Disney. Pictures. Stuff. And so on…

Never stopped smiling

By now, you know that I work for a major University somewhere in the Southeast. After asking around campus, I found a number of former Disney Cast Members that are either alumni or staff. There is one faculty member, but that’s a story for another day.

Once I heard from Laura, I thought, “This is a great angle. The Disney Store!” It’s not a park, but Disney through and through.

This is a good example of the great people that work on campus and that I get to deal with regularly. I do like it here…

Laura!!

Tell us about yourself:

My name Laura Burris. I’m 32 and from Wauchula, FL, though mostly raised in Lawrenceville, GA. I currently work at UGA in the Department of Crop & Soil Sciences. (Ed’s Note: Check out her blog. She’s also on Twitter)

What’s your favorite Disney park?

Animal Kingdom

What’s your favorite Disney ride?

Tomorrowland Transit Authority (formerly WEDWay PeopleMover, And now, the PeopleMover again!) at the Magic Kingdom.

Favorite Disney food/treat?

DOLE WHIP!

Favorite Disney Souvenir?

Hand-signed drawing of Kuzco, as a llama, from the ‘Emperor’s New Groove’ by a Disney artist.

"It's ME time now!"

Favorite Disney movie?

Aristocats and Mary Poppins (Ed’s Note: I love the Aristocats too!)

Dig these crazy cats...

Tell us about working for Disney:

I was a retail sales Cast Member in the Atlanta Disney Store in 1999. Working for Disney has been my dream for as long as I can remember. Being from Florida, I started going to Walt Disney World as a baby, and I just always knew it was the company I wanted to be a part of.

Reason for leaving?

My full-time job offered me a promotion, which included a transfer to a different market. Plus, the holiday season was ending, and Disney was letting a number of their part-time help go.

Tell us your favorite memory of working there:

I will never forget the first day I worked for Disney. Putting on my costume (nothing more than khaki pants and a white button down shirt at home, and then adding a sweater and nametag once I was backstage) for the first time meant that I was fulfilling a lifelong dream.

Funniest event while you were on the clock:

Shortly before Halloween, we were trying to showcase our adult Halloween costumes. A family came in, and some of the Cast Members and I convinced one of the parents to put on the Pooh costume in store. Then, with the parent, we walked to the store entrance, and started dancing around. Kids and parents came up to watch, and everybody was laughing. I don’t think I stopped smiling the rest of the day.

Was it you? Did you dance as Pooh in front of the Disney Store in 1999?

Tells us something no one knows about Disney:

The parks are inspected in minute detail every night. If paint is chipped, it’s repainted. If something is broken, it’s fixed or replaced. That is why the parks always look as if they just opened for the very first time. Disney is about DETAIL!

Would you go back?

In a heartbeat!

What, if anything, did you learn from Disney?

Even the perfect job is not perfect. Like many, I had a little bit of an idea that working for Disney would be all fun and games. It’s not. It’s a company, first and foremost, and has to be run like a company. A retail store is a retail store, no matter what the name on the storefront. But, I also learned that in the right environment, even a bad day can be ok. Despite typical frustrations, as you’ll find at any job, I never left my shift without a smile on my face.

Are you still in contact with Disney co-workers?

Yes, a couple. One remains one of my best friends.

If you could change anything about Disney, what would it be?

I’d like to see more focus on classic Disney. While it exists in the parks, the stores and programming (on the Disney Channel) have really moved from Walt’s original ideas. I don’t mean that it has to be all Mickey, all the time. But I know of kids who barely know who Mickey Mouse is, but could recite lines of The Suite Life. In Walt’s words, “My only hope is that we never lose sight of one thing, that it was all started by a mouse.” I feel that the company is slowly losing touch with its history. The cartoons of yesteryear are still appealing today. Classic animated movies are still incredible, but yet, their never shown on TV. I really feel that the historical background needs to at least be highlighted on a regular basis.

Kurt Russell was contracted by Walt Disney himself for 10 years in the 1960's. He made some great TV movies for Disney. None of them involved him going to school on a cruise ship.

Are you glad you worked there?

Absolutely!

Anything else you’d like to share?

The next time you visit a park, pay attention to detail. Don’t just move through a ride queue, look at what is around you. Look at the writing on the boxes, calendars, noteboards, clothing, etc. Look above you. Look at the ground. Nothing is there just to fill space. Everything is there for a reason. And always look for hidden Mickeys!

One of many 'hidden mickey's' you'll find in the parks. This one's in Animal Kingdom. Do you have a favorite?

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