Tuesday, November 23, 2010

And the Wait is Over!

So the wait is finally over... I found out about my request for a College Program extension: and I got accepted to extend my program as a character performer!

I'm so very excited to have this opportunity! I get to portray a Disney character, and I think I'll make really good friends with Goofy and some of his taller companions like Jafar and Mr. Incredible.

It will definitely be a different experience than working at Cosmic Ray's. I won't be able to talk (at all), and all of my communication will be through large gestures and by signing autographs. But knowing that I'm actually bringing the magic to life will be a rewarding experience, and I feel quite lucky to have been given this opportunity.

My current Disney College Program ends January 7, and my extension begins January 9. My new departure date is May 13, 2011. I know it will be strange going back to school next fall being a year behind all of my classmates, but I couldn't turn down an offer like this.

Now I have a little over a month left, and then it'll be time to start my new role as a character performer! I can't wait!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thanks, Disney!

Last week, all Disney employees were treated to a free Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack of Toy Story 3! And not just any combo pack, but a Studio Commemorative Edition with a special message on the back:

"Once again, the incredibly talented creative team at Pixar took audiences to infinity and beyond. Thank you all for making Toy Story 3 such a phenomenal success across our entire company. -- Bob Iger"
What a great way to start the holiday season -- a copy of one of the best Disney movies in a long time! I'm so honored to work for this company!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

List #16: Disney Character Autographs

One of my favorite things to do when I go to the parks is character meet-and-greets. There's just something special about meeting Disney characters and interacting with them. And I love getting their autographs. So I bought an autograph book, and I never visit a park without it.

It's my mission to fill up the autograph book, and so far I'm doing pretty well. Here's a list of all the autographs I've collected so far:

  1. Timon
  2. Baloo
  3. Tarzan
  4. Jane
  5. Terk
  6. Aladdin
  7. Abu
  8. Donald Duck
  9. Daisy Duck
  10. Mad Hatter
  11. Buzz Lightyear
  12. Pinocchio
  13. Gepetto
  14. Goofy
  15. Stitch
  16. Mr. Smee
  17. Captain Hook
  18. Pocahontas
  19. Meeko
  20. Mary Poppins
  21. Mr. Penguin
  22. Mickey Mouse
  23. Mrs. Incredible
  24. Mr. Incredible
  25. Frozone
  26. Green Army Man
  27. Minnie Mouse
  28. Pluto
  29. Rafiki
  30. Snow White
  31. Mulan
  32. Alice
  33. Princess Jasmine
  34. The Genie
  35. Princess Tiana
  36. Prince Naveen
  37. Lotso
  38. Duffy the Disney Bear
  39. Belle
  40. Queen of Hearts
  41. Tweedledee
  42. Tweedledum
  43. Jafar
  44. Chip
  45. Dale
  46. Max (Goofy's son!)
  47. Winnie the Pooh
  48. Eeyore
  49. Tigger
  50. Thumper
  51. White Rabbit
  52. Rapunzel
  53. Flynn Rider
  54. Woody
  55. Jessie
  56. Drizella
  57. Anastasia
  58. Lady Tremaine

Monday, November 15, 2010

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 180ยบ 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!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Character Performer Auditions

So it's at the time during our College Program when we can apply for an extension to stay through the spring semester until May. You can request to stay in the same role you currently have, you can request a new role, or you can audition to be a character performer.

Since I come from a theatre background, and I want to get my foot in the door within the entertainment department, I decided to audition to be a character performer. Given my tall height, I had a feeling I might have a good chance of getting through the auditions, since most of it is purely based on height.

So last Wednesday morning, I went to the College Program extension auditions at the Animal Kingdom rehearsal facility. I got there at 8 am, and left at 1:45 pm. It was a long process with a LOT of sitting and waiting.

About 330 people auditioned. After filling out some paperwork, being measured and having our picture taken, we were taught a simple dance routine. It was basically marching and jazz squares with some basic hand movements. In groups of four, we performed the four counts of 8 routine to a group of 3 casting directors. After we went, we were taken into a room and told to wait.

After 30 minutes or so of waiting, a casting director came in and started calling numbers. When your number was called, you were asked to leave the room. After they called out a bunch of numbers, there were only about 17 of us in the room (there were about 100 or so in the room to begin with, as they split us up into different rooms.) I'm not sure exactly what happened with everybody whose number was called, but I'm assuming they were sent home from there.

After they had made their first round of cuts, there were maybe 100 of us left. They took us into a room and taught us a second, more intense dance routine. The first few counts of eight weren't bad; but the second half of the routine was more technical and proved difficult for most people. But they weren't looking to see how good or bad we were at the routine. It still had a lot to do with height. But if we did have good dance skills, then we might also be considered for parades or more dance-intesive roles.

Along with our dance routine, we had to pantomime planting a tree as well as pantomime being a monkey. Then we put it all together: two counts of 8 planting a tree, the dance routine, two counts of 8 being a monkey, and the dance routine once again. This is what we would perform in front of the casting directors.

Once everybody had learned the routine and practiced a number of time, we all left the room and lined up in the hall. They then took us in groups of 9 to perform our routine in front of 3 casting directors. It wasn't too bad. Everybody had a positive attitude, and I didn't feel like I was being judged. All of us were in the same boat, and we all felt lucky to have made it past the first round of cuts.

So after we went in front of the casting directors, we were told to wait in the main rehearsal room until further instruction. We just kept sitting and waiting. Sitting and waiting. After about 40 minutes or so of waiting, one of the coordinators came out and started calling people's numbers. A small group would go into another hallway and return with pieces of paper, and then leave. I believe most of these people didn't make the cut, most likely due to their height being too common.

After they kept sending home small groups of people, there were about 25-30 of us left. They took us all into a hallway and explained to us that we are in the "pool" for potential character performers! So we made it all the way to the end of the audition process. Now we aren't guaranteed a role by any means. But once they offer extensions to current character performers and figure out how many open slots are available in each height range, they will then turn to the pool and pick from there. So I'm definitely feeling optimistic about being extended as a character performer! Sometimes it helps to be tall!

Friday, November 5, 2010

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, (www.roseforest.com/wdw2010) 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.

Monday, November 1, 2010

No Ordinary Day at Hollywood Studios

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!