"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirates' loot on Treasure Island and at the bottom of the Spanish Main ... and best of all, you can enjoy these riches every day of your life." -Walt Disney

This will probably be one of my last posts on this site. I now have just three more days of my College Program. So what's going on?
Well, I'm working hard. I've been working everyday for the last two weeks of my program. Christmas at Walt Disney World is insane. Anyone who has come down for the Christmas/New Year's season knows what I'm talking about. You can't take a step without almost tripping over someone. It makes it kind of hard to carry an apron of glow or navigate a couple hundred pound cart through a crowded street. In addition to this influx of people, Fantasmic! has also added a third show, every night through January 5th. That means our shifts are longer, which is nice on your paycheck, but rough on your body and confusing logistics-wise. No rest for CMs though.
If you've been following me, you'll be pleased to know that I HAVE A JOB! Since posting my last entry, I have gotten a call from Casting and as of January 9th, 2014, I will officially begin my role as a Casual Regular (Part Time) Merchandise cast member at Adventureland in the Magic Kingdom. So this will be my new home...
I'm really looking forward to this position. I will be working at the carts and outdoor shops in and around the Tiki Room and Aladdin's flying carpets, as well as in the Pirates of the Caribbean shop and I will continue to sell Glow items, but now you'll be seeing a lot more of me on Main Street, USA!
So as I near the end of my college program, my time in "The Hills" is becoming bittersweet. On one hand, I'm really looking forward to moving on to my new location and meeting new Cast Members, but as January 2nd approaches, more and more of us are starting to realize that the gang is splitting up. I've had a wonderful time in the Disney College Program, and I honestly don't think I could've asked for a better experience. Not everything was smooth, but the only way we learn and grow is through adversity. I met lots of interesting people and made friends from all over the world. Some I will continue to see, but many will be going home after the new year and to all of them I can only say, I will miss you all and I hope you have the greatest success, whether you're going back to school, moving on to another job, or just returning home to regroup and find the next great adventure.
I will likely make one more post, after my program has officially ended as a reflection. Thank you all for reading this blog. I hope that you've found it interesting, if even entertaining, but most of all I hope it's given you a glimpse into the life of a College Program Cast Member. Until then, may you have a very happy new year.
 
 

"The circle is now complete. When I left you I was but the learner, 
now I am the master." -Darth Vader

Okay, so maybe we won't go THAT far, but I can say that my training is officially over and I have now "Earned my Ears". Yay!!!! What does that mean? I get to take the little red ribbon off my name tag and now when guests ask me a question I really should know. =/ Even though I've gone through training, I really am still learning about a few things and getting into the hang of living and working down here. I commented to one of my co-workers last night that each shift feels like an experience. I go and it's something new every day or night. It's wonderful, but just mentally and physically exhausting! That's why I haven't written anything since last weekend. This week has just been a whirlwind, but I'm here and I'll try to give you the highlights.

Tuesday: Day off. I slept and went to Wal-Mart, and that was the eventful part of my day. Meh...

Wednesday and Thursday: This was officially my second day of training, since my trainer called in sick on Monday. I had a wonderful lady as my trainer, named Aleida. Aleida es de Cuba =) We were together for both day two and three and she was exceedingly patient with all my questions and roundabout explanations. While with Aleida I had a few cool expereinces. I pin-traded with a deaf couple and got to use what limited sign language I knew (Basically "Have a good day" and "Thank you")  and I got to make a few Magical Moments. One in particular involved three little girls, Bailey, Lainey, and Whitney. They were at Disney World celebrating Bailey's and her sister's (Who was on Rockin' Roller Coaster) adoption. Bailey, Lainey, and Whitney were too short to ride the roller coaster, so they were waiting. We colored in pictures of the Disney Princesses and when they were done, I had them sign them and told them to make sure they went up on the fridge at home. It was adorable!!!

Friday: This was my Fantasmic training night. Fantasmic shifts are much different from normal shifts. I can understand why some people may not like them because they really are very tiring and they are only six hours long. =/ So you don't make as much money. But I enjoyed my Fantasmic shift. My trainer, Charlene, and I took a cart out to "HOJO", or the junction of Hollywood and Sunset Blvd, right in front of the Sorcerer Mickey hat. And of course, it was the first day of the last Star Wars Weekend, so we were out there for the Hyperspace Hoopla! I might have looked a little silly wearing so much blinking, spinning stuff and dancing to remixed Star Wars music, but I had a blast doing it, so there! I believe Charlene was thoroughly amused. We sold quite a bit too, so I'd say it was a successful night.
Because Fantasmic is a night shift, I didn't have to report until later, so I went to the park a bit early so I could get a Darth Vader chocolate, peanut butter cupcake. OHMYGOSHITWASAMAZING! And while I was in Darth's Mall (Get it??) I met up with a few members of the 501st, Florida Garrison. For those of you who don't know, the 501st was a legion of Clone troopers/Storm troopers known as "Vader's Fist". Anakin fought with them during the Clone Wars and kept them around after the Purge. The real-life 501st is a group of Star Wars fans who do appearances and charity work through foundations like Make-A-Wish, etc. I got to "talking shop" with them and they were pretty cool. Two were Cast members too. They gave me their cards and told me to drop them a line if I thought about joining up. Wow! I'm not much of a fan of the Empire or the Dark Side, but these guys were pretty cool and they are super-nerds of Star Wars like me! I might have to consider it!

Saturday: Saturday was my last day of training and I had Donald. Not Donald Duck, another Donald. He seemed quite impressed with my track record thus far and after seeing me work for about an hour out at the Rockin' Roller Coaster cart, determined that I was thoroughly prepared for my final test. So we went and did that before lunch and despite a few tricksey questions, I passed! The rest of my day consisted of stocking, though, because I had a weird shift time. It was also pouring, so there were a lot of people in the shop. Queue more Magical Moments! One little boy in particular stuck in my memory. His name was Josh and he was from England (it's so cute listening to a child speak British English!!!) Josh was a huge Star Wars fan and his favorite character is none other than THE OBI-WAN KENOBI! The Force is strong with this one! =) Josh was too short to go on Rockin' Roller Coaster, but we talked a bunch and it was so fun! Afterwards I got to meet Josh's dad (an ex-rocker himself) and we talked a bit more. It was still raining when they left, so Josh challenged his dad to a race to Tower of Terror. =)

Sunday: AKA Yesterday, was my first Fantasmic shift ALONE!!!! DUN DUN DUUUUNN!!! Nah, it wasn't really that bad. In fact, it was pretty fun. I took out another cart, this one on Sunset Blvd, right near the entrance of Fantasmic. We took rain gear and ponchos, but thankfully our pre-planning meant the weather held off. I sold A LOT of glowing, spinning stuff, but the cool part was that I got to finally see Danielle! Danielle first tipped me off to the College Program and  we'd been trying to find a time to meet up since I got down here, but all of our attempts fell through until one night Danielle came to Hollywood Studios and BAM! there I was! Go figure. She took a picture, so I probably have a picture of myself with my glow on floating around the Internet somewhere. It was really cool to meet up with her again. She starts her training for her full time position at Animal Kingdom Lodge today.
I also met another Star Wars fan, a young man named Danny. Danny was in Tae Kwon Do and of course had his lightsaber with him. He wanted to spar with me (I was waving around one of the Sorcerer Mickey Light Swords when he came by). Unfortunately I had to tell him no, but that I could teach him a few actual lightsaber moves. ;) Since the street was basically empty at 10:30 (the park closes at 10, but the last Fantasmic show is at 10:30), I had plenty of space to teach Danny a few of the lightsaber moves that I knew. His mom thought it was so cool that she filmed part of it. I rounded off that night coming back about fifteen minutes late, but Danny and his family went home with huge grins on their faces and hopefully a very fond memory of the last day of Star Wars weekend. Mission accomplished.

Tonight I have another Fantasmic shift. In fact I have a lot of Fantasmic shifts coming up. Since they're so short, I'm going to have to pick up a few more hours, but that just means I'll be looking to work at other locations. I've got my eye on a Merchandise shift on Main Street, USA. Hmm...
 
 

"We welcome you to a Hollywood that never was--and always will be." 
-Hollywood Studios Dedication

Whew! Well I finally have a day off. Training has been a whirlwind of interesting times. Let me see if I can break it down for you.

Saturday: Saturday was a classroom day...and also a really bad day to be riding the CP buses. It began at 0-Dark Thirty, also called the crack of dawn and a few more unsavory names that are not appropriate for Disney films and therefore will not be typed in this blog =] 
Unfortunately it didn't seem that our bus driver wanted to wake up early either, because the bus was late. And it continued to become more late during the run as the driver waited for exceedingly longer amounts of time at each stop, before coming to the last stop, Westclock and Disney University. It was a mad dash off the bus and a scramble into Disney University but I managed to clock in with only two minutes to spare. Made it!
My Disney University course was one all Merchandise cast members have to take and it had the Seuss-ian name "Merchantainment". (See what I did there =P ) But what is Merchantainment? Well according to the big letters on the back of the classroom, it's "Merchandise" + "Entertainment" = "Merchantainment". Got it? Good! The class itself was fine. They discussed a lot of things, including Loss Prevention techniques, so on and so forth. But then for the second part of the class, we got to move over to the registers. Because this Merchantainment room was not just a classroom with chairs. It also had about 20 registers set up in rows (think computer classroom style) that were fully armed and operational--eh I mean...functioning. That morning I rang up what must've been over 30 Tigger plush toys and 10 DVDs about Walt's life. But I got to learn the basics of the registers without having to feel bad about making the guest wait for me to find the right button. How cool is that!
After Merchantainment I went to Studios and picked up my costumes, and then proceeded to wait two hours for a bus that never showed. Riiiight...

Sunday: Sunday was "On With the Show", in which they gave us a bunch of lovely things, most of which I already had because Don was very thorough. We had yet another tour of the park (Hollywood Studios), and it was SO HARD! Not because what they were saying was too difficult to understand or not interesting, nor because the park was exceedingly large (It really isn't. It's one of the smaller ones). Sunday happened to be the second to last Sunday of Star Wars weekends. So they had the Star Wars music going and characters running about and little boys dressed up like Jango Fett. It was almost too much for me to take. My fellow cast members had to keep telling me to put my nerd away. However we did get to play with some clone troopers a little. We were walking right by them when my fellow cast member Tiffany steps right up to one and sings "Stop! In the name of love!" I would've loved to see the face of the guy inside, but no such luck through those helmets. They did, however, proceed to follow her for a moment before moving on.
After our tour we went into a presentation with Wes (one of the cast members who was handling On With the Show). I will say this about all the training I've done so far. It has been entertaining. I have not met a single cast trainer who stepped up and gave a boring, monotone lecture. They've all been funny (and sometimes Disney-punny) and exceedingly well-presented. And if you didn't know this, each park has it's own vision for success. While I won't share the Hollywood Studios one with you directly, I will say that it incorporates the quote above. "We welcome you to a Hollywood that never was--and always will be." That's taken directly from the dedication plaque, from 1989, given by Michael Eisner. It tells you everything you need to know about Hollywood Studios, incorporating the parts that are historically accurate, and the few liberties that were taken. Hollywood Studios isn't an exact replica of Hollywood at any time, but rather it's an image of the glitz and glamour that people associate with Hollywood. I thought that was so cool!
After "On With the Show" I finally got to go out and enjoy Star Wars Weekend to the fullest! I got an Aurebesh nametag...
...Which I will be allowed to wear this coming weekend when it's the final Star Wars weekend of the year =( I also got an R2-D2 mickey ears hat, as well as a gift for a fellow Star Wars nerd back home who couldn't make it. I went on Star Tours (the line was LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO-OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG) and even got to see James Arnold Taylor's presentation called "Obi-Wan and Beyond". I thoroughly enjoyed that part. It was actually really inspiring! I also got pictures of a few characters, including Darth Maul, Shaak Ti, some Stormtroopers, a Tusken Raider, Captain Rex, and a really distant, creepy picture of Darth Vader (paparazzi style from the bushes). To round off the evening, I got to see Hyperspace Hoopla! That was really cool, especially because I'm scheduled to work all next weekend and won't get to see it again =(

Monday: Well...this day was a bit rough. I was supposed to have my first day of training, but my trainer unfortunately called in sick. Apparently he never does that, so I hope he gets better! But it meant that I couldn't work on register. I had the option of going home, but I'd already woken up super early and rode the bus an hour to get there...so I decided to stay. I learned a lot about stocking, including how fast ice melts in the Florida sun (on a good day, it might last 20-30 minutes, on a hot day, forget it!), how NOT to turn on the water to fill up the Squeeze Breezes (those little fan squeeze bottle things), and how to put t-shirts on hangers. Not one of the most exciting days, but I got to meet a bunch of pretty cool people over at Rockin' Roller Coaster, including the lovely Peaches, who runs the stock room over there. And I still got to interact with some guests. I was taking the Ice cart out to the stand to replenish the ice when a little boy came up to me and said "Excuse me, ma'am, can I look at your pins?" So cute!!!! And really polite! I see potential in that one =) Overall I still had a good day. The training that I missed out on will be made up tomorrow, which means I get overtime this week (Yahoo!).

So that's my update for now. I'll be posting my photos from Star Wars weekend. Friday is my first Fantasmic night and it will either go really well, or be "not my favorite". Apparently it takes a certain kind of person to like Fantasmic shifts...

 
 

"We allow no geniuses around our Studio." -Walt Disney

Today was my first day of training in Hollywood Studios, a little program they call "Merchandise Tier 1". Basically it involved an introduction to the park, as well as each of the three places I will be working (Rock'n Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, and Fantasmic carts). First I got to wear what they refer to as the "High End Merchandise" costume. I don't have any pictures of myself in it because I was a little too excited to think of that sort of thing, but basically there were a lot of red with white polka-dots involved and a VERY interesting green skirt. One thing to know about costumes...women wear about two or three sizes larger than their street clothes. So I'm a size eight dress, but I wore a 14 skirt and a 10 blouse. Made things a little difficult, especially because seemingly every other girl has the same sizes as me. =P
So you've all heard of the tunnels under the Magic Kingdom for cast members to use to get from place to place? Keeps people in princess costumes out of Adventureland and vice versa. Well they don't have a system like that at Hollywood Studios. Rather, they have a whole lot of "backstage" area, which is accessed by tons of little Cast Member Only doors and passages, which I have begun to refer to as "Secret squirrel holes". Doesn't make any sense, but seriously, it's so easy to get lost back there. No signs, just your own basic knowledge of the park (which we call "On Stage") and maybe you can see some big landmarks along the way. Luckily I didn't have to navigate by myself most of the day.
Training was fun. My trainer was a "Disney Legend", Don Rogers. Pretty cool! It was Star Wars Weekend, of course, the second to last one of the year. I got in at 10 and by the time I was dressed and we were ready to get going, the 11 o'clock Star Wars parade was getting set to go. Because Don was such an awesome guy, and because he QUICKLY learned how big a Star Wars fan I am (it was a little obvious with how much my nerd was showing), he took me around back to see all the performers preparing for the parade. I got to see Shaak Ti, Kit Fisto, Mace Windu, Ahsoka Tano, Darth Maul, Darth Revan, Vader, Chewbacca, you name it! I also got a brief glimpse of Sam Witwer, who voiced Darth Maul for the Star Wars: Clone Wars show, and is the vampire Aidan on "Being Human". Let me just say, it's SO WEIRD to see someone in person when you're used to seeing them on television. Seriously. I also saw Warwick Davis (Ewok and Professor Flitwick) and the voice of Admiral Ackbar ("It's a Trap!"), Tim Rose.
Today was overall just a great introduction. I traded a bunch of pins and got to learn my way around. I even helped find a little boy who'd ran off from his grandmother. I got to meet tons of people who I'm going to work with over the next few months and I feel a little better now, at least having some idea of how things are going to roll. I also got these...
...my "Earning my Ears" ribbon and my pin-trading lanyard. Ignore the "I <3 Food and Beverage" pin. Merchandise is better anyways =P I had a great time and I'll let you know how the rest of my training goes!