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 talk to Natalie, who had the unique opportunity to work the Disney College Program at both Disneyland AND Walt Disney World. She provides some wonderful insight from working at both Parks, and shares some great stories.
JEFF: So tell me a little bit about how you fell in love with Disney to begin with.
NATALIE: I first went to Disneyland when I was 5 years old. When I was 10, we started going to Disneyland every other year. When it came time to plan a vacation, both my parents always wanted to go to Disneyland! I remember seeing a commercial for Walt Disney World when I was pretty little, and my parents had just gone on a trip there without me and my sister. The commercial featured the dinosaur scenes at the Universe of Energy in Epcot, and I desperately wanted to go. I was promised a trip to Disney World when I graduated high school. We finally went in 2007, and I got to see those dinosaurs I had waited so long to see. But in the years leading up to that trip, Disneyland was (and still is) my favorite place on the planet. I really feel like a piece of it belongs to me (don't we all?), and honestly don't remember a trip where I wasn't crying when we left.
Growing up, I loved almost every Disney movie. Even if there was sadness, there was always hope. As I got older, I became more interested in the story behind the Disney Company and the story of Walt's life. Walt is such an inspiration to me, and I really feel like my life has changed for the better because of him, even though I've never met him. I can't think of any place but Disneyland that can put me (and many others) on the verge of tears just by stepping foot on to Main Street, U.S.A. Walt continues to create magic in world that forgets it can and does exist.
JEFF: How did you go about joining the Disney College Program?
NATALIE: I saw a poster on campus back in the fall of 2009, and went to a presentation to see what it was all about. I honestly couldn't believe that there was an opportunity out there that fit so perfectly for what I needed for graduation; an internship credit and a love of Disney! I didn't apply for that term (as there were certain classes only offered in the spring semester that I needed), but went to the presentation again the following February and applied with Attractions as my top choice. After a web interview and a nerve wracking phone interview with a very nice woman named Wendy, I got a call back a month later letting me know I was being offered a position as an Attractions Hostess for the Fall of 2012!
NATALIE: I applied specifically for California during my first program. I liked that it was a bit smaller program (about 300 people compared to 5,000 in Florida), and Anaheim was only a three and a half hour drive from Las Vegas, where I was attending school. It made it much easier to make a few trips back when I needed to meet with my internship coordinator and take care of applying for graduation the following year. I'd also gone to Disneyland so much growing up, and I was very excited to have the chance to work there!
JEFF: While at Disneyland, you worked on the Buzz Lightyear AstroBlasters. What were your basic responsibilities there? What was a day like for you at work?
NATALIE: My position as a Space Ranger consisted of 4 or 5 positions throughout the day. I could be stationed as Greeter (out in front of the attraction, greeting new recruits, checking Fast Pass times), inside assisting guests while they loaded or unloaded from their Space Cruisers, or at the main console making sure things were running smoothly. It was definitely fun to be able to control an entire attraction! As a College Program Cast Member, I typically worked the closing shifts and helped to close down Star Command at the end of each day. I did a lot of walking at AstroBlasters, since it's an omni-mover. I didn't notice how much walking on my "treadmill" every day did for me until I was back at school! Occasionally, I also got shifts where I assisted with setting up ropes for that night's fireworks performance, and some shifts where I set up ropes and helped with traffic flow for the parades and fireworks that day. I actually loved these. I got to wear the Main Street "Coke Corner" costume and once the ropes were set up, we got to interact with guests until show time!JEFF: What about the College Program made you want to apply again to work at Walt Disney World after your Disneyland program was over?
NATALIE: I loved my time as a Cast Member, and applied for a few of the Professional Internships. I wasn't selected, unfortunately, and once I graduated from UNLV in May 2011, I didn't have any immediate plans. My younger sister had just started her College Program as a Main Entrance Operations Cast Member at Epcot in June, and I definitely missed her. I thought I'd give applying to the Florida program a shot, and see how things were done in Florida! I was accepted as an Attractions Hostess again and moved down to Orlando in August 2011.
JEFF: While at Walt Disney World, you told me you worked at Innoventions. What did you do there?
NATALIE: I was a Presenter. Throughout my program, I was trained on 3 venues: StormStruck, The Safety Smart Lab at Test the Limits, and Where's the Fire? The House of Innoventions closed for refurbishment during my time there, so I wasn't trained on that. Presenters take care of greeting at the venues, the pre-show, and the show itself. On any given day, I could be at all three of the venues or just one. Depending on the day, I could end up doing a lot of presentations or just one or two. At StormStruck, I was a Stormologist who led guests through a 3D recreation of a severe storm, followed by a game to build a stronger house; at the Safety Smart Lab, I assisted Timon and Pumbaa in a presentation on home safety; and at Where's the Fire? (my favorite!) I was a game show host that led a competitive game where guests attempt to find and correct the most fire safety hazards on their side of a house. I was also assigned some nights to assist at IllumiNations after Innoventions closed at 7 pm. I really enjoyed working IllumiNations since the shift mostly involved interacting with guests and chatting with them about their day at Epcot.JEFF: Since you worked at the Parks on both coasts, do you prefer one over the other? How did the two experiences differ?
NATALIE: I almost feel like comparing Disneyland to Walt Disney World is like comparing apples and oranges. They are such different experiences! I am a "Disneylander" at heart, since that is where I had my first College Program and grew up visiting there, but each resort has things the other doesn't. Walt Disney World (especially Epcot) has much better, and nicer, sit-down restaurants, but Disneyland has the Matterhorn and the Indiana Jones Adventure. Even Magic Kingdom, which can seem like another version of Disneyland, is very different from its California counterpart in terms of the general atmosphere. As a Cast Member, the work experience was very different as well; this comes down to the difference in the average guest at each resort. At Walt Disney World, it is important make sure each guest has the best experience possible, because this is very likely the only time in their lives that they will be there. A lot of people only get to come to Walt Disney World once or twice, and save for a very long time to be able to do so. At Disneyland, it is just as important to make sure each guest has the best experience, but for a different reason. A very large portion of the guests there are Annual Passholders and come more than once a month. I got to know several Aps, who became friends. They know the park like the back of their hand and it is very near and dear to them. They know what Disney quality is and want to make sure the park and magic they love is being maintained.
NATALIE: One of the greatest parts of being a Cast Member is that something that might seem like just a part of my day to day job can really brighten a guest's day. I had a lead in California whom, after I mentioned that I'd had kind of an off and slow day, asked me, "Well, what have you done to make someone else's day better today?" That always stuck with me.JEFF: Any other fun stories that you'd like to share, we'd love to hear them!
I remember one family in particular who came for their young son's birthday (and first trip to DL) around Christmas, and his favorite character was Buzz. He had a full Buzz costume on, and even his stroller was a Buzz Lightyear one. Towards the end of the day, his mom approached me and said that they had been trying to catch Buzz at his meet and greet all day and kept missing him. I called the character line to discover that Buzz had just finished his last greet of the day. Another CM, who was out front with me, quickly went backstage to see if he could catch Buzz, but unfortunately he was gone. The mom told us thank you for trying, and that they were going to get in the AstroBlasters line, since they'd waited all day so they could finish their day with Buzz. They seemed pretty disappointed, and the little boy kept asking his mom why he wasn't going to get to meet Buzz. I was sad we hadn't been able to catch the character for them, and the BLAB line was around 30 minutes at that point. I asked them to wait a moment, and went to our Fast Pass machines and got them two sets of Fast Passes for the ride. I told the boy that Buzz was very sorry he hadn't been able to chat with him today but he'd been so busy battling Zurg. I said that Buzz had given me these special passes because he needed his help right away to help defeat Zurg, and that he'd see Buzz inside for mission briefing. His family was so grateful, and the little boy was so excited and I was so happy that I had something I could do to cheer them up.
NATALIE: There are so many!Thank you, Natalie, for sharing with us!
Don't forget come back each week to hear more of the magic directly From the Mouth of the Mouse.
Tickets are now on sale for the
COMMUNICORE WEEKLY 38TH WEEKAVERSARY
EPCOT 30 YEAR ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION!
Come celebrate EPCOT's 30th Anniversary in style with a live taping of MiceChat's Communicore Weekly! Join co-hosts Jeff Heimbuch & George Taylor, along with MiceChat's Dusty Sage, Kevin Yee, and the Communicore Weekly Orchestra, for a fun-filled night of fandom and frivolity as they tape a special hour long episode of the hit show, Communicore Weekly.
Join us on the evening of Saturday, September 29th 2912 in the Norway Pavilion Special Events Lounge in EPCOT's World Showcase for this one of a kind event!
Your ticket includes:
- Admission into the live taping of CW in the Norway Pavilion of EPCOT (note: admission into the park is NOT included)!
- Meet special guest, Ron Schneider, the original Dreamfinder!
- Decadent dessert reception!
- Short scavenger hunt hosted by Kevin Yee before the show will be available to those who would like to participate (prizes will be awarded)!
- Prizes, giveaways and more!
- The chance to be a part of EPCOT and Communicore Weekly history!
- Endless Five Legged Goats and perhaps even a real life Bathroom Break!
- Exclusive late night ride after park closing on a selected EPCOT attraction to cap off the evening!
For more tickets and more information, be sure to visit MiceChat.com/store!
By Jeff Heimbuch
If you are, or know, a Cast Member who would like to share some of their stories and possibly be featured right here on MiceChat, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd love to hear from you!
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