Thursday, February 9, 2012

Disneyland Time, Part 1

Today, I’m in Southern California. I’m at Disneyland, celebrating my daughter’s 3rdbirthday. Since I’m the master of too much info, I’m going to let you know I wrote this early. This has nothing to do with this trip, but instead of my past with the park.

Back in 2008, I was a Cast Member at Disneyland for approximately 8 months. Now, for those who are not familiar, Disneyland is the one in Southern California. It is the original park. A lot of people, especially here in Indiana, hear Disneyland and they automatically think of Walt Disney World down in Florida. This is not the same.

When I worked at Disneyland, I worked in Tomorrowland Attractions. Essentially, this means I was a Ride (Attraction) Operator in Tomorrowland. Remember, Disneyland doesn’t have Rides, it has Attractions. The only ride in Disneyland is Mister Toad’s Wild Ride. Anyway, being an Attractions Host meant that I was responsible for the safe and efficient operation of the attractions I was assigned to/trained on, in addition to providing the whole “Disney Experience” to guests in the park, aka being clean shaven, cheerful, outgoing, helpful and friendly.
I started my time at the Magical Kingdom of Commerce on the newly re-opened Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. This involved driving a large “submarine” on the hunt for Nemo, that little clownfish with the “lucky” fin. Having been based on almost 50 year old Attraction vehicles, these were not computer ran vehicles, but instead ran by a Cast Member in “sail” above water that controls how fast and how slow the sub is running, making sure he doesn’t run into another submarine, and just generally making sure they are giving a good show.

When not driving the subs, we would also be in charge of opening and closing hatches, loading and unloading guests, assigning guests to rows while making sure we aren’t overloading the sub, and working outside the attraction, doing guest control on a line that, at the time, would sometimes reach a 90 minute wait. These were the fun times, where you would try to keep “in theme” while interacting with guests. For example, we worked for NEMO, which stood for Nautical Exploration and Marine Observation. For attraction specific questions and spiels, we’d want to keep that in mind. I always took things a step further, and tried to make as many bad nautical puns as possible. For example, if I were loading guests on to the sub:

“Right this way, Explorers! Welcome about Scout! Please watch your head and step while heading down the stairs, and if you don’t watch your head and step, please watch your language, there are little explorers present. When you reach the bottom of the stairs, please move ALLLL the way down to the end of the row, filling in every available seat. Listen, I know we all love our elbow room, I’m a big guy, I understand, but please, let’s not be shellfish!”

It was fun. It was a good time. I got paid to play. However, I also got paid to deal with people who checked their brains at the gate when they walked in. A comedian I enjoy has a bit about the 3 O’Clock Parade, which is sadly very true. People will walk up to you and ask, in all seriousness, what time the 3 o’clock parade is. It was also very fun trying to figure out which attraction they were asking about while asking for directions. Autotopia was easy, it was Autopia. Magic Mountain was always fun, since there was another amusement park straight up I-5 called Six Flags Magic Mountain. Plus, you’d get folks that were convinced that rides from other parks were in yours, or wondering why Shrek isn’t in the parade, so that was always fun.

Another perk at working at a theme park is SoCal is the celebrity sightings, if you’re into that. I don’t know why it’s never been that big of a deal for me, but it was always kind of cool when you’d look, and there’s Kobe Bryant coming up to the subs with his little ones, or if you look over at the front dock, and there is Penn Jillette boarding the sub. It was interesting, when you’re doing crowd control in front of the Castle before the fireworks, and Gary Busey walks down the line, shaking cast member’s hands and thanking them for the great day. And it was fun seeing the look of gratitude on Gordon Ramsey’s face as you let him and his family through the back door at Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters with a smile and a nod. I enjoyed helping them out like normal people, and helping their day be a bit better.

Tomorrow, I’ll talk about Buzz Lightyear and some of my experiences there, as well as general thoughts on the park.

Til Tomorrow,

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