Wednesday, September 29, 2010

It's a Small World, After All

Today at work, while I was filling drinks at the counter, a fellow Cast Member called my name and said "this family is from Troy too!" So I went over and started talking to a father and son, and it turns out they live only a few miles away from my house in Troy!

And to top it off, the son goes to the same elementary school I attended (Wass) and had my brother's second-grade teacher Mrs. Kellett, and my third-grade teacher Mrs. Green. And the father went to Michigan State as well!

"It's a small world," as they say!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Video Memories: Spaceship Earth

A Lucky Morning

I woke up this morning with the plans of signing up for special events offered by the Disney University, specifically a special presentation by the Walt Disney World Ambassadors about the Early Years of Walt Disney World. So, I logged into The Hub and looked at the registration information for the event... there were 39 people enrolled, with room for 40! So I clicked 'register' and I got in! I can't believe my luck!

I'm really excited about this event. It's hosted by the Walt Disney World Ambassadors, and it's all about the stories of Walt Disney World from 1963-1971. They'll talk about the 1964/65 New York World's Fair, the beginnings of the Florida Project, the secret land acquisitions in Florida, and the construction of the Magic Kingdom.

It's one week from today, and I'm definitely looking forward to this exciting opportunity!

Monday, September 27, 2010

List #14: Disney College Program "Souvenirs"

You could say I'm a collector. I like saving things from vacations and trips like guide maps and souvenir books. So whenever I go to Walt Disney World, I always save extra park maps, hotel room keys and park tickets.

Being on the Disney College Program, I have a lot of opportunities to collect things that I might not otherwise be able to obtain while on a regular vacation, so I thought I'd start a list of everything I've collected so far (and they were all free!)

  1. A Sonny Eclipse sticker from Cosmic Ray's
  2. A Junior Jammitors sticker from Epcot
  3. A Mickey Mouse guest survey sticker from Magic Kingdom
  4. An Expedition Everest FastPass
  5. A Test Track FastPass
  6. A special PhotoPass card from Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party
  7. A Magic Kingdom Re-Entry FastPass good for any attraction (given as a "no strings attached" when Space Mountain shut down)
  8. Various Tell-a-Casts from the Magic Kingdom
  9. Various Eyes & Ears magazines
  10. My "Earning My Ears" red ribbon

Friday, September 24, 2010

Magic Kingdom Entertainment

There really is so much to do at Walt Disney World, that it's hard to get it all in on a regular vacation. You always rush to the rides and shows, parades and fireworks. But since I'm here for four months, I definitely have the time to stop and smell the roses. To sit down and take a break now and then. To sit on Main Street and people watch. To take the path less traveled.

So I decided I'd spend one of my days off experiencing some of the live entertainment featured at the Magic Kingdom.

The Dapper Dans has to be my absolute favorite live entertainment at Magic Kingdom. This barbershop quartet fits perfectly into the nostalgic feel of Main Street USA. Not only that, but they are incredibly talented. Their slapstick comedy, tap dancing, and pure vocal brilliance really makes this a must-see show. They appear throughout the day on Main Street USA.


Casey's Corner Pianist is another act that makes Main Street so much fun. If you're eating at Casey's Corner, make sure to grab a seat outside and watch the pianist rock out on the piano to old-timey music. He's a lot of fun to watch, and it's perfectly themed with the style of the restaurant.

The Main Street Philharmonic is a live band that I caught playing in Liberty Square. They were definitely a treat to watch! They're funny and quite entertaining, interacting with the audience and having guests participate in the act. They also started out the parade, so it was nice to be able to see them twice that day. They're a very talented bunch of musicians!

The Notorious Banjo Brothers & Bob are another live musical act that I saw playing over in Frontierland. These three guys are very funny, and they sang a song about Pecos Bill, which I thought was cool. Another excellent example of how well Disney themes the entertainment with the surrounding environment. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Video Memories: Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party

Monday, September 20, 2010

Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party

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.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Cosmic Ray's Starlight Café

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. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Disney Difference

One of the great things about being a Disney Cast Member is the range of perks and benefits exclusive to Cast Members only. The Disney Difference, as it is called, is the collection of programs and services offered to Cast Members.

All Cast Members get access to "The Hub," which is an online portal of helpful information and resources. Recent WDW news, sales information, cast activities, work schedules, Disney Look guidelines, and so much more can all be accessed through The Hub.

Mickey's Retreat is a 19-acre recreation facility open exclusively to Disney Cast Members and their families. Located at Little Lake Bryan near Patterson Court and Chatham Square apartment complexes, the facility features volleyball courts, tennis courts, basketball courts, picnic areas, swimming pools and a marina.

The Disney Learning Center, located at Vista Way apartment complex, is a great resource for College Program Cast Members. Computers are available for accessing the Hub or other programs, and laptops are available for check-out. Also available are DVDs and books to be checked out.

Company D is a Cast Member store, offering a wide variety of discounted merchandise, personal services, plus Cast Member-exlusive merchandise. Also available are discounted tickets for SeaWorld, AMC Theatre movie tickets, and tickets to certain sporting events. Cast Members can also purchase discounted admission to DisneyQuest Indoor Interactive Theme Park, Disney's Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf Course, Disney's Winter Summerland Miniature Golf Course, behind-the-scenes tours, and to Cirque du Soleil. There are six Company D locations around Walt Disney World.

There are also a variety of discounts given to Cast Members with their ID. Cast Members receive 20% discounts on most merchandise around the Resort. AAA Car Care Centers offer 10% discounts to Cast Members. Cast Members can also take advantage of discounts at many of the locations around Downtown Disney.

The Walt Disney World Finance Department offers Cast Members the ability to purchase items that are no longer used on property, such as computers, office furniture, lawn furniture, holiday decorations, TVs, radios and plants. This location is known as Property Control, and is located behind the Magic Kingdom. Located at Property Control is Cast Connection, which sells merchandise considered "less-than-perfect," at discounts from 50-70% off. This merchandise liquidation building offers apparel, seasonal merchandise, toys, pins, hats and plenty of character merchandise.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Disney Pin Trading

I must admit, I never really understood the whole pin trading thing. I mean, I suppose I understand it in a way -- collecting things can be fun! But pin trading can become quite expensive. Each pin ranges in price from 7 to almost 20 dollars each!! So people wearing a lanyard of 10 or so pins are wearing about $100 in Disney merchandise. I actually was talking to a girl at a pin kiosk, and she said she has over 250 pins. That's about $2500 (probably more!) in pins!! I can't imagine spending that much money on pins! 

Then, there are rules. If you are wearing a pin, and someone wants to trade with you, you're supposed to trade with them. So if I were to buy a special pin that I want to keep, because it has sentimental value or something, I have to give it away because somebody else wants it!

That's the part I don't understand. I do have a few pins of my own, but I keep them for myself.

I do, however, participate in the pin trading. I was given an official company-issued Cast Member lanyard to wear at work. I have to follow a few rules in order to wear it. I must always have 12 pins on the lanyard, it must be clean, and the pins must be official Disney trading pins. And I must trade with any guest who wants to trade for one of my pins.

But what's great is that they're not MY pins -- they're the company's. So whenever I trade pins with a guest, I'm not giving away something I bought for myself. It's just fun and adds a bit of excitement to the long days of work.

And even better, when I get bored of the pins on my lanyard, I can swap them out at the pin replenishment station in the Magic Kingdom Utilidoor. 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

LIVING in the World

The Disney College Program is all about living, learning, and earning at Walt Disney World. So I thought I'd write a bit about the living aspect of the program.

The College Program houses Cast Members in one of three apartment complexes. International Program Cast Members live in a fourth complex. CP Cast Members live in Chatham Square (that's me!,) Patterson Court and Vista Way. International Cast Members live in The Commons. Apartments range in size from one bedroom to four bedrooms. I am living in a two-bedroom apartment, so I have one roommate and two additional housemates.

Here's my apartment at Chatham Square:


The apartments are located just southeast of the Walt Disney World Resort.

It's really close to Downtown Disney, as well as plenty of shopping and restaurants nearby.

What's nice is that the apartments come pretty much fully-stocked, so you don't have to bring much from home. Each bedroom has two beds, a dresser and two nightstands.

My bedroom has a big bathroom and huge walk-in closet. The picture of the closet definitely doesn't do it justice, because there's even more room around the corner. Also included in the closet is a pair of lockers for securing personal belongings.


In the main living area, there is a dining room table with four chairs. In the living room area, there is a couch, lounge chair, a coffee table and a side table.

The kitchen is also fully-stocked. There is a refrigerator with ice maker, stove/oven, microwave, and a dishwasher. The cabinets are also stocked with an assortment of pots and pans, measuring cups, a tea kettle, spoons, forks, knives, cups, plates and bowls.

Our weekly rent also covers phone service, internet, and cable TV. Chatham Square has four laundry buildings on property, plus a fitness center, swimming pool and computer lab. Volleyball and tennis courts are also located at Chatham Square. 

Each apartment complex is different and unique in its own way. So far, I love Chatham and am very happy with all of my roommates. 

I'm definitely excited about all that Disney Housing has to offer! 

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Tour of Walt Disney World

Now that I'm living in Orlando, right on the outskirts of the Walt Disney World Resort, it's time to start thinking about how big the WDW property really is. With four theme parks, two water parks and over 20 hotels, the entire property is quite large with much to explore.

In fact, Walt Disney World is approximately 40 square miles in size. That's about the size of San Francisco, or two Manhattan Islands!

These 40 square miles equal about 25,000 acres of land. Of these 25,000 acres, only about 35% has been developed. 25% of the property has been designated as wilderness preserves. Another 12% of the property is used for gardens and maintained landscapes (that's the size of 3,000 football fields!)

Here is a quick video I made using Google Earth, showcasing the parks, hotels and other popular destinations. Also included are the three College Program apartment complexes, located close to Downtown Disney.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Do You Have the Disney Look?

One of the most highly-stressed aspects of being a Disney College Program Cast Member is adhering to the Disney Look. The Disney Look is a strict set of guidelines, outlining the appearance standards set for Cast Members. Although there are a lot of rules, the Disney Look is important in maintaining that top-notch quality found around Walt Disney World.

Even before I began the Program, I was reminded numerous times about the Disney Look. Even as early as the college recruitment session, I was explained the details by the presenter. When I did the online presentation, I was again reminded of how important the Disney Look is, and that I would need to follow these guidelines if accepted into the program. Then, on my phone interview, I was asked if I was able to follow all of the rules set forth in the Disney Look. I was then reminded even further in various e-mails sent to me prior to the start of my program. So I don't know how anybody could show up unprepared.

For men, the rules are pretty easy to follow. In essence, it's a conservative, clean-cut look. No earrings. No beards. No visible tattoos. No hair covering the ears. No crazy sideburns or wild facial hair. Just use good judgement.

More nit-picky rules apply to times when business attire is required. One of these days is Disney Traditions. Other business attire occasions include classes and seminars. Some of the details include what fabrics our pants can/can not be, what style dress shirt we may/may not wear, and what patterns our clothes can/can not be. None of these rules were hard for me to follow.

Some of the more picky details apply to female cast members, especially since so many girls spend a lot of time fussing over all of these little details. Rules about fingernails, hairstyles, hair colors, makeup, hair accessories, jewelry, fabrics, patterns, and clothing lengths are all explained in great detail. Often times, female Cast Members show up to Traditions only to be turned away for unacceptable hair color or makeup.

On check-in day, we were given a visual inspection by Cast Members to make sure we were in Disney Look and would be ready for Traditions. I was surprised to see so many College Program Cast Members NOT in Disney Look! Many had to sit down with the "inspectors" to be explained what they needed to change. One girl had unnatural-looking highlights in her hair, and said she didn't know she couldn't have them. Come on! She had plenty of warning and time to get her hair color changed. To further explain the details, in case we needed reminding, we were handed the official "Disney Look Book," with the rules explained (yet again) as well as pictures to help visualize the rules.

While all of these rules do seem a bit much, it is important to remember why they were created and are still used. The whole idea is maintaining the "show" that is Walt Disney World. Cast Members should appear as approachable, friendly and helpful as possible, and the Disney Look helps maintain this high standard.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Disney's Fairy Tale Wedding Pavilion

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.

Below is some video I took at the Wedding Pavilion. The views are simply stunning, especially when looking across the Lagoon and seeing Cinderella Castle.