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Posts tagged ‘UGA’

It’s a pilgrimage!

Earlier this year, I discovered that a fantastic Disney resource lives right here in our little college town. Kim is a Disney Vacation Planner, and I wanted to find out what that was like, and she was gracious enough to spend some time and answer some questions for us.

Just Off Main Street can highly recommend Kim’s services in planning your next Disney vacation, find her at kimbowers.offtoneverland.com or on Facebook.

Tell us about yourself:

My name is Kim Bowers, I’m 43, married to my husband Tom for 20 years and have two kids. I grew up in Atlanta, went to school at the University of Georgia and graduated in 1991 with an Early Childhood Education degree.

Tell us about your job:

I provide fee-free booking and planning services for anyone planning a Disney vacation. My clients come to me because they are overwhelmed by the number of decisions that must be made when planning a trip to Walt Disney World, and they have a thousand questions! Which resort to choose? What time of year is best? etc.. I can help you plan your Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise, or any other Disney destination vacation.

It’s true, planning a WDW vacation can be daunting.

I get to know them and what they want, and help them get the very best rates on the package that is just right for them. Then I help them plan out their itinerary. Going to Walt Disney World is not just another vacation – it’s a pilgrimage! People want everything to be magical – and they appreciate the insider guidance. I have several clients who come back to me because they know I stay up to date on everything, and I can fill them in about new attractions and make sure they get the best price. I’ve been doing this for 4 years now.

How did you get started?

After planning several trips for my family and friends, I realized I had a vast (some might say ridiculous) amount of knowledge and a knack for planning. Somehow I had become a walking travel guide! I just knew I could do the job. My background is in teaching preschool, which involves a lot of planning and of course, understanding kids, so I draw on those experiences a lot too.  I loved the idea of having a profession that would keep me connected to Walt Disney World. I turned to the Internet to find out how I could become a travel agent and found Off To Neverland Travel. I applied, interviewed, and was hired as an independent contractor.

So, this isn’t a Disney company?

No. Off To Neverland Travel is an Earmarked agency. That means we are Authorized Disney Travel Planners. That affords us access to the very latest news resources and training. We book directly with Disney, and add our own special services at no extra charge.

Planning Disney vacations for my clients is a lot of fun because I put myself in their shoes and try to anticipate what they will need to know. So in my mind, I go to WDW a lot! And helping people make happy memories is very gratifying. I love to hear from my clients after they travel that my advice and guidance really made their trip run smoothly, or that a character meal I suggested was a highlight of their trip, and so on. It may sound corny but it is an honor to help families make memories that will last a lifetime.

(Ed’s Note: It’s not corny, it’s kind of awesome)

One of my favorite things about my job is a service we provide called reservation monitoring. This is something that won’t happen if you book online or by calling Disney’s reservation line. Once a client books with me, I watch all the discounts that come along. And when one comes up that matches, I apply the savings or offer an upgrade. I can’t ever promise it will happen, but it does quite a bit. It’s not often you get a phone call from someone saying “Guess what you are going to save money!” So, it’s fun to do that!

Do you book other theme park vacations?

Honestly, I will but I prefer not to because other companies do not instill me with the confidence Disney does that my guests will be blown away by an all-round superior experience.

(Ed’s Note: So true)
 

How many times a year do you visit the parks?

I visit 2-3 times a year for vacations or meetings (And no – I don’t get to go for free! )

POP Century resort at WDW

What are your favorite places to visit when at Walt Disney World?

My favorite resorts are Disney’s Pop Century Resort because of the low price and the over-the-top Disney theme and service; and Disney’s Polynesian Resort for the tropical ambiance and location (right on the monorail, and you can see Cinderella Castle from the pool!).

The Polynesian does have some great views.

(Ed’s Note: Allow to me add the Polynesian’s great themeing, and the luau is my second favorite meal at Disney.)

I really like EPCOT, and its relatively relaxed pace. And there are so many neat little nooks and crannies to be found – especially in the World Showcase. I notice something new to me every time I visit. EPCOT is also home to Soarin’, my favorite attraction.

World Showcase, with some of the very best food in the parks.

Crystal Palace for breakfast with Winnie the Pooh and friends is my whole family’s favorite place to eat. My husband calls it the epicenter of the happiest place on earth.

Do you have any advice for guests planning their Disney meals?

I can’t eat wheat, so normally it’s difficult for me to eat out. But at Walt Disney World, I have almost as many meal and snack options as everyone else and I don’t have to worry because the Disney chefs come out and speak to me personally and they are very knowledgeable and accommodating.  They make a gluten-free brownie at Pop Century and several other restaurants that is even better than the regular kind. They also stock cookies and other goodies I, and others with wheat allergies, can enjoy while my family is having their treats. To me that is a very big deal!

Do you have a favorite place in the parks off the beaten path?

This won’t be off the beaten path for long because it is very new and people are just discovering it. You could easily spend a day in Magic Kingdom Park and not even know about this. “The Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom” is an interactive game that takes you all over the park on a self guided quest with mysterious maps and magical playing cards to save the park from the Disney villains. My 10-year-old son and I tried it out in May of this year, and he loved it. The technology is very impressive. They have holographic-looking characters popping up in shop windows and such, and you can actually cast spells that make things happen. It’s very cool. (Interesting link about testing the experience)

Sorcerer cards. I’ve heard nothing but good things about this.

What’s your favorite Disney movie?

My favorite classic Disney movie is Cinderella. It was my first theater movie when I was a kid. My mother had to drag me out because I laughed to hard at the mice! They are still my favorite part of the movie!

Tell us something no one knows about Disney from an insider’s perspective:

A Disney vacation can actually be relaxing, and you don’t have to go home exhausted ! There are many places to enjoy peace and quiet at Disney World! A lot of people make the mistake of cramming in so much activity they forget to relax. I try to help people find that balance so they go home refreshed.

You can indeed relax at Walt Disney World

Is there a Disney experience you’ve never done, but want to?

Aulani , the new resort in Hawaii is on my “someday” list!

Tell us about some of your most magical experiences helping plan a Disney vacation:

I’ve had the pleasure of working with several families whose Disney vacation is a celebration of life in the wake of a very difficult time. Hospice patients, cancer survivors, and others have come to me and said, “…life has been really hard this year. And we just need to get away, have a fun time making happy memories together,” or “We just realized that life is too short to put this off any longer.”

I handle all the little details so they can just go down there and enjoy. It really is an honor to help a family have a fun, relaxing, healing experience like that. And I can’t think of a better place for them to do that than Walt Disney World.

Many, many thanks to Kim for sharing. I can’t wait to call her to book our next trip!

Camping on Tom Sawyer Island

Another interview that’s been in the can for a while. This is a great one in light of Fantasmic’s 20th anniversary this year.
 

When you ask, sometimes you really do receive. After putting out another call to my fellow university staffers, I found my next interview via her brother-in-law. I met Rosemary Milsap, and her delightful son, at a local coffee shop one brisk but gorgeous day last year. She spent almost 2 hours with me discussing her time with Disney. I learned that we lived in Southern California at same time, living through some earthquakes and the 1992 riots.

Rosemary teaches drama at a local high school (she taught Broadway actor Tituss Burgess!). She shared stories and photos from when she was one of the performers in the first version of Fantasmic back in 1992 at Disneyland in California, plus some great insight into being a Disney performer and what goes in to the audition process. As always, I can’t thank her enough for her time. Enjoy.

Yes, THAT Tituss Burgess…seen here portraying Sebastian in the Broadway version of “The Little Mermaid.”

Tell is about yourself:

I’m Rosemary Milsap, 41, from Augusta, GA. I’ve been in Athens since 1993. I graduated from the University of Georgia in 1991 with a degree in Art History. I since gotten my Masters in social science education. In high school, I decided I wanted to be on Broadway and I’ve always loved the theater.

Let’s talk Disney, tell us some of your favorite things about the parks:

Disney’s Animal Kingdom is my favorite park and Space Mountain for a ride. I loved “Snow White” as a child and “The Lion King” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” now.

Do you have a favorite Disney souvenir?

My Seven Dwarfs figurines. My son has a stuffed Mickey that I love, and I regularly wore a baseball cap I got there for many years. I still have it.

And finally, a favorite Disney food/treat?

This sounds a little strange maybe, but the gluten-free chicken fingers I got at the Columbia Harbour House in the Magic Kingdom. During our first trip to Walt Disney World, I discovered that if you ask, many of the Disney chefs can and will accommodate a variety of food allergies.

 
(Ed’s Note: During my last trip to WDW, I watched a chef at the Rose and Crown discuss cooking options with a family whose child had more than a few food allergies, including preparing the meal with separate cookware. He never batted an eye at the request.)
 

More on Disney and food allergies

Did you ever see a celebrity in the parks?

I don’t recall seeing any, but there were always rumors that a celeb was watching the show (We couldn’t tell as each audience was up to 3,000 people). We performed for a couple of media events when we first opened the show, and we were told we might perform for Micheal Jackson’s birthday. Sometimes, he would rent the park for the night. Memory evades me, but I believe it never happened, if it did he was not present.

But in some ways, Michael was always in the Park…

How long did you work at Disney?

1992 (almost the whole year)

What did you do?

I was a performer in the original cast of the outdoor show Fantasmic at Disneyland; I played a flower petal in the Jungle Book section, a pirate in the Peter Pan section and Doc in the finale section, all within a 1/2 hour show. It was a rush, three times a night. After I saw Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios, I know that some of the lineup has since changed–now it’s Lion King instead of Jungle Book and Pocahontas instead of Peter Pan.

Ed’s Note: I would rather see Peter Pan myself, I’ve never thought the Pocahontas segment really fit with the rest of the show. Hook seems like a better villain than Captain Ratcliffe, who just comes off as annoying.

How did you get the part(s)?

My husband and I were living in North Hollywood in Los Angeles and I needed a job. I saw an ad in the paper for a casting call and it looked like fun. At the time, I thought it was a parade audition. During many of our visits to Disneyland, I’d watch the parade and think, “I can do that.” So, I did.

There were hundreds of people auditioning in a giant sound stage in Orange County, we were there for over 6 hours. Another girl and I were two of the last people to audition. When they called us, we had learned a short dance piece, we both froze in place. They allowed us to start over, which seemed strange considering how fast they were eliminating people. I’ve always thought that if one of us hadn’t froze, they would have asked the other to leave, but as we both did, they started again. They wanted to see how we moved, and grouped us by height. Nothing happened that night, then I got call-back, went in and did more movement. Again nothing. Then, I got a third call, and I was getting a little annoyed, but a girlfriend encouraged me to go down and do it. I did and I was one of the last ones to get a part.

The characters were based on height, and I’m around 5’6”, and Doc is the tallest dwarf, so I was aiming for that. But 5’5” was the cut-off, so when it came to me, I got as short as I could.

We all signed six-month performer contracts. We got to pick our schedule, and I only worked on the weekends since I had a day-job up in Pasadena.

Ed’s Note: For any of you who lived or are living in SoCal, take a second to consider the geography here. Rosemary was driving to Pasadena from North Hollywood during the week, then to Anaheim on the weekends. That, my friends, is a lot of road time. She told me that she wasn’t even coming the farthest on the weekends, performers came from the San Fernando Valley, San Diego and the Inland Empire (San Bernardino).
 

After my six months were up, I signed another contract. But about two months in, my husband and I decided to move back to Georgia, and Disney was very gracious to allow to get out of the contract. I was there around eight months.

Tell us your favorite memory of working there?

Spending nights in the park during the months of rehearsal leading up to the show. In the beginning, we rehearsed on a sound stage, then we moved to park. They were rewriting and adjusting the show as we went based on how the performers moved and how fast they could get around during costume changes. The were VERY concerned about the dragon fire, [pyrotechnics and lifts] and making sure we were all safe. The Mickey at the end that rises to strike the final blow shoots up out of the ground like a rocket. These were all untested gags, and we worked very hard to get it right. We found out that so much gas was used for the fire gags that the gas level in Anaheim actually lowered all at once during a show. I was always worried about the ducks in the river.

Once we moved to the park, we worked from midnight until 8 a.m. We had to camp on Tom Sayer Island, which I found amazing. Here we were in this large city, sleeping outside and were perfectly safe. I had a great time. We brought sleeping bags and backpacks. Most performers weren’t allowed to have anything personal inside the park, but since we were there all night and couldn’t leave, we were allowed. I think most people brought books and cards. I played a lot of cards on that island.

Our costumes included a wet suit, sweat suit and t-shirt. We had to wear the sweats and t-shirt on the river crossing to the paddle-boat where we got in costume. The costumes were at the whim of the wind, that’s when my flower petal suit became a strapped-on 7’ sail. It could literally pick you up if you didn’t hang on or lean the right way. The huge water fountains in which they projected video clips would spray you on a windy evening and you would be quite wet (thus the wet suits we all wore). When we were done with one part of the show, we would have to literally run to the next location to get ready for the next section. It was always interesting (but usually fun) running in the dark on and off boats and across the obstacles of Tom Sawyer island! We got pretty good at it after a few good spills and pile ups.

Tell us about a challenging day or event you encountered and what happened:

The LA riots. The whole city was on curfew and it was unclear whether I was expected to report to work or not, but I was scared to drive past dark as that would be breaking curfew for LA county. Finally, I found out they had to cancel the show. I can’t remember how many days we had curfew, but those going to work were allowed to venture out after a day or two.

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

We would have long waits when we were still in rehearsals before the show opened. Often it would be a couple of hours before you were needed again. Since it was the middle of the night, we would sleep in our sleeping bags, or play cards, or talk, but a few times we made up ridiculous games that involved silly charades just to pass the time. All very juvenile. The whole cast was very friendly and fun. A group of us had a sleep over a couple of times. We just enjoyed hanging out, but we all came from different directions up to 2 hours away, so hanging out beyond work wasn’t really feasible.

Tell us something no one knows about Disney:

I always felt a bit like Disney was ‘big brother.” They dictated hair styles for men and women with specifics for every ethnicity and hair type. Of course talent didn’t wear any jewelry, but sales persons were given specific instructions on where and what type of jewelry one can have on (rings, earrings, necklaces). It makes sense from an image standpoint, but it always seemed intrusive. One of the stunt guys for the “Peter Pan section wore a wig so well, that none of us knew he had long hair underneath until they got mad at him and he yelled that he quit and pulled off his wig!

Would you go back?

For a season or two, sure!

Did it help your future career?

I teach theatre, there must be some connection there…..

What, if anything, did you learn from Disney?

Walt Disney was a GENIUS! He really was a visionary.

Are you still in contact with Disney co-workers?

No; I should look them up on Facebook!

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

See the shows, they really are good. It’s also fun to imagine what the person underneath the costume looks like and what gender they are (adults only, don’t spoil the magic for the kids)

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

How many guests they will allow in the park at one time. Too many on holidays.

yup

Are you glad you worked there?

Absolutely.

Thanks again to Rosemary, and to you dear readers for continuing to follow these interviews.

There is something very impressive about having Disney on your resume

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.

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!

Your ‘awwwwww’ photo of the day

Looks like Main Street to me, but I could be way off. I’m sure someone will let me know if I am 😉 My family and I have a soft spot for working dogs; my aunt, who was blind most of her life, had 2 different helpers, my wife helps those with disabilities find work and many have service animals. Plus, UGA, where I work, is a training campus for service dogs, students walk around with pups and teenaged dogs to get them used to crowds. Kudos to the administration for allowing this very important work.

Photo is from The Chive. Some content on The Chive may be considered offensive to some. Though clearly, they have a soft spot.

Did you know you can take your dog to Walt Disney World? Well, not in the parks, unless it’s a service dog, but they can stay at the super swanky Best Friends Resort! And you can visit them during the day if you wish. Check ’em out.

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!

The most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen…

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.

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