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.