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 Christa. Christa worked as a Ticket Taker at Disneyland for a few years before transferring over into Ops Costuming! Now, her fellow Cast Members are her 'guests,' and she tells us how she tries to make their day brighter.
JEFF: How did your love of Disney start to begin with?
CHRISTA: I'm not sure that I even realized that I was in love with Disney when I was a kid. The first movie I saw in a theater was Mary Poppins. Perhaps that was the beginning of the fascination. When I was old enough to hang around with my girlfriends, my mom would drop us off at Disneyland for the day. She felt that this was a safe place for us. Of course, this was way back in the days of ticket books. We paid to get in & then sparingly used our lettered tickets. I guess I started some of the "traditions" (that I still follow to the letter today) back then. I had to find Mickey & at least wave. I had to take my photo posing with the Indian figure on Main Street. I now consume a white chocolate chip cookie each visit because they no longer serve Fantasia ice cream. A grand tour aboard the DRR is an enjoyable must. I used the park to hang out in much like kids use the mall these days.
JEFF: I wish the mall I hung out in as a kid was as cool as Disneyland! Now, you told me you worked in the Disney Store in Oregon when you grew up and moved. Was working there your way of staying close to Disney, even though you were a few states away?
CHRISTA: In 1994, I was fortunate enough to be among the select Opening Cast for the Disney Store in Eugene, Oregon. It was the most amazing experience. We had a Traditions class in the store prior to opening. We competed against other stores to beat the standing record to unload & move in all the merchandise from the trucks & on to the floor. On opening day, Pixie Dust was freely sprinkled everywhere. Two characters (from Disneyland), came up to add to the opening festivities & spread true Disney magic.
Back then we were still owned by Disney, so everything was infused with the culture & history. The store definitely made Eugene the place to get a Disney fix if you couldn't get to the park. Because I was raised in the park (or at least it felt like it), I was one of the "go to" cast members who guests sought out to ask all their park-going questions. I loved being an ambassador of sorts. It was really a great feeling when they would stop in the store after their trip & tell me the highlights. I was there during the 10th anniversary of the Stores & still have the poster with each CMs name listed.
JEFF: After that, you moved back to California to follow your dream of working at Disney. I know you said it took awhile before you were hired. How did you feel when you were finally accepted into the role?
CHRISTA: I was floored when I got the email requesting I call to set up an interview appointment in July 2010. I applied the September before & just waited until the interview came. Thanks to my brothers, I was living above their garage in Atascadero, which is about 4 hours north. Commuting would be out of the question, obviously. For the interview, I chose to make a long weekend of it & play in the parks too, so I took the train down instead of driving. It was the best ride ever as I got more excited with each mile passing. At the end of the interview, I was offered the role of a Ticket Taker. WooHoo! It was rather like a balloon might feel when being inflated.JEFF: How did this Disney Traditions differ from the Disney Store one?
Then the recruiter went on to say that there wasn't a position in that role right then & I would be notified of a start date as soon as a position became available. It was rather like having the air escape out of the once inflated balloon. So close, and yet... It ended up being the longest 3 months of my life, waiting to get the next email telling me when my Traditions class would be held. I packed my car, zoomed down to a motel for the weekend during the classes. When I checked out on Monday, I had a role of a lifetime & nowhere to live. Definitely a leap of faith.
CHRISTA: Disney is a culture. While you might not think about how it touches your life day to day, it does have an impact on you. As a huge company, because it is so diversified, one might think that a single person (employee) might get lost. For me, Traditions class is the life preserver that you can cling to so you don't ever feel lost or little. Everyone starts out in a role. However, there are no "small" roles. You're right that the two Traditions classes differed a bit. The one for the Stores covered the basics of the consumer culture & how the store would impact the community & our guests. We were given an overview of the business based upon the goods we were selling. The Traditions for the Resort was a more in depth view of the Disney Company, its roots, its growth & its many divisions that symbiotically exist today. The average guest has really high expectations for their park experience based upon other Disney interactions. We have a huge standard to uphold. I'm reminded every day how cool it is to be a Cast Member at the Happiest Place on Earth. There are lots of folks who would love to be able to spread the magic while continuing to deliver a fantastic consumer product.
JEFF: Tell me a little bit about working as a ticket taker. What was a typical day like? Any time you went out of your way to try to make a guests' time more magical?
CHRISTA: Being a Ticket Taker (the role is now called Park Greeter) was an amazing experience. True, it was often too hot, too cold, or both during the shift, but it was never boring. I loved being able to chat with the guests. For the most part, they are still pumped up & ready to attack their day. The first timers were so much fun as they usually had lots of questions & thankfully for me, I had lots of answers & tips to pass along.
There really isn't a typical day as each shift was unique & challenging. If you were a Ticket Taker for the shift, you were deployed to a gate in either Disneyland or Disney California Adventure to take tickets or stamp the hands of guests exiting. Sometimes you were in one park for an hour, only to be sent to the other one after your break & back to the other park after your lunch. There was a lot of walking across the Esplanade north or south to the Parks. If you were a Guest Screener (the ones who look in bags, purses, etc.), the same type of deployment would happen, only it was East to West to the green tents.
Sometimes the shift would be at the entrance from the Grand Californian hotel into Disney California Adventure or at the Monorail station in Downtown Disney. You stayed in that area the entire shift, however you rotated between bag screening, ticket taking & hand stamping. I liked working those satellite areas. A little quieter than the main gates of the Parks, so your time with the guests could be a bit longer & even more magical.
I tried to go out of my way to spread the magic every shift. It didn't always happen, but hey, it was a goal & I tried. Often a Birthday button customized with their name was enough to brighten their day. I was able to hook some Australian guests up with same day reservations at the Blue Bayou. For a group from England, I suggested stopping in the Golden Horseshoe to see the Billy Hill & the Hillbillies show. Those guests went out my exit later that night & thanked me for telling them about the show as it was the highlight of their day & they never would have known about it because it wasn't a "ride." I had a stash of my own trading pins that I handed out for excellent behavior, whether it be kids or adults behavior. Sometimes simply listening to them was enough magic to make their day enjoyable.
One of my favorite shifts was New Year's Eve. I was stationed in the middle of the Esplanade directing traffic. We had stanchions & ropes to create a corridor for guests wanting to walk east to west or park to park. We had to keep these open & clear of guests all night. The fireworks were spectacular as we were in the middle of three shows. The crowd literally spun around trying to see the main show in Disneyland & still see the shows being sent off in the Paradise Pier & Hollywood Backlot areas. To be surrounded by ultra-unique fireworks was the best perk of working that night.
JEFF: So after working as a Ticket Taker, you moved over to Ops Costuming. How did you transition over there? Did you have any sort of background in that kind of role?
JEFF: What are your day to day responsibilities in Costuming?
CHRISTA: Going from an "on stage" role to a "backstage" one has been challenging. I miss interacting with the Park Guests. Now my guests are my fellow Cast Members. I have absolutely no background for issuing costumes. I do however have many years of sorting, hanging & generally getting the wrinkles out of my own clothing. My mantra is "it's a costume, not a fashion statement."
CHRISTA: The sorting, hanging, etc. I just mentioned is my typical day. We rotate between positions such as: covering the checkout area to answer questions or be at the guest service desk to resolve any costuming issues; we check each item to make sure that it is ready for the show - enough buttons, zippers that work, seams & hems intact, etc. to stocking accessories like aprons, hats, belts, & spats. Besides processing the daily deliveries of freshly cleaned costumes from the two laundry services we use, there is the unending (okay, it just seems to be unending), sorting of the costumes that are returned after shifts. There's much more, but basically we're a large team who all do everything to make sure the CMs look their best while on stage.JEFF: You mentioned to me that your guests are now the other Cast Members. Tell me a bit about how you try to make their day brighter!
CHRISTA: We're all in the same boat & understanding that is paramount. We are told that when we walk "on stage" we are to be happy & spread the magic while leaving our real world issues backstage. Since I work "backstage," sometimes the CMs aren't in the best of moods. Late shuttle, no parking spots, too much traffic in general; whatever the real world has caused them to be late, stressed or simply tired. I try to lighten their mood with humor. Recently we've made some major changes to the Ops Costuming set up. Costume pieces that have been in one place for years are now somewhere else. This has the potential to make any CM a bit cranky. So I've been afforded the opportunity of making their time in Ops Costuming an enjoyable one. I figure if I get a smile on their face, just maybe it will still be there when they get on stage.
JEFF: Any other fun stories that you'd like to share, I'd love to hear them!
CHRISTA: I can't imagine any better way to set, attain & enjoy a life goal than to work in the Disneyland Resort. Sure, it's just another big corporation that one could feel like a drone. However, if you truly have the desire to spread magic, create memories & make dreams come true... this is where you want to be. Smack in the center of it all.Thank you, Christa, for sharing with us!
My first fun memory was the day Mickey Mouse handed me my name tag & gave me a huge hug. I still get teary eyed about it. When I started on this grand adventure, I had two goals - to work at the Parks and to earn my one year pin. Last October, Mickey was there to award me the one year pin. This presentation happened a few days after I started working in Ops Costuming. Since most of my time was in Main Gate, those managers were the ones to hand me the pin. The looks on their faces were truly memorable as I was in the "wrong" costume. Well, for them I was in the wrong one, but for me, Ops Costuming is awesome!
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!
Jeff also writes a MiceChat column titled The 626. We invite you to check it out!
Jeff also co-hosts the VidCast Communicore Weekly on MiceTube.
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