Geekdom is one big adventure for traveler, Disney theme park connoisseur

Many geeks use their passion for fandoms as a jumping off point for adventure.

This is certainly true of anglophile, Marvel movie enthusiast, dedicated con-goer, obsessive Disney visitor, and fearless traveler Christy Rooney.

I’ll admit it. This interview got a little bit long. Well, ok, a lot long. But only because I can’t resist vicariously going along on the epic adventures Christy has experienced, solo and with friends and family, while wholeheartedly pursuing her geekier interests and inclinations.

Yes, she’s visited every Disney theme park in the world … except one! Don’t worry. She’ll fill you in on all the juicy details below. Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about Walt’s spin-offs in Paris, Asia, and elsewhere.

She’s also made several other geeky pilgrimages abroad, instilling a healthy love of travel in her young daughter and son. She happens to be a patron saint of sorts to her friends who need cheering up in the form of photos of dreamy British men. And she’s one heck of a celebrity spotter, bumping into famous folks everywhere from the airport to IKEA.

Let’s join her — shall we? — on an adventure of a lifetime.

Christy Rooney poses for a “Sherlock”-themed photo shoot.

It seems to me that you embraced your geek identity a bit later in life, and by that I mean like in your 20s. Is that accurate? 

I was in my 20s when I openly started showing my geeky side! But honestly I’ve always been a fangirl! (Cough. N’SYNC. Cough.)

How did you discover your geekier side?

As I mentioned, I’ve always been a fangirl, first with boy bands, but I’d say that my first true geek love (other than my lifelong Disney obsession) was J.R R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. After “Fellowship of the Ring” came out, I fell in love! I saw that movie in theaters seven times, and the others several times as well.

It was then that my room went from having NSYNC posters to a LOTR vibe. My dad had managed to bring home a poster big enough to cover my full-sized bed (which ended up attached to my ceiling because there was nowhere else to put it!) and I started filling my bookshelves with the trivia books, behind-the-scenes books, the movie soundtracks, and even a Galadriel doll.

It’s all been a big snowball since then, when Marvel started releasing their superhero films, I fell in love all over again! Iron Man, Loki, and Dr. Strange are some of my favorites.

So, you are a super Disney freak. I mean that in a nice way, of course. Going to the parks is a tradition for your immediate and extended family. How did that start?

I remember going to the parks once a year as a child. My entire family would pick a day and head over! This included grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins! We’re a fairly large group, but we made it happen! Now, several (at least 20) of us have season passes and go multiple times a month!

Christy’s son Gavin and daughter Gwenyth, Disneybounding at Disneyland.

Tell me about the epic Disneyland trips you do.

Back in November, about 19 of us decided to try our hands at Disneybounding! My mom and cousin got the ball rolling, and we ended up having a great time finding our outfit pieces, and my mom made several pairs of custom ears to go with them! With that many people, we were thankful for my cousin, Cami, a school teacher, who can be decisive and get the group making plans and making them happen!

Even as I type this, we are headed to Disney tomorrow with a group of seven, which for most people may seem big, but for us is a small/normal size!

And next week, nine of us are headed to the park Disneybounding again, but all of us dressing specifically from “Tangled.” My mom is handcrafting new ears for ALL of us, and they are looking spectacular!

Christy with Gwenyth, Gavin, and husband Owen at Walt Disney World.

You’ve actually achieved the feat of visiting every Disney theme park in the world, except Shanghai. Tell me how that happened.

Haha! Owen and I were just talking about this. We’ve had passes for years, which took care of Disneyland. Then, in  February of 2015, Owen had a work conference in Orlando at one of the Disney resorts. We decided that for this trip, the kids and I would join him! The timing was pretty great, because Gavin was still 2, which meant he was free.

In 2016, we had made plans to visit Owen’s Irish side of the family. And since Paris is such a short flight away, we decided to spend about four days in Paris itself before jumping over to Disneyland Paris! We had a blast!

Christy and Owen at Disneyland Paris.

My in-laws currently live in Japan (though they’re moving soon) and we decided to visit them over the holidays in 2017. We flew into Japan on December 22, and headed to Tokyo on the 26th. We were able to spend one day at Tokyo Disney Sea, and one day in Tokyo Disneyland.

A few days into the new year, Owen, the kids and I jumped on a plane from Tokyo to Hong Kong (because it was just SO CLOSE) and we were able to experience their park as well!

Would you briefly compare and contrast the various parks for us?

Each park is set up differently. It throws me every time!

Disney World was actually the most overwhelming for me. (It may have something to do with the fact that our kids were 2 and 4 at the time). It is MASSIVE. Everything is spread out, and it was the first time in decades that I’d needed to use a map in a Disney park. And, honestly, I hadn’t done the research I should have for the dining, Magic Bands, and a few other little aspects.

Gavin and Gwenyth at Disneyland Paris.

Paris’ Magic Kingdom was laid out quite a bit like ours, which was nice, and it was smaller than our park. Their second park, Walt Disney Studios, is close in proximity (like ours is) but doesn’t have as many rides or attractions. The big ride in that park is their “Ratatouille” ride. As soon as the park opened, everyone (literally everyone) rushed to get in line or try to score fast passes. Within half an hour of park opening, the line had already hit the three-hour wait time.

Tickets to Tokyo Disneyland and Disney Sea.

Tokyo’s Magic Kingdom was interesting. Instead of going through the gates and walking down Main Street, you walk through a covered … pavilion? It was almost a Main Street, but the whole thing is covered.

The day we went, it was pretty crowded, so we didn’t get to do all of the rides, but we spent a good portion of time in Fantasyland. Theirs is more condensed, while their Tomorrowland makes ours feel like a sardine can! We did get to see the Country Bear Jamboree there! And their Pirates of the Caribbean.

It’s fun to see what is consistent, and what they change on the rides. Their Teacups spin more easily, which makes for great spinning speeds! And the Haunted Mansion was great! It was still Christmas decorations, so Gavin was super happy about seeing all of his favorite “Nightmare Before Christmas” characters, but in different places, and I got asked about the various differences the WHOLE ride.

Tokyo Disney Sea was a whole different ballpark. I could not figure out its layout! It seemed to have shortcuts, big loops, and tunnels. Some of our favorite rides were Journey to the Center of the Earth, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Aquatopia (think Autopia, but with raft-like things) and their Nemo ride. Gavin was ecstatic to find that they had an entire Atlantis area. He loved the entire area.

Tickets to Hong Kong Disneyland.

Hong Kong only has one park, but the shuttle bus ride into it made us feel like we were headed into Jurassic Park. It was built into an isolated area that is surrounded by greenery of all kinds that grows super tall and lush.

Hong Kong is by far the smallest of the Magic Kingdom parks. It is laid out quite a bit like ours, but condensed. I think the strangest thing about that park was how empty it was! We walked onto the Iron Man Experience ride, which is exclusive to Hong Kong, and enjoyed being able to meander the parks without bumping into big crowds.

They also had a beautiful princess garden that has themed areas for different princesses that include large moving dioramas. All four of us loved their Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars (similar to Thunder Mountain), their Lion King Show, and Mystic Manor (our equivalent would be Haunted Mansion).

What are some of your favorite international Disney theme park memories?

Riding Teacups! That may seem like an odd favorite memory, but it is the one ride that we have ridden in every Magic Kingdom thus far. It’s a Small World and Pirates were in the running, but both Small Worlds were shut down for refurbishment, much to Gavin’s dismay, and Hong Kong doesn’t have a Pirate ride.

We’ve also enjoyed just spending time together doing something we all love. And the kids love to point out the differences in the parks. Gavin has asked several times why we don’t visit the dragon anymore, and i have to remind him that the dragon lives under the Paris Castle, and not our own. Another special memory is taking the time to take a family picture in front of the different castles. They are all different, and beautiful in their own right.

Which of all the parks is your favorite?

Oh, man! I would say that Disneyland is my favorite! It’s the original Disney park, and the one I know like the back of my hand. Our park may be little compared to some of the others, but for me it truly is one of my happiest places on earth.

Which park was the most challenging to get to or visit?

I still would say that Disney World was hard, simply because of the sheer size of the parks. And the parks weren’t super close to each other, the resorts, or their Downtown Disney area. But there was some minor difficulties in the Asia parks because we don’t speak the languages and the cultures are different. But I think the great thing about the Disney parks is the fact that even when you are completely lost, there’s a friendly cast member that can help.

Which attraction is your favorite?

Ugh, so many hard questions, Lavender! My favorite ride is Peter Pan. My favorite nighttime attraction is the Electrical Parade. We were able to do both of those in the Tokyo park and I adored them! There are some differences, but let me say, their Electrical Parade was amazing. And Peter Pan was such fun! We still soar over London (which is my favorite part of the ride) and help Peter fight Hook.

Which park has the best food?

Ohhhh, that’s tough. In Tokyo we ate at The Queen of Hearts’ Banquet Hall. They had various salads, chicken dishes and some awesome desserts. In Hong Kong, they have an entire restaurant that’s all Iron Man focused. Those meals were really good too! But I think my favorite places to eat are the Blue Bayou and Rancho del Zocalo in our own Disneyland!

Gavin with a Hank hat found in Tokyo.

Which park has the best merch?

In Tokyo, it’s SO strange! It’s as though Mickey has taken a backseat … . He may be in a different car altogether! Instead of Mickey ears, backpacks, shirts, etc., they have Duffy Bear. Mickey’s face may be on the sign, but Duffy rules inside the parks. I saw purses, backpacks, popcorn holders, ears, headbands, shirts, lanyards, hats, and stuffed animals everywhere. Mickey and his gang were spotted, but those sightings were few and far between.

I think I’m drawn more to our merchandise here in the states. We have so many stores inside and throughout the parks (instead of just near the gates) and our World of Disney shop has such a varying selection. The Tokyo Disney Store outside the park was about 85% Duffy merch, which, if you’re a Duffy fan, would be awesome. But all I wanted was a Disney shirt that said “Tokyo” and they were nowhere to be found inside or out of the park.

Which park is the weirdest?

I vote Disney Sea as the weirdest. We all loved it, but it was such an odd place. They have a volcano that “erupts” at night, they have an entire East Coast lobster village in one area, and rides that have nothing to do with Disney (like Venetian Gondolas, and Sindbad’s Storybook Voyage).

So when are you going to Shanghai?

Ahhh, the elusive Shanghai. We tried to see if we could add it to our trip, but it would’ve been too hard. Not to mention the added cost of visas. We are hoping to visit the Shanghai park if we visit Owen’s parents when they move to Taiwan. So if it were to happen, it would be sometime in 2019-2020.

You and your family are avid travelers. Have you visited any other famous geek spots in your many travels?

We have! In 2014, I dragged my poor husband all over London finding places related to the BBC show “Sherlock.” We ate at Speedy’s (the restaurant right next door to the famous 221B in the show), found the hospital where he jumped off the roof, and went to the real 221B on Baker Street.

On our Ireland trip, we did a day tour that took us up into Belfast, and the bus took us to The Dark Hedges (featured on “Game of Thrones”), a very famous road that looks absolutely forbidding even in daylight!

On your very recent trip to Tokyo, you visited the Studio Ghibli store. Please tell all.

In Tokyo, Studio Ghibli is huge. I mean … HUGE. While we didn’t get to go to the museum, there was a fabulous shop near where my in-laws live. I’ve just recently been introduced to this portion of the geek world, so I’m sure a true fan would’ve appreciated it far more than I did. But there were playing cards, blankets, bath mats, stuffed toys of all shapes and sizes, luggage, finger puppets, coin banks, key chains, and so much more! It was probably what a non-Disney person feels like when they walk into World of Disney for the first time. There was a lot to take in and see.

I think it’s really cool you’re teaching your kids to be travelers at such a young age. Do they share your geek interests? What are some of your mutual and individual nerdy fascinations and activities?

My kids love traveling! They definitely share my love of all things Disney, and are excited when we get to do something new. Disney is our biggest shared interest. Gwennie has her own love of My Little Pony, and Gavin has started taking an interest in DC villains (namely ClayFace and Mr Freeze). Someday, I’ll be dragging them to conventions with me, I’m sure!

You’ve enjoyed a career as a sign language interpreter. This may be a stretch, but has that work intersected with your geek life at all?

Interpreting hasn’t really intersected with my geek life. I’ve often enjoyed watching interpreters at both conventions and Disneyland alike. I’m always in awe of them, as a lot of random topics are brought up at conventions and the panels are sometimes insane!

Christy and actor Kevin McKidd at IKEA.

You are a dedicated and very successful “stalker” of celebrities (not in an illegal way). Tell me about some of your top celeb encounters.

Hahaha! I’m definitely the type of person that likes to know what is happening in my nearby environment. I think because of that, I’m a people watcher, and I’m just constantly skimming over what or who is nearby.

I’ve run into George Newbern at The Grove in L.A., Kevin McKidd at IKEA, and saw a few celebs at Disneyland before I was brave enough to approach them.

I have also gone to a play to see James Marsters and do the meet and greet, and I’ve asked questions of several people at WonderCon: Richard Armitage (swoon) Chris Hardwick, the guys from the cast of “Orphan Black” (along with a meet and greet a different year) and a meet and greet with the several “Once Upon a Time” cast members.

Christy with Sean Maguire.

I’ve also been lucky when wandering at some cons. My friend Jenna and I snagged pictures with Sean Maguire for “Once Upon a Time”, and I waited patiently at D23 to get a rushed selfie with Colin O’Donoghue.

But one of my favorites was when Owen and I went to New York and saw “She Loves Me,” starring Zachary Levi. He was awesome and came out after the show to sign autographs and take pictures. I had platinum and purple hair at the time, and he told me he liked it! (It may still give me warm fuzzies just thinking about it!)

My biggest celeb failing though … Colin Farrell. I saw him at the airport when we were headed to Ireland, but Owen convinced me it wasn’t him … until it was time to board and Owen realized I was right!

I have also discovered that a great way to see celebs up close is to go to show tapings.

Christy with Zachary Levi.

Tell me about some of your favorite tapings.

I’ve found that getting tickets to “The Late Late Show with James Corden” and “Jimmy Kimmel” are great ways of seeing some pretty awesome people. I’ve seen Gary Oldman, Matt Smith, Michael Fassbender, Zoe Saldana, Kat Dennings, Beth Behrs, Jason Alexander, and several others.

You’ve slept outside at a convention before. Tell me about that experience. Was it worth it?

Oh, man. I was not prepared for that adventure!

My cousins and I were enjoying the D23 convention, and noticed (on Friday) that several people were already in the queue for events on Saturday. Now, one of my biggest obsessions is Marvel, and they were set to have a time slot in the big Live Action panel at D23. As the day went one, my cousins and I got more worried about the line, and after dinner we made the decision to swing by Target for some blankets, then our hotel room for some overnight necessities, and head back to the convention center.

By the time we got there, there were already tons of people in line (far more prepared than we were!), and the line twisted and turned around the outside of the convention center. We were fortunate in that they let us into one of the underground halls to stay the night (I think it had something to do with crowd control).

Let me tell you, concrete is HARD … and COLD. Because we were so woefully unprepared for this, all we really had was our blankets, while people around us had chairs, blow-up pool floats, mattresses and several other things that would have made that night more palatable.

It was an odd experience, because even when 90% of the people were sleeping, the lights were all on, and Disney movies were playing on several TVs throughout the room. I remember waking up in a panic and discovering that the explosions that woke me up weren’t real, but that the movie had switched from “Moana” to a Star Wars movie while I slept.  I think I counted four to five different movies that night.

In some ways, yes, it was worth it. I think D23 has grown considerably, so to see these big panels with all my favorite people it was something I had to do. And this year’s Marvel presence was EPIC! So many stars (including Benedict Cumberbatch and Robert Downey Jr.) graced the stage. My poor cousin probably ended up with bruises from me slapping at her in excitement.

Christy and Ashley Eckstein of Her Universe.

As a woman, is there anything you’d like to see change about the world of geek culture or fandoms?

I would love to see more merchandise made by women and for women! I have a hard time finding things I can wear because I’m taller than what people assume geek girls are, so dresses tend to be on the short side.

And I’d love a bigger selection! I love what Her Universe has accomplished, but we need more. Hot Topic is great, but only if you fall into certain fandoms. Costumes need to be made more realistic for women.

And I think we need more movies like “Wonder Woman.” While I love all my Marvel boys, I want to see a movie about Black Widow, I want more of Scarlet Witch. I’m excited about Captain Marvel!

Amongst your friends, you’re known as a sort of patron saint of dreamy British guys who might send a few pics of Hiddles or Richard Armitage to cheer someone up or wish them well. How did that start? What is it about British dudes?

I admit I have a slight (or embarrassingly large) obsession with the Brits. I’ve always loved all things British. “Pride and Prejudice” has been my favorite book for as long as I can remember. And I absolutely adore British accents.

I have just stumbled upon more and more handsome men in all of my fandoms! I think I started sending them as a joke, and it became a thing. I enjoy picking one … or several Brits to send to people on their birthdays, or just for fun, or if someone is feeling down. Sometimes I’ll send them just to see what their response will be. Your husband has been on the receiving end of a birthday collage a time or two, though this year I took it easy on him.

Since you’re a serious anglophile, I have to ask: Why are so many geeks also anglophiles?

I think geeks are also anglophiles because so many geeky characters are either portrayed as British or are portrayed by British actors. “Doctor Who” is one of the most iconic examples I think. A madman in a box, constantly saving the world, yet oddly centralized in London. Captain Picard on “Star Trek: Enterprise,” also a British actor.

And we’ve had an influx of Brits playing our superheroes. Superman, Loki, Dr. Strange, Spider-Man, to name just a few. I think in the geek world, we also like to know about the people playing our favorite characters, so I tend to dive into Google to see where people are from, etc.

Wholock is one of your major obsessions. How did you discover “Doctor Who,” and what do you like about it?

Ahhhh, “Doctor Who”! I honestly can’t remember who introduced me to “Doctor Who. But I love it! It has the same kind of “out there” feel as “Buffy (the Vampire Slayer)”, another of my favorites, but takes it a step further. It’s set mostly in or around the UK, which makes me supremely happy, and I like the story of a lone Time Lord traveling through space and time to save the world over and over. I think it would be awesome to be one of his traveling companions (Rose is the best, always).

Who’s your Doctor?

The Tenth Doctor is absolutely my Doctor. David Tennant is amazing in that role, and his regeneration just about killed me.

Christy in front of St. Bartholomew’s hospital in London, where Benedict Cumberbatch’s “Sherlock” famously jumped from the roof in an episode of the series.

What about “Sherlock”? Benedict Cumberbatch is obviously a favorite of yours.

I have a very strong love/hate relationship with BBC’s Sherlock. I adore the show, I love the characters, and how they interact. I LOATHE that each series is only three episodes. And I HATE that it is so long between each series (generally around two years). With the main actors becoming a bigger presence in Hollywood … Marvel, I love you, but you’re making it hard for Benedict and Martin to have time for Sherlock!

I do love Benedict Cumberbatch! I stumbled across “Sherlock” on Netflix, during the hiatus between series 1 and 2. I’m fairly certain I binged the first three episodes, then threw a mental fit when I realized there weren’t any more. Not just the “Oh, I have to wait for Netflix to get the second series,” but the “WAIT, why isn’t it showing up as having a second series? HOLD ON A MINUTE! THEY HAVEN’T EVEN BEGUN FILMING?!?!?!?” kind of mental fit.

It’s been really fun watching the actors grow and change. Benedict looks like a baby in series 1! But watching him portray Sherlock got me hooked and I spent a long time seeing what else he’d been in, and seeing if I could find a way to watch them. I also spent a lot of time forcing my friends and family to watch, just so I’d have people who could commiserate with me during the hiatus (and maybe so I could discuss each and every little thing about the show … ).

Christy with her favorite Marvel supervillain, Loki, and the kids (oh, and Thor, too) at Disneyland.

Tom Hiddleston is another favorite of yours. You’re particularly fond of Loki. You have three sentences in which to defend the Asgardian villain. Go.

Hiddles is adorable. I need more than three sentences!

Okay, Loki has been raised by Odin to be a king, though Odin had no intention of ever letting him near the throne. Odin also made Loki’s life one big lie, when Odin stole him from his home planet and never told him he was a frost giant, which, incidentally, is the big scary monstrous villain in Asgard’s bedtime stories. All Loki wanted was some attention and approval from his father and brother, but was always cast aside in favor of Thor (when it came to Odin) and the Warriors Three (when it came to Thor). In short, everything Loki did was Odin’s fault.

I’d also better make it clear that my Loki knowledge is based on the MCU, not the comic books! That’s my disclaimer!

Are you a big fan of the Marvel movies? What do you like about them?

The Marvel movies are some of my absolute favorites. I’ve always been a fan of action movies, and I’ve liked Robert Downey Jr. since “U.S. Marshals” (a random movie, I know). When Iron Man came out, I was enthralled. It was epic. And each movie has been adding to the original story ever since. This is the MCU’s 10th anniversary, and it’s shaping up to be mind-blowing.

I have loved getting to meet new characters, seeing their backstories and struggles as they try to find their places in the wonderful and scary world of superheroes. The movies are really what opened my mind to the comic part of the geek world, and I’ve loved every minute of it. This year at D23, I was so excited to see 15 of the MCU’s stars grace the stage before seeing the first clips of the “Avengers: Infinity War” trailer.

Christy with James Marsters, aka Spike, of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

You’re also a fan of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” and you’ve met some of the cast. How did you discover the series? What’s the attraction?

“Buffy” may have been my first non-movie geek venture. I started watching it when my older brother did (based on his college friends’ suggestion.) I quickly became addicted!

“Buffy” is awesome because we follow Buffy, a high school girl with a calling to rid the world of vampires and demons, go through her life trying to be as normal as possible, all while battling various creatures. Vampires have always been an interesting topic for me. (Yes, I did go through a “Twilight” phase) But hands down, the Buffy vampires are way better.

Spike is my absolute favorite vampire. EVER. He’s British (Surprise! another British character!), sarcastic, and treats Buffy as his equal. He’s really the only male character in the show (in my opinion) that never underestimates what Buffy is capable of doing. Angel, Giles, and Xander constantly doubt her, which drives me nuts.

I was able to see James Marsters (Spike) in a play a few years ago! I paid extra for the meet and greet/Q&A session, and loved every minute of it. The play was supposed to also star Juliet Landau (another leading vamp on “Buffy”) but she had a scheduling conflict and wasn’t there the night my friends and I went. But we did see one of Buffy’s college roommates in the play also. It was a really fun night, and I’m pretty sure those memories are going to stick with me.

Christy and Owen at a Halloween party, dressed as Maggie and Glenn from “The Walking Dead.”

What other fandoms are you into?

I think we’ve covered all of my major fandoms, but I do have TV shows that would fall into fandom category. “Orphan Black” was a big one! It just ended last year, wrapping up a great series. I cried during the last episode (because it was super touching, and because I always mourn when my people won’t be returning).

“Grey’s Anatomy” is another one, though that is still ongoing. “The Walking Dead” is another fandom I love! We look forward to seeing Rick’s group struggle to survive every week.

Do you collect anything?

I have an ever-growing collection of Funko Pop! figures. I need shelves, desperately. And my drawers are full of geek shirts that are so numerous, I need more space.

What’s left on your geek bucket list?

I’d love to go to Prince Edward Island and see where Anne of Green Gables grew up. I long for the Lake District in England where Elizabeth stood regally looking at the scenery. I want to see Pemberley, and Cardiff, and Stratford-Upon-Avon. I want to wing my way to New Zealand and walk where the Hobbits, and wizards, elves and men came together to form the Fellowship.

What’s your next geeky travel destination?

Our next trip takes us to Alaska, and I know movies like “White Fang” and “The Proposal” were filmed there. I’m not sure if those count. But Shanghai’s Disney park is another option that could happen in the foreseeable future.

Will you send me some pics of hot British guys? I need some cheering up. Thanks.

I will always send you texts of British guys!

(And she did!)


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