Sunday, January 29, 2012

Disneyland - What's It Like?

What's it like to be a Disneyland Cast Member?
I've run up against this question many times over the years.
An answer today might differ somewhat from a Cast Member's answer in the 1950s, 60s, 70s or 80s, I'm sure.
I'll give an answer a shot in my simple, broken manner.
I'm a simple, broken person, after all, so I've gotten pretty good at this approach.
To begin with, if you work at Disneyland and do not think that the very fact you work there is something pretty cool indeed, I say you are missing a key component of your personhood.
You are like a security guard at the Louvre who wanders empty halls at night without noticing, encountering and taking in the artwork that surrounds him.  What a colossal waste!  Why not guard a junkyard instead?
If you came to work at Disneyland solely for a "job" or to complain about your hours, your wages, your bunions or whatever else, I am not sure I understand you.
So, for starters I would say that most Disneylanders felt the job itself was something special.
For a number of us, our role involved being On Stage - out in the Park among the guests.
Some are more outgoing than others.
Others are more outgoing than they should be!
All must admit to a feeling certain small thrill while being part of the Disneyland "show."
Where else in the world is there a job with the goal of making people happy and safe?
Happy and safe in DISNEYLAND, that is?
Sure, the folks working there would love to see their customers safe and happy.
Not the same.
Who at Nordstrom, Macy's, Forever 21, Starbucks, American Eagle, Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel, Williams Sonoma or Target or Walmart wouldn't wish to pursue a similar goal?
Nope. Not the same.
There is just something different about the Park, even when compared to its new next-door neighbor, Disney's California Adventure, or to the mega-Disney parks in Florida, Paris, Tokyo, the Antarctic, etc.
Disneyland is its own means and end.
It was touched by its founder and literally lived-in by him!
It defies easy categorization or explanation.
It is escapism and fantasy.
But it is also quite real.
There is, unfortunately, vomit to be cleaned up.
There are screaming children throwing tantrums.
Angry guests at the ends of their respective ropes, losing it on a poor counter girl at Coke Corner.
High prices.
Smells from grease traps and busy restrooms.
These realities fade into the beauty and joy that Disneyland uniquely brings.
They are overcome by the smiles and laughs of children, teens, adults and grandfolk.
They are drowned out by fireworks, flowers, shiny paint, bursts of color, sparkling lights and sheltering trees.
They dwindle to insignificance beside mountains, castles, mansions, Percherons, steam trains, sternwheeled steamboats, treehouses, rivers and pirate ships.
They are obliterated by children's voices singing, steam whistles blowing, cannons discharging, strange and eerie sounds echoing through halls, frontier gunshots, bleating goats, Yeti roars, carousel music, ragtime piano, jungle drums, marching bands, sudden-drop screams and electrosynthemagnetic musical sounds.
They are erased with ice cream, churros, turkey legs, soda, popcorn, fritters, mint juleps, licorice, rock candy, caramel apples, pineapple whips, teriyaki skewers, pizza and fajitas.
They are overrun by waterfalls, spinning teacups, singing birds, clip-clopping horse hooves, dark caverns, icy slopes, flying elephants, dancing natives, pixie dust, flowers, canal boats and miniature houses.
Indeed, the realities have no chance.
The Park's charm and warmth and happiness conquer all.
Being part of all of that was simply a joy.
With Mickey on your name tag, you had a role to play in the grand experience we all know as "Disneyland."
The sheer fun of having fun.
Working with others who were in on the secret.
Reuniting a lost child with a thankful parent.
Making your little corner of the Magic Kingdom, well...
Herding crowds or spending moments one-on-one with someone looking for a restroom, a lost camera, a little conversation, whatever.
Being a little silly---and that's okay!
Solving problems---unexpected problems.
With style.
With diplomacy.
With humor.
Taking a moment to watch the parade go by as you called out, "Please keep to the right!"
Getting to see fireworks every night!
Most of the people you encountered were actually enjoying themselves and having fun!
Your superiors actually wanted you to be nice to people.
Every day.
You got paid money to be at Disneyland.
There's a gig I can handle!
This whole blog is a dim reflection of memories, experiences and feelings that were instilled within me simply by working at the Park.
I know a LOT of other folks who worked there, too, and feel the same way!
Call me a nerd.
Goof off.
A grown up with "Peter Pan" syndrome.
Mickey Mouse.
Terminally un-hip and un-cool.

I'm okay with all of that.

After all, there is one thing I've got on most folks...

I worked at Disneyland!

Well...that's my answer.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Disneyland - Carousel Music and Tom Sawyer's Island, Tomorrowland and the Parking Lot 1988

When the "new" Fantasyland debuted in 1983, it was---and remains---a wonder.
The Old School Disney crew responsible for the redesign did an expected phenomenal job.
Of course, many mourned the loss of the old pirate ship and "Skull Cove," as well as the Fantasyland Theater.
But overall, the area's re-christening was welcomed.
The Dumbo calliope (or "band organ") music resounded through the main area of Fantasyland and provided the theme music for the background of my many shifts there as a sweeper.
Where else in the world do you get to set your work pace to the bouncy tunes of classic Disney standards?
I swear the old collection of songs from the calliope---in the order they played---still runs in my head.
You would stay in step with the Mickey Mouse Club March, You Can Fly from Peter Pan, An Actor's Life For Me!, Bibidi-Bobidi-Boo, Chim Chim Cher-ee, Jolly Holiday,  Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!, Zip-a-dee Doo Dah!, Some Day My Prince Will Come,  etc.
Does anyone have the full list of songs in their original order???

I have written earlier on this blog of a day I when got to work on Tom Sawyer's Island.  I came across this video (originally posted by IngrahamArchives on of the Island in 1988, which shows you how it looked back then.  It is a slice of nostalgia for you Park lovers, served up hot with a cup of bad coffee---as though we were on a break at the Inn Between! It contains footage from inside the now closed Fort Wilderness---*sigh.*  Well, without further ado, here you go:

While we're on the subject, here is another clip from IngrahamArchives that gives us a glimpse of the Tomorrowland I knew and loved and (at the end) a view of the wonderful 100-acre Disneyland parking lot.  You can see the Cast Member parking area (at 6:50 - 7:011-ish on the video), as well as the canopies of the General Motors display that was installed in front of the Park as part of its 30th anniversary celebration in 1985 (these appear for a flash at 7:12)---I had many a Main Gate sweeping shift and wound my way through the display with a pan and broom out there. Now you can see what it was like (from a distance!)

And for a closer view of the parking lot and main entrance area of the Park as it looked back in my day, here is a video from 1990---the areas depicted in the video are largely the same as they would have appeared 3-5 years earlier---you'll will note the extreme lack of Disney's California Adventure, for example!  This was posted by Mr.Disneyfanman and I thank him for putting it on YouTube:

Hope you enjoyed today's brief trip back in time!

All the best, to each and every one you!
All four (4) of you, to be exact!


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Disneyland - Town Square Sweep Shift

In my sweeper days, I was assigned a summer to Main Street.
I had several Town Square shifts, some opening and some closing.
As a sweeper, you literally learn every inch of the area.
With eyes trained to hunt and destroy objects as small as a kernel of popcorn or a smashed cigarette butt, one becomes keenly attuned to the environment.
The best part about Main Street was my ability to circle Town Square and then pop into the shops and attractions there for a blast of air conditioning and to chat up the cast member at the turnstile.
From the vendors at the gift stands at either main entrance tunnel to the conductors of the Disneyland Railroad to the girl in the yellow dress outside Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln to the plaid-adorned tour guides at and around City Hall.
I knew the cashiers in the Emporium and even bumped into my pals who were working Jungle at the time.
Many skippers would cross over to Adventureland from the cast member gate by the Mad Hatter to the backstage door next to the Fire Department.
"Doug!  You closing tonight, too?"
"Oh hey, Mike.  Yep.  Don's the lead tonight, so we should be in for some real fun."
"Say hi to him for me.  Guess I'll see you around.  I'm on 'til 1:30 a.m.  Joy."
"Ooh!  Man, you need to transfer into attractions!  I'm out by 12:30 at the latest!"
"Thanks for that.  At least I'm not chained to a boat doing laps around vegetation!" 
"You WISH you were me, so don't give me that!  Have fun picking gum out of flower beds!"
"May you derail."
"Oh, I'd like that!  We'd be down for at least half an hour!"
"Charley Browns after work?"
"Probably.  I'll see what everyone's up for.  Might hit Acapulcos.  So long, sweeper boy!"
I pushed him through the backstage door, gently...okay not so gently...slamming it into his backside as he beat a retreat to the back area.
I'd then do a lap around the square along the sidewalks, my broom snapping bits into the jaws of my metal pan.
Inscribed in permanent marker along the side of the pan were the words "Jaws II" and some triangular, cartoonish teeth.
Each sweeper had their own Sharpie design on the sides of their pans, except for the "lifer" guys.
Mine was "Jaws II," as "Jaws" had been retired after a season in Fantasyland---it had developed a rusted hole along the bottom and could not be repaired.
Up the many steps to the Main Street train station.
Tim stood at the entrance making notes on the turnstile "count" on an old clipboard.
His name tag born a cherished 10-year pin.
"How we doing?" I asked.
"Slow day.  Only about 20,000 in-Park right now.  We're barely cycling guests at the moment.  The last train was almost a dead head!"
He looked sharp in his vest, white shirt and rail road cap.
I always admired the Railroad costumes.
Similar to the ones we used to wear on the Mark Twain.
He was exaggerating a bit.
Though 20,000 was hardly a crowd in the expanse of the Park, it was certainly enough bodies to fill more than a few train cars---and they were running three trains, since it was summer.
"I'm heading home; had an opening shift." Tim remarked as he glanced at the pocket watch he pulled from his vest.
His salt and pepper gray hair under his cap, the tiny wrinkles developing around his eyes and his naturally calm, "farmer-like" demeanor made him a natural for the role of Disneyland Railroad conductor.
"I'm afraid I'm here 'til after closing," I announced with a sigh.  "Still, there's worse jobs!"
"You have no idea.  Wouldn't trade this one for all the money in the world.  Looks like the Company's going really attack our benefits during this next contract negotiation, though."
The Strike of 1984 was soon to be a reality.
It would mark the end of Disneyland as we knew it and there was literally nothing anyone could do about it.
The new management was not the Disney family of old.
A group of outsiders had come in, with Roy Disney and his attorney Stanley Gold orchestrating the changing of the guard.
The Company itself had been the subject of a hostile takeover bid by a 1980s corporate raider.
Walt's son-in-law, Ron Miller, was forced out and the Company was about to begin building toward the mega-corporation it has become today.
No matter.
On that afternoon there were still tons of "lifers" and long-timers in the ranks of Disneyland cast members.
I am glad to have had the chance to work among them.
It was a grand time.
More to follow, I'm sure...


Monday, January 16, 2012

Disneyland - Let's Get Specific

Heidi Ho, Neighbor!  Been awhile, I know.
Today in the Jungle we get specific.
And share photos from today's trek to the Park.

[DISNEY NERD ALERT: The next section is for Disneyland nerds---despite our best efforts to avoid such content, even we in the Jungle occasionally lapse into it---Disney Nerdville; it's a lot like the stuff you occasionally step into while exploring Water Buffalo habitat.  Anyhow, here it goes...]

Sure, you all know about Club 33, but upon what street is it located?

A:  Royal Street.  33 Royal Street, New Orleans Square, to be exact.  Meet you there at 6:30 p.m. for an icy Martini---dirty, of course.

Speaking of addresses, riddle me this, what is the address of the French Market?

A: 30 Orleans Street, but who's counting?  See below.
Oh yeah, well where would you find the Mint Julep Bar?

A: Front Street.  Located at the "back" of New Orleans Square, "Front" Street actually runs along the train tracks.  The Julep Bar is just west (past the stairs) of No. 15 Front Street.

What are the two (2) addresses for the world famous Cafe Orleans?

A:  The main entrance is at 20 Royal Street, but it also has the address of 42 Esplanade (the entrance to the restaurant's main patio, along the famed Rivers of America riverfront).

While we're on the subject, the Cristal d'Orleans is at 23 Orleans Street, just across from Mlle. Antoinette's Parfumerie (24 Orleans St.).

Here's a view of the ancient oak that resides in the planter at the northwest corner of the French Market, providing shade for a goodly chunk of western New Orleans Square.

Who "operates" the Jungle Cruise today?

A:  The Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd (since 1911) - you'll see their sign between Jungle's main entrance and the Tropical Imports stand.

Who do you see in Adventureland if you're looking to be inked with an Oriental tatoo?

A: Prof. Harper Goff (he gives banjo lessons, too---also designed the Jungle Cruise, among other things).

 And as your heading up the stairs to see Prof. Goff, you can hang a right and see the old Jungle break area "porch" (pictured below).  Better get back to your rotation before your break window closes, or you may never get out of that boat once you get back in it!!
Pssstt!  Wanna see something really Bazaar?
Take a look across the street after exiting the Jungle Cruise.

Excuse me, but where in the Park will you find sconces like the one pictured below?  
 A: Inside Davy Crockett's Pioneer Mercantile Exchange.

Can you name the hat shop whose sign adorns the building next door to the Golden Horseshoe?

A: Crockett & Russel Hat Co. (Their coonskin cap logos are on either side of their name).

All right, a few more.

What will you find at 101 Main Street?

A:  The Emporium.

What store is located next door to the Emporium, at 107 Main Street?

A:  The Crystal Arcade.

What is the name and address of the shop directly across the street from the eastern entrance doors of the Emporium?

A: The 20th Century Music Company (106 Main Street).

Enough of that stuff.

I mean, what next?  Hidden Mickeys?


All right, to round out today's "nerdy" theme, how about a report from today's trip to the Park?

The Park is under rehab left and right!  From the Matterhorn (scaffolding up the slopes), to Main Street (shut down on the east side from Carnation Cafe to Coke Corner) to the Columbia (in Fowler's Harbor drydock) to the Adventureland main entrance and beyond.

Good to see the company is keeping up the "Crown Jewel" original of its many theme parks.

Today it was cold at the Park. 
Sitting under heat lamps on the patio of the Rancho del Zocalo, we watched the Mark Twain, its decks aglow in sparkling yellow lights, ease up to its dock in the dusky twilight at 5:44 p.m. and end its run.

It was also chilly at the "other park" across the way.
We took in The Little Mermaid (well done and worth the 15-minute wait).

Checked out the new food area on the east side (lots of covered seating and you can get Mediterranean fare or pizza and salads---mental note for those hot days when shade and ceiling fans are absolute musts!).

Cars Land construction continues to hum along--we took a look from the porch of the Blue Sky Disney Imagineering exhibit.

The whole main entrance area at DCA is fenced off still and as you enter the park, they have everyone walk to the right, behind the Soarin' building.

They also still have fences up along the World of Color lagoon.

On the way out of Disneyland, we caught the parade on Main Street.
From "Step in Time" chimney sweeps to Dixieland Jazz, all the princesses, characters, songs and dancing you could hope to pack into a Main Street parade.
Do not miss it---and this is from a grizzled veteran, who's seen just about everything that can straggle down Main Street!!

Thanks for hangin' in there between posts, Jungle fans!!

You are four (4) of the best friends a skipper could ever want!

That reminds me...

You know what the hungry Green Giant said, after he reached into a random bag of mixed veggies in his freezer and pulled out a morsel?

"I gotta pea!"

Yes sir, folks, we offer only the highest quality entertainment in these parts!
Now move along!
Dock side!  Please, exit out the front.
Water side, you'll be helped out by the rear.
If you get lost, check in with our helpful "Guest Relations" cast member below.

He'll be more than glad to tell you exactly where to go!


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Disneyland - Jungle Cruise - The Way We Were

Scavenging along the shoreline of the Internet, I came across the following footage of the old Jungle Cruise from 1992.  It shows the attraction as it was when I first worked it, including the old hornbill at the turn in the river that is now occupied by the queue for Indiana Jones.  Even "Old Smiley" is referenced by the skipper (a favorite joke at this part of the old river was "Old Smiley is the oldest and laziest crocodile in these parts, he just sits around my boat waiting for a handout.  Just last week I had an English teacher on board.  She put her hand out.  Now she teaches...shorthand").  I miss the old guy.

Many thanks to Eric aka MrDisneyfanman for originally posting this to YouTube.  Since there are relatively few good videos of the mid to late 1980s Jungle Cruise, I found this one to be useful because it really shows the old queue, the dock, Trader Sam, the striped canopied boats, even the old Jungle costume as they appeared around the time I first worked the attraction.

Hope all of you Jungle fans have a great day today, wherever you may be. 
I love each and every one of you.
Except you in the back.
Yeah, over there on the left.
I'm keeping an eye on you.
Well, it's 8:04 a.m. and time for a Jungle Julep.
Last night the Tiki Gods had a party.
Some luau!
When tiki drums begin to pound, my head full BIG sound!
Cheers, Jungleteers!
And remember, nothing says good, clean Disney fun like human skulls over Adventureland!