Friday, November 22, 2013

Out of the Mouth of a Former Castmember.

Over the next few weeks we will be bringing you some different interviews from some castmembers and an avid runDisney fan. These interviews are allowing us to look at what it's like to work for Disney in different areas, what to expect at different events, and how to train better for runs. 

This first interview is from a castmember that worked in Fantasyland and the Photopass departments. They wished to be kept anonymous. 

What sparked your interest in being a cast member at Disney?

I needed something to do after college.  My mom actually found the College Program (CP) for me and I was very hesitant as I am from the Northwest and had never been that far away for that extended period of time.  
Where did you work, and for how long?
I was at Walt Disney World WDW for 8 months in 05 for my CP I was in Attractions and worked the “Pooh side” of Fantasyland. Pooh side – Snow White, Winnie the Pooh, Pooh’s Playful Spot, and the Teacups. Pan side – Philharmagic, Peter Pan, Small World, Dumbo. Shifts or rotations would be roughly 45 mins at a post then everyone would rotate. I also was trained in the then Toon Town working Goofy’s Barnstormer and the Character meet and greet in the bigtop. Then I went back from 06- 07 and worked as Photopass Photographer in the Resorts.

What were you expectations on working with the company? Did they change when you started working there?

I really had no expectations my first round as I thought it would be fun thing to do and something that not a lot of people have on their resume.  After starting it became a job.  The college program was hard as we didn’t make much, I didn’t have a car and was scheduled pretty grueling hours.  The first week I think I worked 6 straight 14 hour days.  Then it leveled off for a while normal 5 days at 9 hours (2 15 min breaks and half hour lunch).  
It’s a difficult environment to work in. Everyone is having fun and magic while you are working your seventh straight day on Christmas day being away from your family. But I signed up for it. Disney wants you to be the best Disney you you can be. No matter what is going on bills, family issues, car troubles, you needed to come to work happy and leave all that behind. That gets difficult over time. Like your living in two different worlds.

Did working at Disney change the magic of enjoying Disney, if so, how?

It can.  It did for me a little.  I have a jaded view of the company as a whole as I know information I wouldn’t have if I never worked there.  I met my wife there and we both were worn out but we have still gone back after leaving every year. And now we have a 2 year old who has already been 4 times.  We are now living up in the North East.  Just the every day aspect of working behind the scenes gives you insight into how things work and magic starts to dwindle.  Even though you know there are people in costumes it still hits you hard when you see things behind closed doors the guests are not allowed to see.  I was definitely burnt out.
I still get goose bumps though when we walk under the train and onto Main Street.  When we have a car down there I get excited when we drive under the huge Welcome Sign.  I know the words to Wishes and Hallowishes and the Christmas Wishes show and when to take a picture of the best parts in those shows.  But I still love them.  I get chills watching Wishes and Illuminations still.  Now with a young child I get to see the parks and magic through him and it is amazing.  

Do you have any advice for anyone that is looking to work for a Disney Theme Park?

If you are on the fence about it, do it.  Even just for a short time.  It gives you a huge appreciation for what goes on down there.  Also it looks great on resumes.  Usually that was the first thing people asked about.  Most of the time they don’t want to hear about the difficulties they just want to hear how much fun it is to work there. 
What was the biggest surprise that you had once you joined the company?
That I enjoyed it so much.  I was, still am a little introverted but Disney throws you to the wolves instantly.  You have to find your voice fast and think on your feet.  Many times rides went down and people were upset after waiting in line for over an hour.  We had return entry passes for those situations but guests are still mad.  Announcing that the ride was down to everyone in line was difficult trying to be loud over music and everyone talking.  Back then we weren’t left alone long. Usually managers were notified and maintenance came quickly to help with the crowds.  

Even for my issues with the company and their practices I still tried these last couple years to get back in.  I wanted something long term and permanent and warmer climate.  I had some family medical issues when I left ’07 which caused me to leave very quickly and not under the correct ways. Disney keeps records of the points and demerits of your entire history.  So things haven’t worked out for that.  

How long was training and what did it consist of?

Training was about 2 days.  First day is called Traditions which if I remember correctly was roughly 8 hours or so.  You dressed up in your Sunday best and were in a room with 12 – 16 or so other new cast members and went through the history of Disney himself and the parks.  You do some ice breaker stuff even though you most likely will never see these people again unless they are in the same department.  Even then you may not see them ever.  The second day again in your Sunday best, you had a tour of the park you are working in.  They take you through some rides and give you the back story of each, filling you with the Disney Magic.  Also when you start in your position there is separate training specific to that role which takes a few days.  Working at Fantasy land you needed to know the characters and their back story so we watched The Many Adventures of Whinnie the Pooh, and a little of Snow White.  We followed other trainers as they walked us through the rides and our functions at each post.  We were quizzed and tested in person at each ride and on paper. 

Did you get the job that you wanted?

In the long run yes.  Fantasyland was a great place to work.  It was always the busiest out of all the areas.  I worked 2nd shift so I got home late but all of my roommates were always up.  Also working photopass in the resorts area is almost cake compared to working in the parks.  I worked 1 day in the park on Main street and then was transferred to the new program opening in the resorts.  I was mad as I thought I was going to be at the parks all day.  Turns out the resorts are all air conditioned and had standard and some even shorter hours than the parks did.  And I could pick up hours in the parks if I wanted to.  Back then I didn’t need the money as much.  Again I got to bid for resorts and for 2nd shift, which is mainly Chefs for dinner, Hoop Dee Doo, the Luau Dinner show and Backyard BBQ.  So staying up late and sleeping in was always good. 

How hard was it to keep the smile on?

Very hard. Disney has long hours and you have be on you game at all times. You see a lot that makes you lose the magic and you experience a lot that makes the Happiest Place on Earth just another work environment.

What’s the best thing that you experienced while working at Disney? Worst? Craziest?

The craziest was being yelled at by fast pass people who just walked up the line and were furious I didn’t take them right away.  I let like 30 people go from the regular line who had been there over 45 mins.  People assume that you will get right on with a fastpass it isn’t the case.  Also the craziest is to see the amount of kids kicked out during Night of Joy. 
The worst was when I was asked how many people will fit in the Whinnie the Pooh honey pot car. I told the quest 3 in each row. He looked down at my stomach and said not three of you. But I still had to keep the smile on.
The best part of working there is the instant gratification that comes with making someone’s day magical. I got to talk to a kid and calm them down after their parents went missing. Parents go missing, children know exactly where they are at all times. That always made them smile. Getting a kid that dropped their ice cream walking away from the stand a new one right away without having to pay was the best thing for them at that moment. Talking to guests about their plans and answer their questions about what to do first and giving them tips on where to go, and then seeing them a few days later and them thanking me for the help was great. You didn’t have to be Mickey or Minnie to make a magical moment for anyone.
I had a family over at the tent seeing the characters – Poohs friends, princesses and Mickey’s Pals, but Mickey wasn’t there he was over at the Judges tent behind his house. The family was leaving the next day and hadn’t gotten Mickey to sign the kids book. The park was closed as they were telling me this and I knew Mickey was already gone from the Judges tent. So I told them to wait here with another cast member and ran down a Mickey back stage leaving and had them sign the autograph book. It took a while to find a Mickey but the family was so thankful and happy when I returned with the book.

What would you suggest for the different hard ticket events (thinks to see, where to and not to go, etc).Any hard ticket events you wouldn't recommend and why?

Night of Joy seems like the only one I can think of. If you’re a fan of any of the music acts playing then I guess it’s a good thing to go to. But I have heard of stories where teens, supposedly religious teens (due to the type of event) are some of the more rowdy crowds throughout the entire year. Security has to intervene and eject more people during this even than other through the year. Which is sad as I do not believe many who are ejected realize they may be banned for life.

The parties are the best time to do MK. Almost cost one third less the regular price of a daily ticket, and there are far less people in the park. The parties are packed yes but nowhere near capacity like a normal Christmas day or New Year time frame. My family seems to get more done during the parties. If you can outlast some other families you can almost walk on to any ride in the parks. Working back in 05 we would be sending empty cars at Pooh’s ride and Snow White’s ride. If we stopped sending cars there was a loud alarm that went off on those rides. Those nights seemed to go on forever. Interacting with the guests made the days and nights go by so much faster. I think the ticketed events let guests get in at 4pm now and usually last till midnight or later.

Next week we will bring you an great interview about the College Program from a castmember working with the Characters!

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