Memoirs of a Former Disney Castmember, Part 1: How it All Began

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After reading the title I gave to this article all I can think is: Wow, this is hard…where do I begin? Well, let’s start with how my obsession with Disney takes root. The best part to begin is in the beginning…

I’m sure many of people (Disney fans, dorks, and just “normal human beings who enjoy Disney”) have wondered what it would be like to work at Disney. Perhaps they have visited Disneyland before as a child and thought, “I wonder what it would be like to hang out with Mickey Mouse” or after the fireworks at Walt Disney World they pondered “I wonder what happens at the Magic Kingdom after everyone leaves for the night?”

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As a child I was raised in what came to be called “the Disney Decade”, the master-planned ten year span from 1990 until 2000 which marked a time of tremendous growth for the Walt Disney Company. During this time some of my favorite movies, theme parks, attractions, and television shows were produced, filmed, opened, and aired. I was a 90s baby and I was destined to fall in love with Disney.
Now flash forward to the future about four years or so (mid 90’s). My family (Mom, Dad, my big sister and my baby sister) and I have just spent the night at the Disneyland Hotel and are eating breakfast at Goofy’s Kitchen. We just met Belle, Beast, Chip and Dale. The Beast even signed my autographed booklet with his huge paws! Later that night we will ride Indiana Jones Adventure for the first time, and this will become my absolute favorite ride at Disneyland Park.Some of my earliest memories of Mickey Mouse were from my preschool in California. As I waited in the afternoons for my parents to pick me up the teachers would pop in a VHS tape of Mickey’s Fun Songs. I’d watch the kids dance and sing and interact with Mickey, Donald, and Goofy at Disneyland Park and Walt Disney World. I remember wishing and hoping I would get a chance to do that.

Now we flash ahead a few more years (late 90’s). We had one computer at my house with an encyclopedia program. On this program I discover something called “Spaceship Earth” which is something called a “geodesic sphere” at a place called “EPCOT” in Walt Disney World. This image resonates with me to this day and builds an obsession with this unfamiliar attraction at this unfamiliar place.

Finally, we appear in 2010. For the past year I have done countless research on Walt Disney World, purchased and perused numerous travel guides and informational books, scoured websites, priced and re-priced vacation quotes, and watched and re-watched the Disney vacation planning DVD dozens of times (literally). In May 2010 I made my first trip across the continental United States, to the Most Magical Place on Earth, Walt Disney World Resort.

This was it! After visiting Disneyland Resort nearly every other month from 2007 until 2009 I was ready to experience this “world” of Disney near Orlando, Florida. I stayed for one week at Disney’s Pop Century Resort with my family (now a family of 6, including my little brother), and visited each theme park and Downtown Disney. I had done a lot, but, of course, I knew there was much more to do!

On my last day of vacation my family and I visited EPCOT and took a picture in front of Spaceship Earth. After Spaceship Earth we rushed over to Test Track to experience the rush that I lived several times via Vacation Planning DVD. It was there, at the gift shop concluding Test Track that I met a Disney College Program Intern (CP) who told me about the Disney College Program at Walt Disney World.

“It’s easy to sign up,” she told me. Then, noting my various pins on my lanyard she added, “It’s a great opportunity for a Disney fan- you should apply”.

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I left Walt Disney World that week feeling sad. My vacation had come to an end; it was time to face the real world. It was time to go back to work and deal with business as usual; my time with Disney was over. Or was it…?

Back at work I told my buddies Ryan and Toffer about my vacation. Ryan was a fellow Disney dork, like me, and Toffer was gearing up to leave us for employment at Walt Disney World. I was a twinge jealous-okay, I was VERY jealous- that Toffer had gotten a job working with a beloved Disney character (I’ll give you a hint: Bouncy, bouncy, and bouncy).  Toffer would be leaving in a few months and Ryan was considering leaving too.

Several months later Toffer was gone at Disney and Ryan announced that he would be leaving as well to begin an internship at Disney that could lead into future full time employment. I, naturally, pressed him for details about the Disney College Program. He said he just found out he was accepted and that I should apply too.

“If I got in you would definitely get in,” Ryan told me.

I was hesitant. I was unsure. It would be a big deal, leaving home, my family, and friend. Also I’d be living on my own for the first time. I’d be gone for several months, which meant I’d miss Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and more. I had work to do, I had school to finish. I loved Disney, but I was afraid to make that commitment.

Ryan, just weeks before leaving, pressed me again to consider it. “Just apply,” he said, “You miss Disney. You can go back there, they’ll definitely take you”

I tossed the idea around. I was still unsure but I went home that night and applied. After I finished the preliminary application and internet interview I was invited to undergo a phone interview. Within weeks I was accepted into the program.

I couldn’t believe it! It would be a huge step, a great undertaking! I phoned Ryan- who was already in Florida by then-to tell him the great news. He was ecstatic for me. He told me, “you’re going to love it here, bro. It’s so much fun, you won’t want to leave!”Florida map

The months before I left I did all the research possible into the Disney College Program. I read books-the most informative being Mousecatraz: The Disney College Program (2010)-, I raked through websites and blogs; I watched numerous YouTube vlogs and apartment tours and left numerous comments. I would be ready for this, most definitely!

Early in the morning I left LAX headed on a direct flight of approximately six hours for MCO. As I stepped off the airplane with carry-ons in tow, I breathed in that thick, humid late August Floridian air.  I was back in Florida!

I checked into my hotel, which was a five minute walk from the Vista Way housing complex, where I was to check in the next day to start my Disney adventure. Ryan met me at a nearby restaurant and had dinner with me. We discusses the program, what it would be like tomorrow and the next day, and I constantly repeated how excited and anxious I was to begin.

After dinner I lied in my hotel room bed, trying desperately to sleep. I still could not believe it: a whole adventure awaited, only a few hours away.

I heard countless stories of what happened in the Disney College Program. I heard numerous stories of cast member shenanigans, memorable guests, and magical moments. I heard people swear it was the best of times, and it was the worst of times. I was told that it would be like nothing I ever experienced before.

I was told my life, for the next few months, would be crazier than it has ever been. Boy, were they ever right!

Want to find out what happens next? Follow this link to Part 2: Welcome to the CP Life

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“Walt Disney World is a tribute to the philosophy and life of Walter Elias Disney… and to the talents, the dedication, and the loyalty of the entire Disney organization that made Walt Disney’s dream come true. May Walt Disney World bring Joy and Inspiration and New Knowledge to all who come to this happy place … a Magic Kingdom where the young at heart of all ages can laugh and play and learn — together”   –Roy O. Disney, Magic Kingdom Dedication Speech
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One response to “Memoirs of a Former Disney Castmember, Part 1: How it All Began

  1. Pingback: Memoirs of a Former Disney Castmember, Part 2: Welcome to the CP Life | The 2econd Star·

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