Disney. Pictures. Stuff. And so on…

Friends, after over a year, I’m finally posting some interviews that had gotten lost in not one, but two hard drive failures. Couple that with one of the busiest fall and springs I think I’ve ever had, and you get a blogger who dropped the ball.

However, I’m here to redeem myself, because I know you’d want me to, and start posting some interviews again. I’ve got three in the can and will present one of them to you today.

Rachel responded to one of my calls on campus tracking down faculty, staff and students who have worked at a Disney park. Rachel was kind enough to not only answer my questions, but meet me for lunch and provide some great pictures. Enjoy.

Tell us a little about yourself:

My name is Rachel Baginski, I’m 25 and from Tifton, GA. I’ve been married 3 years and work at the University of Georgia in the department of Communication Sciences and Special Education.

What’s your favorite Disney Park?

Disney Hollywood Studios, which is home to my favorite attraction, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

Ed’s note: one of mine too.

This is a great look at how the attraction works. Click for more info.

What’s your favorite Disney food or treat?

There are so many. The chocolate covered strawberries that they sell in all the parks are amazing; a Dole Whip, the huge carrot cake wedges, and the cannoli from the Magic Kingdom.

Honestly, who doesn’t love these???

What’s your favorite Disney souvenir?

My Disney College Program “graduation hat.” It’s really a pair of Mickey ears with a tassel attached.  But I had my name embroidered on the back, and it has a place of honor on my bookshelf at home.

Rachel with Prince John at Animal Kingdom, one of the few characters she didn’t have a photo of at the time. She told me that she was at her apartment one day, and got a call that Prince John was in the park and she ran over there to get this. That story makes me smile!

Favorite Disney movie?

It’s a tie between Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast.

Did you ever see a celebrity in the parks?

I saw a few. Johnny Depp, Larry the Cable Guy, and the Atlanta Braves during the year I was there.

I don’t think I need to tell you who Larry the Cable Guy is…right?

Tell us about working at Disney:

I was there for 4 months as an Operations Hostess for the American Adventure at the American Pavilion in the World Showcase at EPCOT. I was also in operations at Disney’s Wide World of Sports for the Atlanta Braves spring training season, where I helped clean and regulate seating during games.

A great experience at EPCOT. And it doesn’t get visited nearly as much as it should. In fact, you should take a day and do nothing but explore the pavilions at EPCOT. There are walkways, sights and food I bet you’ve never seen at a Disney park before.

I’d just earned my Associate’s degree in only a year, and felt that I should take a little breather before transferring to UGA to finish my degree. I looked into several internship opportunities, but Disney just seemed like the most fun by far.

Participating in the Disney College Program was one of the greatest experiences of my life.  I learned much about myself as a person, and a lot of my potential as an employee.  I grew up a great deal over the few months that I worked for Disney, and I would go back and do it all over again if I could.

Why did you leave?

I was ready to get to Athens and begin my tenure as a UGA student. However, I do regret not staying longer now as I would have been allowed to be Snow White’s “friend” if I had stayed.

Tell us your favorite memory of working there:

My happy memories of working for Disney are all pieces of days, rather than the whole day: having tea at the Grand Floridian with my roommates; relaxing on the beach of the Polynesian Resort on my days off; hanging out at the Adventurer’s Club on Pleasure Island; watching Fantasmic for the 15th time.  But one memory does stand out in my mind.  While I was working for Disney, my aunt and uncle adopted a little boy from China named Jack.  My new cousin was very confused, didn’t know much English, and was born without the use of his left hand. I invited them to come down to Disney World so so he could have the Disney experience.  He absolutely loved visiting the China Pavilion at the World Showcase in EPCOT where all the cast members spoke the same language as him.  And to top everything off, one of my roommates was “friends” with Belle from Beauty and the Beast.  So when we arrived in France, Belle was waiting to greet Jack by name.

The China Pavilion is one of the only places you can find Mulan in the Parks.

Did you have any challenging days at Disney?

When I first started working for Disney’s Wide World of Sports, I was placed on parking lot duty to help guide the cars out of the parking lot after the game to avoid major traffic jams.  I was having a good time with my team, and with meeting everyone as the traveled to and from the complex.  However, I have extremely fair skin that no amount of sunscreen can protect if I’ve been in direct sunlight for several hours.  By the time I left work that day, I was bright red and completely miserable.  Needless to say, the next day they relocated me to a shaded area inside the complex.

I can’t even imagine…

Where did you live while you were there?

Vista Way, of course!

Vista Way…though I’ve heard more than a view former Cast Members refer this by other names…you know, college kids away from home…yada, yada, yada

Do you have a favorite hidden Mickey?

I’d have to say my favorite hidden Mickey is at the end of the American Adventure show.  One of the last fireworks to go off at the end of the song explodes in the shape of classic Mickey.  I think it’s my favorite because that’s the one I saw the most often, and I’m very fond of that show and that pavilion.

Tell us one of the most interesting or funniest events while at work:

I was working in the American Pavilion during Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival.  Every evening during the festival, a musician from the 60s or 70s would perform on the large stage that s directly next to the American Pavilion.  What really stood out for me were the nights that Davy Jones performed.  It was hilarious watching women older than my mother act like crazed teenagers, as they screamed and threw themselves at him.  I would go over on my lunch break just to watch the women react.

Jones was a regular performer at Disney Parks over the years. Sadly, he passed away in February of this year.

Tells us something no one knows about Disney:

It is VERY easy to get lost in the tunnels under the Magic Kingdom.

Would you go back?

In a heartbeat.

Did it help your career?

There is something very impressive about having Disney on your resume.  I will say that my customer service is excellent, and Disney is directly responsible for that.

What did you learn from Disney?

I learned that there is magic in everything, and even finding something positive in the tiniest detail can brighten someone’s day.

Are you still in contact with Disney co-workers?

I’m still in contact with most of my roommates from Vista Way, and the other two interns I worked with at the America Pavilion.

Rachel (far left) and friends.

How did you share the Disney magic?

By smiling at everyone, treating every little girl like a Princess, and doing my best to make every guest I encountered have the perfect Disney experience.

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

I would make it a little closer to Athens so I could visit more often!

What advice would you give guests for a Disney vacation?

The best advice I can give guests from a cast member’s perspective is to ALWAYS plan your day before going into any of the parks.  There are so many different things to see or do or eat.  It is easy to get distracted trying to do as much as possible, and then you realize that you’ve spent your whole day literally running around the parks.  Planning ahead ensures that you get the most out of your day.  For example, if you look at a map ahead of time–note the fast pass locations so you can head straight there, get fast passes, go to various other attractions while you wait, have already picked out a place to eat in advance so you don’t wander around for an hour trying to find the place that looks the best, and plan to go to attractions around where you plan to watch a parade or show so you can get to the designated spot quickly.  I figure that if you’ve paid a bundle to get into the parks, you should maximize the time spent there by having a game plan before you arrive.

Map. Get one. Use it.

Also, everyone should definitely take advantage of the transportation that Disney provides on property (buses, monorail, boats).  It is so much better to use this transportation than to attempt to drive from park to park yourself.  You’ll save money on parking, and you won’t have to spend 30+ minutes of your day walking from your car to the gate.

Disney buses are awesome

as are the boats. And there are many to choose from. Try the one from the Transportation Center at the Magic Kingdom to the Wilderness Lodge…great fun.

But the Monorail is king!

Many, many, many thanks to Rachel for sharing and being patient with me all these months. Thanks for reading.

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