Hello, and welcome to this week's 'From The Mouth Of The Mouse!'
Each week, we spotlight a different Cast Member story to give you more insight into some of your favorite attractions, resorts, and movies from all over the Walt Disney Company.
This week, we're talking to David, who worked in Out Door Vending (ODV) at Disneyland. While at first glance, it may not seem like the most exciting job, David definitely has some fantastic stories to share. By the time you're done reading, you'll definitely agree with him that working ODV is one of the best jobs in the Park!
Also, David kindly provided all the photos this week, allowing us to see exactly where he worked during his time at Disneyland.
And now, here's David in his own words!
JEFF: What made you want to work for Disney to begin with?
DAVID: Growing up, the only vacation our family ever took was our annual trip to Disneyland. My dad was actually there on opening day (he was only 4 years old at the time), so I guess you can say it was in my blood. It was the only job I ever wanted to have. I actually lived in Moreno Valley at the time, and I commuted every day about 50 miles each way to work at Disneyland. It was kind of crazy, but I wasn't the only one! I knew people who came from even further then that...
JEFF: So you were assigned to Out Door Vending. Was that what you wanted to do to begin with?
DAVID: Well, like everyone else, I wanted to work on attractions (specifically Haunted Mansion). I was initially bummed when I ended up in ODV, but it turned out to be the best job in the park! I got to work in a different land each day, with a different costume, and I got to learn the entire park instead of just my one little area. And, we got paid more than attractions too (although it was still minimal).
JEFF: Since you worked in different lands every day, did you get to pick where you wanted to be day-to-day, or just filled in as needed?
DAVID: We didn't get to pick at all. We would have a schedule of where we were supposed to work for the week, and typically it was a different wagon every day. Occasionally, you'd have the same wagon for two or three days in a row, but that wasn't common. What was common is that if you were scheduled to work on a specific wagon, you could pretty much guarantee you'd be somewhere else that day. They sometimes rescheduled us at the last minute without us knowing. We actually had a requirement that we had to call in from costuming when we arrived for our shift to verify that we hadn't been moved to a different location. Otherwise we'd show up in the wrong costume.
For example, if I was scheduled to work on the churro wagon in front of the Haunted Mansion, that was the Frontierland costume. But, if I had been moved that morning to the popcorn wagon in Fantasyland, then that was our normal "teals" costume. Back when I worked there, the ODV office was behind Splash Mountain and Costuming was behind Main Street. So if we did show up in the wrong costume, it was a long walk back to change. I am hyper organized, so the leads would usually put me on as a relief most of the time. That means I was assigned to give people breaks, keep the wagons fully stocked, and then either help push out or push in the wagons depending on whether it was a day or night shift. After I became a full time cast member, they made me a trainer. During the summer time, I would do almost nothing else but train new cast members how to be a relief. That ended up being my favorite thing to do.
JEFF: What were your responsibilities include on ODV? Did different parts of the Park have different responsibilities?
JEFF: Can you give me a brief overview of what a typical day was like?
DAVID: It was different from day to day, depending on what I was assigned to do that day. Since I did relief probably more often than anything else, I'll talk about that. I was usually assigned three wagons to watch over, and they were always assigned so that I wouldn't have to change my costume throughout the day. For example, I might be assigned the churro wagon on Main Street in front of the castle, the popcorn wagon at the hub, and the popcorn wagon in Town Square. Each vendor was suppose to get two 30 minute breaks, and then I had to maintain the stock and make sure that the wagons were fully stocked for the night relief when they started.
I usually worked day shifts, so when I arrived, the first thing I would do would be to help push out the churro carts. They are the heaviest carts for our team. It was supposed to require a minimum of four vendors to push out a cart, but if it was early in the morning before the park opened (meaning there were no guests to dodge), we could do it with two. After that, there wasn't much to do. Often times I would get breakfast at the Inn Between (the main cast member restaurant) and then either collect dollies that had been left in random places around the park from the day before or on a really slow day, just hang out at the ODV office talking to the leads.
JEFF: Any times you can think of that you went out of your way to make a guest's stay more magical?
DAVID: Actually, I always felt lucky that I was in the department I was in, because we had a lot of authority over our wagons and were empowered to do pretty much whatever we thought was necessary to make a guest's day more special. One easy thing was popcorn. We got the popcorn for free from Orville Redenbacher, so we were encouraged to give it away whenever we felt it was appropriate. If someone was wearing a birthday sticker, I'd always tell them to buy a bucket and then I'd give them unlimited free refills that day, but they had to come back to me specifically.
One of the weirdest things was that European guests don't like salt on their popcorn. Apparently in Europe, they put sugar on their popcorn instead. So when European guest would come up and ask me "Is it sweet popcorn?", I'd pop a special batch for them with no salt. I would usually have a few sugar packets on hand for them that I had picked up at one of the restaurants earlier in the day. And no, I never did try it myself...
JEFF: Any other crazy stories that you mentioned that you'd like to share?
DAVID: I've got a whole lot, but there's two things that really stand out to me. One, I mentioned that my dad loved Disneyland and that he was there on opening day. My grandmother owned a restaurant at the Burbank Airport where rich people kept their private jets, so she knew a lot of people in the entertainment industry back then. Because of that, she was an invited guest. Anyway, my dad was really happy when I go the job there. In 1997, when the new Light Magic parade came out, they had a special cast member preview the day before they did the AP previews. We were allowed to bring a guest. I was super excited to bring my dad and let him see the park after hours to watch this brand new parade first, before anyone else. Well, unfortunately, the parade was just horrible, and so I felt so bad for my dad.
So the next year, the new Tomorrowland opened, and again, I thought it was going to be awesome and again I was able to bring my dad to the cast member preview night. Well, once again the new Tomorrowland sucked, and halfway through the night, I was feeling really badly for him. But then we got pretty much the experience of a lifetime. First, we got to ride Space Mountain twice, once with all the lights on and once with all the lights off. Then we got to go below Star Tours and watch a simulator from below as it went through an entire flight. When we used to go to the park when I was a kid, Star Tours was always the first ride we went on. Being able to watch it like that and see just how much it actually moved was one of the absolute coolest things I think I've ever done. So even though Rocket Rods and Innoventions and the 3-D movie Honey I Shrunk the Audience
JEFF: I have a very vague recollection of a strawberry churro at some point in Disney Parks. Was that a real thing, or did I imagine that?
JEFF: Did you have a favorite wagon that you liked to work on?
DAVID: Oh yes, it was real. One of my favorite memories was the strawberry churro! I don't know if I just got sick of the smell of a regular churro from working there too long, but I actually liked the strawberry churro better than the cinnamon churro. It started in 97 with blue raspberry churros as part of a promotion for Light Magic. They decided that by rolling the churro in blue raspberry sugar instead of cinnamon, it would look kind of sparkly.
As you might imagine though, the blue raspberry churro was pretty much one of the most terrible things you've ever had. But, it gave birth to the idea of different flavored churros, and they decided to try two new flavors. We had strawberry churros on the east side of Disneyland (Main Street, Tomorrowland, Fantasyland), and apple churros on the west side (Frontierland, New Orleans Square, Critter Country).
The apple churros always tasted a lot like cinnamon churros to me, but I really loved the strawberry ones! They were impossible to sell though, and we gave up on them after a couple of years. The look on peoples faces was always priceless when we would offer them a strawberry churro. Many people actually seemed offended that we would have anything other than traditional cinnamon.
The few people that did try them didn't really like them very much. I'd have to say that of all the people that I ever talked into trying one, I think I liked them the best. The apple ones didn't sell by themselves, but a lot of guests would ask for a mix of apple and cinnamon.
DAVID: Actually, working on a wagon all day was sometimes interesting depending on the location. I kind of had a love/hate relationship with the popcorn wagon in New Orleans Square. It was always very busy, and I'd get to watch the Side Street Strutters (they are the bomb!!!) perform several times, but the smell of the food from the French Market made me so darn hungry. When my break did finally come, and I had to get a burger or a sandwich from the Inn Between, it really didn't hit the spot.
The popcorn wagon in Frontierland was a lot of fun because I'd get to watch each of the different shows that they would do out in front. I still remember them pretty well, and the group that did them was absolutely hilarious. They had a general sketch that they would do every time (running for mayor, looking for a date for Sally Mae, or looking for the person who robbed the bank) but they would pull people out of the audience and tailor the shows around them. I really liked working the popcorn wagon in Town Square as long as I got to the wagon before the park opened in the morning.
I loved watching the faces of the little kids as they came through the tunnels and saw the Castle for the first time. The rest of the day on that wagon was really slow, though. Watching the shows and parades was a lot of fun the first few times, and we actually had two really good parades back then. First was the Hercules parade, and then it switched to the Mulan parade. The Mulan parade is still my favorite parade I've ever seen at Disneyland. I loved watching the Chinese acrobats. I tried to talk to them backstage once but none of them spoke any English!
DAVID: Oh yes! I met Tom Hanks, Jennifer Love Hewitt (stunningly beautiful, but very short!), Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gloria Estefan, Heidi Klum, and a lot more, but the only one who I ever actually got to talk to was someone I didn't know!
I never watched the WWF, even as a kid, but the day before they had a Wrestlemania at the Arrowhead Pond, a bunch of the wrestlers came into the park. I was working on the popcorn wagon in Tomorrowland that day, and this huge, really hairy guy came over. He bought a box of popcorn and then just sat down in the planters and started talking to me, asking me about my job. He told me his real name that I don't remember, but his wrestling name was Mankind . It was a slow day and we talked for probably 20 minutes about Disneyland. He asked about some of the rumors, like the secret basketball court inside the Matterhorn, Club 33, and so on. He was a totally cool guy and apparently a total Disney fan.
Thanks for sharing with us, David!
DAVID: One of the coolest things that I got to do, when I would work late nights until 2am, was to get to walk through an empty park, all the way back to costuming. It was so very different with no guests there. It was amazing how much you could actually hear! You can hear Harold, the Abominable Snowman from the Matterhorn, while standing in front of the castle, or you can hear the little girl in the Haunted Mansion whispering to "turn back" as you walk by outside.
And thank you for reading - please come back each week to hear more of the magic directly From the Mouth of the Mouse!
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