October 4, 2008

Dream of a million years

The object up there in this blog’s masthead is the service pin I received after one year in the Disneyland Cast. It occurred to me that some folks outside the berm might not know what the little bronze Sleeping Beauty Castle represented, so I thought I’d explain how you went about earning one like I did back in the 1980s.

After an interview at Disneyland’s Casting Office, you were hired and assigned a department in the Park. (Outdoor Vending, Dep’t. 937, was mine.) Your status was officially “Casual-Seasonal,” which implies anything but job security, but was still a major step up from the “Casual-Temporary” label once applied to new Cast Members.

As a CS, you were essentially in the same position as the most unfortunate of the guys on the Jungle Cruise’s lost safari. You could count on twenty hours a week at best, fewer in 1984 (attendance really dropped off during the LA Olympics). Fortunately, it was pretty easy to pick up extra hours, provided you didn’t exceed forty.

Once the “seasonal” aspect of your status reached its zenith, however, you were likely on your way until the next peak period. Before Disneyland went to seven-day operations in about 1980 (the Park used to be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays), there wasn’t enough work for you. Unless you made PPT.

Permanent Part-Time Cast Members worked year-round. Maybe not forty-hour weeks, but still enough to call it a living. Even better, you were in the Park in the off-season, when things were comparatively slow. I think the guests during those times were happier because they had Disneyland to themselves. Although it closed at 6:00, there were no lines for anything. As Walt said, “In the winter time you can go out there during the week and you won’t see any children. You’ll see the oldsters out there riding all these rides and having fun.”

Your performance appraisal and the Park’s needs after your CS season determined whether you made Permanent. If you were offered a position, you were sent to a Disneyland doctor for a physical. Then you were on your way to being one of the relatively few who enjoyed presenting the Show to a truly appreciative audience.

It got even better at your one-year mark. You took your nametag to Wardrobe, where they drilled a hole through Mickey. Your one-year pin took his place, setting you a little bit apart, sometimes prompting a guest’s query about what the pin meant . . . and giving you a small sense of life at the next rung up the Disney ladder. Becoming Permanent Full-Time was basically joining the management ranks, probably as a Senior Lead or Supervisor.

My Area Supervisor rose from a fry cook position at Plaza Gardens to managerial authority over Tomorrowland. It took him something like twenty years, but what a career. Imagine twenty years of Disneyland as it was. I often think about what it would have been like to have followed such a path. My time onstage didn’t come close, and, as they say in the Haunted Mansion, “there’s no turning back now.”

That’s one more reason why the year represented by this pin is one I would never trade.

1 comment:

Wendy said...

I don't even remember the one year pins! Huh. Pretty neat though!