Friday, 31 December 2010

Happy New Year

It’s New Year’s Day and I’m sure sure last night was filled with much merriment for many around the world. It’s also one of several days of the year when an extraordinary large amount of fireworks are set off. So on that note I’m going to talk fireworks...

Anyone that has ever visited WDW or picked up a brochure will know that fireworks play an important role in nearly every cast member’s daily existence. They happen at Magic Kingdom and Epcot nightly and at Hollywood Studios on Fantasmic nights. Additionally special displays are created for events such as July 4th and New Year’s Eve. Animal Kingdom is the only major no-go area when it comes to fireworks because of... well, So here’s a rundown.

Magic Kingdom

Home of Wishes, Hallowishes, Summernightastic, Pirate and Princess Party and the famous July 4th and New Year’s Eve Fireworks. Generally for a good all-round view there are two places I’d recommend standing. First, there’s the hub (the big circle in front of Cinderella’s Castle) and second, there’s the beach at Disney’s Polynesian Resort (this is a really great location if you don’t have a Disney ID yet - because it’s FREE!!!). Worth noting is that some displays make use of peripheral fireworks which are set off from the area outside of the visible park boundaries. This means that you are completely surrounded by fireworks. Also, the musical accompaniment is broadcast to the three monorail resorts and the TTC (Transportation and Ticket Centre) as well as the top of Bay Lake Tower’s and the park-facing rooms there.


I’m a touch biased but these are, for many, the best fireworks at WDW. They take place on World Showcase Lagoon and feature a variety of barges that shoot water and flames into the air as well as the famous globe barge. Anywhere facing the water provides a great view although try to make sure that the wind is blowing away from you. Also, if you see any “glowers” in red flag shirts say ‘Hi’ because they’re part of the awesome team at Towers.

Hollywood Studios

Fireworks here are, for the most part, part of Fantasmic! this show is definitely worth watching. If there is inclement weather go anyway. They won’t do the full show but they still set off the pyro and fireworks and it’s pretty cool (as long as you don’t mind getting wet from the rain). They do have regular fireworks on July 4th and New Year’s Eve.

The majority of CPs and ICPs find themselves working long shifts on July 4th and missing the special fireworks. The Magic Kingdom fireworks are usually on on July 3rd as well and it’s also worth seeing if there’s somewhere in your location that you can watch them from.

On July 4th I was scheduled to work from 9am to 4:30pm. I was pleased because it mean’t I could have the special July 4th lunch at the cafeteria and also be able to get to MK to watch the fireworks. At lunchtime I was asked if I’d like to extend because some other CMs had called in and they needed some extra hands. (It’s is worth remembering that no-one can force you to ER or extend, nor can they recommend that you do one or the other. It is entirely up to you). Initially I said no and then tongue-in-cheekly suggested that I’d only extend if I could glow because then I could still watch the fireworks (admittedly at Epcot rather than MK). The response was an immediate yes with the caviat that I would have to leave before everyone else because of regulations regarding the number of hours you can work at Epcot in one day. Don’t think I just got paid to stand and watch fireworks though. I was still working and if a guest came up to me during the fireworks they would be my priority. I just took advantage of Towers having an outdoor location.

Glow was, by far, my favourite part of the job. For me, it was getting to play with all those toys I wanted to play with as a kid, except that I didn’t have to pay for them! I had so much fun doing it, and yes, I probably looked like a total idiot dancing around like a lit up Christmas tree, throwing spinning toys in the air, blowing bubbles. I got to meet so many amazing people from every walk of life and help make magic happen for them.

If anyone who visited WDW this summer has any pics of me in full glow gear with them feel free to send them in. I’d love to see them.

Happy 2011! May it be full of magic for everyone!

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

I love to plan!

When planning any trip its always good to do a certain amount of planning and research before hand. Over the next 6 months I’ll try to include more of the tips that I’ve been highlighting already. Here are a few relating to travel/flight plans:

1) Don’t feel like you have to rush into booking your flights just because everyone else is. I didn’t book my flights to Orlando until mid-April last year.

2) Take advantage of any sales on flights but don’t let them dictate your plans. The other day I saw return flights for £450 but you had to fly via Toronto and Washington Dulles. Be aware that you will be busy from the moment you land in Orlando so don’t get over tired from travelling.

3)Consider flying an American airline. BA and Virgin have the advantage of flying direct to Orlando but if you want to travel afterwards a US airline is good for connecting flights. For example:

19th June - Heathrow-Washington-Orlando
2nd September - Orlando- Newark (New York)
9th September - Newark - Heathrow

...was slightly cheaper than doing...

19th June - Heathrow-Washington-Orlando
2nd September - Orlando - Washington - Heathrow

So you could have a trip to another city without any additional travel costs.

4) Don’t feel you have to arrive before your arrival date. Disney are highly organised when it comes to people arriving and it’s difficult to describe just how smooth the arrival process was. It makes no difference whether you arrive at 11am or 11pm. Unless you plan on having a quick holiday pre-arrival I recommend just arriving on the day.

5) Don’t worry if you’re not on the same flight as everyone else. I flew solo and ended up meeting loads of people on the Mears shuttle to Vista Way.

6) Start making a list of things you really want to do while you’re at WDW. For example are there any particular restaurants you want to visit? Time flies quickly in Disney!

Well that’s all the tips for now. More blogs on the way...

Monday, 27 December 2010

What happened next?

Hello again! (I told you I’d be better at updating this didn’t I!)

I’m begin to realise that that first week at Disney is now proving to be a bit of a blur. Looking back it’s almost like it was one long day so I’m going to look more at the key events rather than what happened on a specific day because quite frankly I can’t actually remember.


By the time you arrive at Disney, Traditions is quite possibly the single most anticipated event of week 1. If you want to I’m sure you can search for exactly what happens in Traditions class. I’m not going to go into great detail. Now in this case it’s not because I don’t remember what happened. No, this is because I think it’s better if that you don’t know about certain elements of the class until you get there. It’s all part of the magic. But here’s what I will say...

Traditions is where you receive your Disney ID and nametag. If you have a specific name you go by that you want on your nametag I recommend contacting them in advance although they did ask on the day as well. For me this is important because I don’t go by my official name and while they are similar I will, subconsciously not even recognise Suzanne as being my name if someone is talking to me (unless it is in an official situation). I do know people who had their official name on their tag and it took weeks for it to be changed. Your Disney ID gets you various discounts, allows you to go backstage and, most importantly, gets you into the parks for free, arguably the single greatest perk of working at WDW.

Traditions is also the first time during your stay in Florida that you will be required to wear professional attire.

*TIP* Make sure your shoes are as comfortable as possible and that your clothes are not too heavy. You will go outside during the class.

That’s all I’m going to say about Traditions other than I highly recommend you actively participate in the class. There are parts of it that are a LOT of fun.

Park Orientation

Obviously not everyone is based in a park so this may not apply to you but if you are in one of the 4 Theme Parks you get to have a Park Orientation. Again this is professional attire so the same clothing recommendations apply as before.

Each park orientation has a different name and most people will only ever take one of them so in my case I had Discovery Day a.k.a. Get to know Epcot.

As I mentioned before I spent some time writing an essay on the design of Epcot and the Magic Kingdom.( I’d go into details but I could guarantee that most people would fall asleep.) So the all-knowing arrogant side of me thought I wouldn’t learn anything new. I was wrong.

The day was essentially split into three parts:

- Lecture
- Tour
- Meeting an area supervisor/ getting your costume and locker.

*Fun Fact* Epcot is the one park where most guests go backstage without even realising. How? Because the outside section of Test Track is located backstage. If you look at this map you can see that everything to the right of Avenue of the Stars is part of the backstage area (roughly speaking).

View Larger Map

At Epcot the CP bus drops you backstage so you have to walk through it to get to the front turnstiles.

Now here’s why working at Towers was so great. We were located on the Future World side of World Showcase lagoon right next to the lake, right in the centre of the park. So here’s what would happen when you’d arrive.

- The bus dropped you off right outside Cast Services. This is where costuming and the lockers were located.
- From there it was a 2 minute walk to the First Aid entrance (located next to the cafeteria)
- Then it was another 2 minute walk into Disney Trader’s where you clocked in/out.

So within 5 minutes of the bus arriving you were at your location, ready to go and at break times it was a quick walk to the cafeteria so you never had to worry about making lunch etc. Fantastic!

Location/Area Training

Again, I won’t go into too much detail but for Merchandise training takes a total of 5-6 days. For Towers this was:

- Basics training
- Merchantainment class
- Floor training
- Baby Care
- Glow

Each part takes 1 day unless you are International. This is because you apparently require an extra day to familiarise yourself with the language, customs and currency of the USA. For me the extra day was slightly frustrating because I used to live in California and my native language is English but there you go, I had to do it anyway. There was one further area of training - stocking, although I managed to avoid this altogether, something I’m quite grateful for. Training was a lot of fun because it was the one time that you were guaranteed to be working with someone else. I recommend asking lots of questions because believe me it’s not so easy to do when the park is busy and you’re on your own.

Social Security

At the end of your second week in WDW you are taken en-masse to have your social security appointment. For everyone from the UK this is the equivalent of receiving your National Insurance number and is basically a tax thing. If you’ve already got an SSN then you don’t have to do it - lucky you!

And so ends my description of the more formal events that welcome you to your new life at WDW. Now I can start talking about the fun stuff :P

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Suzie Fail

Hello Everyone! Long time no speak. Obviously this is all my fault. I just had a look back and released I haven’t posted any updates since day 2 (excluding the minimal vlogging). Epic Suzie fail!

In an effort to not bore everyone to death I’ll try to upload some summaries (hopefully timed vaguely with the vlogs) of what happened during my summer working at Disney World.

Last time it I summarized Day 2 of the experience. By which point I had basically got off a plane, moved in and signed my life over to WDW. So here’s what happened next...

Day 3

As far as I can remember this was pretty much more meetings. Now what these meetings were about I genuinely can’t remember (obviously meaning they were very important). They were with the infamous Jill who everyone knows from their face-to-face interviews which I suspect means that they consisted of more paperwork and employment contracts - fun stuff. That though was in the afternoon, the ‘exciting’ stuff had happened in the morning. That Thursday morning we received the single most exciting piece of information you receive as a Cast Member - your work location.

Now if you had asked me anytime up until about the 5th June where I would like to work (within Merchandise) I would have said:

- Hollywood Studios
- Magic Kingdom
- Animal Kingdom
- Contemporary Resort
- Polynesian Resort
- Water Parks

There are 2 major absences on that list:

1) Downtown Disney. (If you have ever seen World of Disney during peak periods you would understand why. It would have actually been my worst nightmare)

2) Epcot. (It was my least favourite park to visit and my favourite to learn about. I have actually written essays on it. it’s also the park I remember being dragged around most as a kid because it’s the park Adults tend to find most interesting but the lack of attractions within the countries did not gel with my short attention span)

So... off I went to be told my location with a sense of nervousness rather than excitement. I cannot emphasise enough just how much I didn’t want one of those 2 locations. So up I walk to a very excited Cast member who somewhat over enthusiastically declared that I would be working in “Epcot - Towers and Glow”. I suspect my face said it all because she then repeated the glow part as though it was some kind of redeeming feature of the location.

Now i have been visiting Disney World prey much every year for my entire life and i had no idea where “Towers and Glow” was. The glow part seemed pretty self explanatory - I’d be selling the glow toys that emerge during the nighttime parades, shows and fireworks but Towers? Where on earth was that? So I did what every self respecting student does I went on Facebook and Google and searched for it.

At this point I had already realised one significant upside to my location - the costume. “WHAT?” I hear you cry. “Everyone HATES their costume!” Yes, it’s true. The costumes at WDW can be quite spectacular. At the interviews it’s the one thing they willingly admit. But I noticed several key good points about my costume.

1) Shoes. Whether you’re visiting or working at WDW you spend a lot of time on your feet and walk several miles a day. The array of potential footwear that you could be wearing ranges from traditional black work shoes to hiking boots. On the piece of paper I was handed it read “White tennis shoes”. For me this was really the best option available because it meant that I could wear a really comfy pair of shoes that would actually get some use in the outside world.

*TIP* Go to the outlet mall for shoes rather than Walmart. They’re a little more expensive but your feet will appreciate the extra comfort and quality. There are also a LOT more options available.

2) Clothing. A short sleeve shirt and white shorts/trousers. No increase in temperature as a result of the costume. For pics of the lovely costume visit the Towers and Glow facebook page

If you don’t want to look at those pictures here’s a brief description: Red flag shirt, white shorts, white socks, white trainers/tennis shoes. The flag shirt is really worth a look and before anyone mocks let me tell you I had a LOT of guests come up to me and ask where they can buy it so :P

Needless to say if you asked me where the best place to work in Merchandise at Disney World is I would say, without a doubt, Epcot: Towers and Glow.

To be continued.....

Episode 15: Meet the Queen of Glow