Disney. Pictures. Stuff. And so on…

Jennifer and I went to high school together, as did her little sister. I remember playing drums for her senior chorus performance in 1986. She’s now the principal at an excellent alternative high school in Dalton, GA. Disney and Facebook, bringing people back together for years…

Tell us about yourself?

My name’s Jennifer Phinney (Ed’s Note: Her maiden name is Martin in case you were wondering if you went to high school with her too) and I’m 42. I’m from Dalton, GA and am now principal at Morris Innovative High School in Dalton. I’m married with 3 beautiful children.

What’s your favorite Disney park?

It would be a tie between Disney/MGM studios (now Disney Hollywood Studios) and Future World at EPCOT.

EPCOT. I love Future World too. You know Future World right? It's got the giant ball? Good, let's move on...

What’s your favorite Disney ride?

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. (Ed’s Note: Before the Fantasyland expansion announcement, there were rumors that Thunder Mountain would get a new interactive queue within the next two years, much like was unveiled at Winnie the Pooh last year. I’ve heard nothing about it recently however.)

What’s your favorite Disney food/treat?

Mickey ice cream bar

What’s your favorite Disney souvenir?

Framed Disney silhouettes of my children from Liberty Square.

Liberty Square. Or as most people know it 'where the Haunted Mansion is.' It's one of the more unsung lands at the Magic Kingdom. It's also one of the only places to get a funnel cake in the parks. And it has a Christmas shop. But mostly, funnel cakes. mmmmmmm, funnel cakes...

What’s your favorite Disney movie?

Little Mermaid (was released while I worked there).

The Voyage of the Little Mermaid is a 15-minute show at Disney Hollywood Studios. I've never seen it. Maybe because in 1991, while working at a Waldenbooks, 'The Little Mermaid' was played every day for months. I still have a hard time watching it...

Tell us about working for Disney:

I was there from 1989 – 1990 as a Backstage Studio Tour Guide at what was then Disney/MGM Studios. That was when the tour was about an hour and a half long, so we had some challenges learning the script every day!

This logo is so '80's you can smell the hairspray. I always wished I had gone back then. I did get to see it before the name change however, so that's something. Moving on...

An old Studios brochure circa 1994-95. Did you know the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is 199 feet tall. If it was 200, it would require airline warning lights at the top. It's also now full of cellular equipment.

Studios map circa 1990. The park was devoid of rides for the most part, focusing instead on movie and TV production. Times change...

Why did you begin working for Disney?

I interviewed for the WDW College Program on a whim. I was at UGA at the time (Ed’s Note: Go Dawgs!) I had to ride a bus from Athens, GA to Clemson, SC where the interviews were held, and then they offered me a job. I decided that it would be a pretty cool adventure, so I took the job and some time off from school.

Why did you leave Disney?

I had to go back to UGA to finish school. I majored in English, Vocal Music and History.

Tell us your favorite memory of working there?

I have many, but one of my favorites was during training. My wonderful trainer, John Dalyrimple, brought my soon-to-be best friend Carol and I into the Studios before it opened to the public and let us just wander around. Most folks never get to see how really beautiful the parks are because they are full of people all the time, but when no one is there – they are the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen. (Ed’s Note: Some people have all the luck)

An empty early-morning Magic Kingdom.

Can you share a really bad day at Disney with us?

I didn’t really have one, but I did have to break up a fight between two women in the Special Effects area during one of my tours one day.

The current special effects area of the Backlot tour. They do a really nice job with this I think. Plus, the last time I did it, they had 'Pearl Harbor', 'The Rock' and 'Armageddon' props on display. It was a Michael Bay explosionorama!! Which is to say, Michael Bay. I digress.

Where did you live while in Orlando?

Vista Way, baby!

What was the most interesting or funniest event while you were on the clock?

Watching the tutor try to corral the new Mickey Mouse Club Mouseketeers into their “school” trailer everyday.  They were NOT very nice children. Also, I was part of the first group of people who worked at the Studios, which was very interesting because we were making up a lot of it as we went along.

(Ed’s Note: The 1989 revival of the ‘Mickey Mouse Club’ ran for 7 seasons from 1989 until 1994. Cast members included Christina Aguilera, JC Chasez, Ryan Gosling, Keri Russell, Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake. Jessica Simpson auditioned, but didn’t make it. The show was shot in Florida at the Studios.)

The New Mickey Mouse Club. Yup, that's Christina Aguilera sitting in the front.

and now Britney, bottom right

Tells us something no one knows about Disney:

At the time that I worked there, Disney was the single biggest employer in the state of Florida – that was why they had the EPCOT Student program, the WDW College program, etc – to bring in extra workers, particularly during their biggest seasons.

As you can see, the extra help is needed from time-to-time.

Did you ever see a celebrity in the parks?

Many – Jodi Benson, Elliott Gould, Bill Murray, Motley Crue, Pat Sajak and Vanna White, plus the Mousketeers including Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera.

I agonized over what picture to use here. But, Elliott Gould just doesn't get enough attention these days, so here he is as Reuben from Ocean's 13.

Jodi Benson is the voice behind Ariel in 'The Little Mermaid', Barbie in 'Toy Story' 2 and 3 and cameoed with other Disney Princesses Paige O'Hara ('Belle' in Beauty and the Beast), Judy Kuhn (Pocahontas) and Julie Andrews (Mary Poppins) in 'Enchanted'.

Would you go back?

In a minute – if I could live on $5 an hour.

Did working for Disney help your career?

I think so, if only because future employers found it very interesting that I had worked there and would call me for an interview just to ask about that.

What, if anything, did you learn from Disney?

I learned that people in large groups do not think very well. (Ed’s Note: Oddly enough, working for a major University teaches the exact same lesson.)

Are you still in contact with Disney co-workers?

Several, especially through Facebook.

How did you share the Disney magic while working in the parks?

Mostly by just being friendly and taking time. The greatest thing about that job was that your employer WANTED you to take time with folks. That is something I do in my job now, and it makes a huge difference in people’s attitudes if they feel like they are getting your whole attention and your time.

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

Reduce the crowds on any given day, but I know they rely on that revenue to keep the lights on.

umm, yeah. Crowds can be an issue.

Are you glad you worked there?

Absolutely – most fun job ever!

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

It is absolutely the perfect job for a college age student – very low stress and a wonderful opportunity!

That's Jennifer towards the back on the right. And yes, we ALL wore acid-wash back then. The sooner we all accept it, the sooner the healing will begin.

 

Thanks so much to Jennifer for taking the time to talk to us! See ya real soon.

Comments on: "The most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen…" (1)

  1. Chris, I am in love with this cast picture at the bottom form 89! Not only was I born in this year, this photo has now given me outfit inspiration for a solid week.
    -Brittany!

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