February 12, 2012

Pixie dust and carbon paper

It might seem incomprehensible to those who have grown up with fast passes and Fantasmic, but Disneyland was once a pretty primitive operation. A Cast of about 6,000 kept the Park sparkling and operating at peak efficiency with systems about as advanced as a walkie-talkie.

Sure, Audio-Animatronics were sophisticated even back in the '70s and '80s. But operating the Disneyland Show depended much more on really simple things. Carbon-backed shift change forms, for example. Bell telephones. Mechanical coin sorters. Pressure washers and gum scrapers. Sweda cash registers.

Schedules for hundreds of Cast Members were written up on paper forms and revised with correction fluid. In my department of Outdoor Vending alone, thousands of guests' crumpled dollars got hand-counted and reported on little slips that we attached to canvas cash bags with rubber bands. Mr. Johnson and his crew in Mission Control were better equipped, and they were only launching a simulated trip to Mars.

Even so, the Show went on, almost always flawlessly. Guests could trash every flower bed during a New Years' Eve party, but you would never know it by the next morning. You couldn't find a burnt-out bulb on Main Street if you wanted to buy one.

Modern technology is here to stay, of course, so Disneyland will probably have lasers, water projection screens, interactive game attractions, and even more whizzy stuff for a long time to come. That's great as far as it goes. I mean, now we've got blogs, right? Still, I hope that I'm around long enough to see somebody develop the kind of tech that I'd pony up the cost of a hundred annual passes to ride.

A time machine that takes you back to the Park that used to be.

February 5, 2012

Disneyland old-timers

It's the Best Possible Job's one hundredth post! In honor of those who, like me, were part of yesterday's Disneyland, it's dedicated to the Cast Members with whom I had the privilege of sharing time at 1313 Harbor Boulevard. I think that a few are some of my few readers, but many are sadly no longer onstage. Each made Walt Disney's Magic Kindgom a delight to be part of, whether you were a guest or a fellow Disneylander.

Until about the mid-'80s, a person could make a decent living working at the Park. Many great people did just that, earning ten, fifteen, and twenty year pins and giving the Cast its unique family feeling that made the job so wonderful. It was a way of life as much as a source of income.

The 1987 article Conflict at Disneyland: A Root-Metaphor Analysis published in the journal Communication Monographs studied the periods before and after that way of life changed forever. I'll keep this post short in hopes that you'll page through it. It's a terrific time capsule of those days and gives terrific insights into the things that made Cast Members stay as long as some did. A bit more of a scholarly read than my posts but well worth the time, especially if you worked back then.

On to the next 100! Thanks for sticking around.