Sunday, September 16, 2012

Magic Kingdom Special Event Lanyards - Cast Member Exclusive

One of the best parts about working at the Magic Kingdom was being able to attend all of the different special events that were being held at the park after hours. I personally worked: Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, Night of Joy, Grad Night, and Disney's Pirate and Princess Party.

Each special event hosted it's own theme and included events, music, shows and even special character appearances. From a Cast Member perspective, I always enjoyed working these events because the parks were much less crowded AND we got to enjoy all the special event activites as well!

Cast Members working the events were given special event lanyards that not only identified them as special event Cast Members, but there was also information provided on the back side of the lanyards that included parade times, activity locations and other answers to frequently asked guest questions. the Disney's Pirate and Princess Party is no longer being offered, so I am especially happy to have held on to this particular lanyard.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Highly Exclusive Disney Cast Member Pins

A few weeks ago I took a trip back home to Chicago, Illinois to visit with my family. While at home, I was quite excited to dig around my old childhood bedroom because I had left several items from my working days at Walt Disney World in there. I came back with several items that I’m going to share with you over the next few weeks, but I thought I’d start off with some special pins that relate back to a previous post I had about how Cast Members are recognized.
Whenever a guest takes the time to write a complimentary letter about a Cast Member, those letters go to the Vice President of the according location. For me, while working at WDW in 2006-2008, any letters that were written about me would be sent to Erin Wallace, former Vice President of the Magic Kingdom, current Senior Vice President of Operations. Each VP would make a copy of the guest letter and send it back to the Cast Member to share with them. Each VP also sends a special recognition pin exclusive to Cast Members at that location to recognize them for spreading the magic. Each VP has their own unique pin and each year they get to update their recognition pins as well! I would imagine the pins are highly collectible, but I’ve never personally looked it up before. They’re priceless to me, anyway! I was lucky enough to receive two pins from Erin Wallace for a complimentary guest letter in 2006 and 2007.

One the back of the pin, you can see Erin’s signature and below it some words saying “Thank you for creating Magic.”

Another special pin I have was given to me by one of my best friends that still currently works at Walt Disney World: James “Tiny” McAuliffe, Disney VIP-Tour Guide extraordinaire! If you’re lucky enough to have James as your tour guide, you are in for a truly Magical treat. He is extremely passionate about his job and extremely knowledgeable about Disney. He also has a killer sense of humor to boot! I am very thankful to have met James while working at WDW because I truly consider him one of the best friends I've ever had. Miss you, James! J Anywho, James gave me a special VIP tour guide pin that used to be given out to guests from their VIP tour guide. To my knowledge, these pins are no longer in use. The pin was special to me because James and I both worked at Magic Kingdom Guest Relations and wore a very well respected costume, the blue plaid. I was pretty excited to get a pin with Mickey in our honored costume. The back of the pin says “Walt Disney World VIP tour.”

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Trip to the Michigan Ave. Disney Store in Chicago

My apologies for not adding a new post in over week, but I am happy to say in the meantime I have been on vacation visiting family in Chicago, Illinois and just returned from a fantastic time! While there, I of course made sure that I stopped at the famous Michigan Ave. Disney Store. I typically visit the Disney Store at the Tyson’s Corner mall every other week and while it is a fantastic store, it was so great to see another location, especially one as large as the store on Michigan Ave.

Since the location on Michigan Ave. is a stand-alone store, they were really able to enhance the “magic” oftr65 their entrance. There’s a beautiful mosaic tiled entry floor featuring Mickey and Minnie. The entrance also features several not-so-hidden Mickeys such as the door handles and the chandeliers. On the walls of the entry way are two great (and perhaps not so well-known) quotes from Walt Disney: “Animation can explain whatever the mind of man can conceive” and “The things that we have in common far outnumber and outweigh those that divide us.”

The interior of the store is really well done too. If you look at the ceiling you’ll see classic Disney characters acting as if they’re playing around in a Hollywood soundstage. My favorite was Peter Pan and Captain Hook battling it out on a catwalk.

Another reason I wanted to make sure I stopped by this particular store is because it is one of the only Disney Stores that offers Disney merchandise specific to that city! I was really amazed at the variety of items they had to offer: from t-shirts, notebooks, thermoses, bags, plushes and more.

Besides the city-specific merchandise, the sheer size of the store really allowed it to offer a lot more merchandise than your typical mall Disney Store. I have to say I was QUITE excited when I spotted some plushes of some of my favorite Disney characters…ALL Three Caballeros in their sombreros! Just too cute!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

How Disney Recognizes their Cast Members: Guest Service Fanatic, Certificates and More!

Walt Disney World is known for its amazing Cast Members that bring magic to life each and every day. It takes a lot of talent and encouragement to create of team of dedicated passionate individuals like the Cast Members at Walt Disney World. There’s weeks to months of vigorous training, the responsibility of recruiting those perfect personalities and of course, recognizing and appreciating those individuals for keeping Walt Disney’s alive and thriving.

I was always very impressed with how good the Disney Company was at recognizing its staff for doing a great job. Each area was a little different, so I can only speak for my own past role as a Guest Relations hostess at the Magic Kingdom. One consistent form of recognition was the Great Service Fanatic cards. These little purple cards were located in all areas of the parks. They could be filled out by guests or fellow Cast Members to recognize someone for going above and beyond. The cards had a carbon paper sheet so the top portion could be kept my the Cast Member and the bottom portion was handed in to have a notation kept on the Cast Member’s file but also to be used in drawings for prizes. I personally had won movie tickets, passes to Cirque de Soleil and Cast Member exclusive pins.

There were also personalized note cards within your area. For instance, if a Magic Kingdom Guest Relations Cast Member wanted to recognize another Cast Member on their team, they could fill out a thank you note. This note was then posted on a recognition wall for all the Cast to see and then eventually used in a drawing at the end of each month. You could also receive special recognition from your Area Director on personalized stationary for that individual.

In my particular area, Guest Relations hosts and hostesses would receive their gold “D” pin after they had successfully completed several weeks of training. This pin would be presented in a special ceremony backstage and included a special certificate signed by that Cast Member’s favorite Disney Characters. (Seen at the top of this post)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Disney for Adults: La Cava del Tequila and Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar

Going to Walt Disney World as a young girl was always a special treat. Perhaps my youth only allowed me to have a narrow view of what the World had to offer for as a child visiting the parks between the ages of 8 to 15, it seemed like Walt Disney World was created to cater specifically to young kids like me.

Now was woman nearing the age of 30, I still love visiting Walt Disney World, maybe even more than I did as a kid. Disney has this amazing way of always changing and always updating itself while staying faithful to its nostalgic details. Over my recent trips to WDW, I asked myself, what keeps me coming back as an adult? Well, I noticed that while I still enjoy doing some of the things I did as a little girl (the rides, the shows), when I visit Disney now as an adult, it’s a completely different experience.

It seems to me that people my age kind of grew up in what I’d like to call the Walt Disney World hey-day. Of course, WDW is still amazingly popular today, but I think the generation of children born in the 80s included some of the first families that made going to WDW on vacation each year, a family tradition. In the 1970s, WDW was just getting established. People associated WDW with Disneyland in California and still had no idea of how huge WDW truly was or what it had to offer. Families in the 1970s and 1980s typically would take family vacations elsewhere and if they did go to WDW, it was only as a one time trip.

Talking with other Disney lovers in my age range, it seems like we all frequented WDW quite a lot as children on family vacations. Now that this generation has grown up, these individuals have found their love for Disney is still there whether it’s for nostalgia, because they want their children to enjoy Disney like they did, or perhaps they’re like me and just simply will always love Disney just because it’s great. Now that these individuals are adults, Disney has been smart to cater to this huge demographic by adding new and exciting Disney attractions that well, cater to adults! Now while I have no factual proof that this was the Disney Company’s actual strategy, the addition of certain recent “attractions” would seem to help prove this theory correct.

First there is La Cava del Tequila at EPCOT’s Mexico Pavilion. Located inside the great Pyramid, La Cava del Tequila is a quaint 30-seat venue that offers more than 70 different varieties of tequila. I can personally recommend their fantastic margaritas, a tip I got from one of my Cast Member pals. J Whether you can find a seat at one of the charming tables in this cave inspired tavern or standing at the bar enjoying chatting away with the native Mexican bartenders, you’ll be sure to enjoy yourself! This fantastic adult attraction was added in late 2009 making it the first food & beverage location to cater specifically to adults.

Recent Disney news has released information regarding ANOTHER adult food & beverage venue similar to Mexico’s La Cava del Tequila. This time Disney focused on a recent gastronomical fad: wine tasting! Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar opened on May 1st of this year in the Italy Pavilion at EPCOT. I am very much looking forward to experiencing the wine cellar this Fall and especially after reading details about it from the Disney Parks blog. Tutto Gusto is a 96-seat venue with an intimate d├ęcor that took its inspiration from none other than an authentic Italian wine cellar. With over 200 Italian wines to choose from, there’s plenty to enjoy. A small plates menu is also offered for those wishing to have some light bites while enjoying their wine.

As you can see, Disney has been doing a fantastic job of creating new venues that cater to adult Disney lovers. I can’t wait to see what they think up next!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Celebrating 4th of July All Year Round at the Magic Kingdom: Walt Disney’s Patriotism

Spending any holiday at Walt Disney World can be a very special and of course, magical experience. For the holidays, Disney goes all out with festive decorations, holiday appropriate back ground music, new holiday costumes for the characters, special parades and the all-important holiday fireworks display. Most guests are familiar with these kinds of details when it comes to Disney’s celebration of Thanksgiving, Halloween, and Christmas…but what about the birthday of our nation? Well, would you believe me if I said that the Magic Kingdom celebrates America every day? On the 4th of July, the Magic Kingdom does have several great festivities such as a special flag retreat ceremony, veteran salutes during the parades and an incredible fireworks display with a 360 fireworks finale that rings the park…but what about all the other days of the year?...

Walt Disney was a very patriotic man. In 1917, while Walt’s family was living in Chicago, Walt dropped out of high school to join the United States Army to join the troops fighting in World War I. Walt never did get to join the military though as he was rejected for being underage. This didn’t stop him from wanting to support the troops and to show his patriotism, so he found another way to get involved with the war by joining the Red Cross as an ambulance driver. Walt spent the final year of the war in France assisting injured and fallen soldiers.

Besides his military involvement, Walt’s love of all-things Americana was really started when he was just a young boy growing up in the small town of Marceline, Missouri. Walt was often quoted about his fond memories growing up in this small mid-western town and how it embodied, to him, everything that was great about our country. In fact, Walt Disney used Marceline as his foundation when creating Main St. USA, an all-American street where every day is the 4th of July. Main St. USA is also specially decorated during the 4th of July with flags, buntings and other red, white and blue decorations.

Walt didn’t stop showing his patriotism at Main St. USA, in fact he carried it through the whole Magic Kingdom park. Cinderella Castle rests at the end of Main St. USA, an incredible, beautiful, almost unbelievable sight at the end of the road. The Castle represents the American Dream, where hard work and dedication (represented in the realistic Main St. USA) would eventually lead you to fulfilling all of your dreams, no matter how fantastic they are.

Looking to left of the Castle, you have Adventureland, celebrating the pioneers and the risk-takers that set-out to make discoveries such as the great journey Christopher Columbus took where he discovered America. Frontierland continues on celebrating pioneers, the Oregon trail, the settlers making their journey out west where they struck gold and built railroads to connect our great country. Liberty Square…well, need I say more? Celebrating colonial times and paying respect to our country’s Presidents. And Tomorrowland, a glimpse at the future, at the amazing potential our country has to develop and foster new and innovative ideas.

So on your next trip to Walt Disney World, take a moment to look around while you’re at the Magic Kingdom and you’ll get to see how Walt Disney tilted his hat to our great country. Happy 4th of July!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Year of a Million Dreams: Making a Dream Come True for a Fellow Cast Member

On October 1st, 2006 the Disney company started, what many would say, its most spectacular promotion ever; The Year of a Million Dreams. I began working as a full-time Disney Cast Member with the Guest Relations team at Magic Kingdom earlier that year in mid-July and I couldn’t have been more excited to be working at the Disney parks during such an exciting promotion. Not only would the group of lucky Cast Members known as the Dream Team be giving out prizes to guests but they were also doing an internal giveaway for Cast Members as well! Even with such a prestigious role as a Guest Relations Hostess, I found myself getting jealous of these Cast Members where their single purpose was to surprise unexpecting guests and Cast Members with gifts and prizes beyond their wildest imagination each and every day they worked. Don’t get me wrong, I made a lot of magic happen on a daily basis as well, but I really wished I could be part of the gift giving those Cast Members did.

Some of the Dream Giveaways I saw happen included Dream Fast Pass giveaways at Magic Kingdom (this one I saw at the exit of It’s a Small World and Pirates of the Caribbean), Year of a Million Dreams lanyard and pin sets (all over the Kingdom), the Cinderella Castle Suite giveaway and Dream Mouse Ears. I had heard of many of the other prizes being given away at the other parks as well. Each day one of the Guest Service Managers would update us on the where-and-when of the giveaways so we could be informed of which prizes were left. After every giveaway, my desire to give away a Dream Come True grew more and more.

Little did I know that I would eventually get my chance to fulfill someone’s Dream as well… but in a way that I hadn’t anticipated. One evening I was working in City Hall when my Guest Services Manager asked me to step outside with him. We walked out into the garden next to City Hall and the GSM asked me if I would be up for helping him with a little magic. Of course my answer to that was always yes and I excitedly asked him how I could help. A friend of his who was a GSM in Tomorrowland wanted to propose to his girlfriend who worked in an O&T (office and technical) role backstage. The Tomorrowland GSM wanted to do something special for the proposal so my manager had offered to help. We stood in the garden whispering back and forth as we concocted a simply magical plan.
After finalizing the details, my GSM gave me a firm handshake and said “Good luck! I’m counting you!” and returned to his duties backstage. Since he wasn’t able to leave City Hall as the Manager on Duty, he had passed the baton to me to take care of this magical surprise. I grabbed a few velvet ropes from City Hall and headed down Main Street USA towards the castle. As I was walking past the confectionary, I saw one of the Dream Team Cast Members that was often staged around City Hall. “Hi Kristen! Whatcha up to today?” she shouted over the crowds busy guests searching out their spots for that evening’s show of Wishes (the nightly fireworks show). I was just about to hurry past the Cast Member when an idea struck me. I squeezed through the crowds and whispered in the CM’s ear about my plan. “Oh really? That’s a great idea! I’ll definitely help out!” she had said and quickly joined me on my journey to the Castle. Along the way we recruited several other Cast Members to help out; a PhotoPass CM on Main Street USA, a Tomorrowland CM that was assisting with putting up parade rope and stations, and an Ice Cream Parlor CM that had just gone on break. We all stopped in front of the entrance to the Castle’s rose garden on the bridge heading into Tomorrowland. There was a little space where PhotoPass CMs would take pictures of families in front of the castle. The PhotoPass CM we recruited had helped us clear out the space and put up the velvet ropes from City Hall to reserve the viewing area. The GSM from Tomorrowland found us and saw all the other CM’s and looked at me and the Dream Team CM and asked what was going on. We explained that we were going to surprise his girlfriend by saying she had won a Dream Come True for the Cast Members as part of the Year of a Million Dreams. It was a special viewing of the fireworks right here at the rose garden! The GSM couldn’t believe how much thought we had put into the situation to help him make the proposal special. We quickly placed the CM’s in the viewing area with the Tomorrowland GSM at the back. The Dream Team CM headed backstage to get the girlfriend and returned with her quickly just before the fireworks began. She was so excited to have won a Dream Come True that she didn’t even notice her boyfriend until the fireworks were halfway through! I think it was when she finally saw him that she realized what was actually happening. The CMs and I cleared out of the viewing space and stood at the velvet rope and watched as he proposed to her during the grand finale of Wishes.