Disney. Pictures. Stuff. And so on…

Welcome dear readers. I met our next interview at work, taking her picture for a story we were doing on her. This is important, because it was after talking to my friend Pam (Ed’s Note: You read Pam’s interview right? It was my first one. No? Umm, go read it and come back. Here’s the link. Go on, read it…;-))and then Anne Marie about Disney that I decided to go ahead and start a blog featuring interviews with cast members.

Anne Marie is one of the many students, faculty and staff that make you proud to work at such an amazing University. I get to meet people like Anne Marie all the time, it’s a true pleasure.

Yes, I took this picture. I'm just as surprised as you are.

Tell us about yourself:

My name is Anne Marie. I am 29 and currently a grad student seeking my Masters of Business Administration from the Terry College of Business and my law degree from the University of Georgia School of Law.

How long did you work at Disney, and what did you do?

I worked for Disney for 7 months as an intern in the College Program in 2002 at Disney’s Animal Kingdom as a Kilimanjaro Safari’s game driver.

Fun facts: The Kilimanjaro Safari trucks are modified GMC trucks converted to run on propane. Unclear if propane accessories were involved.

Harambe is the fictional African village Disney created for Animal Kingdom. The Kilimanjaro Safari starts from here.

(Ed’s Note: Here’s a great site exploring the detail of Harambe)

Why did you begin working for Disney?

I had always loved Disney as a kid. My parents moved to Orlando when I was 6, and we lived 7 minutes from the park! Needless to say, my parent bought season passes and took me to the parks every chance I could convince them–every kid’s fantasy come true! (Ed’s Note: Indeed it is) While I was in college I heard about the Disney College Program and I jumped at the chance to go back for an internship. As an intern, I was very impressed with the company culture and loved every moment of my experience. At the end of my internship, I returned to school to finish my undergraduate degree.

Interested in learning more? Have a look, but please, come back and finish the story...

Tell us your favorite memory of working there:

I am a naturally introverted and shy person. When I applied for the internship I knew that I would be placed where Disney needed me. When I found out that I would be a safari driver, everyone told me how great it would be and how it was one of the top spots for a College Program intern to have. Prior to the internship, I had not been to the Animal Kingdom, so I had no idea what I was in for until I got to the park my first day. When I found out that I would have to entertain guests as a safari driver all day, learn the ins and outs of over 50 different African animal species, and learn how to drive a huge truck–needless to say, I was overwhelmed and scared to death…and excited…all at the same time. I had a flight or fight moment of anxiety for about a day, and then I told myself that this was a once in a lifetime experience and that I would regret it if I asked to be transferred somewhere else. Well, as it ended up, it was one of the best decisions of my life to stay. I got to know so many amazing people, from schools all over the U.S. and countries as far away as Zimbabwe and South Africa. I met amazing guests and was able to create “magical moments” with kids that touched me as much as I hope I touched them by providing a fantastic safari experience.

Located in DinoLand inside Animal Kingdom, Chester & Hester's Dinosaur Treasures is one of my favorite places at Disney. It's full of hidden mickeys, fantastic theming and a great backstory. Thanks to stretchdog on Flickr for the pic.

Do you have a favorite Disney park?

Do I have to pick one? I love them all. I guess EPCOT is my overall favorite. I love to travel and so the World Showcase has always been an amazing experience for me!

World Showcase at EPCOT. This is near the landing servicing the boat from EPCOT to Hollywood Studios. If you've never been on it, it's a treat. Don't believe me???

Here's the boat at the Hollywood Studios dock. This was right before I got on to head to EPCOT. And you didn't think we'd see anything good today...

What is your favorite Disney park ride?

Space Mountain (I know, it’s shocking that the Safari is not my favorite)

Space Mountain at Disneyland Paris. I'll go ahead and say what you're all thinking, 'Paris Disneyland is way more awesome than Disney here.' Though, the French do have a good excuse for superb theming on a fantasy space ride. Thanks to iamdanw on Flickr

What is your favorite Disney food or treat?

Oh that is easy — Ice cream sandwiches at the Main Street Bakery!

Thanks to sanctumsolitude on Flickr

What is your favorite Disney souvenir?

A fanny pack that my mom would wear when we went to the parks. It was pretty ugly (I mean it is a fanny pack), but it reminds me of my mom and the fun times we had in the parks together, so therefore it is my favorite souvenir!

Fanny packs of Disney😉

What is your favorite Disney movie?

Beauty and the Beast

Did you ever see a celebrity in the parks?

Sure…lots! Bruce Willis and Demy Moore came through the line at the Safari ride when I was an intern on the College Program. They were there with their kids and got the special VIP private safari ride! Joey Fatone got the same treatment when he came with his family.

Willis starred in "The Kid' for Disney in 2000. This movie is probably better known now for introducing us to Spencer Breslin, who is growing into a fine actor. Unlike his younger sister who just seems weird...

 

Here's Fatone dancing on the Disney Magic cruise ship in 2007. Fatone has a long history with Disney and Disney Parks. My respect for Fatone went to 11 after his appearance in 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding'. 'I'm gonna kill ya...'

...including this guest spot on Disney's 'Imagination Movers'.

Did you encounter any challenges while working?

One hot summer day after I had a long shift on the truck, I was sweating through my clothes and had gotten only a short break before I had to head out to work in the stroller area. Well, an angry mom came up to me, upset that she couldn’t find her stroller. She yelled at me that it was my fault that she couldn’t find it. I had to remember what I had been taught during Disney orientation…to listen to the guest and to make every effort to solve the problem to their satisfaction. As it ended up, her husband had grabbed the stroller and had taken their kids to the bathroom without telling her. When she found out, she apologized to me and I gave her a pass to get on to another ride in the park without having to wait in line. If I had gotten upset in that situation it would have escalated needlessly. Instead, I listened and helped her walk through the steps of what had happened after she got off the ride and all turned out well.

Oh-Em-Gee, these stroller parking lots in the parks are a nightmare. Do what we did, buy a ballon first thing and keep it tied to the stroller the entire day. It makes a HUGE difference in retrieval after coming out from a ride and cast members have moved all the strollers around to make more room.

Did you ever experience anything unexpected or special with the animals while on a tour?

I witnessed the birth of two thomson’s gazelle’s or “tommies” as they were called on the ride. Tommies are very small when fully grown, so to see them as babies was amazing. These two tommies were delivered “on stage,” meaning live in front of guests. They stayed on stage only for a few minutes before they were taken to a team of vets off stage to be taken care of further. It was truly an amazing day!

A 'tommie' on the Safari. And, as anyone who's been on the Safari knows, you DO NOT call them Thomson Gazelles. The very idea...

Share a funny moment while you were on the clock:

Riding through the safari during mating season…I had to tell the kids on my truck to close their eyes on more than once occasion!🙂

(Ed’s Note: Oddly enough, I couldn’t kind a picture to illustrate this point)

Did you have a favorite hidden mickey?

Yes.  There is one on the safari’s ride just after the African elephants. Look for it next time you go!

The Flamingo island is a hidden mickey, though you have to be high up to see it. Thanks to mrkathika on Flickr for the image.

Where did you live while in Orlando?

I lived at Disney operated apartments called Vista Way. They were located about 10 minutes from the parks. I lived with other cast members, two of which were my best friends who came with me from UGA. We had a blast!!!!

Would you go back?

Well, if Disney had a career path in environmental law and real estate, yes. I loved my time there, I just don’t think my current career path will take me back.

What did you learn from Disney:

I learned amazing guest (customer) service skills that have served me well in other service jobs held subsequently. I also learned how to work within a diverse workforce.

Disney's guest relations are legendary. Thanks to Loren Javier on Flickr

(Ed’s Note: Here’s a great example of good customer service…in the parks, if you buy something and you’re staying on property, Disney will deliver it to your room. I bought a coffee mug [what kind you ask? Nightmare Before Christmas of course. D’uh ;-)] and asked to have it sent to the hotel. Well, when I got there, no mug. After looking for 2 days, I was told that they would send one to our home, which was fine with me. But, when it arrived, it was broken!!! And at this point, I had washed the receipt with the clothes. So, on the phone I get, and after explaining what happened to at least 3 people, I fantastic young cast member was able to decipher the numbers I could actually read from the washed-out receipt, and send me a fresh, unbroken mug!!! One which I still use today. Sigh…)

Are you still in contact with your Disney co-workers?

It has been 9 years since I worked there…so no I don’t really keep in touch.

If you worked in the parks, how did you share the Disney magic?

I tried to make sure that everyone on my truck had the best experience of their vacation with me on the ride. The safari’s attraction was one of the top rides out of all the WDW parks, so I knew that the guests on my truck had high expectations. I also knew that they likely had waited in line for an hour or more and that it was up to me to provide them with a great experience. There were many occasions where I had a round of applause at the end of the ride, which was amazingly satisfying!

The queue for the Safari is great fun, cool in the heat of the day, and sets up the backstory well. But it is indeed the drivers that make the trip so worth while!

What would you tell guests about Disney since you’ve worked there?

It is just as much fun, if not more, to work at the happiest place on earth!

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

Wouldn’t change anything!

Are you glad you worked there?

Absolutely!

Many, many thanks to Anne Marie for taking the time from a very busy schedule to answer our questions. We wish her all the best in the future.

See ya real soon!

Comments on: "One of the best decisions of my life" (3)

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Chris Taylor and Chris Taylor, Chris Taylor. Chris Taylor said: One of the best decisions of my life http://wp.me/p1bsXb-94 […]

  2. John Cropp said:

    I love the stroller story!

    A great example of guest service recovery!

  3. Hello,

    I am going to be working for Disney in one month (exactly today) on the Disney College Program! I really hope to work on the Safari Ride and I was so glad to read this story and hear how much you liked working here! I’m absolutely going to take some of your suggestions! Reading this put my any worries about moving down there at ease! Thank you so much for sharing your story!

    Austin

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