Retro Disney World

A Blast from the Past: A Fun-Filled Week

Here’s a recap of last week, a week filled with Christmas and Disney characters:

On Sunday, I went to the Magic Kingdom after work to see the first Cinderella Castle lighting ceremony of the year. At 6:15, “Cinderella’s Holiday Wish” took place, and the Fairy Godmother lit the Castle in beautiful lights. I stayed in the park to watch Wishes, and then went down into the tunnel to wait in the Tomorrowland break room until the Christmas parade preview. A bunch of us from Cosmic Ray’s then went to see the Cast Member preview of Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, which shows during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. The parade was awesome! It was so magical to be standing on Main Street with all the Christmas lights on, and watching the Christmas parade. AND, it was snowing on Main Street. What a great night with great people.

On Tuesday, I had my Entertainment Show Production class at Hollywood Studios, where we toured the Fantasmic stage (the second time for me!) It was great to get another look at the mountain and the control booth, as well as the basement of the mountain. After class, I stayed at Hollywood Studios and met a couple friends from work. We had fun going on rides and interacting with the Citizens of Hollywood. We then went to the Animation building for character meet-and-greets. This was perhaps the most fun of the day! I met Belle, Jafar, the Queen of Hearts, Tweedledee, Tweedledum, Frozone, Mr. Incredible, Pluto, Chip & Dale, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Max, Aladdin, Jasmine, and Genie. Afterwards, we stayed to see the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. That was really cool. I had never seen it before, and I was quite impressed.

On Wednesday, I visited Animal Kingdom for a few character meet-and-greets. I met Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore, Tigger, Thumper, Safari Mickey, and Safari Goofy. I also went to see Festival of the Lion King, which is always fun. Then I stayed to see the last showing of Finding Nemo the Musical, one of my favorite shows at Walt Disney World.

On Thursday, I went to the Magic Kingdom before work. I met the White Rabbit outside Cosmic Ray’s, and then watched the 3:00 parade. After the parade, I went to the Tangled “play-and-greet” to meet Rapunzel and Flynn Rider. They were a lot of fun! Afterwards I headed over to Frontierland to meet Woody and Jessie, and then saw the 5:00 flag retreat in Town Square.

On Friday, I went to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party with my friend Krista’s parents. They were visiting from Michigan for the weekend, so I was able to get discount tickets for the party, and I thought I’d join them for the fun. We saw the castle show, Celebrate the Season, twice. We also saw the parade twice. And not to mention the Holiday Wishes fireworks. Those were great, especially the perimeter fireworks that go 180º around the castle. We also enjoyed the free hot chocolate and sugar cookies (perhaps a bit too many….) After going on the Haunted Mansion, we met Cinderella’s stepsisters and stepmother in Fantasyland. That was a lot of fun.

All in all I would say that was one of the most fun-filled weeks I’ve had in a while. And I especially love all of the Christmas decorations and music now taking over the parks! 

A Blast from the Past: This is What It’s all About!

Some days at work are better than others. Some days are slow, some days are quick. Some are more fun than others, some are more stressful that others. But in the end, I have fun. And I remind myself that it really isn’t about me; it’s about the Guests. It’s about providing them the best possible experience possible. So what can we do as Cast Members to provide them exceptional Guest Service?

At Cosmic Ray’s, one of the “magical moments” is singing a song to Guests wearing a birthday button:

Attention Cosmic Ray’s! Today is a very special day! Does anybody know why? Because today is _____’s birthday!
Cosmic Ray’s is here to say today’s a day to celebrate! It’s a very special day so have a happy birthday!

It only takes a few seconds, and it makes the Guest feel special. Sometimes it takes them by surprise. They aren’t expecting Cast Members to run from all over the restaurant to join in the song. It’s loud and fun, and it makes the day a lot less mundane.

So one night, a Guest approached me and handed me a postcard. He wanted to thank me for making his family vacation feel extra special by singing the birthday song. But I hadn’t sung it to anybody in his family. He just saw me singing the song to couple of kids, but he wanted to thank me for doing that. It was so nice to be recognized for doing something so simple: just singing happy birthday!

He then returned a little later and took a picture of me holding the postcard. Hmmm….

When I got home, I took a closer look at the postcard. It was a custom-made postcard, with an Epcot Monorail stamp on it. Also on it was a web address, where I could see my thank-you note and photo. Aha! That’s what the picture was for!

So I checked the website, ( and found this note:

So a few weeks later, I checked again, and saw my name!

When I clicked on my name, I was taken to a description of my “magical moment” with the picture he took of me and the postcard!

I am so honored to be considered a memorable Cast Member from this gentleman’s vacation. It’s nice knowing that the smallest, simplest things we do as Cast Members can really make someone’s vacation that much more special.

I will forever treasure the postcard he gave me. It is a shining example of why I love being a Disney Cast Member. 

Disney College Program Memories: My Cast Member ID Lanyard

Disney College Program Memories: My Cast Member ID Lanyard

A Blast from the Past: Disney Career Tips

I’ve been taking the 5 “My Disney Career Series” courses offered as a part of the College program. They are great resources for all aspects of marketing yourself as a professional. Five classes are offered: Acing the Interview, Personal Branding, image Excellence, Résumé Writing, and Networking 101.

I have learned a lot from these courses. They give you a great insight into what to expect in the future for job interviews and professional positions, as well as what Disney is specifically looking for in future Cast Members.

Some of the best parts of the classes are the quotes and statistics that really paint a picture of how important it is to be professional, all the time.

People are willing to pay 12% more for brands they know. That is why it is important to define your own personal brand and show others why you’re unique. A good quote: “We are the CEOs of our own company; Me Inc.”

It only takes 7 seconds to make a first impression. 55% is visual. 38% is vocal (tone of voice.) 7% is verbal (grammar, word choice.) That’s why it is so important to be 100% professional, 100% of the time. Whether you’re in the waiting room for your interview, or at the grocery store, you never know who might be watching you. And when you’re making your first impression over the phone, everything is magnified. Your first impression is 70% vocal. So put a mirror on your desk, so you can see what you look like as you talk.

A Blast from the Past: No Ordinary Day at DHS

So last Wednesday was perhaps the highlight of my College Program experience thus far. I was like a kid in a candy store: I got to tour the Fantasmic island and the Beauty and the Beast stage!

My day started out by meeting the stage manager outside the control booth in the empty Fantasmic amphitheater. It was really weird seeing it empty. Usually it is filled to capacity. We made our way around to the back of the island, and crossed a bridge so we were behind the mountain. It was enormous! We then climbed all the way up to the top, and worked our way from top to bottom.

The backside of the mountain was really cool. There were pyro cannons all over, and a lot of safety cables and such. The stage manager showed me all of the little secrets of the mountain, where certain character stand, and explained where the tech crew are positioned and what they do during the show.

We then passed the dragon. It was really cool to see it up close and personal. It is huge! Then we walked onstage, and she showed me where all the lifts are located. It truly is a massive stage.

From there, we headed into the basement under the stage. Luckily this area is air-conditioned. In the basement, we saw the cauldron, and the various lifts. I actually stood on Maleficent’s lift, and saw how the safety pedals work.

We then headed back up and toured the steamboat. She showed me where the driver sits, and we then climbed up to the top where Steamboat Mickey stands.

Then, we headed into the maintenance/workshop area behind the theatre. Located here are costume/scenic storage, light/tech workshops, a rehearsal studio, a green room, a well as offices.

We went through the wig workshop, the light workshop, the rehearsal studio, the green room, and finally the costume room. That was my favorite room: so many character costumes, some of which you never get to see up close because certain characters never appear in meet-and-greets, such as Steamboat Mickey.

Our tour then came to an end, in the stage manager’s office. But my day wasn’t over yet! The stage manager mentioned that she would be calling the 4:00 show of Beauty and the Beast, and she invited me to sit in the control booth with her during the show, and then to take a backstage tour!

So I met her again inside the theatre and we made our way to the control booth. She actually gave me a headset to wear so I could hear all of the tech communication!

Following the show, we made our way backstage. Everything was already preset for the next show! The tech crew did that really fast!

She showed me all of the costumes, props, and set pieces. We then walked onstage and took a look at the newly-installed backdrops.

The whole time, I was just in awe of the exquisite detail and wonderful theming of everything around me. I was just so impressed with how creative and innovative everything was.

Well after a few more questions for the stage manager, it was time to say goodbye. I am so thankful for her taking the time to treat me to such a wonderful experience. If I don’t have one more good day on my Program, it will all have been worth it because of my day touring the theaters at Hollywood Studios!
A Blast from the Past: A Fantasmic Night!

Last week I was an extremely happy and lucky guy: I got to sit in the control booth during a performance of Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios!

It was definitely an out-of-this-world experience. The stage manager could not have been nicer when I met her the previous week, and when she offered me the opportunity to sit in with her during a show, I knew it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

I arrived at the Fantasmic theatre at 6:30 for a 7:00 show. I met the stage manager near the control booth at the back of the theatre. Inside the control room, I met Adam (in charge of show control,) Mike (in charge of fire,) Steve (in charge of lights,) as well as Dan (who is usually a spotlight operator.)

The control room itself was very cool. There were video screens and computer monitors everywhere, tracking everything from lights, temperature, wind and humidity. They check all of these things to make sure everything will be safe when it comes to all of the pyro and fire effects.

At about 10 minutes before showtime, the stage manager did a headset check to make sure everybody on headset could hear her. She also did a spot check to make sure all of the spotlight operators were in position and ready. Dan, who was supposed to be spot 4, sat in the booth because the instrument wasn’t working.

The stage manager then waited for a call from the backstage manager that the green room was clear. Looking at the stage, the SM could tell that it wasn’t quite dark enough yet for Mickey’s entrance to work, so she held for 5 minutes. She then called places/5 minutes to showtime.

Soon, the show started with that famous musical intro everybody knows. Mickey popped up onstage, and the fun began. It was really cool to see the show with a perfect view of everything, as well as to be able to look at different backstage and onstage views from various cameras around the theatre, on screens in the control booth.

The SM’s job was mainly to warn and call spotlight cues. The sound, lights and water effects are all pre-cued in the show control system, and it was Adam’s job to make sure everything was synced up. Mike controlled all of the pyrotechnics and fire effects, following his own prompt book.

During the run of the show, I did witness some conflict resolutions. At one point, it appeared that one of the monkey performers fell down on the floating barge, so the SM called backstage to find out what happened. It turned out to be a costuming issue, and was nothing serious. Other minor conflicts that arose were also due to costuming issues, so the SM made notes to try to fix these problems before the second show that evening.

I did learn that the SM is trained backstage first, so they know how everything works. There is a lot to coordinate backstage, since many of the show’s effects involve safety precautions for both actors and crew.

The show finally came to a close, and it was pretty much a smooth, flawless run (minus a few costuming issues.) The dragon worked, and all of the sound and lights were on cue.

I am most definitely thankful to the wonderful stage manager who helped set up this amazing opportunity for me. It was a night I will never forget! 

On my shelf: Retro Walt Disney World pen

A Blast from the Past: Questions from Work
I get asked a lot of questions at work. Most of them are about the food — how big or how much, or about the Disney Dining Plan. I also get a lot of repeat questions, like about where straws/napkins are or where the bathrooms are. Here are some of the questions I’ve been asked… some just once, and some quite often. 
  1. Are these onions or is it sauerkraut? (I would like it if it were sauerkraut, but no, they’re onions.)
  2. Where is Tomorrowland? (Ummm…you’re in it!)
  3. Is this the place in Tomorrowland where they sell turkey legs? (No! That’s Frontierland. I don’t know who is telling all of these guests that Cosmic Ray’s sells Turkey Legs.)
  4. Where is the bar on Main Street? (Keep dreaming, sir.)
  5. Can you keep my leftovers in a refrigerator and I’ll pick them up later? (Wouldn’t that be nice?!)
  6. Can I get a shot of orange soda in my Diet Coke? (Sure, whatever floats your boat!)
  7. Can I trade my chocolate cake for grapes? (That’s the opposite of what I would ask!)
  8. Can you cut my sandwich in half for me? (Are you afraid to use a plastic knife?)
  9. What exactly is Sonny Eclipse? We thought he was a hippo. (He’s an alien. A lizard alien.)
A Blast from the Past: MNSSHP

On Tuesday, September 14, I went to the opening night of Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party! This is a separately-ticketed event, so regular park guests must have a ticket for the party itself. Luckily, I was able to get a Cast Member discount for the ticket at a Company D store. Tickets for certain nights are upwards of $70 each! That’s almost as much as a one-day park ticket!

It’s definitely a fun event. From 7:00 pm to midnight, the Magic Kingdom hosts a number of special Halloween activities exclusive to the party. Guests are encouraged to dress up in costume (and there were plenty of guests all dressed up even this early in September!…. kids and adults too!)

On the topic of costumes, there are actually a few “rules” guests are supposed to follow. Costumes should be child-friendly and not offensive. (It’s still the Magic Kingdom!) Adults can wear masks, as long as they can still see safely. And guests dressed up as Disney characters are not allowed to pose for pictures or sign autographs for other guests.

Throughout the park, there were Trick-or-Treating stops, hosted by “Goofy’s Candy Company.” Everyone entering the Magic Kingdom received a (small) bag to hold all of the candy. Plastic pumpkin pails were available for purchase.

There were also special character meet-and-greets not normally available during regular park hours. I met Timon, Baloo, Jane and Terk, Aladdin and Abu, the Mad Hatter, Buzz Lightyear, as well as Donald and Daisy. There were also character dance parties, where favorite Disney characters rocked out to music and you could dance right alongside them! There was Stitch’s Club 626 over in Tomorrowland, and Woody’s Happy Harvest Roundup in Liberty Square inside the Diamond Horseshoe restaurant.

One of my favorite parts of the night was the show in front of the Castle, Disney’s Villains Mix & Mingle. It’s a live show featuring famous Disney villains — Maleficent, the Queen of Hearts, Captain Hook, Jafar, Cruella De Vil, and the Evil Queen. It was cool to see them all together in one place! And after the show, they came down in front of the castle to “mingle” with the guests and take pictures! I was lucky enough to get my picture with Cruella!

After the show, I headed up Main Street to pick a spot to watch the fireworks — Happy HalloWishes, A Grim Grinning Ghosts’ Spooktacular in the Sky. It’s a great fireworks show, with plenty of Disney villain songs in the soundtrack. And the lighting on the castle is amazing! It’s so cool to see the castle lit up entirely green!

The parade, Mickey’s Boo-to-You Halloween Parade, is definitely the highlight of the night. Favorite Disney characters are all dressed up in costumes as you’ve never seen them before. There are also many floats featuring famous Disney villains, as well as characters from the Haunted Mansion — like the hitchhiking ghosts! A headless horseman starts the parade by riding down Main Street.

A Blast from the Past: Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café

More memories from my Fall 2010 CP at Cosmic Ray’s

The Disney College Program is all about living, learning, and earning… so here’s a little bit about the earning aspect of the program.

I’m working at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café, which is a quick-service restaurant located in Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom. It is the largest fast-food location in the Magic Kingdom, so we definitely get a lot of business. Apparently it is the second busiest quick-service restaurant in the WORLD, right after a 24-hour McDonald’s in Moscow. Now that’s something to brag about! Who else can say they’ve worked for one of the busiest restaurants in the world?!

Cosmic Ray’s has three individual bays, at which you can order different types of foods. Bay One is Chicken, and serves selections like rotisserie chicken, ribs, chicken nuggets and chicken sandwiches. Bay Two is Burgers, and serves burgers, hot dogs, chili cheese dogs, veggie burgers and chili cheese fries. Bay Three is Sandwich, Soup and Salad, and serves burgers, wraps, pork sandwiches, greek and caesar salads, and soup. All three bays serve kids meals (chicken nuggets, turkey sandwich or peanut butter and jelly,) as well as drinks and desserts. Kosher Meals are available upon request. They also do a really great job at accommodating guests with food allergies.

In the lower eating area (the Starlight Lounge,) an Audio-Animatronics lounge lizard known as Sonny Eclipse entertains guests. Sonny is on an interplanetary tour, having traveled to several solar systems. Cosmic Ray’s is his first gig on Earth. He sits behind his famous Astro Organ, which backs him up with music…. all at the touch of a button. He is also backed up by his invisible back-up singers, the Space Angels. Though the music is cheesy and his jokes are corny, Sonny is an entertaining aspect of the restaurant and makes work a little more fun.

My costume for work isn’t that bad either. Black pants, black shoes, and a gray futuristic shirt make up my costume. I can also wear a Pin Trading lanyard (most of the time…) 

Overall, I enjoy working at Cosmic Ray’s. It’s busy, so I’m usually not just standing watching time go by. And the people are great, the managers are nice, and it’s a fun environment. Plus, I get to look out the window and see Cinderella Castle! That really makes it enjoyable.
A Blast from the Past: Disney’s Wedding Pavilion Open House

On Saturday, August 28, the Disney Fairy Tale Wedding Pavilion hosted an open house. With some free time before my work training began, I thought I’d check it out and see how magical it really is.

Walking up to the main building, Cinderella’ carriage was parked in front. What better way to show up to your wedding than in Cinderella’s very own horse-drawn carriage!

I then walked over to the chapel. Inside, there were cakes to sample. Very delicious! Walking down the aisle, you look out over Seven Seas Lagoon and get a picture-perfect view of Cinderella Castle. A few fireworks even shot off as I was taking in the marvelous view.

Suddenly, the organ started playing and a “mother-of-the-bride” walked a few guests down the aisle. She introduced a panel of wedding planners, florists, chefs and other designers, who answered questions from the audience.

It was definitely a wonderful way to spend a Saturday morning. I’ve always wanted to get a close-up view and inside look of the Wedding Pavilion, and I’m glad I took advantage of this opportunity.

Epcot World Showcase - Moroccan Dale

Epcot World Showcase - Moroccan Dale

Pirates of the Caribbean Figurine

Pirates of the Caribbean Figurine

Happy Birthday Mickey Mouse! Did you know: Mickey Mouse has more than 290 different sets of clothing. From scuba gear to tuxedos, Mickey has something suitable for any occasion.

Journey into Imagination with Figment Figurine

Journey into Imagination with Figment Figurine