of them to have a “real-life” job (Tim, the husband, does work and makes a living outside of YouTube). And although they technically advertise different aspects of the Orlando area by visiting places, they specifically state that they don’t get everything for free. Plus, they’re so humble and down to earth, that none of their videos feels like an advertisement.
After some searching, I found that there are hundreds of Disney vloggers out there- people from single guys and girls (young and middle aged), families, couples, Florida-residents and non-Florida residents- a lot of people have a passion for Disney and show it through YouTube. The most popular videos include “haul” videos (where they show purchases from the parks), “best/worst lists” (their opinions on the best and worst rides, shows, hotels, and theme parks), “day in the life” videos (where they just film themselves enjoying a day at the park, or their park routine), “POV” videos (videos of ride-throughs), and “Q&A” videos (where they answer questions about the parks and themselves). There are tons more videos and content out there, but what fascinates me most are the so-called “Disney Influencers.”
These influencers have cropped up on Instagram in recent years, usually sipping a Starbucks and wearing custom Minnie ears in front of the purple wall in Tomorrowland, or the bubblegum wall in Epcot. They twirl around in their custom Disney tank tops and their custom Disney hand-painted Vans, and they make video montages with artsy shots of the castle. For the influencers, their videos tend to include a lot of “hauls” and “park makeup tutorials.” There are even some “park packing” videos out there and “park must dos.” Basically, they are living, breathing ads for Disney.
The realistic part of me scoffs at their photos and videos. How come they don’t show the long lines, or the complaining husbands, or the fact that their feet hurt and they must go to work the next day? They never seem to sweat in the 100-degree Florida heat either- their hair is always perfectly in place and tied back either with a pair of ears or a Disney character-themed bow. (Did I mention that most of these videos are run by girls, and/or couples)?
The jealous side of me, however, envies them. I want to be a cool Disney hipster sipping my violet lemonade and taking a photo shoot on the hub grass with my Starbucks too! However, writing is my thing, and I am incredibly un-photogenic. Nevertheless, that doesn’t stop my fascination and discovery of these perfect Disney beings and their addicting YouTube channels.
You’d think as someone with two published books about Disney, and the fact that I’m a past Cast Member, would put me in the Disney influencer category. To be completely truthful, however, I don’t make much money off my books, and my blog has a total of 0 followers and 0 comments. I do it for the love of the game and the love of the parks.
I’m not bashing these Disney stars, but I think I’ve been watching them long enough to tell the genuine ones from the “glamorous” ones. I love watching videos from TheTimTracker, but I can only stand so much of young girls twirling in front of purple walls (why do they twirl so much anyway?). I’m much more likely to buy a product or take advice from someone who seems real. And I have- I now have a growing collection of ears, a pair of my very own handmade shoes, and have a long subscription of Disney YouTubers that I currently watch. All you have to do is search, say, “wire mouse ears” on Instagram or Etsy, or “Disney Youtubers” on Google, and you’ll come up with lists and lists of names. Pick and choose what appeals to you most, and go from there.
If you’re like me, you’ll lose a whole Sunday fantasizing about quitting your job, moving to Orlando, and filming yourself going to Disney every day- and making millions.
I know not a lot of people “make it” on YouTube, and even the Trackers (as they call themselves) have said that it took years filming themselves before they got a steady stream of viewers, but I admire everyone that has the guts to put themselves out there and try to make their hobby into a real dream come true. If I could look pretty, not sweat in a park, had the money to buy all the custom Disney wardrobe items in the world, and had a husband who was willing to show himself on camera, hell- I’d do the same thing.
Being a Social Media “Influencer” is the new hottest trend, especially among my friends. There are the #healthyeating influencers, the #fashion influencers, the #beauty influencers, the #fitness influencers…I could go on and on. And as much as I would love to get free products and money from advertising as well- kale makes me sick, I can’t draw a “winged” eye to save my life, and one of my favorite dresses is from Wal-Mart.
For now, I think I’ll stick to writing.
Here are a few of my favorite Disney YouTube channels if you want to check them out:
Hugs and Fishes,