Saturday, January 15, 2011

Any Dream is Possible... Wishes Do Come True!

Entertainment training week was... in a word... a workout.

But it was definitely full of surprises, fun, a lot of hard work.... and MAGIC! (of course!)

After our Welcome to Entertainment class at Disney University, Entertainment training was held over at the Maingate Complex. The bulk of our training was in-room work, before finally heading out into the Parks at the end of the week.

Each day we had new trainers, though a few were with us throughout most (or all) of the process. Anne, Danielle, Scott, and Vivian were my favorites. Danielle was friends with Belle, and Scott was friends with the Mad Hatter. All of them were outgoing and very helpful to us rookies.

My training group was phenomenal! We formed such a great bond with each other in that short week. It was great that we were not all College Program kids..... there was definitely a variety of statuses and ages!

Tommy, Frankie, Erin and I were the four CPs. All four of us had extended our Programs from the Fall. I met Tommy at auditions, and actually saw him quite a bit at work at Cosmic Ray's. He worked merchandise in Tomorrowland, so I often saw him in the Tomorrowland break room. Frankie had been an attractions host at Animal Kingdom, at Kilimanjaro Safaris. Erin had worked attractions in Magic Kingdom on the Jungle Cruise!

Tracy, Carissa and Josh were newly-hired Cast Members. All were full-time, I believe, and had skill codes high enough to be trained in shows and/or parades. None of them knew whether or not they would be trained in parades, but all performers go through character training regardless. Tracy, Carissa and Josh were three of the nicest people I ever met. They were truly wonderful people with great personalities, and I am so happy to have had the pleasure of being able to get to know them.

The last two in our group were Jennifer and Dulce. Jennifer was a mom who had worked attractions at Epcot at Mission Space, and decided to give Entertainment a try. She was a bundle of fun, and always gave us something to laugh about. Then there was Dulce. Oh, Dulce. What a sweetheart. She had actually worked as a character performer years back, and left the Company to work at Universal. She decided to make her way back to Disney, but had to go through training again.

Through all of our group activities and lunches together, we really connected well with each other. But at the end of the week, it was time to say "see ya real soon" to each other. We had all made it through the tough process together, and it was time for each of us to go out on our own into the world of characters.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Welcome to Entertainment

Where to begin? Week One of Entertainment training was a whirlwind!

Never before in my life did I feel so optimistic and nervous at the same time. It was truly a magical feeling... those butterflies in your stomach like you are auditioning for a role... and those same butterflies like you are about to perform onstage in front of an audience. Yes, I already had the job, but training had not begun!

Entertainment training began at Disney University, where we met our training group. Our class was made up of performers, photographers and character attendants. We also met our Welcome to Entertainment class trainers, Kelly and Kirk. Kirk was a photographer and Kelly was friends with Cinderella. They were wonderful people with such bright and positive attitudes... I knew this was going to be a great class.

After the standard Company history presentations and safety training sessions, we got into the fun stuff... Entertainment! We learned about the history of live entertainment in the Disney Parks and how we would now be a part of that legacy... it was a great feeling.

From Disney University, we took a bus over to the Magic Kingdom and went up into the park. This was my "home park," having spent 4 months working in Tomorrowland. But I had a new perspective, walking onto Main Street USA in my professional attire. No longer would I be able to talk to Guests about their favorite parade. No longer would I be able to walk through the park and help Guests find their way. I was now going to have to use my communication skills in a whole new way.

Once we were all gathered together on Main Street, we headed toward the Castle. And boy were we in for a treat! The Castle Show was about to start! Never before had I been so excited to see "Dream Along with Mickey." To think that I would soon be a part of that same tradition of live entertainment was so exciting! I'll never forget how excited I was to watch Mickey and the gang in front of the Castle, as me and my new friends sang along with our favorite characters.

After the Castle Show we headed back to Disney University to wrap up the day. It was a day full of positive messages and reminders that we were all part of a team that truly reflects the values of the Walt Disney Company. I couldn't wait for the week to begin!

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Mini "Vacation"

Last Monday and Tuesday I got to take a mini vacation from work, and entertain my theatre director from home and her mom, who were on vacation for the holidays. It was such a treat to be able to take them around the parks and show them a good time.

I was able to book them a hotel (Port Orleans French Quarter) at a 40% discount with my Disney ID. (Gotta love those Cast Member benefits!)

So I met them Monday afternoon at their hotel, and helped move them into their room. We then began our little vacation by heading over to Animal Kingdom to catch the last showing of Festival of the Lion King... they loved it! That's always a great show.

Then we headed over to Epcot to walk around World Showcase and grab a bite to eat. So I made reservations for the new Mexican restaurant in the Mexico pavilion, La Hacienda de San Angel. The restaurant was really nice, and we had a gorgeous view of the World Showcase Lagoon. The food was great too... and it was nice to eat some real food for a change!

Then we walked around through the countries and stopped in France for some dessert. I always have to stop in the little pastry shop for their chocolate mousse... delicious! Afterwards we headed back to Mexico and stopped to watch Illuminations... always a treat.

The next morning I met them at their hotel and we started our day at Hollywood Studios to see Beauty and the Beast (seeing as Tiffany directed BATB last summer, it was a must-see!) Tiffany's mom insisted we see the American Idol Experience, since it's one of her favorite shows, so that was next on our list. After that, we saw Voyage of the Little Mermaid and went to meet Sorcerer Mickey in the Animation building. We ended our time at Hollywood Studios with the Great Movie Ride. They definitely enjoyed all of the shows.

We then drove over to the Magic Kingdom, parked at the Contemporary Hotel, and took the monorail into the park (I thought it would be more fun than walking.) We headed over to Tomorrowland so I could show them where I worked, and we ended up grabbing a quick bite to eat at Cosmic Ray's. Then we did a bit of walking around just to see the sights, and watched some of the castle show, and then made our way over to meet Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen. Those two are always so much fun!

After that, we did a bit of shopping on Main Street, and then decided to spend the rest of the evening in Downtown Disney. So we headed that way, and made reservations for dinner at Cap'n Jack's restaurant. We did a bit of shopping, and then went and enjoyed a nice seafood dinner. After a bit more shopping, our night was coming to an end, and I took them back to the hotel.

We had such a wonderful time! I love being a tour guide and showing people around the parks. Tiffany hadn't been to Disney World in 15 years, so it was definitely fun showing her around.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Last Day of Work!

This past Wednesday was my last shift at Cosmic Ray's Starlight Café. It was definitely a bittersweet moment. While I was excited to move on to Entertainment, it was really sad to say goodbye to everybody. It was the last day for a lot of us, so there were a lot of hugs throughout the day, and a lot of pictures too!

The day was easy, since the park was pretty empty. I was on the cash register for the first few hours, and then went on counter. It was weird to think that it was the last time I would be standing behind the counter serving people their food. Looking back on the last four months, I most definitely had a good experience at Cosmic Ray's. The managers are great once you get to know them. The people are awesome -- that's what really made work fun. Sure, some of my co-workers weren't the greatest, but that's how it is wherever you work. But I made some of the best friends from work, and I feel lucky to have been able to work in a place with so many amazing Cast Members.

After work, a whole group of us went to Buffalo Wild Wings. That's when the emotions started to set in, because it was the last chance we all had to say goodbye to each other. But it was nice to be able to all spend our last night together, having a good time at "Club B-Dubs."

I am definitely going to miss my Cosmic Ray's family!

The Busiest Time of the Year

The last two weeks were most definitely the busiest I've ever seen the parks since I've been down here. Christmas week and New Year's week were just out of control! We had crowd control at work almost every single day, and it went until 5:00 on some days instead of the usual 3:00.

One afternoon during the week of New Year's Eve, I met my friend Krista's two brothers, Jason and Charlie, and Jason's girlfriend at the Magic Kingdom. Boy was the park crowded! Right when we walked in, the parade was going on, and you couldn't even move. Every square inch on Main Street was filled. So they had us go around Main Street through a backstage area, and re-enter the park in Tomorrowland.

We weren't able to do much, because the lines were all a mile long. We waited about 30-40 minutes for Mickey's PhilharMagic, which didn't seem too long. We then waited about an hour for the Haunted Mansion. It was interesting because they had the line go all the way down by the water, and then back up into the regular queue.

We also grabbed a quick lunch at Cosmic Ray's, which wasn't too busy, but still pretty packed in comparison to what most of December looked like.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Christmas Morning at Disney World

Though I couldn't be home with my family for Christmas morning, I didn't have to spend it alone. Our family friends, the Findley's, were staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge for a few days, so I was able to join them on Christmas morning. 

Their hotel room was absolutely beautiful. It was a Disney Vacation Club Villa, so it had two bedrooms, a living room and a kitchen. But the best part about it was the view. Right outside their window was an area where live animals were roaming. So I walked into their room and saw zebras and giraffes eating their breakfast! It was so cool!

The Findley's brought some gifts from home, so I was able to open my presents from my family. I then joined them for a home-cooked breakfast... nothing beats country cooking for Christmas morning!

It was just so nice to watch the Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade, see the animals outside the window, and enjoy a hearty breakfast, in the company of good friends.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

College Program Graduation!

I definitely have been neglecting my blog during the past few weeks.... so it's time to start out the new year with a new blog post! 

College Program Completion Celebrations (aka Graduation) were held at Mickey's Retreat in mid-December. There was free food, characters, a DJ, and of course all of my friends from work. Walking into the party, you were given your graduation Mickey ears, as well as your "Mouseters" degree. 

It was a wonderful afternoon, spent with good friends. We met Goofy, Pluto, Minnie and Mickey, all dressed up for the occasion. There was also a raffle, and I won a caricature drawing of myself (as a superhero!)