July 24, 2011

Help me if you can, I've got to get

An afternoon shift as a Disneyland Outdoor Vending Cast Member in 1983. An ice-cream wagon in Fantasyland right outside Casey Jr., near what was very briefly the Village Inn and is now the Village Haus.

The calliope music wafted on the July heat, and the brass rail of my red-and-white-striped wagon gleamed in the sun. Inside, protected by dry ice, were orange juice bars, frozen bananas (at 85 cents, the most expensive thing on the menu), and ice cream bars and sandwiches. Outside, protected by a big red umbrella, were me—and a large friend with floppy arms wearing a red shirt and carrying a honey pot on his head.

Winnie the Pooh paused at my wagon for a brief respite. He leaned in as close as his big head allowed, and I asked how he was doing. "Hot!," my Zoo Crew friend Donny replied from inside.

I opened the lid of the wagon. Donny peered in through Pooh's eyes. I pulled out a juice bar, and he quickly reached a hand out of the costume and took the frozen confection back with him. I said that the orange pop would probably melt by the time he got backstage, but he just chuckled. A whisper from inside Pooh's head said, "I'm eating it!"

Unlike the modern Pooh character, which I find quite unappealing, the '70s and '80s version that Donny wore had "arms" that weren't operational. They were on movable sticks, but they couldn't hold anything. The arms usually just flopped around as the character walked and turned, but the way that they worked meant that guests could "shake hands" with Winnie the Pooh while Donny kept both of his own hands free inside. He enjoyed the juice bar right in the middle of the crowd that soon swarmed around him like honeybees at the hive. None of them had any idea that he was cooling off as they hugged him and snapped photos.

Characters work hard, wearing heavy padding and fiberglass heads to create happiness, especially in the heat of Disneyland summer afternoons. On that July afternoon twenty-eight years ago, a frozen juice bar was just the thing to help a "silly old bear" get back to the hundred-acre-wood.

Or at least backstage to the break area.

2 comments:

TokyoMagic! said...

Again, I love your work stories! Please keep them coming!

Now I'm assuming that one or both of you could have gotten in trouble over this little incident? Someone in my group of "Christmas Trees" stuck their hand out to wave at friends/family along the parade route. It was one of the gold trees and I was a green one, so I was in the clear, but we all got "spoken to" about it.

Yellows said...

Tokyo,

It was definitely improper according to the rules, but it was totally the right thing to do. Didn't hurt the Show in the slightest. In fact, it probably made Winnie a better performer!