Friday, July 23, 2010

Disneyland - In the crowd

You've been in a crowd before.

Ever tried to control one?

With a pink plastic-coned flashlight?

And a Mickey Mouse nametag?

It is an experience feared by many and savored by a few.

Today's post is a brief reflection on guest control duty---and times spent as a guest, too.
World of Color (okay, it's at DCA, but it helps paint the picture).

As a guest, you surely have found yourself in the middle of a mass of people, each staking out their square foot of space in the hope of getting a VIP view of Tinkerbell or of Mickey fighting off Maleficent.
You have been gently coaxed and herded into specially roped off seating areas and firmly guided out of walkways in the middle of which you have vainly tried to plant yourself.
You have seen the scurrying cast members strategically stationed about you, smiling and waving their plastic batons or coned flashlights: "Right this way, folks! Please keep to your right, this is a walkway only!"

You sense at some point that the chaos about you has an odd rhythm or flow, almost a structure.
Your eyebrow raises and you think (in your best Haunted Mansion Paul Frees "Ghost Host" voice inside your head), "I am surrounded by 20,000 people, in the middle of Main Street, with no windows and no doors."
Talk about a "chilling challenge."
You are in a Disney flash mob.
This is almost anarchy.
Worse yet, as the parade/fireworks/show time nears, the crowd gets agitated and restless all around you.
People who have sat for two hours to get a good spot become like raving chihuahuas protecting the laps of their masters from anyone who approaches---you know the type.
The folks who wander up at 9:23 p.m. and wonder why there aren't any places left for them and their six children to see the fireworks.
The persons who feign ignorance of all language and Western customs and boldly step under the rope to stand directly in front of you.
The people with sharp and rude elbows who worm in on your patch of personal space, blissfully ignorant of your slowly boiling irritation.
Those with tall hats, or simply tall in stature, who appear at the last moment and slip in front of you to take in the fireworks---which now appear to you like sparklers erupting from someone's head.
The dads in front of you who suddenly shoulder their twelve-year-olds "so they can see the fireworks"---"There, honey, can you see now?"
The people who step on your fingers while you sit on the curb or ground.
"Oh, sorry. Didn't see you there."
What, does Disneyland make me invisible?
Sure, it's the Magic Kingdom, but...
That cold sticky dampness can only mean someone has spilled their Coke on you.
You know, they have LIDS for those things!
Sometimes you feel like Steve "Neil Page" Martin stuck in that hotel room with John "Del O. Griffith" Candy in "Planes, Trains & Automobiles."
The underwear in the sink.
The six pack that exploded on the bed.
The Cracker Jacks in the sheets.
The slow boil.

Then there's the kids.
Charming, polite, quiet and innocent.
Yeah...those ones are sitting on the OTHER side of the street.

You seem to always be stuck with Damien, Omen II, and his little sister Gehenna (and their parents).


"Mommy can't get you popcorn, sweetie, there's too many people and we'll lose our spot."


"Damien, Mommy has some Goldfish. Do you want some Goldfish?"


"Here, have some Go-Gurt from this morning."


"Damien get off the ground, you're kicking the nice man. Mommy will give you some of her Coke."


(The Father) "You want Daddy to hold you?"


(The Mother) "Damien, let Daddy hold you."


"Here, Mommy has gum, do you want gum?"


(Gehenna) "Damien got snot on me from crying!!!! WAAHHHHAHHAHHAH!!!!"

"Oh, Damien, now you've upset Gehenna!! Do you want Daddy to go get you both popcorn?"

You know how it generally plays out from here. (Is there ANYONE left on earth who can say no to a child? I mean, besides me).

I digress.

Where was I?

Oh, the crowd.

Guest Control (which is but a single consonant sound away from "Pest Control") involved tactfully and tactically inserting oneself into the foregoing situation, with the hope, goal and intent of getting people who are at the end of their collective theme park ropes to actually listen to you and move, sit or stand where you need them to move, sit or stand---while keeping them happy, or at least keeping them from killing each other.

Try it sometime.

Then, try doing it with courtesy.

Disney Cast Members are a special breed.

Indeed, the Flashlight is mightier than the sword, especially when wielded at the Hub by a seasoned veteran of Guest Control.

It all comes down to:
  • Tone of voice.
  • Authority.
  • Clear body language.
  • Stance.
  • Smile.
  • Firm footing.
  • Iron will.
  • Grit.
  • Determination.
  • Impeccable timing.
  • Delicate statesmanship.
  • A keen eye.
  • The ability to anticipate a situation.
  • A sense of humor.
  • A visible costume that helps distinguish you from the crowd.
  • A voice that carries without being entirely irritating.
  • Eye contact.
  • Warmth---FIRM warmth, but warmth nonetheless.
  • Coned flashlight.
I will leave you with that for now.
Please keep this area clear. This is a walkway. If you want to watch the fireworks, you will need to move under the rope.
The fireworks start at 9:25 p.m., but get here EARLY.
No, you cannot have my nametag.
Sure, I'll take your picture.
If you have a clear view of the Castle, you should see everything just fine.
Sorry, we can't have you sit there, this is an emergency walkway that we must keep clear. There is excellent viewing in the street.
What's that, sir? The popcorn cart?
It's at the southern end of the Hub there and you'd better hurry!
Sounds like Damien over there sure wants some...



Jonathan said...


Your recall of days gone by is so accurate. Did you keep a diary while you worked at Disneyland?

I must share a short Guest Control story of my from when Disneyland did Circus Days (don't remember the exact name.

The Circus Parade had this huge Calliope pulled by a team of Percheron horses. As the team approached my area, it paused. At that moment, a man ran out right in front of the team to take a picture. I ran out to quickly escort him out of the way, when he looks at me and yells, "I am French . . . I am French!

Using my best Disney courtesy, I quickly replied back, (gently but firmly pulling him away), "Sir, I don't think those horses care whether or not you are French. You're going to get run over if you don't move NOW!

Sometimes a little suggestive force is necessary. ;-)

Keep those stories coming

Jon Woods
Disneyland alumni

Mike said...


I actually did keep a journal back then, but it has long since gone missing. I suppose most of my experience was seared deep into my consciousness. I just get onto a topic involving the Park and things seem to flow.

I deeply appreciate your vignette. I remember that parade well. I was a sweeper then and had elephant duty. We had a large trash can on wheels, a scoop shovel and elephant-induced humility. Disneyland guests are truly wonderful. Some of my best applause came from folks along both sides of Main Street as I successfully deposited elephant droppings into the trash-can-on-wheels in the middle of the Circus Fantasy parade (see: with my thanks to "Disney on Parole").

It is difficult to be full of oneself while scooping elephant fecal matter before thousands of people. How's that for a quote? I might make that my epitaph. I don't know, it's a work in progress.

Anyhow, thanks for stopping by. I love to swap Park stories with Alumni and current Cast Members alike!


Scouting said...

Oh how excellently funny!!! I've seen each and every one of those folks at the park. I'm not a cast member (yet) but I go often enough that I've seen them all. The really funny thing is that they're probably all wonderfully nice people at home. I think there's something about the heat, the length of the day, the crowding.... something... that makes normally decent people act like demonspawn. It'd probably make for a pretty interesting socialogical (sp?) study one day.

Thanks again for the great laugh. I'm definitely subscribing to this blog!

Anonymous said...

The way you paint the picture from your palette brings back the memories from long ago. It hasn't changed one's just the the daily volume of guests continue for longer stretches of the year. And it was in those slow times where the park really had a magical feel.

Suz Broughton said...

I love your blog so much! Just wanted to tell you...and nice, pulling out the John "Del O. Griffith" reference. One of my favorite movies.

Anonymous said...

In my work with youth, it is occasionally obvious that I am the first adult that some of the little darlings have ever met that expects to be listened to, obeyed, and treated with respect.

You can love me, or you can hate me, but you will not ignore me, and you will obey me. If not, there is always plenty of trash to pick up.

Other than that, I'm a great guy.

Really enjoy your remembrances and I have a deep appreciation for your patience.

Best regards.


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