Stories From Cast Placeby Shoshana Lewin, staff writer
Stories From Cast Place
Now that vacation time is over, it is time to get back to work. Enjoy these stories from some current and former cast members about some of their most memorable experiences of making the magic from coast to coast.
CM Courtney Anne's Story
I was in the College Program for spring 2006, however I was sent a special letter asking if I would like to come down early. I ended up going to Florida as soon as my final exams were over in December. I couldn't believe that I was going to be working there for Christmas.
Being away from friends and family during the holidays wasn't easy – but being in the "Happiest Place on Earth" sure did help !
I was assigned to work at MouseGear in Epcot. It was not my first choice of parks (I hoped to work in the Magic Kingdom) but I ended up liking where I was. MouseGear is a very big store and it stays busy all day. There were more than a few late nights there for me. We had a lot of Magical Moments and Take 5s that we did with our guests.
One that I was famous for in our store was singing "Happy Birthday" as loud as I could and as bad as I could to anybody that had a birthday pin on. I would calmly go up and ask their name, wish them a “Happy Birthday” and then tell them I was about to embarrass them by singing loudly and probably off-key. The teenagers would turn red--the little kids would laugh or run away--and the adults usually got a kick out of it. I always had a blast.
One day my general manager was in the store in plain clothes and I did not know, he saw and HEARD me singing (everybody could hear me singing) and he came up to me later to tell me how I had cheered up his bad day.
Another Take 5 that I started was a storytime. I would take the Disney Bear and the story book that went along with it. I would then find some kids that wanted to sit and listen to a story. By the time I was halfway through the book, I would have six to 10 kids and even some adults listening to me read this story. I used to love doing that when I wasn't behind a cash register during my shift.
Unfortunately I had to leave my College Program at WDW early because I got sick--but the time I spent there was great. I met some great people (guests and CMs), made friends that I hope to keep in touch with, and memories that will last forever. I also came home with enough stuff to open a small Disney store in my garage.
I have lived in Arizona since 2000, and I had been on vacations to the Disneyland Resort the last few years--so it was a very different experience to see WDW from a CM’s perspective and get to see backstage. I have a trip planned to Florida this month and I can't wait to go.
CM Alyssa's Story
One night last year I was working at “it’s a small world” when we had to close the ride for the fireworks. I was standing along the street cut rope there with my friend Christine who was working a parade shift when a dad walked up pushing his daughter in a stroller. She was dressed as Belle and had a scepter in her hand and crown on her head. Her dad asked if the attraction was open and we told him it was closed until after the fireworks.
The girl started to get upset, but then Christine got down at her level and commented on what a beautiful princess she was and asked for her autograph.
I was wondering what she was going to have her sign when she pulled out a well-used autograph book and a princess pen with multiple color choices. She had her pick out her favorite color (pink!) and sign her name on her own page in the book. The dad was just glowing the whole time and the girl started to believe that she was Belle as Christine excitedly said "I can't believe I just got a princess' autograph!"
It was amazing watching her create such a magical moment (as well as a few others that I got to see before “it’s a small world” reopened that night) and I'm quite appreciative for some ideas she's given me to create magical moments of my own!
CM Kim's Story
I was a housekeeper at Disney's Pop Century Resort in WDW in 2005. One day, I was walking with a fellow cast member when an elderly man came up to us.
He said, "Are you guys the maids?"
We said we were the Mousekeepers.
He then said, "So, you just clean rooms all day?"
Again, we said yes.
He finally exclaimed, "Gee, couldn't you guys get better jobs?"
My non-Disney persona wanted to shoot back with, "Gee, couldn't you afford to stay somewhere nicer than a value resort?"
But my lovely Disney persona simply said, "I guess not. Have a magical day,
I really did enjoy my time as a CM at Walt Disney World, but I still like my non-Disney persona better!
CM Chris' Story
I am a former Casual Temporary Costuming CM. I found your article on costuming accurate and amusing. I was there in 1995 and 1996 to enjoy the transition from the paper system to the ID cards.
I know we got a lot of flak but I don't think most people realized the real problems were the person in front of them in line and the costumes themselves. "That shirt is faded; do you have one of the new ones?" "Oh, you only have the ones with two buttons instead of three, I need a size 12 in that one instead of an 8"
Also, people felt they should be rewarded for returning only 16 of the 18 pieces to the Haunted Mansion. Go figure.
Anyway, I think anyone with a little initiative got out of there as fast as possible.
Imagineer Rick's Story
I happen to be an Imagineer and whenever we open or re-open a major attraction at Disneyland or DCA, we have a preview party so we can experience it at our leisure, even before the park's cast members.
June 3, 2007 was our Finding Nemo day, featuring a private raft to the Pirate's Lair on Tom Sawyer Island in the late morning/early afternoon, a recognition ceremony for the team (of which I was not a part) at the Big Thunder Barbecue, then on to the subs.
Now, this particular magical moment didn't happen on the island, although we were chuckling over the fact that its population during those few hours seemed to be about 80 percent Imagineers and our guests, something the remaining 20% had no inkling of.
It didn't happen at the barbecue, although the generosity the company shows us was evident in the abundance of good food-three kinds of meat, a multitude of side dishes--and the beverages, including many expensive brands of beer and wine. It was great to kick back and relax, something that doesn't come easy at Disneyland due to the hustle and bustle--but gazing up at the treetops, you could easily forget you were there because of how well they camouflage your surroundings.
It also didn't happen on the sub, especially considering that due to mechanical problems we ended up stuck underwater for quite a long time. At least it's good that they got the bugs worked out while we were on board rather than the true guests, of course.
No, this magical moment was the stroll from the barbeque area to the ride area. It was one of those perfect days, even by Southern California standards--a sky that was crayon blue and gentle breezes that weren't a degree too warm or too cool and carried no humidity at all. It was a dreamlike walk, for my guest and I were part of a group that kept running into our many co-workers along the way, and each time we'd stop for a mini-conference on the accomplishments of the project team.
At the point that is bound by the Teacups, the Matterhorn and the street coming from “it's a small world,” about 15 of us gathered and, as usual, talked shop, socialized and, most of all, expressed our excitement over the debut. It was just so great to be part of that group of Imagineers of all different stripes (creative, engineering, administrative, etc.), talking openly about the project in the middle of the Park, confident and secure, raising our heads and gesticulating as if we owned the place, yet blending into the panorama so well that none of the hundreds of people passing would ever suspect us to be anything other than an ordinary group of guests.
Slowly my original group moved toward the subs and seeing as the wall had been there for so many years while they were closed, when the sparkling, clear water came into view it was truly surreal. I knew full well my guest had only seen the lagoon dry, for he moved to the area after the ride had closed, but in the midst of the "oohs" and "aahs" I couldn't resist waving my left hand toward it and asking him, almost nonchalantly, "Isn't it great to see it with water in it?"
A few moments later the subs, now that bright yellow, came into view and gleamed beautifully in the sunlight. There are so few jobs where you can point to a tangible product your company has labored to create, even fewer where it takes on three dimensions, and almost none where it is on a grand scale such as a theme park attraction.
The magical moment of the walk to the subs, a route I had taken many times as a boy, topped off by seeing the water in the lagoon, which was as fresh an experience as when I was a boy seeing it for the first time, recaptured all the innocence and excitement of my childhood, yet validated my adulthood like nothing else could.
CM Sherry's Story
Thanks so much for your story about the canoe races! It was well-written and definitely brought back some memories. I started working at Disneyland the day I turned 17, working there from 1987-1989. I participated in the canoe races all three years and had a great time! Your Web site came up when I was researching a Disneyland watch I was selling from 1988 that says Disneyland Canoe Races.
CM Teena (Carpenter) McKay's Story
In the summer of 1976, I worked as a character in the bicentennial parade. I was a suffragette. I wore a long purple dress, and carried a fringed purse, and a sign asking for women's rights to vote. It was one of the tall characters with the big fiberglass head. The characters skin color was black.
Unfortunately, I never had a family member or friend come to the park and take a picture of the costume. Is there anywhere, in the Disney archives maybe, where I might be able to find a photo of this character? Any information you can give would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much!
Editor's Note: If you can be of help to Teena, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org