Saying “we” instead of “they”: Life as a former Disney cast member

Tonight, I became very conscious of how often I say “we” when talking about goings-on in Disney.

“In Downtown Disney, -we- have been…”
“-We- are trying to make parking as efficient as possible.”
“When -we- go on break at Cirque, -we-…”

I think the fact that I (and I’m sure other former cast members) use “we” instead of “they” when talking about Disney is quite telling of the company culture. I truly felt like I was part of a family while working there. I felt like an integral aspect of the whole.

But I realized tonight, when talking in class about how Disney immerses guests into stories, that I shouldn’t be saying “we.” As much as I wish I was, and hope to be in the future, I am no longer employed by the Walt Disney Company. And I’m wondering if and when I’ll be able to break the “we” habit.

Tomorrow I am embarking on my first journey “home” since I finished my CP in August. The newly formed Disney Alumni Association is holding its first big event this weekend, and I was one of the lucky 400 or so who was able to book a spot. I will be meeting up with two of my CP roommates and staying at All-Star Music. I’ll get to see friends and coworkers who I haven’t seen in a few months.

I’m really looking forward to it all, but throughout all the planning, there’s been a twinge of sadness: I’ll be going as a full-on guest. My ties to the company are in the past. I won’t be using my maingate to get into the park, and I won’t be showing my blue ID for discounts. I won’t be able to walk behind Cirque du Soleil and use the back entrance. I won’t be able to go into the DisneyQuest box office. I’ll see new parts of Downtown Disney that were merely construction materials a few months ago, when I walked past them every day. And it’s going to be weird not having been immersed in it.

It’s been a hard couple of months being away from Walt Disney World and my job as a main entrance operations cast member, but I think it’s going to be even harder to be THERE and not be a cast member. I think overall this trip (and my two upcoming trips family in November and January) are going to solidify what I’ve already come to know: I am going to work for Disney in the future. Somehow, some way, Walt Disney World is going to be a part of my career. And I cannot wait (though I have to wait, since I can’t graduate until Spring of 2016 — but that’s another story).

As strange and different as it will be, I’m excited to get back “home” for a few days. I’m looking foward to seeing what it’s like to experience the parks not just as a guest, but as a former cast member. I’m probably still going to slip up and say “we” when talking about Downtown Disney, but hey, maybe it’s one of those things that once you’re part of the family, you’re ALWAYS part of the family. Who knows. :)

Collection of DCP Interviews

So last week, I compiled a ton of information so that I could put together an article about the DCP for Montclair State University’s student newspaper. I gathered factual information about the DCP and interviewed DCP alumni from MSU. Long story short, a lot of information got cut do to spatial constraints (which I totally understand). However, since the CP alumni that I interviewed gave such fantastic responses when I interviewed them, I figured I’d put together a blog post to showcase their awesome answers and the photos they sent!

(Each of the students interviewed is either a current MSU student or recent graduate who successfully completed his or her Disney College Program. They have given me their permission to post their responses, and each provided their own photos.)

  • Jason – attractions at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
  • Lauren – attractions at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
  • Rafelina – housekeeping at the All-Star resorts
  • Sarah – QSFB at Disney’s Animal Kingdom/Magic Kingdom
  • Caity – attractions at Epcot

Interested in applying for the DCP? Visit the website!

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Learn more about opportunities with Disney through the Disney Internships & Programs blog:

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It’s probably time for a blog post.

So… um… yeah. It’s been a while. And a lot has happened in the past couple of months.

One of the last times I wrote, I was having a hard time with the fact that I was leaving Florida. Well, August finally came, and I said “see ya real soon” to my life down in Disney. I’m back in New Jersey, fairly settled in, and ready to start school next week.

A few things of note happened during my last month in Florida. The biggest thing that happened is that I made the decision not to go seasonal and stay with the company. At first it was a tough decision to make, because I really wanted to keep my proficiencies at Cirque and DisneyQuest, but now I realize that I have definitely made the right decision for myself. Right before my program ended, Disney changed the rules for cast members who wanted to go seasonal. It used to be that if a CP wanted to go seasonal, all they’d have to do is talk to their leader, and their leader could set their status to seasonal (if their record card was good and all of that). Now, however, CPs have to take a 13 week break in service before applying for a seasonal role, and there has to be a “need” for a seasonal cast member in that area. I know way too many people who got screwed over by this rule change, and as much as I love my location and miss working, right now I want to focus on my degree and not stress over getting my hours done.

The last month of my program wasn’t actually as difficult as I thought it would be. I was fortunate to have some truly amazing people by my side to help me through it all. Scheduling was awesome and gave me two DisneyQuest shifts and two Cirque shifts for my last week. My last shift at DisneyQuest came on August 4th, and was fairly uneventful. However, I spoke with two of my leaders who both had really, really nice things to say about my work ethic and general attitude. My last Cirque shift was on August 6th, and I only teared up a couple of times during the show. I also got to take a few pictures with performers, which was fun! The night after, I got to see Cirque one last time as a guest. I miss it immensely, but I get to go see it again in November when I visit Orlando with my family. (Also, I’m going to see Cirque Varekai tonight, which is going to be awesome!)

One question I keep getting asked is “what next?” in regards to Disney. I do fully intend to pursue a future career with the Walt Disney Company. During my last semester of school, I’m going to apply for professional internships (and probably another CP, though I don’t know if it could ever top my first one). If PIs don’t work out, I may just go all out and head down to Orlando with a suitcase and a dream, go to casting, and beg for a job. I don’t know; I want things to be more planned out, but for now I’m content just saying “yes, I will work for Disney again.”

So yeah, I’m back home in Whippany. At first it was weird for a couple of reasons; first of all, it felt like I never left. Second, all of my winter clothes were still in my closet. But now that I’m getting settled back in, everything feels more comfortable. I’m getting back into the routine of work and school, but now I’m working toward even more of a “routine” than what I had before I left. I’m working in daily exercise as well. I’m binge watching Doctor Who at night. I’m catching up with family and friends. I saw my sister off to school this morning, and will be driving my brother down to school on Sunday. Pretty soon we’ll be planning holidays. And to top it all off, I’m taking a trip to Orlando in November with my mom and grandma. Things feel good right now, although my heart gets tugged every time I see DCP or DPI application posts on social media.

To sum this all up… the Disney College Program is literally one of the best things I have ever done for myself. I had the absolute time of my life on my program. I’m planning on doing a series of short vlogs talking about my experiences, so I’ll try and post links to those here as well. :-)

I guess that’s all for now; I’m supposed to be working on paperwork for my dad’s truck club and I should probably get to it. Thanks, as always, for reading!

Taking a few minutes to talk about “Jersey Boys.”

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When I first saw the trailer for “Jersey Boys,” I was with my roommate seeing “The Other Woman.” As soon as I heard the opening notes, I started squealing and flailing in my seat. I had no prior knowledge of them making a movie version of one of my favorite Broadway musicals, and I was blown away by the trailer alone.

Fast foward two months of me listening to the soundtrack and watching the trailers over and over again, waiting for the movie to come out. I finally got the chance to see it on Monday, and I was not disappointed.

The film opened similarly to the musical, but went more in-depth with the scenes that happen throughout the opening of the show (the discovery of Frankie, the robbery, the church scene, etc.). It was well-paced, but it also felt thrown together, like they were trying to elongate the montage that the show gives its audience. The continuity also felt a little weird, but I think that’s because I’m used to the order of the show.

But as soon as Joe Pesci brought in Bob Gaudio, I was completely satisfied. I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with Erich Bergen on Twitter, and I was looking forward to seeing him play Gaudio. When he sang “Cry,” I was hooked (on both him and the combination of the group members).

From there, the movie was paced exactly right with the events that happened. I could physically feel the tension and exhaustion that the Four Seasons were feeling. I could feel the split between them. It was all very well done. I think the movie was near perfect when it came to casting. I’m glad they used Broadway and relatively unknown actors for the main roles.

I won’t give away the ending, but for those of you who have seen the show, yes, they do end with “Rag Doll” and “Who Loves You.” And just like during the show, I got super choked up at the ending. But it’s absolutely perfect how they do it. Definitely see it for yourselves.

POTENTIAL SPOILERS BELOW:

The only gripe that I had (and there really was only one), was the way they handled the Bob Gaudio losing his virginity scene. It wasn’t poorly done or anything. It’s just that they looped it in with “Walk Like a Man.” Now, if you’ve seen the show, you know that that scene is how they introduce “December 1963 (Oh What a Night)” … but the film decided to go with “Walk Like a Man.” It worked. But for me, as a big fan of the show, I was really looking forward to that part and how they incorporate “Oh What a Night.” And it didn’t happen. However, there were other parts where the music was PERFECT — such as Frankie singing “My Eyes Adored You” as a bedtime song for Francine. Beautiful.

Oh, and the other weird thing… did anyone else notice that some of the background music was ripped right from the Broadway soundtrack? Because I’m 99% sure that happened.

Seriously though, it’s an awesome movie and I can’t wait to see both the movie and the show again! :-)

Deciding when to leave.

I’ve been dreading this announcement ever since I got here in February.

Today on the Hub appeared a notice saying that extension applications will be accepted from June 9 to June 17.

I have known since the start that I would not be extending my program. For one, I want to go home and finish school. I also have too many people at home that I miss dearly. But there’s still this little twinge inside of me telling me to extend. To stay here until January.

But I can’t. And I won’t. As much as I love it here, I need to be back in Jersey. Last night, as one of my friends talked to our manager about applying for full time, I blurted out that I wanted to go seasonal. My manager told me that I just need to keep up the good work for the next two months and I would be a good candidate for seasonal.

So, okay. I won’t be living here full time anymore. I won’t be five minutes from the Disney parks anymore. But I’ll still be able to come down and work at Cirque and DisneyQuest. Seasonal is the best option for me right now.

I think this post is just a way of me finally justifying to myself that, as much as I want to stay, I can’t. I’m just getting everything out there so that I can use this post as a reminder to NOT apply for an extension. And now, I’m going to go spend the next two months living my dreams.

It’s probably time for an update.

So I recently hit the halfway mark of my program. While it’s still everything I want it to be and more, the past few weeks have been so weird.

Cirque was dark for two weeks, which meant that all of us Cirque CMs got deployed to other locations. I took most of the two weeks off because my family was coming. The days I didn’t take off, I was deployed to, of all places, DisneyQuest. My manager had told me that it wasn’t likely that I would get deployed to my other work location (because of senority and such), but it happened. I also had two Fantasmic shifts that I ended up giving away because the idea of having to control that large of a crowd gave me really bad anxiety. So I worked four shifts at DisneyQuest and spent the rest of the two weeks with my family (and stayed in the rental house with them), which was awesome.

I came back to find out that my roommate was leaving the program for health reasons. I found this out on the same day I got an email saying that we would be getting new furniture in our bedroom — a bunk bed, a platform bed, a new dresser, and possibly new nightstands. So, my roommate moved out (I wish her all the best and still love her to pieces), and now I will be getting new furniture and, in the near future, two new roommates. In my room. For now, I’m just enjoying having my own space for a little while.

I went back to work at Cirque last night — or tried to. I’ve been sick for the past couple of days (I ended up getting an ER from Quest on Sunday night). I thought I would be fine yesterday, but I ended up going to my manager and telling him I didn’t feel well. Luckily one of my coworkers had come in hoping to be a spare, so she took over my shift. Unfortunately, I got sent home. So I missed the show and a shift that I’ve been looking forward to for weeks. However, my manager put it right — there would be other shows, and my health was more important. I’m still not 100% right, but I feel better enough to go to work tomorrow.

What I’m learning right now is that I really need a lifestyle change. I’ve been kind of floating lately, not doing much of anything. But today, I went and bought groceries that will (hopefully) improve my health. I want to start trying yoga at home instead of just sitting around before work. I’ve said it a hundred times before, but I really need to start taking care of myself both physically and mentally. I’m starting with little changes that will hopefully become bigger when I move back to Jersey in August. We’ll see how things go.

I guess that’s all for now. Depending on when they bring my furniture (hopefully before I go to work so that I don’t have to make my bed at midnight when I get home), I’ll post pictures of the new setup tomorrow. Trying to make the best of this… we’ll see what happens.

Updates and Observations

So I read this post back before I started my CP, and I came across it again yesterday. It’s probably one of the most accurate posts about the Disney College Program that I’ve ever read. Now that I’ve been here for just over two months, I feel that I’ve experienced enough of the program to make my own post inspired by Tumblr user DisneyLens’. But first, an observation.

I’ve been getting a lot of “how can you be unhappy, you work for Disney” comments and messages when I post any kind of discontent. And I understand that for someone who hasn’t done this before, it may be hard to understand what exactly CPs and CMs go through. Yes, I work for Disney. But Disney is not some magical bubble shielding me from the real world. In fact, it’s more of a real world than anything I’ve ever experienced. Reality reaches through the magic at every turn. So, just a reminder, cast members are people, too. We have feelings and struggles, too. Keep that in mind on your next Disney vacation. Especially if you’re going to lash out at a cast member because the women’s restroom is on the other end of the lobby from where you’re standing. (I have complete control over how the building was built, of course. -_-)

So, okay. Here’s what the Disney College Program has been, for me, over the past two months.

The Disney College Program is an experience unlike any other. It’s the opportunity to work for a company that creates magic and happiness for people of any age, race, gender, nationality, and background. It’s being a part of something so much bigger than yourself. It’s learning about a company that has been a part of your life since childhood. It’s driving under the Welcome to Walt Disney World sign every single day and still smiling at it.

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It’s walking into the Magic Kingdom during Traditions, seeing the castle, and discovering that, yes, this opportunity is real. It’s finding out that, even though your work location isn’t your dream role, it may soon become just that. It’s falling in love with your work location. It’s learning more responsibilities than you ever believed you could memorize (and still carrying around your mini training manual just in case). It’s laughing at the bruises you get from the arms of seats as you clean the row above you. It’s ridiculous costumes that may have been trendy in the 90s but are in desparate need of updating. It’s doing your very best to do your job well.

The Disney College Program is fun. It’s getting Dole Whip with your roommates and friends at 10 PM when it’s 60 degrees outside and you’re already shivering. It’s going to the Magic Kingdom at midnight after a long shift, even though the park closes at 1. It’s four parks, one day, to celebrate your birthday. It’s meeting characters and feeling that joy that you felt as a child. It’s taking selfies EVERYWHERE, including on rides. It’s dance parties in the mezzanine and in the curtains. It’s dance parties in the box office. It’s dance parties in the car, in the parks, on the PeopleMover. It’s being the last guests on Pirates of the Caribbean in the month of March. It’s late night movies and early morning parks trips. It’s Space Mountain photo poses. It’s inside jokes (meanwhile, in Italy…). It’s meeting fellow CMs and guests from all over the world, and adopting some of their slang.

The Disney College Program is work. Hard work. It’s physically and emotionally demanding. It’s long hours and late nights. It’s working and going to class for 12 days in a row without a break. It’s the best guests and worsts guests you will ever meet. It’s learning to be respectful even in the toughest situations. It’s calling in your manager for backup. It’s going to work even though you feel like you got hit by a truck. It’s trying to snag a quick nap in the break room. It’s making sure your tattoos stay covered. It’s pushing through the pain and keeping a smile on your face. It’s answering “What is DisneyQuest” about a hundred times per shift. It’s stepping over guests to ask guests to stop recording. It’s language barriers and frustrating moments. It’s having to call an alpha unit for a guest. It’s scary moments that set your heart racing. It’s fear of failure. It’s frantically cleaning your apartment the day before inspections start, and praying that you’ll pass. It’s homesickness and missing your family.

The Disney College Program is still the best decision I’ve ever made. I love my jobs — both of them — despite rough starts and hard days. I love the friends I’ve made. Even when I’m sitting here writing this, sniffling and achy from a cold, dreading my box office shift today (solely because I’m sick), I am loving every moment of this program and wouldn’t change it for the world.

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