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How to Become a "Millionaire" at Disney
by Jennifer Marx, Author of PassPorter Travel Guides

It all began with a bit of free time. It was our last day at Walt Disney World and we had a 7:30 pm flight home that evening. We had originally planned to spend our remaining hours at Epcot, but we were running late and we realized we just didn't have enough time to do everything we wanted. So we scrapped our plans and took off for Disney-MGM Studios instead. We had just enough time to fit in a couple of games of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire--Play It!" and then eat dinner at 50s Prime Time Cafe.

[If you haven't yet experienced "Who Wants To Be a Millionaire--Play It!", you'll find our review of it on page 158 of PassPorter Walt Disney World 2002. No PassPorter yet? Here's a brief description: On a Disney-MGM Studios soundstage -- a replica of the hit ABC-TV series "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" set -- audience members answer general and Disney-related trivia questions. Games typically begin with a Fastest Finger round in which all audience members put four items in a particular order, and the fastest guest to do so correctly comes down to the hot seat. Guests in the hot seat answer questions and win points (not cash) and prizes. Audience members get to play along with keypads from their seats. The complete game has 15 questions, though most contestants don't get past question 10 or so. When the contestant gets a question wrong, the computer checks the audience to see who has the highest score. The game repeats with a new contestant. Since the show opened in April 2001, only 31 guests have correctly answered all 15 questions and become million-point winners. Games typically last about 30 minutes.]

Our first "Millionaire" game was uneventful. Not only did neither of us get into the hot seat, but we didn't even make it onto the Top 10 Board. I guess we were rusty -- the last time we'd played was in December. Good thing we grabbed that FASTPASS on the way into our first game -- now we could play another game and try again!

Our second game was an entirely different story. The contestant from our first game was carried forward into the hot seat for the start of the second game. This was great news for Dave because he's very good at answering the higher-point questions and generally the rest of the audience is not. (For tips on answering the questions quickly and getting into the hot seat, see our report from April 2001 at Sure enough, when the next Top 10 Board was flashed, seats 286 and 287 were in first and second place -- that was Dave and me! (At this point I leaned over and said, "Dave, if they call my seat number will you go in my place?" He just laughed and shook his head "no.") And, wouldn't you know it, the contestant in the hot seat got the next question wrong. The Top 10 Board was flashed on the overhead screens again. Our hearts stood still while we watched the seat numbers display from bottom to top.... SEAT 286 WAS IN FIRST PLACE! Way to go, Dave!

So Dave tripped on down the stairs (we were in the nose-bleed section), settled into the hot seat, and said hello to the host, Don. This is probably Dave's fifth or sixth visit to the hot seat since the show opened in April 2001, so he's pretty comfy in it by this point. He was down there grinning away, cracking jokes with Don, and generally having a good time. I love watching Dave do stuff like this -- unlike me, he's not shy and he can really ham it up. I'm sure I was grinning as much as him.

The easy, low-point questions flew by with ease. Dave always had a witty remark to make when he gave his answers. (Later, someone who watched Dave play would say she thought Dave was a "ringer" because he cracked so many jokes and seemed so comfortable.)

Here's one of those easy questions:
What is the small clod of dirt created when a golfer swings called? Is it... A. divan B. mump C. divot D. hole

Dave answered "divot" and got it right!

Eventually, Dave got stumped by a question and called in a lifeline. Here's the question:
Which of the following is not a member of the Fabulous Fantastic Four? Is it... A. Invisible Woman B. Dr. Octopus C. The Thing D. The Human Torch

Dave asked the audience for their opinions. When the results were flashed on the screens, the audience favored Dr. Octopus as the answer. Dave went with the audience and was rewarded by moving on to the next level!

One of the questions that Dave amazed me with was about a clothing designer...
What is designer Vera Wang known for? Is it... A. childrens clothing B. shoes C. wedding dresses D. mens sportswear

I thought for sure Dave would bomb on this one. Instead, he started talking about how he'd read an article about her company recently and he was quite sure she designed wedding dresses. And he was correct!

One of the things Dave did during that game that made a big difference was talk through his answers out loud. For example, he had a tricky Elvis question that went something like this:
What product did Elvis sing a commercial for in 1954? Was it... A. cigarettes B. shoes C. cars D. donuts

Now a lot of us might have thought shoes ("Blue Suede Shoes"), but Dave knew Elvis' career was very, very young in 1954 -- Blue Suede Shoes didn't debut until 1956. What about cars or cigarettes? Dave knew that both were big items in the 1950s and were being represented by big names, which Elvis was not yet. That left just donuts, which he went with as his final answer. Bingo! He got it right thanks to deductive reasoning! (By the way, a quick search of the Internet reveals that donuts were Elvis Presley's favorite food. Figures.)

Dave's 50/50 lifeline was used on his 32,000-point question:
What gas does dry ice become when it melts? Is it... A. nitrogen B. carbon monoxide C. hydrogen D. carbon dioxide

The 50/50 lifeline took away A and C, and left Dave with just carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. I remember Dave saying something like, "Well, who would use dry ice if it became the deadly carbon monoxide when it melted? So I'm going to go with the two oxygen molecules. D. Carbon Dioxide. Final Answer." Ding! Ding! Ding! He got it right!

We can only remember one Disney-specific question among all those he had to answer. Here it is:
Which one of these Disney milestones did not occur in the 1920s? Was it... A. Opening of Disney Studios B. Debut of Mickey Mouse C. The First Silly Symphony D. Opening of Epcot

Dave knew that Epcot opened in the 80s, so it must be Epcot. That was an easy one for him (and probably most everyone else).

By the time he got to the 250,000-point question, he was down to just one lifeline. The audience was getting excited and those guests who were seated near me kept looking back to see how I was reacting. Needless to say, I was very happy -- it was great to see him doing so well! Dave is a trivia whiz and it's fun to watch him show off his talent. I must admit that at this point I figured he'd get a question wrong soon. I've never seen anyone (other than Dave) get past the 250,000-point question. Here was his next question:

What airport was originally called Orchard Field? Is it... A. LaGuardia B. Los Angeles International C. O'Hare D. Dulles

Ouch! Dave deliberated over this one for a while, and finally gave up and used his Phone a Complete Stranger lifeline. Anyone who has watched the game played at the park knows that this lifeline is virtually useless -- the random person they choose to answer the question almost never has any idea of the answer. Well, this time a man named Tony came on the phone. And would you believe it, he was from Chicago! Dave repeated the question and answers to Tony, who paused for about three seconds and then announced that it was O'Hare. He was positive. And who wouldn't believe a guy from Chicago if he thought it was O'Hare? So Dave went with O'Hare as his final answer.... and YES! HE GOT IT! Thank you, Tony from Chicago!!

Just two questions to go... the tension on the soundstage was palpable. I knew that this was as far as Dave had gone in the past -- on his best game, he'd bombed on the 500,000 point question. So I crossed my fingers and listened to the next question...

What New York City restaurant is known for its collection of jockeys? Is it... A. '21' Club B. Gallagher's Steakhouse C. The Four Seasons D. Tavern on the Green

As soon as I heard "New York City restaurant," I was beside myself! Dave grew up just one mile from NYC and worked in Manhattan for 25 years. He knew NYC! And sure enough, he didn't need anytime to think about his answer... he knew it was "A. 21 Club. Final answer." The host paused and said, "I'm so sorry... but that is absolutely correct!"

Amazing! He'd just beaten his own record and he had only one question to go! The audience was going wild -- clapping and cheering him on. You could feel the energy from all 650 people. It was quite an experience to sit there and look down upon all those people surrounding Dave, who was grinning from ear to ear. He didn't even look nervous. I know I was, though. I closed my eyes and thought, "You can do it, Dave. I believe in you." When I opened my eyes, it was time for the final question...

Which of these musicals did Mary Martin not receive a Tony Award for? Was it... A. Peter Pan B. The Sound of Music C. I Do! I Do! D. South Pacific

A question about musicals! Surely Dave, with his music background, had a good shot at answering this one correctly! He had 45 seconds on the clock and used most of that as he reasoned through his answers aloud. He was pretty sure that "Peter Pan," "The Sound of Music," and "South Pacific" had all won Tony Awards, and he knew that often when the musical wins, the lead actor/actress wins as well. He was also quite sure that Mary Martin was in all three of those musicals. So that left just "I Do! I Do!" He wasn't at all sure that Mary Martin was in that musical. (It turns out she was.) So he took a deep breath and gave "C. 'I Do! I Do!' Final answer."

The host again paused, but this time he just couldn't contain his smile. DAVE HAD DONE IT! Streamers and confetti came flying out of the ceiling, the crowd roared and got to its feet, and Dave was beaming. I started crying out of sheer happiness! Dave had done it! I was so proud of him! Amidst all the applause, I went down to the stage and gave Dave a huge hug. I'll never forget that moment.

Afterwards, we both went backstage to sign the waiver and get the prizes. Dave won the complete pin set (14 pins), a lanyard, a polo shirt, a baseball cap, a very heavy gold medallion that says "I'm a Million-Point Winner," a leather Millionaire varsity jacket that also says "I'm a Million-Point Winner," and a trip for two to New York City! We each got a huge, display-only boarding pass for the NYC trip, too. The trip is for two adults (each must be over 18) and is good for three days, two nights -- Disney pays for your airfare, ground transportation, hotel, and a daily allowance for food and incidentals of $50/day. We should have the opportunity to see a taping of one of the "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" specials, since they aren't doing their nightly shows anymore. Alternatively, we can see a taping of "Regis and Kelly," though we'd really prefer to see Millionaire. We're thinking of setting a date for this fall, once we learn the production schedule.

Before we left, the cast members (who were quite excited about Dave's win) invited Dave to get his photo taken in the hot seat with the host (see photo on right).

Dave floated on air the rest of the day. We are so happy we went to Disney-MGM Studios rather than Epcot on that last day. His winning really made our week! And as soon as I got home, I went to the Jeopardy Web site and signed Dave up for Jeopardy try-outs when they come through our area next. I think he has what it takes and I'd love to see him show off his knowledge on TV! I really think he has a gift.

(Forgive me if I gush a bit too much -- I'm just so proud of him!)

daveinhotseat2.gif (48292 bytes)

Ok, so the title of this article is "How to Become a 'Millionaire' at Disney" -- here's what I feel Dave did that got him the grand prize, and what can also help you:

1. While playing along in the audience, he answered the questions correctly and quickly. Here's a speed tip: As soon as the question is displayed, position you fingers over the keys on the keypad. When you see the correct answer, IMMEDIATELY begin pressing the corresponding key over and over until the light above it lights up and remains lit. Don't wait for the light to appear to hit the key. You want to get your answer in as fast as possible. The faster you answer, the higher your score.

2. We had the good fortune to play along with a carry-over contestant from the previous game, meaning the questions started out higher than usual. This was good for Dave because he knows the tough questions and with less competition from the audience, his score was more likely to be the highest. This would hold true for anyone else like Dave, too. (My score was high, too, but only because I looked over Dave's shoulder when I didn't know the answer. I know, I know -- bad Jennifer.)

3. When Dave was called down to the hot seat, he remained cool and calm. And he had fun. Getting overly nervous or anxious won't help you think straight. So take a deep breath and go with it. The audience is very supportive -- I've never head anyone make any negative comments about someone in the hot seat.

4. Dave talked through all his answers out loud. Not only did this encourage him to think carefully about this answers, but I think it helped him concentrate.

5. Dave used his lifelines when necessary. In the past, Dave's biggest problem was not using his lifelines, preferring to save them for harder questions. But if you bomb out on early, it doesn't matter if you have lifelines left. Use those lifelines if you're not 90% sure of your answer.

6. Dave continued answering questions after he'd used his lifelines. He could have walked away and gotten the pins for the answers he got correct, but he took a risk and won. If he were playing for dollars, it might have been wiser to walk -- but these are just pins, after all. Go for it!!

Good luck playing "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire--Play It!" on YOUR trip to Walt Disney World. If you make it into the hot seat, or have made it in the past, please write us and share your experiences! Better yet, post them on our message board at:

>>Things To Do: If you have any questions about Dave's "Millionaire" experience, feel free to e-mail him at I'm sure he'd also enjoy a simple congratulatory letter, if you're so inclined.


Return to | Discuss Millionaire on the PassPorter Message Boards


Updated 12/29/06 

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