Monday, August 31, 2009

Disneyland Musings - Volume 4 - Crossing Main Street to the West Side

West Siders know it best, perhaps.
The walk from "backstage" on the East Side of Main Street to the West Side of the Park.
Nowadays, in the post-Indy world, a good number of West Siders take a shortcut to their location that permits them to bypass a whole lotta "on stage" territory. Still, even those folks---for the most part---have to cross Main Street on their way to their location.
Even longtime Disneyland cast members still "feel it" when they are about to go back out on stage.
There's a little extra spring in the step.
You tend to put aside whatever junk you brought with you behind the berm and focus your energy at the task at hand---bringing Disneyland to guests.
Not only that, but you literally step from the drab back area and into the Park---alive with people and music and movement.
When you step out onto Main Street, you are a Cast Member.
Guests wave at you.
They take pictures of you.
They ask---or, more likely, you offer---to have their picture taken.
As you head toward Adventureland, or Frontierland, New Orleans Square or "Critter" Country (pardon me a second----*cringe*---ok, I'm alright; can never get "Critter" Country to roll of the tongue the way Bear Country used to), you walk amidst guests.
You might not be "on the clock" just yet, but you are on stage and part of the show.
"What time is the parade?"
"When are the fireworks?"
"Where is the closest bathroom?"
"Which way is the Haunted Mansion?"
"Is it always this crowded?"
"Do you like working here?"
"How do I find a turkey leg?"
"Where do I get batteries for my camera?"
"Where are the characters?"
"Do you have any pins to trade?" (* cringe * again)
"How late is the Park open tonight?"
"What's a Jungle Cruise guy doing on Main Street?"
"Where is City Hall?"
"What time do you have?"
"Where do I pick up my Photopass pictures?"
"What is a Fastpass?"
"Why are they putting up ropes?"
"Why can't I stand where the ropes are?"
"Where is Lost and Found?"
"I can't find my mommy and daddy." (Have no fear---I've never failed to reunite lost parent(s) and child(ren)).
"Where can we find some food that isn't "fast food"?
"Can I have your name tag?"
"Hi, Mike." (said as though they've known you for much longer than the half-second glance down at your name tag before addressing you---usually responded to with a quick, "Why, hello, Amy!" 0r whatever name might be emblazened across their mouse ears, t-shirt, keychain, purse, Annual Pass or other tell-tale indicators of the guest's name).
"Is this the way to Fantasmic?" (almost universally asked as the guest is walking toward Tomorrowland or Matterhorn Way).
"Where are the lockers?"
"When does California Adventure close?"
"Do you know, ____? He/She works here, too." (Guest has a better chance of winning the Lotto than hitting upon someone who knows some 6,000 fellow cast members by name).
"I used to work here in the 60s/70s/80s/90s."
"Can I have your hat?" (Almost always teenagers).
"Where is the Blue Bayou?"
"Where is the best place to watch the fireworks?"
"You guys must get asked that a thousand times a day. How do you do it?"
"Hey, he's wearing a Mickey Mouse watch!"

The way I look at it, if you don't like interacting with guests...what the HELL are you doing working as a Cast Member at Disneyland?
There's plenty of room at the DMV or the County Clerk's Office or Coroner's Office if you aren't into prompt and courteous customer service.
Sometimes the guests would come in groups of twos and threes at a time (not together, of course).
One would ask a question from your left and, as you turned to answer, another would shoot a query from behind you while yet another (completely unrelated to the first two) would approach with an inquiry from ahead of you.
Any Cast Member worth his or her salt easily answered each of the guests and made them feel that they had been heard and seen.
Even when no one questioned you, you were still "on stage" and noticed.
If you were headed to Jungle, you were dressed in khaki and likely wore a hat; same for Indy.
Thunder operators also had distinct costumes.
Of course, we all had name tags.
Dead giveaways.
It's actually one of the things I miss most---stepping out onto Main Street as I headed for my shift.
Each time I'd walk out from back stage, I felt the energy of being "part of the show."
Sure, there are people who work for Disneyland who might not "feel it" as they trudge toward their daily duties.
But those folks aren't true Cast Members...
...they're just "employees."

Here's hoping that your next trip to the Park will bring you plenty of interaction with Cast Members and blessed few encounters with "employees."

You know what I'm sayin'.


Monday, August 10, 2009

Disneyland - Top 10 Things to See and Do - A Guest Blogger (my 12-year-old daughter, Caitlin)

Jungle-teers, today we have a very special guest---my daughter Caitlin. She put together today's entry completely on her own (Dad supplied some ideas for the topic, but she took them and ran with them!). As you can see, I raised a fabulous young lady (if I do say so myself).

Without further ado, I present Caitlin's blog entry!

Top 10 Things To See & Do At Disneyland

1. Going on My Dad’s Jungle Cruise Boat- I will always remember this. My dad was simply the best Jungle Cruise skipper you will ever know (no offense to anyone who is a skipper!). He is the meaning of the Jungle Cruise, its poster child! Knew his spiel so well, made people laugh, had personality. You can’t get any better than that! I’m so sad that he isn’t able to work there for the time being, but him and I both know that he will be back soon enough.

2. Going to see Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room- How I love this! One of the most entertaining things in all of Disneyland. This is where my good friends Jose, Fritz, Michael, and Pierre all live, along with all the tiki gods & goddesses. Everyone knows the songs and it just brings you back to the good ol’ days of Disneyland. While you’re there, get a Dole Whip. They are simply delicious!

3. Taking a Ride on “The Mark Twain” at Night- This is incredibly magical! The lights on this huge riverboat shine down on the silky, black waters of the “Rivers of America.” Everything around seems to come alive as Samuel Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain) tells you about what can be found all around you.

4. Watching the Electrical Parade- It’s my most favorite parade! The music and lights are just amazing. Although I never saw it on Main Street, I’m sure it was a ton better than it is at California Adventure.

5. Looking at Sleeping Beauty’s Castle at Christmastime- Gorgeous, astonishing, brilliant. These words describe the sight of the Castle during the Holidays. It’s decorated in huge icicle lights that look incredibly real and a soft bluish-white light covers it. It is breath-taking, a sight you must go and see at least once. For I believe the holidays are one of the most magical seasons in Disneyland.

6. Going on “The Storybook Land Canal Boats”- This is definitely one of my most favorite rides. I am a HUGE fan of miniatures and this ride always seemed to be made for me. I would love to just be able to get off & explore this ride and look at it more closely. This is a ride I would love to work on!!!

7. Watching Mickey Cartoons at the Main Street Cinema- This is a great place to just go and relax after a long, hot day. I love all the old cartoons and they never cease to entertain me. I’ll let you in on a little secret: it’s also a great place to wait after a parade lets out, complete with air conditioning and TV for the kids!

8. Having a Character Breakfast at The Plaza Inn- I know I’m twelve but I still love the characters at Disneyland and having breakfast with them is just awesome. They come around to your table and take pictures and sign autographs. Plus, the food is great and I love the Plaza’s old Victorian style. Also, you get into the park early!

9. Shopping at the Adventureland Bazaar – This shop is far from bizarre and is where I have gotten most of my Disney clothes. If you’re a fan of The Jungle Cruise, Indiana Jones, or The Tiki Room, this is the place to shop. They’ve got accessories, clothes, toys, knick-knacks, and so much more!

10. Getting Mozzarella Sticks & a Funnel Cake at “The Stage Door CafĂ©” in Frontierland- My favorite place to eat for a special treat. The mozzarella sticks are fantastic with a little marinara sauce & you can get either a chocolate or strawberry funnel cake. The funnel cakes are perfect for all those with a sweet tooth!


Disneyland - Mark Twain - What's Missing? - Big Thunder

Above is a scan of a photograph I took in around 1977 and it shows the stately Mark Twain at her dock in Frontierland.

What's missing?

Hint: look above the trees behind the Mark Twain.

It looks a bit strange to see the Frontierland skyline without the now-familiar peaks of Big Thunder Mountain.

When the above photograph was taken, the only train you could ride near "Big Thunder" (falls, that is) was the Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland.

By September 1979, however, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad would take its place as the newest Disneyland "mountain."

In honor of my old attraction BTMM (and the many hours I spent asking, "how many in your party?" before directing guests to their seats), I offer you Jungle readers the following article from the Spring 1980 edition of Disney News (with thanks to author, Tom Fitzgerald). [NOTE: If you click on the article, you should be able to access a nice blow-up that you can actually read!].

I was reminded of BTMM days when I saw that an old cast member friend's daughter had found this blog and passed along her thanks for sharing an old photograph of "mom" back in the 1980s. The Cast Member was Jackie Lacey and I rarely saw her in anything other than a Thunder costume! Sure, she had the occasional "Tiki" or Treehouse shifts, but mainly Jackie worked Big Thunder [along with such famous Cast Members as "Doug," Janet Mondragon, and Sue Barnaby (aka "Sue B.")].

That reminds me of a BTMM story.

Word was that a certain Imagineer broke his foot during the BTMM build. To commemorate this event, a rock in the shape of a casted foot was supposedly included in the attraction alongside the tracks. Another tall tale from an old prospector? Well, sir, I'm not so sure. Next time you take a notion to ride ol' Thunder, you be sure to keep your eyes a' peeled...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Disneyland - Some Unique Views - The Jungle Princess

Greetings, Disneyland geeks, lovers and observers! You know who you are. Heck, if you have stumbled into this blog from cyberspace and you AREN'T a Disneyland geek, lover or observer, you had better strongly reconsider your choice of search engine.

Where was I?

Ah, yes, Disneyland. For those of you who have never worked the Jungle Cruise, our first photograph gives you the view that most dockhands and unloaders get for most of their work day. Perhaps in the mad dash to exit the boat as a guest, you never took the time to take a look down the dock---much less photograph it. It is for you hapless folks that I offer Photograph No. 1 above, taken from just past "Jungle Central," or the Lead office on the dock of the Jungle Cruise. In the distance, you can see that our boat loader (at Front Load) giving the skipper and the Rear Load boat loader the "all clear" hand signal, indicating that all his guests are safely seated and ready to depart the dock. If the Rear Load loader looks into the boat and agrees, she would make the same signal and simultaneously shout: "Hit it, Skip!" send the boat off into the turpid, teeming, untamed rivers of the Jungle.

So much for that.

Next is a photo of Space Mountain that most of you will simply never be able to capture on your own. It is taken on a brilliantly clear day, from almost due south of the attraction and from a position in front of the old Administration/Wardrobe building. There are more interesting shots to share, but we shall save them for another day.

I will leave you with the following vignette:

I was working Jungle and was on the "Uki" (Ucayali Una) when we were at unload and a family with a small girl in a motorized wheelchair came on board (the Uki has a fabulous wheelchair ramp that allows guests in wheelchairs a chance to ride the attraction). I remember a mom, a dad, and this tiny girl with her hair in ribbons and a Minnie Mouse t-shirt. As her chair was loaded onto the ramp and the ramp lowered into my boat, I said hello to the family (as they were my only passengers until we pulled ahead to the "Load" position).

The parents looked a bit tired and glum. I imagined it had been a long day for them. Still, I smiled and then proceeded to tease the little princess who had entered my boat upon her magnificent "throne." I told her I loved her pigtails and pretty ribbons and warned her that ribbons attract gorillas and chimpanzees. She looked at me with bright eyes and simply gushed a wonderful smile.

The parents saw her reaction and smiled, too. "Thank you," they said, "that is the first time anyone has acknowledged our daughter today. And, you made her smile."

I went on to make our princess the star of our cruise. After the rest of the guests boarded, I introduced her to the entire boat and warned them that we'd need their help to keep the monkeys and gorillas at bay, since those ribbons are known to attract them.

We all had a blast. Upon our return, as the guests disembarked, we all clapped for our princess---and for safely avoiding gorillas and chimps. The little girl glowed from her tiny chair. Her parents simply said, "Thank you." They all turned at the exit and waved back to me as I loaded my gun for the next trip. "Have a great day!" I told them over the P.A.

I think they did.