On Thursday night I was a volunteer character at Goofy’s Mystery Tour.
It’s a yearly competition at Disney’s Hollywood Studios after park hours. Three hundred teams (four players each) spend an hour answering 80 really hard multiple-choice Disney trivia questions, then they’re set loose in the park with a puzzle (math, logic, rebus, wordplay, &c.) on a sheet of paper. Solve the puzzle, find the right group of characters to verify it (Scientists, Skiiers, Dapper Dans, Disco Dancers, &c.), and they’ll get the next puzzle and a clue for the final puzzle. 15 puzzles, 2 hours, and if they can gather enough clues they might be able to solve the final puzzle.
The participants are nearly all Cast Members, many of whom dress in costumes. The trivia questions are REALLY HARD. And in the logic puzzle phase, each team needs to be tied together by a ten-foot rope, with carabiners clipped to their belt loops. Split up, and you’re disqualified. Pull out a cellphone, and you’re disqualified. Note to anyone who wants to give it a go: make sure your entire team has headlamps, clipboards, pens, and paper, and know where the trash cans are, ‘cos you can gather around those as desks!
I’ve competed in it twice (2012 and 2013; the second time I think our team ranked #71), and volunteered once as a character (2014), where I was assigned to the “Police and Criminal Lineup” group. I was put in touch with the rest of my group a few weeks before the event and we worked out who would be who. I placed an Amazon order for a derby, suspenders, and some rubber cigars. On the night of the event they put my group next to the Backlot Studio Tour entrance (“Monahan’s”), and I hammed it up with a terrible New Yorker accent all evening behind some “Caution” sawhorses we found nearby. Our goal was simply to make sure any team coming to us had the right answer, and give them the next clue and puzzle, but it was a lot of fun to get into the spirit of the thing!
This time around was the 25th Anniversary of the competition. I was assigned to the “Marvel Comic Book Fan” group – a role I was practically born for. I had a general idea of going all Comic Book Guy (a la Simpsons). I ordered a t-shirt with a group of the classic superheroes on it, I stopped by Coliseum of Comics and picked up a handful of comics from their 50-cent bin, and I was ready.
On the night of the event I met the rest of my group. A guy whose day job is server at Chef Mickey’s was wearing a Captain America shirt and mask. A woman who’s concierge at the Contemporary was wearing an “I Am Groot” shirt. We had a woman wearing a trenchcoat and red hat; I called her Carmen Sandiego, but she was really Agent Carter. Another woman was wearing a good, but very lightweight, Ahsoka Tano costume. (Did I mention that the temperature that night got close to freezing? The event organizers stocked us up with hand warmers.) We were placed at what used to be the Sounds Dangerous queue, and we quickly decorated the area with some foam Captain America shields and some Pow! Bang! Crunch! signs someone had brought, and we wrapped the stanchions in Marvel superhero wrapping paper.
And then the teams started coming by to have us check their answers.
The puzzle that brought them to us was a number cryptogram. Hulk + Black Widow = 6, Black Widow + Captain America = 7, Thor + Hulk = 10, &c. Players had to figure out what number each character represents and then fill in the blanks on the page. The final answer was:
1 2 3 4 5 6. Most teams got it; I only had one team submit the wrong answer to me (I made them go try again).
But that doesn’t mean I had to make it easy for them. As I waited, I held up a Thing vs. Wolverine comic book, reading it intently. When a team rushed up to me with their solution, I would say “WAIT, this is the good part …”
… “okay, fine, whaddaya got?”
And then I would look at their numbers, and say “Hold on, let me check it against the answer key,” and I’d go back to my comic…
… “Close enough!” And I’d mark the solution as correct, and Agent Carter would be right there with their next puzzle and clue.
Sometimes I’d act all astonished at their answer – “That’s amazing. I’ve got the same combination on my luggage!” Or I’d deadpan, “Really?” and leave them bewildered for a moment until I let them know that yeah, it’s the right answer.
And sometimes a team would ask me for a clue. “I don’t have a clue!” I would tell them. “Tell me, do I LOOK like someone who has a clue?” And once while I was paging through my comic, one of the contestants quipped that it wasn’t a mint first issue. “Oh, don’t you even!” I told him. “I have SO MANY issues! You would not BELIEVE how many issues I have!”