"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.
"I think it's important to have a good hard failure when you're young. I learned a lot out of that. Because it makes you kind of aware of what can happen to you." -Walt Disney
Hello everyone, again. I left off my last post still waiting for news on the Professional Internship front. Well I've gotten news, and unfortunately I was passed over for an internship. But, like I said in the last post, I'm still committed to making the most out of my time down here, so the day after I found out about my er...lack of internship, I took my butt to Casting and applied to a few part-time positions. I applied to stay in my current role, as a Merchandise Cast Member, but I also looked at other roles, namely the role of Character Attendant. I've already been through an informal interview, so now the next step is to go before the heads of the Entertainment department and prove to them that I have what it takes to be a Blueberry (well, the other kind of blueberry). In addition to those applications, I've also spoken to my managers and expressed interest in being considered for a Casual Regular assignment here in Hollywood Hills. In short, I'm working hard to sure up my bases and make sure that once January 3rd rolls around, I still have a job.
While I am disappointed that I did not receive an offer for a Professional Internship, I also recognize that I was up against a great many other contenders, some of which who were just better qualified than I was. Maybe it just wasn't my time, or maybe God is telling me "Katie, you really aren't meant to do that.". I guess only time and more hard work will tell. Like the quote for this post says, I hope that this set back will serve to only motivate me further and perhaps even allow me to prove that I have the drive and determination to succeed. This certainly isn't the end of my Disney journey, just a "Road Closed" sign that I'll have to detour around.
It's coming up on Christmas here and you can definitely tell. Well, not by the weather. I think Florida is the only state NOT experiencing winter right now. But there are certainly more guests coming in everyday and everyone seems to be getting into the holiday spirit. I've mailed my family's Christmas presents home and my roommates and I have already set up our tiny little Christmas tree and decorated it with random things that we could find around the apartment. Here's a picture...
Isn't it pretty! I've also said goodbye to another roommate (Sammie) and welcomed in a new one (Andrea from Peru). I think we'll get along fine. She's a Lord of the Rings fan and we're going to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug tonight at a midnight premiere. Not a bad way to start off a roomies relationship.
I also we very fortunate to receive FIVE complimentary tickets to the 30th Anniversary Christmas Parade filming, starring the one, the only NEIL PATRICK HARRIS!!! It was great fun, filled with cameos by many Disney friends, including this new one...
I'm only a little disappointed that I'll probably be working when the Christmas Parade airs on ABC, Christmas Day. So someone has to record it for me at home! The week of the filming I actually got to see Neil Patrick Harris not once (at the filming), but THREE times! I don't know if Hollywood Studios is his favorite park, but he visited three times during the week that he was here, and seemed to particularly like Tower of Terror. I also happened to be taking my break outside during Fantasmic when he and his family were being whisked away in their Guest Services van. To say I was a bit starstruck would be accurate. But come on, everyone says they would be totally chill until their face-to-face with someone they've only ever seen on television or on the big screen.
With less than a month to go in my program, I'm sort of in this weird flux stage. I know that I'M not going anywhere, but many of my friends are, and so I feel like I need to do as much as I can with them. We had graduation just yesterday and I got my graduation ears!
I definitely like them better than my graduation cap and sort of wish I'd had them when I graduated before! Of course they're getting embroidered. I have to say, I'm not feeling too reflective yet. I guess it's just the looming monster that is "Christmas and New Year's at Disney" keeping me focused only on what's ahead. I went to Magic Kingdom as a guest last night, probably for the last time until after the holiday season. It was just much too crowded again.
I hope that everyone has a very Merry Christmas (see what I did there =P) and a safe and happy New Year. My next post probably won't come until closer to my program end date, in 2014. Thank you to everyone who has been following my time on the College Program so far. I hoped you enjoyed reading my blog! Until next time...
"Somehow I can't believe there are any heights that can't
be scaled by a man who knows the secret of
making dreams come true." -Walt Disney
It's been brought to my attention, by me, that I've been negligent of this blog. Sorry 'bout that...
So here's what's new!
It's November! Yep, I've successfully made it through the Halloween season. It's not as big a deal in Studios because there's very little they change for Halloween. But Magic Kingdom was DECKED OUT! I'll post pictures later of it. For select days during September and October, Magic Kingdom was hosting Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. For those of you who don't know what it is, it's a special event (which requires a special ticket). It lasts from 7pm-Midnight and there are all sorts of fun things. There's the "Boo to You" parade, as well as Hallowishes: A Grim Grinning Ghosts Spooktacular in the Sky, and lots of candy. Here's a youtube version of Hallowishes that's really good. I love the music from Hallowishes!
The event has limited tickets, so it's a great chance to enjoy the Magic Kingdom with practically no wait on just about every ride. Of course you have to dress up for it! I went as Batgirl. Again, photos to come. While my night to enjoy Not-So-Scary as a guest was at the end of September, closer to Halloween I also got to enjoy Not-So-Scary as a Cast Member. I picked up shifts at Splashdown Photos (Splash Mountain) and I also picked up a glow shift. My favorite was the Glow shift, because not only was I located right next to the carousal with a panoramic view of Hallowishes, I also got to wear the special events costume for Not-So-Scary. If there's one thing I love about picking up shifts, it's getting to wear funny costumes.
So now Halloween is over and the parks are decorated for Christmas. At Magic Kingdom, I got to see the first castle lighting. That was really exciting. Also, The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights has arrived at Hollywood Studios. This coming Thursday (the 14th of November), I will be enjoying Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party (think Not-So-Scary but with more holly). I realize that it's not even Thanksgiving yet, but with all this Christmas around, I'm feeling very festive. A quick trip back to Pennsylvania for a weekend visit also reminded me that, while down here the warmth is lingering, winter is definitely coming, as is the end of my College Program. So what's the plan?
Recently, I have committed myself to staying down here in Florida for another seven months after January. Yep, I now have a roommate, and we've been officially approved for our apartment come January. I'm still waiting to hear about my Professional Internship (hopefully news will come sometime this week!), but I've decided that I'm just not done with Disney yet. Whether this means I continue on as a Casual Regular (part-time in Disney-speak) or as a Professional Intern, I'm sticking it out down here. The truth of the matter is, yes, my job can be difficult at times, but every time I look forwards, I can easily see myself still working for Disney. Am I drinking the Kool-Aid? You betcha! Out of my Beauty and the Beast souvenir goblet! I like the people I work with and I like what I do. On paper it might look like I'm just doing retail, but being a Disney Cast Member is so much more. For example, did you know that I also bring out smiles? Whether it's after Tower of Terror, or in the dark part with the dragon of Fantasmic, I've gotten really good at bringing out smiles. The best part of my job is that I make memories. Whatever role I end up in at Disney, I hope that I always get to continue doing that.
So that's what's new with me. To all my friends up north, I'm sending warm thoughts your way. As soon as I know about my new internship, I will let you know.
"Of all of our inventions for mass communication, pictures still speak the most universally understood language." -Walt Disney
Wow! I can't believe it's already September! Where did the summer go?? I know it's been a while since I've published anything and I apologize for that. We'll just have to make up for lost time now, I guess!
So you all know that I've been taking an American Sign Language course for the last few weeks. It's been going great! We just have one more class left, a silent dinner. We'll all go to Chili's and we won't say a word. It'll be tricky, especially since I don't think our vocabulary list included "I'd like a burger, hold the pickles." Oh well, that's what paper is for, I guess. I've really been having a blast in this class and have been learning a lot. I've also met a lot of cool people (i.e. a former Power Ranger). Next week I plan to test for my ASL language pin, so I will officially have it on my nametag. Cool huh?
August has past since the last time I updated you guys and I must say, it was interesting. Still quite busy, although now it's tapering off. If July is the month of the Portuguese tour groups, August is the month of the Brits and the Northeasterners. Is that even a word? Now, these groups are significantly easier to handle than the tour groups, mainly because they generally speak English (although some of those accents are a little hard to read through) and they generally aren't as rowdy. There are also less of them. With school back in session for the Floridians pretty early (like early August, early), the parks are less crowded and that means less lines, but also more downtime on the part of Cast Members. It's been a little hard to keep working the same hours I was during the heavy summer months, but I have little worry. Soon Christmas will be upon us. Now isn't that ominous!
In addition to ASL and less Guests, it's also APPLICATION TIME! Yep, the most dreaded part that just about every college student hates, applying for jobs/internships. I've applied for three different Professional Internships, in hopes that I will get them all and have to decide between the three of them. Barring that, I wouldn't mind getting at least one. The good news is, I've just had my phone interview! Whew! So the interview process is behind me. Now I just have an information session about the YES program and then an in-person audition and then it will be out of my hands.
The three Professional Internships I've applied for are Youth Education Series (YES) Facilitator, Guest Relations, and Services for Guests with Disabilities. YES is really cool because it's teaching school-age children, in the Disney parks! It's right up my alley. I mean, I've been teaching karate for years now, and I did all that YLT stuff. Guest Relations and Services for Guest with Disabilities were more recent thoughts. Since I've gotten here, I've come to realize that what I like most about my job is making peoples' vacations. I've gotten pretty good at making kids smile and when the kid is smiling, the parents usually are too (as long as it hasn't cost them an arm and a leg). Guest Relations is more for troubleshooting, I think. Maybe your day hasn't been so magical. Not a problem. Guest Relations Woman to save the day! Services for Guests with Disabilities was even more recent. Actually it came about as a result of my ASL class. As I've been learning more about Deaf culture, I've become more aware to people who have disabilities. I want to make sure they have what they need, even if maybe it's just a little bit extra. All three of them are internships that obviously sounded interesting to me, but are also internships that I think I could excel at. I'm not going to give you my cover letter in summary here, but let's just say my fingers are crossed and I'm checking my dashboard everyday. As soon as I know more, obviously it will go on Facebook, then it will come here.
Whew! I know I promised you a long post, but...really I think I've covered it. Right now I'm just waiting I guess. Ugh! I hate the Waiting Game! It's almost as bad as the Quiet Game!
"See ya real soon!" -Mickey Mouse (Voiced by Walt Disney)
Well July is almost over (literally, about a hour left folks!) and that means there are a lot of goodbyes on the near horizon. Some of them are good goodbyes, like goodbye to massive amounts of tour groups. But others are a bit sadder because now I am saying goodbye to my friends from the Spring Advantage program, and from the International College Program. So within the next few weeks I will be losing a roommate, as well as about five fellow Cast Members from Hollywood Hills.
Goodbyes are a strange thing to me. Some are only temporary, like when you say goodbye to your friends at the end of a school day or work day, or when you say goodbye to extended relatives. The nice thing about those kinds of goodbyes is that you're fairly certain you'll see them again, whether it's tomorrow in class/work, or maybe next month for another family gathering. So those are only temporary.
But then you have longer goodbyes. I've graduated twice now, and each time I've said goodbye to a lot of friends with the knowledge that, chances are, I wouldn't really see them again. I haven't seen many of my high school friends since we graduated and went our separate ways (though I recently reconnected with one, Megan, quite accidentally down here. SFHS representin' at Disney Internships Panel). At college it was even harder because those relationships were just so much deeper. Those people I lived with for four years and while I still talk to them, we've all spread out in different directions and it's hard to get together in person. That's where social networking has truly changed our world.
For the friends that I am saying goodbye to now, well who knows if we'll see each other again. I've done other internships in the past, and honestly haven't spoken a word to those people, except maybe the occasional "Like" on Facebook. I hope that these friends won't become like those friends. My hope is that a year, two years, or maybe even ten or twenty years from now we'll meet again. Maybe we'll all be working for Disney and our roles will bring us together again. Or maybe it'll be by serendipity, like it was with my friend from high school. It wouldn't be the first time I've made chance meetings down here. Disney World has this strange ability to bring people together, whether they live just ten minutes down the road (I met a family who did) or other sides of the world.
Well, I hope for the best. So to Jonathan, Denise, Sophie, Juliana, Barbara, Allison, Courtney, and all the other good friends I've made. We survived the freak rain storms, stifling heat, massive crowds, and guests who communicate in every language under the sun. Goodbye for now, and I'll see ya real soon!
"All cartoon characters and fables must be exaggeration, caricatures. It is the very nature of fantasy and fable." -Walt Disney
Why hello there everyone! I figured I'd just check in, give another update since we're half way through a new month. So here's what's up...
It's busy busy busy busy busy. Oh yeah, did I mention it's busy? If you asked me to describe my workplace in two words, I'd say Screams, because it's not Hollywood Hills unless a few guests are screaming their lungs out in Tower of Terror, and Portuguese. Yup. Anyone who's been down to Disney World in July and August knows what I'm talking about. The tour groups are out EN MASS!!! What does that mean for us Cast Members? Well it's very crowded, that's for sure. Kind of a bit more rambunctious than usual, and the Super Greeters and International Tell-A-Casts are our new best friends. But don't let the green shirts fool you. It's not just tour groups from Brazil. Last week we had groups from Uruguay and Paraguay, and this week we had lots of groups from Argentina. I'll just say, my High School Spanish is getting a work out! Whew!
Now that I've really begun to get my work schedule under control and almost down to a science, I've started to expand my focus a bit more and look to take advantage of some of the personal enrichment things that Disney has to offer it's Cast Members. Most people think that's just a bunch of meet and greets and networking events, and sure, some of them are. But wait! There's more!
Just this Monday, I took a Beginner's Puppetry Workshop. Yep, you read that right. Puppetry, as in The Muppets, Finding Nemo The Musical and Sesame Street. In fact, the very first song we learned in the Workshop was the Sesame Street Theme song! The one from 1998-2001 that all us nineties kids are familiar with. If you lived under a rock as a child (which is totally fine, I'm not about judging people's life choices or anything like that), then here it is.
Yup. It was actually really hard! Puppetry isn't just about opening and closing your hand to the words. You have to isolate your thumb, otherwise your puppet looks up every time you open its mouth! And then there are crazy things like dropped syllables and variation and inflection, AND THEN, after ALL THAT, they tell you that you have to make your puppet act. With EMOTIONS!!!! I took this class with a friend of mine, Jonathan from England. We ended up having a mix up with the class times, so we went to the same workshop twice. Let me tell you, it was worth it because there's so much that has to go into puppetry and making a puppet seem real! But it was so much fun. Me and Jonathan did a duet of "Tonight" from West Side Story (not our choice), and then we were in a quartet of "I'm Yours" by Jason Miraz. And to finish things off, the whole class did "Don't Stop Believin" (the Glee Cast version). It was so much fun and our instructors, Chris and Jason, were so...well...animated! I'm on the look out for another workshop. If I can get the basics of the first one down, I might be able to move up to the Intermediate workshop where you start learning about things like eye-blinks and how to use an actual puppet. In the beginners class you get two googly eyes that you wrap around your fingers with a rubber band, but you'd be surprised how your hand takes on a life of its own once it has eyes. If you don't believe me, just ask Jerry, Jonathan's new friend. =D
In addition to the Puppetry workshop, I've also enrolled in a Sign Language course. I'm on week two of ten and boy is my brain stuffed! The class is just so much fun though! It's taught by Michelle, who is Deaf, though the rest of the class is all Hearing. I've tried books before, but nothing beats an actual class. Not only do you learn to sign, but you also learn how to interact with Deaf and Hard of Hearing people. They have so many different ways to get their points across and the class has definitely already given me pointers of how to interact with Deaf and Hard of Hearing guests. It is a bit tricky, though, because everyone in the class is at different levels. A few of us came in only knowing the alphabet (and even then, only SORT OF knowing the alphabet), while others came in having taken courses before and one lady has been signing for over a year! But we still muddle through it, and if we don't know, well like I said, Michelle has ways of getting her point across. The class is really fun and extremely informative. I'm hoping that by the end of the ten weeks, I'll be able to test for my language pin. I really want to become proficient enough. It's a really great skill to have. For next week, my homework is to practice, but also to write about what we think it's like being Deaf. I think that I'm going to take some ear-plugs and go about my day. Go play in the parks, go to the grocery store, just try and get an idea.
So that's what's up with me! I'm starting to get more shifts in the shops now. It was really fun picking up hours at Storybook Circus, so I'm back there tomorrow evening. Also, as we come to the end of July, my International College Program friends are winding down their programs. It's sad and I'm going to miss them, but I know that a few have plans of returning for PIs or various other reasons. No matter what, before they leave we're all going to get "The Kitchen Sink" from the Boardwalk. It's an enormous ice cream sundae that is LITERALLY in a basin. Should be AWESOME!
See ya real soon!
"It has that thing - the imagination, and the feeling of happy excitement- I knew when I was a kid." -Walt Disney
Well hello there! It's been a little while, hasn't it? Well I promise you it's not because I've been meaning to neglect this blog. I've just been a tad bit busy. So what's been going on?
Well, I've been doing Fantasmic! A LOT. As in just about every night. I have favorite parts of the show, have memorized much of the music, and I'm well on my way to knowing Mickey's finale dance. And even then, it's still an amazing show and I'm mesmerized each time I watch it. Crazy huh? It also means I know when maybe there were a few goofs. One night the Dragon (whom I have since learned is called "Vivian") was too wet to open, so Maleficent stood on her really tall podium and swung her staff around a lot. And John Smith was having a heck of a time last week. One night he didn't swing across on his rope, and then the next night he swung too far and slipped! Oops! That's okay, it made the action more harrowing.
When I first went into this internship, I was REALLY EXCITED! Each night I looked forward to going to work because it was going to be something new! Something exciting! And I thought to myself, is it really going to be like this all the time? Surely once I've gotten the routine down, it will become duller, more like work and less like a new adventure.
Well, after a month, I think it's time to reflect a little. I'm not going to say every night is still an exciting experience like those first few weeks were. That would be a bit of a stretch. But I will say that each night is something I still look forward to. Only now it's for different reasons. I've made tons of friends and now I look forward to going and seeing them. And without a doubt, interacting with guests is always a high point. When I worked for the rock gym at home, I used to joke about how my job sometimes meant making children cry. It was the truth in that case, because at the end of the day, the look on their face when I brought them back down from the very top was worth the "tough love". Well now my job is, without a doubt, to make children smile. I've begun to lose count of how many children I've made laugh and how many sad faces became smiles. That ability has become what I look forward to each time I go to work. Knowing that I can make family memories. I've been in tons of vacation photos and filmed a few times, dancing to some song decked out in Glow. Just last night, me and my fellow Cast members of Tower of Terror Merch put on an entirely improv concert for our guests, complete with High School Musical songs, some pretty funky beats tapped out on the Front desk, and dance moves that maybe got a bit out of hand... But the cool thing is, is that families will go home and look at those photos and that video and say "Remember when...". It's an amazing feeling, and one I hope I don't lose as I start racking up the months.
So this is an internship program...I guess a fairly reasonable question would be "What have I learned?" Well last week I learned how to deposit the money for the night. I don't think anybody would argue that Disney make A LOT of money. It takes a lot of dough to feed The Mouse. When I was first learning to count out the night's earnings, I found myself pausing and turning to the Coordinator that night, Andy, and saying "I don't think I've ever really held this much money". It's pretty intimidating! And your counts have to be correct too! The actual process is sort of long and requires a fair bit of paperwork and sequential actions. The cash room itself, where we go to deposit is SCARY! It's probably a bit smaller than your average dorm room and there are about fifty billion cameras in there. Okay...maybe not fifty billion, but still they can see EVERYTHING that goes on. And when you're making deposits you have to show your face to the camera and all sorts of other stuff. It's basically like going into a prison (not that I've ever done that before, just so we're clear).
In addition to counting money, I've also been learning a bit about the Disney style of leadership. There are posters all over the manager's offices. I was reading over them yesterday and I had to chuckle. Why? Because there were three "tenets" of Disney Leadership and once you got past the more Disney-esque flowery words, they all got whittled down to "Be, Know, Do". At that point the leader of that night was wondering why I was laughing. When I explained it to him, he thought it was cool, but didn't really understand why I was laughing. I guess you just have to go through NYLT for as many years at I have to understand how loaded those three words are...
We've got some pretty cool things happening down here. I, of course, saw Monsters University and LOVED IT! If you haven't seen it, you need to because it's so much fun! Also, we've begun our first round of guest testing our new MagicBands! They're really awesome! So far guests are selected from Contemporary and Animal Kingdom Lodge for a certain amount of time. They can use their MagicBands to get into their rooms, to get into the parks, to charge purchases to their credit card on file, and to use FastPass+ for our attractions! I've heard really great things about them so far. Everyone I've talked to that has been testing them has loved them. We're all really excited for them here too! Maybe Cast will get them too..
Well, all things considered, I think it's been a very fun and very active first month. Emphasis on the active. I think I've run myself down a little too much because I've contracted one of the dreaded summer colds. Well, I guess every day at Disney can't ALWAYS be magical... Wrong! I'm really looking forward to this Tuesday, because it'll be my second Extra Hours deployment, where I get to go and work at a location other than my beloved Hollywood Hills. Destination: Magic Kingdom. That's right, I'm taking on the dragon that is MK. I'll be working under the Big Top which means it's off to the circus for me at MK's new Fantasyland. I went to MK's Costuming department today to pick up my costume. SUPER cute =P Nah, it's pretty nice. I've decided that working at Disney is just an excuse for adults to play dress up. Photos to come of my visit to the circus!
Until next time, which will hopefully be sooner rather than later!
"Fantasia, to me is a whole new opportunity. For my medium it opens up unlimited possibilities." -Walt Disney
I'm back! And right about now I feel like a drowned rat, or I guess it would be a mouse ;) A thunderstorm blew in tonight and I was outside. Needless to say, I got a little soaked...
This last week I've been working Fantasmic non-stop. What does that mean? Well it means all of my shifts are from 6:30 pm (18:30) to 12:30 am (00:30). Yep, so they're at night, and a fair bit of the shift takes place AFTER the park has officially begun closing. Rather than go into detail about every day this week, I'm just going to talk a little bit about what a Fantasmic shift is like from the Merchandise side of things, and maybe I'll regale you with some of the more interesting stories!
Well, first things first, as I said, a Fantasmic shift goes from 6:30 at night to 12:30 in the morning. So it's relatively short, as shifts go. I mean, I've worked 10- and 12-hour shifts at Rockin' Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror. Six hours is nothing. Fantasmic, either you like it or you don't. I've fallen into the category of liking it and here's why. Everything has to happen on a time schedule. We're working around two shows, one at 9 PM and one at 10:30. In the middle of that, the park officially "closes", i.e. we start to shut down everything and gesture people towards the exit, at 10 PM. So we have a very small window to sell as much glow stuff as we can. Usually by the time you've counted your stock and initial funds, you get out onto the streets around 7:15, 7:30. At this point, they begin to let guests into the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater to begin seating for the 9:00 showing.
There are three different kinds of positions that the average Fantasmic merchandise cast member can be assigned to: a cart, one of the theater kiosks, or "necklace", which means you put on an apron and load as much stuff into your pockets as you can. I've been on a cart and I've done "necklace" in this week. The carts are okay, but the real fun is necklace! Those aprons can take A LOT of stuff. I'm talking upwards of twenty swords, a bunch of spinners, and then you hang as many light-up necklaces and Mickey ears off your arms as you can. It usually takes another person to help you put on your apron (sometimes two). Standing there with your arms decked out, being tied into your apron, I imagine it's just a small taste of what astronauts feel like when preparing for a space walk. Being on necklace for a night is a bit like being pregnant in that you weigh twice as much and you can't see your toes. By the end of the night, if your back doesn't ache a bit you're not doing it right.
Necklace is nice because you really have an incentive to sell items. The more you sell, the less you have to carry. Everybody wins! We walk around up and down the stairs in the theater until the first show goes. By then, I'm usually out of stock (those swords go fast!). During the show you re-stock and then head on back out for when the first group of guests leave. Lather, rise, repeat for the second show and you have a basic Fantasmic necklace experience. Oh, did I mention they play awesome Disneymania songs. My favorite to sing and dance along to is "Part of Your World". Sure it's done by Miley Cyrus, but it's so applicable and my shenanigans never fail to bring a smile to guests' faces. =)
On cart, things are a bit different. If you get a Theater cart, then your timetable is pretty much the same as the necklace people. But you could also get a cart that is stationed around the park. There are three locations, Sunset Boulevard, "HoJo" (aka, Hollywood Blvd Junction), and Main Entrance. The carts stay out, selling as much as they can, and then they come back in at set times, based on how the park typically empties (so Main Entrance is always the last one in since everybody has to leave that way).
Everybody who works at Fantasmic has to wear at least one item of "glow" (i.e. the merchandise!). Here is a photo of me with my Sunset Blvd cart...
It's part of "Merchantaining" and all that fun stuff. Basically it means that I HAVE TO play with the glowing light up Mickey Sorcerer Sword. It's what I get paid for! Actually it's rather interesting how much you sell of a particular item as soon as you start playing with it. Seriously, you let it sit there, you won't sell any. But if you twirl the sword around in a few figure-eights and suddenly it's amazing! Moral of the story, play with the toys. And switch it up too! Tonight I was giving high-fives with a glowing, Michael Jackson-style white glove. The night before I was wearing blue, flashing monster eyes on my head in honor of the Monsters U Homecoming party taking place at the nose (aka, the Sorcerer Mickey Hat).
In the end, the most important part about the Fantasmic shift is just to have fun. It's even more important than in the other shifts because it's late, people are tired, and let's be honest, parents hate the stuff that you're selling. But if you're smiling and dancing funny and just having a good time, then your good mood is infectious. I can't tell you how many people I've seen walk towards me with a tired, angry, annoyed, pouty face, and suddenly grin at some goofy thing I'm doing. It can turn a day around, I swear, and it sends the guests home with a good feeling at the end of the day. Because for the majority of the guests who attend Fantasmic, us cast members who work there are the last they'll see for the night and we're responsible for making sure they go back to their homes or resorts with big smiles on their faces. You want to wrap-up their day at Hollywood Studios on a high note and really make sure that from the moment they step into the park to the moment they leave, they get the full Disney Experience.
So I hope I've given you a good idea of what it's like working Fantasmic. Don't worry about me, I'll dry out.
"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...