Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A Quick Note on Discovery Day

Discovery Day is the training class specifically for cast members working at Epcot to introduce them to the park and the story it tells.  Each park has one, and the cast members will go through this on their second day of training.  So I'be been happy about things since I found out I was working at Epcot, and after visiting there following Traditions, I was definitely sure that it was my favorite park.  But this cemented that even more for me.  We had three awesome leaders who took us on a tour of the park around Future World and World Showcase, with a few surprises along the way that were so awesome, we were literally sworn to secrecy.  But seriously, Epcot is the best park!  It made us all so happy and feel like we were special.

Also with Discovery Day we found out what attractions we each will be working.  There were seven of us in the group of about 38 for the tour that were working attractions in Future World East.  Three went to Mission Space, two to Spaceship Earth, one to Test Track, and I went to the Seas with Nemo and Friends.  This isn't the most popular or desired attraction, but I'm happy with it anyway.  Especially because it also includes Turtle Talk with Crush, which will be a lot of fun to work with all the kids.  I'm most sad that I'm the only one of that group that will be starting there, just since we had some fun getting to know each other over the past few days, but I bet that I'll still get to see them occasionally.  Anyway, I now have my schedule for the next week and a half.  I start with on the job training right away, with a visiting to Costuming right at the beginning (so I went out and bought shoes.  Nothing to say about that), and next week I also have a night shift where I will have IllumiNations training for crowd control during that.  I'm really happy for that since I love IllumiNations.

In fact, I love it so much that I went out and watched it last night.  I first went to Hollywood Studios so ride Star Tours twice and then catch the Star Wars themed fireworks show, which was AMAZING.  I'll talk more about that in a later post, but it was so awesome.  Then I caught a break and got right on a Friendship boat headed to Epcot, which I got to with about 15 minutes to spare before the start of IllumiNations, so I walked over near Mexico so that a backstage exit to my bus stop was close and convenient.  I was really worried about being caught and accused of trespassing since I was in casual clothes, so I had my ID out and ready to show if anyone accused me of that.  Luckily nothing happened and I got right on the bus and made it home.

So life has been great and now I'm starting the next leg of this amazing journey.  Here we go!

Side Magic, Part 1

I'm going to start a series like this that will be for excursions and things that I do outside of the main theme parks.  Things like resort hopping, Disney Springs visits, possibly even trips to other places in Orlando (if I can get transportation) will be covered here.  And whatever else I feel like, of course.

Since I had a few days of down time before Traditions (marking the start of being able to get into the parks for free), I took some time to relax and explore.  The first night I went out and watched Magic Kingdom's Wishes fireworks show from the beach of the Polynesian Village Resort.  Now I've only come here to WDW twice before, and neither time have we stayed at a Disney hotel.  Thus I've never really walked around any of the resorts before, and it was just kinda fun to casually wander around in the dark, relying heavily upon maps placed conveniently often enough so that you don't get lost.  It doesn't feel like Florida anymore, although I also wouldn't say I felt like I was in Hawaii or anywhere else.  Disney magic is real, and for a while I was just somewhere, with no responsibilities and cares.  That sort of escapism is one of the things that I and many others love about Disney.  Their stories become so real to us that we can live life free of the stress and burdens that we otherwise always carry with us.  It's awesome, if you ever get to experience it.

Anyways, I got to the resort just before the fireworks were starting, and as I walked to the beach I heard an announcement about the show being only 5 minutes away.  This gave me confidence that they were going to play the music throughout the area.  However, as I started hearing the strains of music drifting over the Seven Seas Lagoon instead of out of speakers that I assumed were nearby, I realized I was much mistaken and slightly disappointed.  But I enjoyed watching the fireworks from there anyway, without any crowds to deal with whatsoever, so I decided to try again another night in a different.  Also on the first night I hug around for a hour to watch the Electrical Water Pageant.  This isn't nearly as exciting as the fireworks, so I really wouldn't schedule time for this specifically, but if it's not out of your way, I recommend it.  If you haven't heard of it before, look it up online, so I don't have to take the time to describe it here, but it is a fun show to catch at least once.  Aside from a little bit of window shopping at the Polynesian while waiting for my bus to come, that was it for that night.

I didn't have my camera on me this night, just my phone, so I tried to take a couple pictures with that, but they really turned out terrible.  I'm putting them here anyway, but please don't judge me.  I like photography, but I don't always take the time to get good pictures, plus I don't use photoshop at all, so I'm completely at mercy of whatever cheap camera I'm using as to whether they turn out decent or not. And in this case, it was not.

Wishes on the beach:

The Electrical Water Pageant, featuring a sea serpent with a missing midsection (it lit up later, after it had passed me):

The night before Traditions I went out to Disney Springs, which is very different from when I was last there in 2010.  I'm actually really excited now about the construction going on there.  I guess I never really found it necessary, but whether it is or not, it's definitely doing good things for the area. It's fun to just poke around in the shops, or casually stroll down the walkways, and the whole aesthetic of the area getting a facelift makes this even more enjoyable.  My only concern currently is that I hope it doesn't develop too much of the same feel as that of an outlet mall, but I think Disney is taking good care of controlling what shops open here so as to prevent that from happening.  Anyway, I was mostly here window shopping again, but I met and talked to a lot of great people, both current and former College Program members.  They all gave me some tips for how to have a great time, and it got me really excited (again) to start.

This cute print was for sale in the new Star Wars Galactic Outpost (formerly D Street):

Also that night I went back to the Polynesian, by way of a bus that took me to the Grand Floridian so that I got to see that spectacular lobby.  Wow, that was very fancy, but very cool.  I felt underdressed, like I should be wearing a suit instead of shorts and a polo shirt.  Up on the second level of the lobby is a stand for a band to play live music from.  Walking behind that I was amazed at how much music they have in their folders to choose from and play.  This is just one of them, but each band member's folder was as big as this.

That's got to be heavy.  Anyway, I took the monorail loop over to the Polynesian and arrived at the beach with a few minutes to spare.  This time I sought out a different spot that I had found while waiting for the Electrical Water Pageant from two nights before.  By the time I got there, there was already a crowd of people all waiting for the fireworks.  Great, I've got to be in a good spot where the music is played, right?  Nope.  Again, there was no music broadcast near where I was. Maybe I just have bad luck.  Anyway, I was slightly prepared this time because I had my phone and a pair of headphones, so all I had to do was pull up a video from youtube with just the soundtrack and keep that playing for me while watching, but it proved to be harder than I thought it would be to sync up the music and the show.  Eventually I got it perfect and was really happy with myself when youtube decided to randomly play a 30 second ad in the middle of my video.  Well, so much for that idea.  I tried to sync up again with the audio, but no such luck.  I still really enjoy watching the fireworks from the Polynesian, but I have to do something to figure out how to get the music and the fireworks together.  Since I had to get up early the next morning for Traditions I called it a night and headed home.

If you read all that, good for you for sticking it out.  If not, well, hopefully I'll start writing shorter entries one of these days.  Not only are they really long to read, it's a long time and a bit of a drain for me to write them in the first place.

Until next time!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Traditions! And other things

Sorry guys (ad girls), this is going to be a rather text heavy and descriptive post of a bit of my early training.

On Friday the 15th of January I had Traditions.  This is a training class for all Disney cast members that goes over the history of the company and the universal goal of the Walt Disney company: to create happiness.  It was a bit emotional, as it started to hit us all just what kind of journey we are about to embark upon.  We had such a big group of people arrive on the same day I did that we were split into two groups, one that had Traditions at 8am, and the other in the afternoon at 1:30 I think.  Obviously I was in the morning group.  We took three overcrowded buses specifically for us to Disney University, which is back behind the Magic Kingdom.  From there we were split into smaller classrooms of about 60 people or so for the rest of the day.

Normally this class is about either hours, but since I and the others with me were all College Program kids, our version is shortened to only 4 hours.  We learn the same things, we just do it in half the time, so it moved pretty quickly, as you can tell.  I had two great trainers that taught the class, Casey and Christian (sorry, I didn't take any pictures of them).  We talked briefly about the company and the heritage that Uncle Walt built, and how we move that forward through all of our actions.  We also started to talk about the four keys, which is what we use to guide our actions and responses to situations.  They are, in order, Safety, Courtesy, Show, and Efficiency.  This is what all the cast members use everyday and what set us apart from other companies.  Normally we go out to the Magic Kingdom to observe these keys in action among the guests, but we were apparently getting some lighting and thunder so we instead sat in our classroom and went over hypothetical situations instead.  I say apparently because we didn't hear and/or see it at all, being tucked far enough inside the building that we had to take the word of others (and smartphone weather apps).

About halfway through we got our company IDs, which were cool.  I knew I could then use that to get into the parks, which I think pretty much all of us had been planning on doing.  However, right at the end, we had Mickey Mouse come in and interact with our class for about 5 minutes.  This is where things really became real for me.  So he handed out a few little figures of Disney characters to people answering trivia questions, and then he left us with a present and walked out.  As he was leaving I realized that it's just a little bit ridiculous that he's a mouse.  I don't know why I thought this, or even cared about it really, but seriously guys, he's a mouse.  That's it.  I can't even explain how I was feeling/thinking.  Anyway, the present he left us was a box with all of our nametags.  Mine was coincidentally the first one called out, and since we were going to all out them on together I placed it on the table for just a moment.  Then it really hit me.

Oh my gosh.  I'm actually here.  This is actually happening.  I work for Disney.  I'm fulfilling my dream.  And then, I work for a mouse.

Also pictured above are the Mickey Ear hats that we all received.

As soon as everyone had gotten their nametag, we all put ours on.  I was so excited, it was awesome.  That thing was a badge of honor to me.  It made it all real to me.  But then class was over and we were loaded back on our buses and headed home.  Of course I went out to the parks that night, specifically Epcot. What can I say?  It's my home park now! That's where I'll be working in just a few days.  I even rode most of the rides that I could possibly end up working.

However I couldn't have that late of a night because I had to get up early the next morning for Welcome to Operations!  This was also at Disney University, and is a little more specific as far as working and utilizing the four keys that we had gone over at Traditions.  Operations cast members are the ones that deal more with the guests directly, so people who are working things like attractions, merchandise, photographers, guest relations, transportation, custodial, vacations planners, parking, main gate greeters, and so on.  The morning class was about as long as Traditions had been, after which we had a short lunch before going into different groups based on our roles.  For me, I only had two more hours, but some were there in class for even longer while others got to go home right after lunch.  This time I went over to the Magic Kingdom to have some fun, since I was already there and I didn't want to go home and change before going back out.  I went on a few rides, familiarizing myself a little bit with the Fastpass+ system, which is completely new to me.

I was surprised at how much more busy the Magic Kingdom was than Epcot the night before.  However, I was visiting on a Saturday, which is going to be busy even in mid-January.  Also the Magic Kingdom is a lot more popular to visit than the other parks, especially to families.  It has a greater balance of things to do for guests of all ages than the other parks, so often if you can only visit one park, that's the one most people choose.  Epcot is also bigger and more spread out than the Magic Kingdom is, and even though I might have encountered more people if I had ventured more into the park, they still have more area to fill before it starts to feel "full".  Anyway, I'm just using these observations to say that I'm rather glad that I'm working at Epcot instead of the Magic Kingdom because it feels like it will be more manageable.  Although if that is actually true or not yet remains to be seen.

In all honesty, I'm really excited to start, but also nervous.  I think that all of us feel that way in facing the unknown, and I try to remind myself that I'm going to be well taken care of and I really don't have anything to worry about.  And yet, here I am, still nervous.  But these two training days that I've had already have helped me to see how much just the little things we do as part of our job can make lasting memories of magic for the guests.  I want to do that for someone.  That's the reason I wanted to work for Disney, and it's part of why I'm here and why I can't wait to start.

At this point (Sunday night), I have a park-specific training for Epcot as a whole tomorrow morning from 8am to noon, which is when I should get my schedule for the rest of the week.  And I'm certainly hoping that I do, because otherwise I have no idea what I'm doing, since tomorrow is the last thing I've been informed about so far.  I should also probably find out specifically what ride I'll be working, since I think we also go to Costuming after the tour.  Either way, it should be a fun day!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

I'm Going to do Everything!

And by everything, I mean I've going to ride every ride here at Walt Disney World.  As I mentioned before, I've only been to WDW twice before, and while both trips were lengthy and packed full of rides and fun, I still haven't done everything at the parks.  So I've decided to make that my goal for my time here during the Disney College Program, and to document my progress while I do it!

Well, I'm at least going to have fun, hopefully you like hearing about it.  And if not, well then my name is Clayton and this has been Tarzan's Treehouse.

So, details. I'm posting this right now because if all goes well I should be going into the parks for the first time tomorrow night after Traditions.  I'm going to take pictures and/or videos of my adventures, and probably post there up here one at a time, so not exactly at the same time I necessarily do them. Rather, I expect I'll do several rides on a day off and then spend the next week or so posting about it, but we'll see how it actually goes.

I got the inspiration for this from the two guys who run Parkeology.com.  They did a challenge back in 2014 called the WDW46 challenge. That was an attempt to ride every ride in WDW in one day, using only perks available to all guests, so pretty much just intense planning, Fastpass+, and Extra Magic Hours.  I'm not crazy enough to try and do this all in one day, so I'm just kind of using their ideas about what counts as a ride to give myself a starting point.  I've posted directly from their website below the exact list of what they completed for the challenge.

From http://www.parkeology.com/wdw46-official-record:

"The list of 46 rides comes from Disney’s official attractions list. We count only rides, not shows or exhibits. The attraction must have a vehicle. The current list of 46 rides is as follows:


  1. Main Street Vehicles
  2. Walt Disney World Railroad
  3. Jungle Cruise
  4. Pirates of the Caribbean
  5. Magic Carpets of Aladdin
  6. Splash Mountain
  7. Big Thunder Mountain
  8. Rafts to Tom Sawyer Island
  9. Liberty Belle Riverboat
  10. Haunted Mansion
  11. It’s a Small World
  12. Peter Pan’s Flight
  13. Prince Charming Regal Carousel
  14. Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
  15. Under the Sea — Journey of the Little Mermaid
  16. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
  17. Mad Tea Party
  18. Dumbo the Flying Elephant
  19. Barnstormer
  20. Tomorrowland Speedway
  21. Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover
  22. Space Mountain
  23. Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin
  24. AstroOrbiter
  25. Carousel of Progress


  1. Spaceship Earth
  2. Ellen’s Energy Adventure
  3. Mission: SPACE
  4. Test Track
  5. Gran Fiesta Tour
  6. Journey Into Imagination
  7. Soarin’
  8. Living with the Land
  9. The Seas with Nemo and Friends


  1. Great Movie Ride
  2. Toy Story Midway Mania
  3. Star Tours
  4. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster
  5. Twilight Zone Tower of Terror


  1. Kilimanjaro Safari
  2. Wildlife Express
  3. Kali River Rapids
  4. Expedition Everest
  5. Dinosaur
  6. Primeval Whirl
  7. TriceraTop Spin"

You may notice I crossed Soarin' off that list.  That particular ride has closed while a third theater is constructed and programming takes place in preparation to switch the film over to one showing scenes from all over the world instead of limited to only California.  This will continue until the new film premieres in summer, long after I am gone in April.  So already I'm down to 45 rides.  As well. I am going to include shows as part of what I experience and document during my time here.  Since no one likes failure, I'm not requiring all of these for myself, but they will definitely be included as a bonus of sorts.

A record of the successful WDW46 run from Parkeology is captured here, and while it is rather lengthy, it's still quite an interesting read.

Hopefully I'll see you back here as I start to record my progress. TTFN!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Hello World! Redux

Welcome back everyone!  And by everyone, I mean the one person who still occasionally stumbles upon my ramblings every once in a while.  But hey, we're allowed to have delusions of grandeur, right?

So there's a reason I've come back (again) to resurrect this long outdated blog.  How 'bout a challenge: guess where I am right now.

Go on, guess.

I'll wait.

Got it?  Okay, good.  Here goes....

I'M AT WALT DISNEY WORLD!!!! *super happy dance*

It has been a dream of mine for many years now to work for the Disney Company (big surprise, right?), and I finally have that opportunity.  I have been accepted into the WDW College Program, and even better yet, I get to work Attractions! This is such a dream come true for me that I can hardly come to terms with the fact that I'm even here.  I only just checked in today, January 11th, which is when I found out that I'll be working specifically in Epcot in Future World East attractions, although I don't know right now if I will later be assigned to a single ride or I will "bounce" around to several attractions in that area.

Now to the sad news.  I only have three months here.  I arrived January 11th, 2016 and I depart on April 7th.  This is because my university has a strange schedule where I have these months off, but then I go to school from mid-April to the end of July, before going back in a more regular September to December semester.  Disney specifically offered a shorter program to me that would fit in my break so my schooling isn't interrupted. The other piece of bad news is that I don't get my cast ID until Traditions, which isn't until Friday.  Yup.  For those of you playing along at home, that means that I have three whole days in Florida, WITHIN ARM'S REACH OF THE PARKS, that I can't even go to the parks in.  Well, unless I want to pay full price for tickets. (Hey, guess who has two thumbs and is pretty broke right now? This guy. )

So yes, I'm really just complaining now because I'm sad.  But the important thing to get out of this is that I'm gonna start posting on here, as much as I am able.  It gives me something to do and perhaps allows a bit of insight into my life.  I really want to do this, and I have a few ideas about what I'm going to do which I like, so I hope that y'all like them too.

Now if you'll excuse me, I drove 12 hours overnight down here and then had a full day of program introduction, so I've been awake for almost 36 full hours at this point.  Hm, maybe that's why this blog is so odd.... Anyway, I'm gonna go crash.

See ya!