Posts Tagged ‘Animal Kingdom’

h1

Drive-by Posting

December 16, 2009

In case you’re still unsure, this whole College Program thing is exhausting.  Fun, but exhausting.  So even though I love updating my blog, I just don’t seem to have the time anymore.  I’m hoping to sit down in the next few days and write some full-length catch-up posts, but just in case that doesn’t happen, here are a few thoughts and tidbits that I just feel the need to record.  I’m too tired for segues!

Today was our CP completion program, a.k.a. Graduation Day!  There was a huge picnic at Mickey’s Retreat, we all got graduation mouse ears and diplomas, and got our picture taken with the boss.  Tons of fun!  It lasted from 10:30 to 2:00, but we didn’t get there until around 12:30.  They had so much fun stuff to do, I wish we had gone earlier.  I went with all of my roommates, and we had a great time goofing off, taking pictures, and just hanging out.  I love these girls, and I got a little emotional about leaving for the first time today.

I’ve been working insane hours since I moved to Tomorrowland.  I almost never go in earlier than 5:00 pm, and if I get off before 1:15 am, that’s an early night.  Yesterday I worked for more than 14 hours, but I only have myself to blame.  One of the girls from work was trying to give away her shift because she had family in town, so I picked it up.  I already had a shift of my own that day, so I ended up working from 9:00 am to 11:45 pm.  It was exhausting, but I also have to admit that it was a little exhilarating.  As I clocked out, I really felt like if I could survive that, I could survive anything.  It was a really good day for it though, because I was working at Space Mountain, and it went down four times.  So it wasn’t a very busy day, and one of the times it went down I was at Preview so I just sat on the big comfy couches for almost an hour waiting for the ride to come back up.  I’m telling you, this can be a rough job. 🙂

The insanity is about to end, though, because all 6 of us who came to Tomorrowland after Food & Wine Festival are being sent back to Animal Kingdom.  I was really upset at first, because they weren’t sure if we would all be together.  But it turns out we’ll all be in Asia together, so at least I won’t be totally surrounded by strangers for my last couple of weeks.  Right now we’re only deployed there for the week of Christmas, but they may deploy us for the week of New Year, too.  We’ll just have to wait and see.  I’m definitely excited to have some normal hours!

In honor of leaving Tomorrowland, here’s a picture I should have posted a long time ago:

h1

A Day of Great Guests

August 21, 2009

As we’re wrapping up our training, it’s quickly becoming obvious what my favorite part of the job will be: interacting with the guests.  Today we worked behind the register some, and also worked the position known as “personal shopper.”  This is another example of Disney-ese.  Really, the personal shopper role just consists of walking around the floor, talking to guests, and trying to help them find anything they may need.  It was a little awkward at first, initiating contact with complete strangers, but I quickly got really into it.  Some of the guests just said they didn’t need any help; they were just browsing.  That’s fine, and it’s typically my answer when sales people ask me if I’m looking for anything specific.  But I was really surprised by how many people actually seemed excited to talk to me.  Although we had lots of great guests today, a few really stand out in my mind.  These people made my first real day of guest interaction special, and I hope that, on any days in the future when I’m feeling down about my job or don’t feel like going to work, I can remember exactly how wonderful these guests were.

One of the first guests that really stood out in my mind was a woman who was probably in her early 30s.  She was with her family, and while they shopped she came up to me and pulled out her map.  She wanted to know about show times.  So I got her a times guide, and asked her what show they were looking for.  They wanted to catch the “safari show”.  I told her our Kilimanjaro Safari ran continuously until 6:00, so they could catch it anytime during the day. She was very happy to hear this, and asked me what other shows I would recommend.  Not only was I able to recommend Festival of the Lion King, but I told her to make sure they were there at least half an hour early, mentioned that it might be difficult to get out of the arena quickly after the show, and recommended that they wait until later in the day, when the weather is cooler, to ride Kilimanjaro so they would have a better chance of seeing more animals.  All of these were things I knew from my own experiences in the park, and her reaction to my advice made me feel great.  She gave me a huge smile, thanked me, and headed back to her family, telling them exactly what I had told her: that they would go catch The Lion King, and then ride Kilimanjaro when it cooled off in the afternoon.

I’m still really enjoying Pin Trading, and it led to some of the best guest interaction of the day.  We were working in the “Island Mercantile” store, and our trainee took us outside as Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle parade went by, so that we could watch.  While we were watching the parade, one of my fellow CPs and I noticed an older man wearing a vest completely covered, front and back, with pins.  After the parade passed, we worked for a while at the Pin Trading booth, and this sweet gentleman came over to see what pins we all had.  His name was Barry, and as he talked and joked with us, he gathered quite the crowd.  People of all ages were coming over to see his collection, and he answered all sorts of questions.  Turns out he’s been pin collecting since Disney started it in 2000, and he said his favorite pin is his very first one: his wife bought it for him for $10 in 2000, and he says that now the same pin sells for over $150 on Ebay.

A little while after Barry left, a boy around 10 years old came over to trade with me.  He found a pin on my lanyard he wanted, but his pins were secured with special locking backs, and he couldn’t find his key.  We went inside, and asked one of the full-time Cast Members if we sold keys to fit his lock.  Turns out the locking backs sold at Disney are a slightly different size, so none of the keys would fit.  I wasn’t sure what to do: this poor kid wanted the pin, but couldn’t get any of his off of his lanyard to trade!  I looked over to the full-time CM who was helping us, and she gave me a little nod.  So I took the pin off my lanyard, gave it to the boy, and told him to keep his pin, and enjoy the rest of his day.  I was really happy that I could do something to make him smile.  But a few minutes later, her returned the favor!  I turned around, and the same boy was behind me, holding out the pin he had wanted to give me off his lanyard.  He said his dad had found his key, and so he wanted to come back to give me the pin he owed me.  This kid could have easily kept both pins, without even having anything to feel guilty about.  I had told him to keep both pins, after all.  But he didn’t: he returned to complete the trade.  People like Barry and this little boy really made me realize how even a little thing like pin trading can mean so much to people.  Today, I really did feel very lucky to be a part of that.

Not everything today was Pixie Dust and sunshine: I came home very tired, hungry, and sick of my stupid costume.  And I’m sure that, once the novelty wears off, I’ll start to take moments like these for granted.  But four months isn’t that long, and I hope that even by the end of the program I’ll still remember how wonderful it felt to help make the day magical for our guests.

h1

Putting In a Full Day’s Work

August 17, 2009

It’s not even 8:30, and I’m ready for bed.  I expected to be tired after work, but I really had no idea how truly exhausted I would be.  Today was my first full day working in the park, and even though I never got behind the cash register, there was more than enough information thrown at me to make me feel a little overwhelmed.  But I also really enjoyed finally getting to interact with guests.  After some online training, we ventured out into the park for more tours, equipped with Pin Trading lanyards. 

The view I'll see every morning on my way to work.

The view I'll see every morning on my way to work.

Pin Trading is a very popular hobby among WDW visitors, but I used to think it was a bit silly.  Guests buy pins they like, and then can trade with each other or with Cast Members.  Cast Members are provided with lanyards and pins, and are unable to refuse a trade.  This makes Cast Members very popular with Pin Trading guests–if they see something they like, it’s theirs, as long as they have a pin they’re willing to give up.  As I said, I’ve never been interested in Pin Trading.  But today I realized how people could totally fall in love with this hobby.  It was a great feeling when guests would walk up to me, especially the kids, and ask to trade.  I would get down, ask them which pin they liked, and then talk to them about it or about the pins they already had.  By the end of the day, I had an almost completely new set of pins, and had gotten to talk with lots of guests I probably never would have talked to otherwise.  It was fun to find out where they were from, what kind of pins they were collecting, and what rides they had enjoyed.  And it was also fun to ooh and ahh over the pins with my fellow trainees: even though they’re not technically ours, its still exciting to get a really pretty pin, or one featuring a favorite character. 

So although the day was exhausting, it was still really exciting to finally get out there “on stage” and interact with the guests.  We also got to meeet our managers, see backstage, visit all of the shops where we can work, and even watch the afternoon parade.  Tomorrow I have the day off, but I will continue my training on Wednesday and by Saturday afternoon, I will be able to start working my regular rotation.  I’ve already gotten my schedule for my first week after training, and it looks like I’m going to be spending most of the time in the stock room.  Unfortunately, this means later hours: DAK usually closes around 5:00 or 6:00, but on nights where I have to work in the stock room, I have to work until 9:00.  It also means less guest interaction, but our trainer said that stock room is actually a really fun place to work, and will allow us to get to know the merchandise in each store before we really start manning the registers.  It doesn’t sound as exciting as register to me, but I guess we’ll see next week!  The worst part about working the stock room is that I’ll have to go back over to Costuming to get another, diffferent costume.  I’m trying to look on the bright side, though: I’m going to use it as an opportunity to drop off some of my dirty costumes, and get back some nice clean ones.  Yay for no laundry!

Random fun fact about working at DAK: bikes called “DAKcycles” are provided for Cast Members to get around backstage.  There are bike racks all over, filled with bikes that anyone can grab and ride to their destination.  When the they’ve finished with the bike, it can just be left at any bike rack for another Cast Member to use.  I haven’t used this system yet, but I’m sure I will soon!  Looks like fun to me!

h1

I’ve Been a Bad Blogger!

August 16, 2009

As I was reading other people’s blogs, preparing to do this program, I noticed a trend: many people began really strong, posting several times a week, but once their program started, the number of posts dropped off dramatically.  As a reader, I found this understandable, but frustrating.  I really wanted to know how the program would go, what I could expect, what would happen when I finally got to Disney.  I promised myself that I would be diligent with my blogging, continuing to record my experience no matter how long the days were, or how late I was working.  I told myself that I would find the time. And yet, here I am, five days into my program, and I’ve only posted once.

And, oddly enough, time hasn’t been the problem.  Sure, I’ve been busy.  But there has also been plenty of down time.  I still haven’t worked a full day since I got here half a week ago.  But the real issue has been content.  Although there has been plenty of exciting things happening, there has been a lot of hesitancy to share too much, and this has intimidated me whenever I thought about sitting down at the keyboard.

Disney is very serious about protecting the magic: they take the revelation of backstage information very seriously.  So much that’s happened in the last few days has taken place backstage, that it’s difficult to know what is considered confidential, and what I can write about freely.  Even if I was sure what I could write about, I wouldn’t know where to begin.  So much has happened in these last few days.  I’m going to try, however, so this post may be extra long.  Let’s get started, shall we?

On Friday, I went to Traditions, the general Walt Disney World training session.  Parts were a little…less interesting than others.  But most of it was actually  interesting, and even a little inspirational.  The things they talked about—how we can create magic for guests, why so many people return to WDW over and over again—made me feel lucky to be a Cast Member.  That afternoon, two of my roommates, Brit and Melissa, and I went to the Magic Kingdom to cap off a great Disney day.  We spent several hours at the park, seeing favorite attractions, viewing the parade, and just soaking up the atmosphere.

As exciting as Friday afternoon was, Friday evening was less inspiring and a little more depressing.  I spent the evening with my Mom and stayed with her at the hotel so I could take her to the airport first thing Saturday morning.  I was prepared for a long goodbye on Saturday and maybe even a few tears, but, after being told at the ticket counter that they would be closing the gate 30 minutes before takeoff, leaving my mom 2 minutes before they closed, there was so little time for goodbyes that we just hugged quickly before she ran off through security.  It really did make the process easier, though it was a little startling to find myself on my own so quickly.

On my way back to the apartment, I decided to take advantage of the full awesomeness of having nearly unlimited entry privileges at the Disney parks.  I swung by Disney’s Animal Kingdom, where I will be working, to check out possible work locations.  It was around 8:30 when I arrived, and, although the park wasn’t supposed to open until 9:00, all of the areas seemed to be open.  I shopped for a little in some of the shops on Discovery Island, and then decided to see if I could get on Dinosaur.  I could and did, and walked almost straight onto the ride.  Then I left.  I was out of the park before 9:30, just as it was starting to get crowded and hot.

Today was my first real training session, called DAKlimation.  If Traditions was the general WDW training, then DAKlimation was the general Animal Kingdom training.  Tomorrow I’ll have training specific to my  area, but today was mostly about learning the basic theming of each land in Animal Kingdom, and taking a guided tour around the park and backstage areas.

Then we got our costumes.  Mine is pretty bad, but at least I met several other people who have to wear the exact same thing.  It has a skirt, which isn’t bad, but the top is like a tent with a giant striped collar. So when I go to my training tomorrow, bright and early, I’ll be wearing my gorgeous new ensemble, complete with hose.