August 30, 2009

Class of 1983

We're heading into the end of summer. Casual/Seasonal Cast Members are wrapping up their shifts, maybe hoping for a spot among Disneyland's permanent part-timers. Grad nites are long past, canoe racers have lapped the Rivers of America, and the last softballs have been thrown. The All-American College Marching Band has packed up and headed back to school.

Seems like an ideal time to reflect on the lessons learned in the Best Possible Job. That was what working at Disneyland was for me back in the 80s. Like all Disneyland alumni, I still carry the valuable things that I picked up while training to follow Walt's unique approach to creating the finest in family entertainment.

I hope that the University of Disneyland is still teaching Cast Members what it really meant to be part of the magic of the Magic Kingdom. Not just an outdoor vendor, attractions, custodial, culinary, merchandise, or security host or hostess, or even one of the many talented folks working entirely backstage. But someone given a rare privilege — finding personal happiness by creating happiness for others.

Just in case some in the Resort weren't taught as thoroughly as we were back then, I am dedicating the next few posts to presenting a lesson plan for living through the viewpoint of a Disneyland Cast Member as it once looked. Here's our first lecture, from Showmanship . . . Disneyland Style:

Working together

One of the "key" words in the successful production of any film is TEAMWORK. THis means the actors . . . sound men . . . camera men . . . light men . . . producer . . . and director all work together to product the ultimate goal, a "smash" hit.

Here at Disneyland, TEAMWORK is also a "key" word because we are, in effect, producing a living experience for our guests. This means our "onstage" crew myst not only work together, they have to work in unison with our "backstage" crew for a successful production.

Disneyland is no place for hermits . . . and your role is not a "do-it-yourself" operation. Your every effort lies in your ability to work with others in our cast in order to properly produce a happy show for our guests. Always try to practice what we preach about guest relations . . . on your fellow hosts and hostesses.

Next: "Disciplines of the show"

August 9, 2009

Paper's ghost

Disneyland's Haunted Mansion is forty today. It's an attraction that both preceded and survived the years in which I grew up in the Magic Kingdom. I'm thrilled that it remains today in almost the same condition as it did when I first stepped into the portrait gallery.

When the "paintings of some of our guests as they appeared in their corruptible mortal state" begin "actually stretching," I'm still willing to believe it. I think such simple illusions—transformed by Imagineering into thematically perfect spectacles—are still the greatest magic shows ever presented. For me, Disneyland is always at its best in the uncomplicated form that stretching portraits, singing busts, and endless hallways illustrate. It doesn't matter if you realize that the gallery is really an elevator. It makes no difference that the banquet scene is not a hologram.

In some ways, it's kind of more fun when the illusions aren't complex. Long before Pixar and CGI, special effects like those in the Mansion were just as special. I think that somehow they're more fun than a perfectly rendered scene, even if it's an amazing work in its own right. They create the sense that maybe you, too, can do magic.

When I was a kid, Disneyland sold this little instruction book on how you might get started. During the era when Disneyland merchandise included "your personal tombstone," you could transform a dollar into this delight at Merlin's or Main Street Magic. Written by one "Phinneas J. Pock," the venerable tome presented simple tabletop tricks and gave instructions on how to throw your voice. It was all done in a sort of "poor man's Marc Davis" style with illustrations inspired by the Mansion's various effects. I remember well practicing all of the little sleights of hand. The book sat on my shelf right beside my Secret Panel Chest for years.

But there's a little matter I forgot to mention. You can still enjoy Magic from the Haunted Mansion today! Blogger The Haunted Closet has made images of it reappear. The secrets have properly been concealed. Head over and have a look, and a ghost from Disneyland's past will follow you home.

August 2, 2009

Facts of life

If you'd joined the Disneyland Cast when the summer of 1984 started, you'd know your way around guest questions well by now. By August, when the temperatures and guest counts had reached their highest points, answers to "Where's the nearest restroom?" and "Do you sell film?" came easy.

Still, it was nice to know that there was a summer wallet fact card tucked into your costume. The little folding card had all you needed to know about Disneyland and all that Disneyland ever needed to be.

Want to pick up a unique gift? Try the One-of-a-Kind Shop in Mlle. Antionette's Parfumerie, or the Wilderness Outpost in Bear Country. Short of cash? Visit the Bank of America branch in Town Square.

Need a break from waiting in lines in the August heat? Grab a bite to eat at the Space Place, then catch Show Biz Is! at the Space Stage. Or the polynesian show at the Tahitian Terrace. Or the Golden Horseshoe Revue. Or Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln at the Opera House.

Tired of walking? Hop aboard the PeopleMover for a grand circle tour of Tomorrowland or take the Skyway.

You've got plenty of time. Disneyland is open until midnight (1:00 a.m. on Saturdays). But if you somehow run out of things to see and do, you can find information on other California adventures at Carefree Corner.

I'd been to Disneyland so many times before joining the Cast that I never really needed the Fact Card. But now that so much of the old Magic Kingdom is just a memory, I'm sure glad I've still got it.