The Decent Chancers
After nearly two decades of running his family business, underachieving genius Bill Durmer finds himself unemployed and staring headlong at 40. Though he is universally loved and admired in his hometown (except perhaps by his domineering younger sister, Nancy), Bill feels his life is marked by disappointment and failure. Having studied robotics at M.I.T., Bill expected a career worthy of his lofty academic pedigree. Instead, he dropped out of grad school and moved home to Decent Chance, Alabama to run the family electronic store after the death of his father.
A solid citizen, Bill isn’t without his quirks. He creates a litany of arbitrary and obscure rules for governing his behavior – don’t drink anything yellow, avoid small talk, don’t post yard signs and never murmur being examples – most of which he chooses to ignore. He channels his inner Imagineer by designing Mardi Gras floats and dabbling in mostly useless robotics and audio animatronics. One of his rare flights of fancy (and his love of a good pot or three of coffee) sends him on the most fateful and bizarre journey of his life.
Bill’s nine-year-old daughter, Cleary Durmer is kind, loquacious and mature beyond her years. She is unwavering loyal to her father, even when his choices leave them stranded in a hotel room, surrounded by the Mickey-eared commandos of the Disney World S.W.A.T. team. The only thing that seems to get under her skin is the occasional obtuseness of her cousin and best friend, Dara Thompson.
Bill’s wife of 16-plus years, Katherine is strong, resourceful, opinionated and supportive of her husband … to a point. She believes him capable of greatness, but is wise enough to know that greatness is not indicated by a paycheck. A woman of faith, Katherine has had to survive the barbs of Nancy, who blames her for pulling Bill away from the Catholic congregation at Our Lady of Superior Breeding.
Nancy Durmer Thompson
Bill’s younger sister, Nancy is a classist to the manor born. A fixture in the high society of her hometown of Decent Chance, Nancy works hard to protect her only child, Dara, from the influence of “fatties and the spawn of mechanics.” Nancy married Bill’s best friend, Kenny Thompson, after college and has never failed to gloat over Kenny’s success – in a passive-aggressive Southern way, of course. After all, other people can’t help it that they’re poor or lazy, bless their hearts. Cold, controlling and melodramatic, Nancy nonetheless has a soft, warm side. At least that’s the rumor. No one has seen it in years.
Jack moved to Decent Chance shortly after Bill moved back home. He opened a 19th century-themed dairy bar in the storefront adjacent to Durmer Electronics. It lasted less than two years. In the years that followed, Jack opened and closed the store no less than eight times. The failed businesses included an Arctic-themed night spot with the unfortunate name Seal Club, a pre-school boxing gym and a dry cleaner that specialized in whites only – and advertised itself as such. While the natives of Decent Chance expected this Yankee interloper to turn tail and run after each store closing, he never did. An odd little fellow with a mechanical gait, one eye and seemingly no social life or family, Jack nonetheless became one of Bill’s closest friends. If only Bill knew how inextricably Jack was tied his own destiny …
This kindly old bus driver takes Bill under his wing, and as things begin to get weird for the younger man, Red becomes a trusted confidant. He is a font of Disney knowledge, so much so that Bill wonders how such a lowly cast member could know so much. Then again, he is a Disney World bus driver. Given their penchant for tall tales, everything he says should be questioned.
Battalion Chief Mortimer
Mortimer is the commander of the Reedy Creek Critical Action Response unit (RC CAR, for short), the de facto S.W.A.T. team of Walt Disney World. A no-nonsense man who has more in common with Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men than Uncle Walt, he has one overriding rule in life: respect the Mouse.
Christmas Tree Head
Emblematic of the kind of fandom that reduces otherwise mature adults into complete buffoons, Christmas Tree Head seems to show up when Bill is most wary of small talk … and least capable of resisting it. Despite his oafish size and demeanor (and the foam Christmas tree he wears for a hat), There may be more to this Disney fan than meets the eye. Bill doubts it.
The Towel Baby Couple
A wealthy couple who lead an otherwise normal life, the Towel Baby Couple take on a bizarre level of eccentricity when they visit WDW. There, they assuage old wounds by carrying a “baby” that is nothing more than a swaddled towel. And they insist the baby knows something about Bill’s destiny. What if they’re right?
This aging artist and former Imagineer is concerned only with Disney’s mission to the children of the world. She evidences this fact by traveling en masse with a coterie of dolls, her little “rubberheads” from It’s A Small World. Despite being possibly unhinged, she seems nice enough … so long as you have enough room in your bus for her dolls.
The Cast of Thousands
This group, led by a kidnapping princess and a chimney sweep with a burning desire for a beach condo, claim to represent all rank-and-file WDW cast members. Their actual ostensible leader is Mark Oerlander, a failed animator and Disney lifer whose disinterest and inscrutable facial expressions have allowed him to rise to the head of human resources for the entire Orlando campus. Few know him well, but those who know him best believe he’ll fail his way to the top.
This aging former Imagineer in 50s spaceman garb and with a stentorian bellow is a throwback in every sense of the word. He laments the loss of Tomorrowland’s vision of the future and warns all who will listen to “beware the cartoon future that never was.” Like many of the other Disneyites, Tomorrow Man knows far too much about Bill’s life for his comfort.
This raucous, pink-clad gang of women on a mother’s day out seem harmless enough. However, like many of the other factions of Disney fans with designs on Bill’s loyalty, they have an agenda. An uncritical bunch, they love all things Disney. A sub-group of another faction known as the Frank & Ollies, the Moms’ leader by proxy is a woman who bears striking resemblance to Bill’s wife, Katherine. She is known simply as Mommy, a name Bill refuses to utter.
The Captain Jacks
Formerly known as the Devils and Black Sheep, this group is concerned first and foremost with the future and legacy of their favorite attraction: Pirates of the Caribbean. The vast majority of the crew prefer to dress as their namesake, Captain Jack Sparrow, but their leader bears more than a passing resemblance to the man who brought Jack to life, Johnny Depp. Call him on this if you like, but he’ll never answer to anything other than “Jack.”
A group composed entirely of current and former Imagineers, they are obsessed with the history, art and design of the parks. They are led by an earring-bedecked, hairy man-beast of a senior Imagineer known only as The Yeti. They claim this is because he helped design Expedition Everest. His glandular issues and faint smell of wet dog make Bill think otherwise.
Grim Grinning Ghosts
As with the Captain Jacks, the Triple Gs are concerned only with the fate of the Haunted Mansion. Their leader is a pale, gaunt pencil of a cast member named Reynaldo, who dresses like a mortician and has about as much charm. He never breaks character and always “plusses” the attraction, leading some to despise his over-the-top presence.
Also known as the Mintz-Powers Group, this faction are anything but Disney fans. In fact, their goal is to do whatever possible to denigrate or bring down the Mouse. If Bill is an innocent victim of their machinations, then so be it.