January 30, 2010

It took people to make the dream a reality

If you clocked into a role in the Disneyland show during the 1980s, you were a part of something extraordinarily special. Something that exists now only in memories and old photos, images of a time when a job at Disneyland meant being part of a huge extended family, all working together in a showplace of beauty and magic. The next few posts will salute some of those family members.

All of us knew that the work we made look easy was anything but. It could be awfully hard to create happiness for others, especially when something in your life wasn't going right. Once you passed through Harbor House, though, you could start leaving whatever the problem was behind, at least for an eight-hour shift. As you headed to Wardrobe to sign out your costume and back to the locker room to change, getting ready to go onstage took over. And as you stepped through one of the many doors or passages connecting the backstage world to the Magic Kingdom, Disneyland transformed negative thing might have been taking up space in your mind.

As a Cast Member then, you were as much icon as employee. You were Disneyland. Sure, you faced irate guests, rude teenagers, people who resisted giving in to the happy feelings that permeated our beautiful Park. But they were in the minority. Most people sought Disneyland magic eagerly, and they expected it to emanate from you as soon as you emerged, in the form of smiles, laughter, and uncommon courtesy.

You had to make that happen regardless of personal circumstances. There's nowhere to hide unhappiness onstage, so you were forced to leave it outside the berm. And that was when the magic really occurred. As you worked to create happiness for others, you created it in yourself. If you went to work happy, you ended up feeling even better.

As guests looked "to the name Walt Disney for the finest in family entertainment," they were looking at us. Whether we stood on the PeopleMover's loading platform like these two, worked in Outdoor Vending like I did, or performed any of the myriad other roles in the Show, we looked back from behind smiles, vented behind the scenes, and finished off at Acapulco's, Denny's, or HoJo's. Then did it again on the next day or night shift.

Maybe the real proof that those days at the Park were something else is that writing about them now has almost the same effect on me as working during them did. As I recall those memories and look back at those old photos, I feel almost as happy as I did standing in Town Square holding a bright new bunch of Mickey Mouse balloons.

If this blog creates a similar feeling for you, I feel even better.

January 1, 2010

Tune out, turn on, get with it

The Best Possible Job's very first post featured the University of Disneyland's Showmanship...Disneyland Style. When I was a Cast Member in 1983, I learned the principles that Walt, Van, and the rest set out as they were explained in that booklet. Disney training enhanced both my Park performance and my life outside the berm, making those years a wonderful time to recall.

The Disney way as it was then is still valuable today. In some ways, it's even more so. So as we all step onstage into a fresh 2010, here are some good old words from Showmanship. I hope that they help my fifteen(!) loyal readers and everyone else have a happy new year:

Take a look at this morning's paper...at least six stories of bad news. This...and other personal and world troubles are what we want to tune out when we get ready to play our roles in the show. This is why our "stage" is surrounded by an earthen berm...to tune out the outside world.

And then, we have to turn on to the atmosphere...the fun...the magic of the show. It's a fresh show every day for our guests...and this requires fresh attitudes on our parts. We're not saying it won't be hard work...it will also be exciting and challenging work. After all, that's what show biz is all about.

To "get with it" is a show business term. It means getting in the mood of the show...the feeling of the play...or the "theme" of the play...or the "theme" of the area. This is no place for a Grouchy Gus...a Sad Sam or a Harried Harriet. We don't want these type people in our cast. Disneyland is a fun show...not a sad story.

If you tune out the outside world...turn on to Disneyland and get with it, you'll find that you'll be helping to create a very important thing in life.

I'm looking forward to this year, and to sharing more Cast memories with you all. Cheers.