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.
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.
What’s your favorite Disney movie?
Little Mermaid (was released while I worked there).
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!
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)
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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!
Thanks so much to Jennifer for taking the time to talk to us! See ya real soon.