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Posts tagged ‘Hidden Mickey’

I always enjoyed opportunities to participate in magical moments

After putting out a call on the blog and Facebook, Tony was kind enough to contact me about his time at Disney. Many thanks to him for sharing his experiences with us!

Tell us a little about yourself:

My name is Tony, I’m 31 and from Tampa, FL. I’m currently a fraud detective in Central Florida. I married my wife, Sarah in October of 2010, and we have two dogs. We both LOVE Disney World! We’re both annual passholders and frequently visit the parks. Also, every February for the past 4 years, we celebrate the birthdays of some close friends by drinking around the world at EPCOT with about 20 friends. This September, we are attempting to drink around the resorts in an event Sarah has named “The Happiest Hour On Earth”.

Ed’s note: I can totally get behind this idea.
 

I worked at Disney for 6 months during the summer/fall college program of 2001. I was enrolled at the University of South Florida in Tampa then, though I wasn’t taking any classes while I was away at Disney. I left when I saw how hard the tourism industry was hit after 9/11. Managers were being asked to work fewer hours due to decreased attendance. After seeing how I could work hard to become a manager and have something out of my control greatly effect my career and income, I thought it was time to consider looking into another career field.

Why did you begin working for Disney?

I was an employee in the marketing/group sales department of Busch Gardens when I applied for (and participated in) Disney’s College Program. I enjoyed working in the theme park industry and was originally interested in learning what set Disney apart from the other companies. I thought this would be a valuable opportunity for me to learn skills that would help me to advance in a career when I came back to Busch Gardens.

Tell us about your job at Disney:

I worked in Disney’s Animal Kingdom as a theater usher at the Tarzan show. I also worked in ride operations at Dinosaur. At Dinosaur, I would do everything from seat belt checks and party grouping to tower control and attraction greeter.

Tarzan Rocks was a high-energy stage show in Dinoland USA. It ran from 1999-2006.

Tell us your favorite memory of working:

I always enjoyed opportunities to participate in “magical moments.” Sometimes we would be assigned to do a magical moment by “the bump”, (an employee position assignment system). However, magical moments could happen at any time when you have positive interactions with a guest. Little things like giving a guest reserved seating in the Tarzan show, or taking guests past the line to go on a ride.

The “bump” tells employees where to report for the next part of their shift. When you returned from a break, you would go to a computer located somewhere inside or near your assigned attraction. After logging in to complete your lunch break, a receipt listing all of the positions needing coverage at that attraction was printed. If you printed the bump, you were likely sent to the “first” position, which at Dinosaur, was a greeter position. You would report to the front of the attraction and meet who the previously assigned greeter was. You pass the bump to them, and it tells that person to either go on break or report to another location at the attraction. This process would continue through almost every position to keep breaks on schedule and a good rotation for cast members. Most cast members had preferred positions and would offer to stay where they were if the person with the bump wanted to skip that position. At Dinosaur, I enjoyed all the positions except the hallway position after the pre-show, it offered little guest interaction or opportunities to stay busy. When I worked at the theater for the Tarzan show, I don’t remember an official bump. Our breaks and lunches were all taken at the same time between shows. We took it upon ourselves to rotate positions and that normally worked out fine without issue.

Tell us about a challenging day:

September 11th, 2001. I was in my car and on my way to work around 10 a.m. when I heard on the radio that two planes had crashed into the World Trade Center. I was clocking in at the Animal Kingdom breakroom near the front entrance when I saw on TV that the Pentagon had just been struck.

I walked to my position as an usher at Tarzan Rocks that morning and couldn’t believe the news. What made things more strange, was that since Animal Kingdom opened at 8 am, many in the people in the park had no idea what was going on outside Walt Disney World, especially since smartphones didn’t exist. The few guests that knew were the ones with Blackberries.

The way I remember it, after a couple of hours of work, the decision was made to shut down the parks. We were asked to turn guests away from the attractions and tell them the park was closed. When guests asked “why?”, we were instructed to suggest that they go back to their hotel rooms and turn on the TV for the news. I don’t recall any guests being difficult about being asked to leave. Many of them had no idea and were only catching rumors on their way out. I am glad that we were advised not to tell guests what was going on. Knowing that I could be talking to someone that worked and lived in New York City and was at Disney on vacation, I’m glad that I wasn’t put in the position of potentially having to give someone what could be a death notification.

After the park was clear of guests, management requested that the Dinoland employees remain corralled in the breakroom to await further instructions. Many of us sat on the floor in this cramped space watching the TV for any updates. The decision was ultimately made to send us home and keep the park closed. Back at the college program housing, despite the macabre situation happening in the world, many of us gathered for an impromptu cookout. It was rare when we could all be together without schedules getting in the way. It may sound disrespectful or insensitive, but I don’t think we knew what else to do. Many of us were from across the country and since congested telephone networks made it difficult for some people to reach family members, we spent quality time with the people we grew to consider family where we currently were living. Throughout all of this, I (and many others) couldn’t help but worry if Disney World would be an additional target.

Disney’s flag ceremony at the Magic Kingdom a few days after 9/11.

Disney World was a quiet place in the weeks to follow. People weren’t traveling and managers were asked to cut their own hours in half voluntarily. As many people who lived through that time noticed, there was a renewed sense of patriotism and kindness to your neighbor. This was especially noticeable at Walt Disney World.

Where did you live while in Orlando?

I lived in Disney’s College Program housing at Chatham Square.

Tony’s apartment from back in the day. That’s a lot of bottles…

Tells us about your favorite Disney park and collectables:

My favorite Disney Park is EPCOT where my favorite attraction, Spaceship Earth, resides.

I’m a big fan the Udon noodles at Katsura Grill in the Japan pavilion at EPCOT.

Katsura in EPCOT

I love the Vinylmation Park Starz figures and enjoy Disney’s ‘Meet the Robinsons.’

The Haunted Mansion bride as a ParkStar

Ed’s Note: I love ‘Meet the Robinson’s’ too

Did you ever see a celebrity in the parks:

I had the privilege of meeting Richard Dreyfus and his family while giving them a brief tour of the Dinosaur control tower. I also met Roy Disney on Walt’s 100th birthday while I visited the Hollywood Studios as a guest. Mr. Disney was walking through One Man’s Dream and talking to Michael Eisner. Unfortunately, I did not get to meet Mr. Eisner.

Richard Dreyfuss in 2009.

Dreyfuss stared in Disney’s version of Oliver Twist

as well as Disney’s adaptation of “James and the Giant Peach.’

Tells us something no one knows about Disney:

With enough money, you can buy a block party at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in which you and your company can walk the red carpet and be mobbed by cast members that have been hired to hound you for pictures and autographs.

Would you go back?

I would really like to work in the parks again, but after I retire from my current career.

Did it help your future career?

Yes. I think having a name like the Walt Disney Company is a strong employer to list on a résumé. I also attribute many of my people skills to the opportunities I had at Disney to help people.

Are you still in contact with Disney co-workers?

I still have one as a Facebook friend. Although I haven’t talked to my former coworkers and roommates in a long time, I would be happy to see any of them again. We did have a reunion 5 years after our college program.

Did you park hop during your time there?

Absolutely! On the college program, you don’t make much money so you learn to rely on the parks for a good time. My roommates and I would spend our time off at the parks. I even remember bringing a change of clothes to work so I could meet up with friends as soon as I finished my shift.

Did you have a favorite out of the way place to hang out in the parks?

Although it wasn’t really “out of the way”, I would often find time to go by The Living Seas at Epcot. I’ve always enjoyed the exhibits there, particularly the cuttlefish tank. When I had time to myself in the parks, I enjoyed spending it there. I find the cuttlefish fascinating and relaxing to watch. I still love showing them off to friends that haven’t seen them before; everyone seems to find them interesting.

EPCOT’s The Living Seas is now known as The Seas with Nemo and Friends.

Do you have a favorite Hidden Mickey?

My favorite hidden Mickey is in Dinoland at DAK. If you stand near the weird dinosaur statue outside Chester and Hester’s, and look down, you might be standing on it! It’s a series of cracks in the concrete making a hidden Mickey about 18 inches wide. I think most people stand or walk over it and never know its at their feet!

I took this picture last year. It is indeed a great find!

What advice would you give to a guest visiting the parks from the perspective of a cast member?

I would suggest that guests take time to interact a little more with the cast members. When you engage a cast member in conversation, not only will you break some of the monotony that they might have in their day, you also give that cast member an opportunity to show you why Disney service is above the rest. Although most people work at Disney because they have a passion for what the company represents, it is still a “job” at times. Showing interest in the people of Disney and not just the attractions will open many unexpected doors for memorable encounters. Like Walt said, “You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world, but it makes people to make that dream a reality.”

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

Fortunately, Disney has been progressive regarding their integration of technology and communication “plus-ing” the guest experience in the parks. That being said, I am quite happy with things they have done or are planning to do. But if I was put in charge, I would work to bring the future back to Future World in Epcot. Provide better dining options in the Magic Kingdom. And finally, install a One Man’s Dream-style exhibit at each park that is focused on Walt’s interests and achievements relating to that park’s theme.

Are you glad you worked there?

Most definitely.

Many thanks again to Tony for sharing!!

It felt as though I had the Magic Kingdom all to myself

I’ve known my next interviewee for a few years now. I met her when she and her sister opened Brainabilty, a local educational facility that presented unique and creative programming for children. My daughter LOVED it. Then, she helped me with some donations of stuffed animals for the Huggable Bears for Georgia’s Children project which provides stuffed animals for children in caught in middle of the child support system in Georgia. Recently, she and her husband took ownership of a local lighting store, House Electric. In addition to all this, she puts on one of the best Vacation Bible Schools in Athens! She’s a joy to know and to call a friend…introducing, Charlotte House.

Tell us about yourself:

My name’s Charlotte House, I’m 39 and from Gainesville, Georgia. My husband, Geoff, and I now live in Athens. We went to Walt Disney World for our first anniversary and we were picked to open up MGM Studios. I know it’s ‘Disney Hollywood Studios’ now, but to me, it’s still MGM. We got to go in early and they helped us with a script that we did with some of the street actors. Then they whisked us away and took us straight to The Tower of Terror to ride it by ourselves. Well, I’d been there and done that, and it is just not my kind of ride, so Geoff ended up riding it by himself while I waited by the photo screens with a cast member. It was hysterical to see all of these images of empty elevators and then all of a sudden to see Geoff sitting by himself in the huge elevator car. They gave us a copy of the photo and special buttons and we had people pointing at us all day saying, “Look, it’s the people who opened the park. I wonder if they’re famous?” We certainly felt famous that day!

Charlotte and Geoff at Hollywood Studios

Riding up the hill to the Tower of Terror

Geoff on the Tower of Terror

Do you have a favorite Disney Park?

Ooh this is a tough one!! Don’t know that I can pick one.

What’s your favorite Disney attraction?

I love to see the parades! They are always a must on my list!!

Who doesnt love a parade!

The Walt Disney World Bicentennial Parade in 1976. Thanks to Loren Javier on Flickr for this. Click on the photo to check out his Flickr stream, he's got some great ones!

Do you have a favorite Disney food/treat and souvenir?

Popcorn and a Diet coke in souvenir buckets and mugs and my Mickey Mouse Ears with my name embroidered on the back.

Feel free to read these fascinating blog posts about Mickey Ears here, here and here.

Favorite Disney movie?

Mary Poppins and The Lion King

Did you ever see a celebrity in the parks?

Yes, several. Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter; Michael Jackson; M.C. Hammer and his whole entourage; Melanie Griffith; Princess Diana with Prince William and Andrew. Of course, I saw Mickey and his gang as well!

Did you know Griffith and then husband Don Johnson opened "EuroDisney" in 1994? Click the photo for more info.

Bet you didnt know MC Hammer had an animated series once. Complete with talking shoes. Note Darkwing Duck on the cover. Remember him?

This bust of Jimmy Carter was created by Blaine Gibson. In 1939, Gibson joined the Walt Disney Studios as an animator and worked on 'Fantasia,' 'Alice in Wonderland' and 'Peter Pan' among others. Click on the image for more info.

What do you do now?

We own House Electric here in Athens, and I’m a Georgia Wolf Trap Teaching Artist working with the Alliance Theater in Atlanta.

Tell us about your time at Disney:

I worked there 3 years, 1990-93, during the peak seasons: Summer, Thanksgiving, Christmas and spring break. I lived in Kissimmee at the time. I was a Casual Temporary or (CT) in merchandising and my costume was a red skirt, white polo with the Mickey Mouse Club logo and Mickey Ears. I also worked in “glow” for overtime, when it was available. “Glow” is selling all of the glow-in-the-dark and light-up merchandise when the sun goes down. I would walk up and down Main Street with light up roses or glow sticks before Spectro Magic would run. Then I would watch the parade and then sell some more glow! Back then we didn’t have anything near what they do today! We were able to carry or wear everything and still had our hands free to make change. Today they have full carts loaded up with glow. The only two glow products that I can remember were the necklaces and a glowing, battery operated rose. I saw a lot of very excited children who would beg their parents for cash and a lot of parents who were very reluctant to purchase them.

Charlotte in costume hanging with Mickey

The main jobs that were available to CT’s were attractions, merchandise or food services. Disney would move you around within the parks, but only within the category you were trained in, so I never worked food service or attractions.

Which park or unit did you work in?

The Magic Kingdom in Mickey’s Starland. This was first built as Mickey’s Birthdayland in 1988. In 1990, it became Starland and then Mickey’s Toon Town Fair in 1996. If an area in the park was short employees, they would shuffle you around to different areas. So, I worked in Tomorrowland, Liberty Square, The Pirates of the Caribbean and on Main Street.

Thanks to Dan Alexander for this great scan. Click the photo for more info and a larger photo.

Why did you begin working for Disney?

I needed a summer job and I thought it would be fun. So, I went to Florida one weekend, found the Casting Center and interviewed. I walked out the door with a new summer job!

Why did you leave?

It was time to find a “real” job. I was getting ready to graduate from UGA and had to complete an internship at the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta who hired me full-time after my internship so I choose to stay there instead of returning to Disney.

Tell us a favorite memory of working there:

Wow! I have tons of favorites!! One, in particular I’ll never forget, was an evening when I was closing. It was very late, way past when the Magic Kingdom had closed. I walked all the way through Mickey’s Starland and Fantasyland and everything was completely silent. There was no one around, or at least not within my seeing or hearing range. It felt as though I had the Magic Kingdom all to myself. I know it sounds dorky, but it was a feeling like no other that I treasure.

Tell us about a challenging day:

As part of closing procedures, we were responsible for doing “strollers.” This meant that we had to roll all of the strollers that were left in our land and take them to the bridge next to Cinderella’s Castle.

Most evenings, it was a pretty daunting task because of the number of strollers left behind. Lots of guests with children would visit Mickey’s Starland and then hop on the train to Main Street, leaving their strollers behind. Most lands might have a handful to take care of but we usually had 20 or more. So, one evening, it was time to take care of them, several of us started gathering strollers and hooking them together by leaning the stroller back and placing the front wheel in the basket of the stroller in front of it. Then we’d continue staggering the strollers until they were all hooked together. However, this time, we had an extremely large number of strollers with only myself and two other girls to push. Why I volunteered to take the lead, I don’t know, but I did. So, after getting a good head of steam, we had the strollers really moving towards the Teacups, and I had to make a turn to the left. Apparently, I wasn’t strong enough (or maybe I was too strong) to push them into the turn so…suddenly the whole line of strollers lost control and went careening across Fantasyland…and tipped over! There were strollers everywhere. We were bruised and bleeding from trying to stop them, and laughing uncontrollably all the while. It took us forever to get all of the strollers cleaned up and make our way to Cinderella’s Castle. Of course, after that I was never allowed to lead the stroller train again!

Tell us one of the most interesting or funniest events while you were working:

A call for volunteers was posted for anyone who wanted take part in the 20th Anniversary photo shoot. To me this was a no brainer – what an oppurtunity! We were to be dressed in our costumes and to meet at the front gates of the Magic Kingdom. It was really early in the morning because we had to get the shot before guests started to arriving. Cast members were positioned behind the railing above the floral Mickey at the ticket station. In front of us, the costumed characters were carefully arranged in the shape of a 20. We were never told where or when they would use the photo and for a long time I thought it would never be seen. Then one day I got a copy of the ad from a friend. He was flying someplace and saw it in a Delta SKY magazine and realized that I was in the top right hand corner. He tore the page from the magazine and sent it to me!

The SKY Magazine photo

Tells us something no one knows about Disney:

In Peter Pan’s Flight to Neverland, Captain Hook’s hook was on the wrong hand. His hook should be on his left hand, but in the ride it was on his right. I don’t know if they ever fixed it or not, I guess I will have to check it out next time I am there.

Would you go back?

Yes! I actually interviewed a few years ago and was offered a CT position to work at the Tower of Terror, but I was unable to make it to the training sessions.

(Ed’s note: If you’ve wanted to know what it was like to control The Tower of Terror, have a look at Randy Reighard’s ToT simulation site.)

Did it help your future career?

Not sure that it helped my career, but it sure does make for a lively interview when people see “Disney” in my job history!

What, if anything, did you learn from Disney?

Walt Disney was never afraid to dream. He took a small sketch of a mouse and turned it into an empire of fun and wholesomeness that has spread across the world for more than three generations! This taught me to never think a dream is too small or too big. A dream is meant to be chased for it can become real if you believe!

Are you still in contact with Disney co-workers?

Yes, I am friends with several of them on Facebook. A big Mickey shout out to Leslie, Rex, Brian, Jeff, Greg and Terry!

Charlotte and co-worker pose with an Ewok in front of Star Tours. When was the last time anyone saw an Ewok at Disney??

I know for a fact no one's seen Michelangelo at Disney for years.

Did you even remember 'The Rocketeer' being a Disney property?

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

In many different ways! As a matter of fact, Disney sends you to Disney University to attend their ‘Traditons’ class before you start your job. This is where you learn all sorts of things to be a part of the magic, like not to make a funny face when people ask, “What time is the 3:00 parade?,” or how to point things out using your whole hand or two fingers, because in some cultures it is rude to point with one finger.

EPCOT cast member Becca shows us the Disney 'two-finger' point. Many thanks to Lynn Wiltse from http://www.wdwfanzone.com for getting me this shot.

You learn how to tell the difference between Chip and Dale and how to name all seven of the dwarfs. And of course you learn Disney lingo: you’re not an employee, you’re a cast member. If you are in front of visitors you are “on stage” and if you are not where guests are, you are “back stage.” You go on tours around the parks to know where things are. Plus, they teach you the Disney way of dressing.

Could you tell them apart just by looking?

Charlotte backstage with Mickey

What was your favorite Hidden Mickey?

Working back in Mickey’s Starland, I became very fond of “Minnie Moo”. She was the cow that was born with the classic three-circle pattern on her side!

(Ed’s note: Minnie Moo, the Holstein cow born with a large silhouette of Mickey Mouse’s head and ears on her side, died in 2001 at 15 years of age. Minnie Moo came to the Walt Disney World Resort from Minnesota in 1990. She lived for several years at Grandma Duck’s Farm at the Magic Kingdom and later moved to the Petting Farm at the Tri-Circle D Rance at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground.)

What advice would you give to a guest visiting the parks from the perspective of a cast member?

There is a HUGE difference with the crowds between the “peak” and “off” seasons. If you can plan your vacation during the off-season, the lines and waits will be much shorter! Also, use a park map and a schedule to plan your day. A family can get really worn out running back and forth across the park to catch rides and shows. A little planning goes a LONG, LONG way towards a fun and memorable trip!

Get one of these. Use it.

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

To change the Snow White ride. The story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is such a great story, but the ride in Fantasyland mainly focuses on the witch. She pops out everywhere cackling and trying to give away poison apples! I would enjoy it more if the focus was on the whole storyline.

 
(Ed’s note: The good news here is Snow White will be moving into a new atraction when the Fantasyland expansion opens next year. Below are some artist renderings of the new Seven Dwarves Mine Train.)
 

Are you glad you worked there?

Absolutely! It was a fantastic time! I loved seeing and learning about all of the “Behind the Magic” things that happen at Disney. Plus, we were encouraged to visit the theme parks on our days off. This way we became more familiar with the parks and were better able to help guests. Some days I would show up early and go ride something before clocking in. You gotta love a job where you can go take a spin in a tea cup before you start work!

In fact, I’ve wanted to go back to work at Disney ever since I left. It just wasn’t geographically right for where I was at the time. My dream job is to be Snow White in a parade. What woman wouldn’t want to be followed around all day by seven adorable men?!  Unfortunately, at 5’6”, Disney says I am too tall to be a princess. I still think that if they would put me in flats and not heels I could pull it off…how ‘bout them apples?

Back in the day, you could pick up one of these EPCOT passports and take it around World Showcase and have cast members from around the world stamp and sign it.

Just like this!

Anything else you’d like to share?

If you have the chance to work at Disney go for it! It truly is a one of a kind, unforgettable experience!

Charlotte with Panchito Pistoles, or Panchito Romero Miguel Junipero Francisco Quintero González III, at EPCOT. Oddly enough, Duffy the Bear was nowhere to be seen 😉

See ya real soon!

One of the best decisions of my life

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!

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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