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Sir Willow interview

Today I'm excited to share our interview with Sir Willow. We chat all about his pin collections, memories from being a Photopass cast member, and more!

Be sure to check out his YouTube channel and Instagram account.
Sir Willow
Sir Willow
Thanks for taking the time! Let's start by finding out a little more about you.

I'm an older guy (age 51), married with two adult kids. 

Long time theme park and roller coaster fan, growing up in California visiting Disneyland and Marriott's Great America often, along with the other parks in California. 

I've worked at several parks and have been a full-time teacher, and I'm currently pastoring a small church in SW Missouri while also producing videos about my time working at theme parks and visiting them.

Very cool, and when and how did you get into pin trading?

We first started when we took our kids to Disneyland for the first time, way back in September 2001 (they still have their original pins from that trip!) On later visits, we added a few more here and there. 

But where I really caught the bug was when I was a Photopass cast member at Walt Disney World from 2006 to 2011 when I began to pick them up at cast member sales, getting cast exclusives, and it just kind of blew up from there.

We will ask you more about your time doing Photopass later, but for now, what are your main collections and why?

Cast exclusives are a big one for me, going back to when I was a cast member. I also collect a lot of Donald Duck, Chip and Dale and Figments because I worked with them a bunch at WDW.
Some of Sir Willow's Cast Member Exclusive pins
Some of Sir Willow's Cast Member Exclusive pins
There's also Pirates and Galaxies Edge because I'm a big fan of those. And a number of others just because I like them.

Amazing collections! Cast member exclusives are often great pins. How many pins do you have in your collection?

The last time I counted, I was over 450, and I've added a good number since then. I'd guess somewhere between 600 and 700.

And out of those 700ish, what is your favourite pin?

Tough question. I generally don't do well picking favorites because there are so many things I like.

My favorite series of pins is probably my World Showcase Figments, where each pin has Figment in an outfit and holding a flag representing each country around the World Showcase. They were cast lanyard pins when I worked there, but I was missing one pin from the set until a couple of years back when a viewer sent it to me.
Some of Sir Willow's Figment Collection
Some of Sir Willow's Figment Collection
I'm also proud to have a fantasy pin that cast members made in honor of a friend of Pluto involved in a parade accident several years back. While I didn't know him personally, I knew many people who worked with him, so it's a special pin to me.
A pin made in honour of a friend of Pluto involved in a parade accident
A pin made in honour of a friend of Pluto involved in a parade accident
Great picks! What do you like most about pin trading?

It's a fun souvenir that can be very cheap to get into, but also very expensive if you're not careful. They're great for commemorating moments or keeping memories. I love to see what other people have, talk about their pins, and trading is a great way to meet people.

It's also a collectable that many other non-Disney parks offer, so it's a great thing to collect wherever I go. I typically look for pins, magnets, and maps/ brochures when visiting a park or tourist stop.

Speaking of non-Disney pins, I loved seeing on your Facebook page that you have your own pin; what made you decide to make some?

My pins? They came about when viewers started asking me about some unique merchandise. I had the logo and some nice shirts, but the pins were something people asked for. 

I joined a couple of groups where people talked about their fantasy pins for some advice and went for it. It's been fun to have them at get together and when I meet people as well.

If you could change one thing about pin trading, what would it be?

I would get rid of the scammers and all of the fakes that are out there. 

I wish Disney would have done something a long time ago about the floods of cheap knock off pins that are all over the place now and make it hard to find real pins on the cast lanyards in the parks. It's taken a little bit of the fun out of trading with cast members because most of their pins are fakes now.

Do you have any advice for someone who wants to get into pin trading?

Be careful, watch the budget, and make sure you control the pins instead of letting them control you. LOL! Pick a couple of things to focus on to start out with so you don't get overwhelmed, and learn early on how to spot fakes, scrappers, etc. And don't buy pins in bulk lots!  

That is excellent advice! Changing tack a bit, can you tell us a little about your YouTube channel?

I spent ten years working at different theme parks- two at Busch Gardens in Tampa, five as a Photopass photographer at Walt Dinsey World, and three as a train robber/conductor at Silver Dollar City in Missouri. 

My kids actually encouraged me to start, as they were tired of hearing me tell my stories over and over again and hoped that by me telling them to a camera and uploading it, I would get it out of my system. 

Five years later, I'm still going, and it's grown much more than I ever expected it would. It's been a lot of fun, and I've met some incredible people and visiting places I never thought I would through it.

That is incredible; do you have a favourite YouTube video you've made?

My favorite video would be tough. I have a hard time picking favorites anyways. But for a series, probably the silly and dumb guest questions and comments. I love to laugh, and they fit the bill perfectly. In fact, two of my first five videos were of those types.

You can check out one such video here!

And final question, what was one of your favourite Photopass moments at Walt Disney World?

There are so many of them - in fact, a major reason I started the channel was to share all of them. I loved working with the characters and out in the parks taking photos of the guests having fun.

Among my favorites were the Make a Wish kids and their families. Those were also great moments with them. 

One of the most memorable was in what was then Toowntown at the back of Magic Kingdom. We had three rooms with different characters and were told that a really sick Make a Wish child was coming in. 

They actually brought the characters from all three rooms into one room to spend time with this young girl- I'd guess about 12, who they brought in on a small rolling hospital bed hooked up to all sorts of stuff, and I got to watch as those characters- the princesses, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, Donald and others, just poured out love and affection on her. 

I was coming back from a break a few hours later, and as I was going past our small office, I noticed our equipment person crying. When I asked her what was wrong, she told me that the girl had passed away just a short time after she'd seen the characters. 

There were a lot of tears being shed when word got around, but we were also so blessed to be a part of making some of her last moments good ones.

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What an incredible story to end on; thank you so much for sharing.

Again, be sure to check out his YouTube channel and Instagram account for some great Disney (and other!) content.

If you are a pin collector and would like us to interview you, please get in touch.

Written by tosbourn - Friday 04 June 2021

This article was last updated on Friday 18 June 2021.

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