Friday, October 29, 2010

A Look into the Future...

This past Saturday at Cosmic Ray's was an eye-opener into what life at work will be like during the holidays. Since the magic Kingdom held Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party so many nights last week, ad because it was a Saturday without a Halloween Party, park attendance was expected to be somehwhere around 50,000 plus people. Crowds have been around 20,000 people on average since I've been here, which is not too bad. But 50,000 is a LOT of guests in one park.

So inside the restaurant, black ropes were set up all over to keep guests in line and help reduce congestion. A whole group of CMs, including myself, were on crowd control duty.

There were CMs standing outside the lower doors telling guests they couldn't enter there, that they had to enter on the upper side entrances. Once inside, guests would get in a long line at one of the three bays. After getting their food, they had to find a table. This was the hard part. The place was packed. Most guests wanted to eat in the lower dining room with Sonny Eclipse. But in order to get into the dining room, they had to get in yet another line.

Cast Member Layshia was at one side of the entrance to the dining room, telling guests that this was an exit only, for guests who were already in the dinig room. CM Whitney was at the front of the sectioned-off line to get into the dining room. In order to even get in the line, you had to have already ordered and gotten your food. If you didn't have a tray of food, you weren't allowed to enter. This was to prevent people from saving tables and to keep unnecessary traffic out. Once they passed the "food check," they arrived at my station. I was right inside the dining room, with a radio. I would check with CM Adam over the radio to see if tables were available, and if so, how many people they would fit. Once an open table was located, either myself or CM Sofia would direct the guests to their table.

We would get a lot of guests with a party of 6 or 8. We usually couldn't offer them two tables together, or even remotely close to each other. Boy oh boy, people were getting upset. It was crowded and hot, and all they wanted to do was sit down and eat their lunch.

A lot of guests actually were quite nice and appreciative of the help we were trying to provide. We did our best to get them seated as quick as possible and to seat their entire party together. But with so many people, it was just a frantic and confusing situation.

I actually didn't mind my job at crowd control. It wasn't as hectic and stressful as working filler or drinks. But I can't imagine the restaurant being like this every single day, as its definitely going to be during Thanksgiving and Christmas.

For now, I'm enjoying the "slower" days at Cosmic Ray's. Sometimes it's a little too slow, but boy was it crazy last Saturday. Thanksgiving and Christmas, here we come...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Getting Down to Business

My Marketing Exploration Series instructor gave us some great advice that I truly think is important to a successful College Program. Sure, you can just come down here and work all day and play in the parks on your days off. But there's so much more to do and see, and there are so many opportunities to take advantage of to really help yourself grow, both as an individual and as a professional.

His advice on making the most of your College Program experience:

  • Establish a relationship with your leaders.
  • Network, and seek out information
  • Visit the Disney Learning Center
  • Attend College Program Alumni Speaker Series events
I have been trying my best to take his advice to heart. I know that at least two of my nine managers at Cosmic Ray's are former CP's. I haven't yet had the opportunity to sit down with them and talk about their experience or advice, but I do plan on taking a few minutes to talk about their College Program experience and what paths they took to their current role. 

In terms of networking, I have already established a good relationship with the Entertainment Manager for Fantasmic and Beauty and the Beast over at Hollywood Studios. She has been an excellent resource and was quite helpful in explaining her educational and work history. 

I have also been attending the "My Disney Career" courses offered for students on the College Program. There are 5 courses, each one focusing on a segment of the "Marketing You" course also offered on the Program. Instead of taking the full Marketing You course, with homework and tests, they offer 5 individual classes. There is Networking 101, Acing the Interview, Résumé Writing, Personal Branding, as well as Image Excellence. If you take all 5 classes, you receive a certificate. Hopefully I will be able to fit all 5 into my schedule. So far, I have taken 3... I still need to take Networking 101 and Résumé Writing. 

All in all, I am definitely excited about all of the learning opportunities that are provided to participants of the College Program. I know that when I leave here in January, I will come out of it a changed person, filled with new knowledge and insight that will most definitely help me in the future. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

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!

Friday, October 22, 2010

First Week of Classes

Last week was my first week of classes. I am taking two classes offered through the Disney College Program. The first is a Professional Development Study on Entertainment Show Production. The second is a Disney Exploration Series on Marketing.

The Entertainment Show Production PDS is really exciting. It is limited to students studying theatre or performing arts, and I was lucky enough to get it. In a class of 90 students, there are also 90 students who were waitlisted. The class will give us a look at how Walt Disney World develops, implements and maintains their theatrical productions, from parades to stage shows. We'll delve into business planning, creative direction, production, opening and operations.

We meet each week on Tuesdays at the Maingate office building, which is home to the Disney Entertainment division, located near Animal Kingdom. Throughout our classes, we'll have guest speakers and presentations about everything entertainment-related at Disney World. We are also going to do a tour of the theatre at Hollywood Studios which houses Fantasmic! That's what I'm most excited about. I'm also really excited about all of the great networking opportunities. With so many guest speakers, there will be plenty of opportunities for meeting leaders in the Entertainment department.

My other class is a Marketing Exploration Series. It's similar in set-up to the Entertainment PDS. We meet every Friday morning at the Commons apartment building for about two hours. We'll have guest speakers each week from various departments of Walt Disney Theme Parks and Resorts, talking to us about the various marketing campaigns and techniques used throughout the company. Speakers will include Cast Members from Walt Disney World Resort, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Vacation Club, and Disney Event Group.

I'm excited about all of the great career insight and tips I'll most definitely gain from taking these two classes!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Disney Ambassadors Presentation

About two weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be able to attend a special presentation by the Walt Disney World Ambassadors about the early years of Walt Disney World. Held at the Disney University, the event was a presentation about the story of how Walt Disney World came to be, with its beginnings in the 1964 World's Fair.

It was really cool to meet the Ambassadors, Vanessa Rosas and Clay Shoemaker. Both were extremely enthusiastic and knowledgeable, answering a number of trivia-like questions. Their presentation was full of interesting tidbits of information about the construction of the Magic Kingdom and the early resorts.

They also gave out special Disney Ambassadors pins to people who answered some of their tougher questions. When they showed a picture of a certain building near Downtown Disney, I immediately recognized it and raised my hand. It was the Preview Center, now the Amateur Athletic Union building. I was definitely excited to receive the pin to add to my growing collection.

It's events like this that really make me feel lucky to be a part of the Disney College Program and to be able to attend presentations about material that is meaningful and interesting to me.

Friday, October 15, 2010


The Disney College Program hosted an event last week -- Oktoberfest! It was over at Patterson Court apartments. So my roommates Wayne and Ricky walked over to Patterson to check it out.

It was pretty cool -- I mean, there was free food! They had some German "classics" like sausage, chicken, a cucumber salad, cabbage, rolls, and an apple pastry. For free food, it was pretty good. I can't ever turn down free food!

They also had a live German trio band playing music.

You could also get a Duffy-the-Bear cutout to color. These cutouts are going to replace the masks used for the KidCot stations at World Showcase.

The highlight of the night, for me at least, was meeting Mickey, Goofy and Daisy Duck dressed up in traditional German clothes. That was fun!

Overall it was a fun event, and I'm glad I was able to attend!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Epcot International Food & Wine Festival

About two weeks ago I attended the Cast Preview for the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. It was held during normal park hours, so regular park guests could also partake in the festivities. Since I had a few hours before work that day, I decided I'd head over to Epcot to give it a try.

I ended up meeting my roommate Wayne and our other roommate Ricky who were there after they got off work. We walked around World Showcase together, stopping at the different Food & Wine booths to see what was offered.

Obviously there was a lot of wine and other alcoholic beverages, but I couldn't have any. So I decided I'd try some of the desserts... because I love desserts!

First, I had a strawberry angel verrine, pear streusel pudding cake and a dark chocolate sensation from the Desserts & Champagne booth at the start of the Food & Wine walk-through. This was a great deal, because you could buy each dessert individually, OR you could buy all three together and save some money. So, I bought the combo plate.

Next, I stopped for apfelstrudel with Werther's Original Karamell sauce in Germany. This was really good. It was like warm apple pie, but better.

Finally, I enjoyed a warm chocolate lava cake with Bailey's Irish cream ganache from Ireland. This was delicious. It was really small, but the chocolate sauce was soooo good.

The selections of food were great. Though I didn't try any non-dessert food options, I think I will head back to indulge in some of the selections I've never tried before. There are booths featuring food from the following places:

  • Chile
  • Brazil
  • Puerto Rico
  • Argentina
  • Mexico
  • Poland
  • China
  • South Korea
  • South Africa
  • Singapore
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • United States
  • Japan
  • Australia
  • Morocco
  • Belgium
  • Spain
  • France
  • Ireland
  • Canada
  • Greece
  • New Zealand
Since many of these countries are not World Showcase pavilions, it's a great opportunity to try something new that isn't normally available at Epcot. 

I'm definitely glad I'm here during the Food & Wine Festival, as I've never attended it before. I'm looking forward to heading back and trying more of the food! 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure

One of the attractions on my "bucket list" for my time here in Florida was the Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure at Epcot. So about a week ago, my friend Stephanie and I finally did it.

It was actually pretty cool. We signed up in Innoventions, and were given a FastPass-like ticket directing us to a World Showcase booth near the UK. When we got to the "recruiting station," we were assigned a country from the World Showcase pavilions where our scavenger hunt would take place. We got Italy. (Actually, we got to choose Italy because the Cast Member recognized us as fellow College Programers.)

We were then given our "Kimmunicator," a cellphone which would guide us through our adventure. It was actually pretty cool. The screen played video clips featuring characters from the Kim Possible tv show.

We were given clues for things to look for and items to find. When we found what we were looking for, our cellphone would activate a special effect. For instance, we located a window on the outside of a building in Italy. When we pressed the button on our Kimmunicator, a small satellite popped out of the top of the lamp inside the window.

It was a fun afternoon and I look forward to completing another mission on the Kim Possible World Showcase adventure. I hope to complete all of them!

Friday, October 8, 2010

New Toys!

I love Cast Connection, which is the discount merchandise facility behind the Magic Kingdom. You never know what you're going to find there! Last week I saw a few things that caught my eye... action figures of characters from the Haunted Mansion attraction! Normally $8 apiece in the park, they were on sale for $3 each. So, I bought all three for about the same price as just one!

The Hitch Hiking Ghost action figure includes a hat and a suitcase. 

The Caretaker action figure comes with a dog, shovel and a lantern. 

The Bride action figure includes a candle and a bouquet.

Monday, October 4, 2010

List #15: 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? ('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.)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho, It's Off to Work I Go

There are two ways for me to get to work: the scenic route, and the back route. I take the scenic route. The scenic route always gets me in the mood for work, even on days when I'm not in the mood.

It's about 11 miles, and takes about 22 minutes to get from my apartment to the Magic Kingdom Cast Member parking lot. I start by heading towards the Walt Disney World main entrance.

Once I get there, I start getting in the mood for work. It's just nice seeing the logo and the smiling Disney characters greeting you as you drive by.

I keep driving on the highway, and to my left I can see Spaceship Earth. That's one of the highlights of my drive. Just seeing that giant silver ball shining in the sun is so cool, and definitely nicer than seeing apartment complexes or office buildings. 

Once I pass the Epcot area, I turn and head toward the Magic Kingdom area. It is here that I go under the main entrance for the Magic Kingdom, which helps heighten my excitement for work a little bit more. I just love seeing the signage for all the parks. 

Once I'm through the gate, I head towards the right, instead of to the left where guest parking is located. I keep driving north until I see the Contemporary Hotel. I often see the Monorail as well, which is another treat that makes the drive more enjoyable. 

When I look to the left, I can see Cinderella Castle in the distance, which really sets the mood. It's just cool to think "That's where I work!"

Once I drive past the Contemporary Hotel, I get a close-up view of Space Mountain. Then I drive past a sign stating "authorized vehicles only" and drive right alongside Space Mountain! 

Once I make my way to the back of the Magic Kingdom, it becomes a bit more industrial and less glamorous. There are maintenance buildings, parking lots and other service areas. I pass the Monorail/Train service building, the Holiday Services building, the Disney University, as well as other various service buildings.

When I think about it, I definitely do have a pretty nice drive to work. Beautifully-landscaped highways, Spaceship Earth, Disney hotels and Cinderella Castle.... it all makes going to work a little less of a chore.