Saturday, September 20, 2014

Celebrating 15 years at Disneyland


When most folks reflect on their time working at Disneyland, we usually hear them say, "It was just going to be a Summer job." But, I'm a different person with a different story. I can say, "When I began here I had plans to stay as long as possible." 15 years later I'm still here. To celebrate Disneyland Cast Activities threw quite the party! 

The recognition of time worked usually comes every five years with a banquet. Having been to my 10 year banquet, I was looking forward to this week. It began in our office conference room on a Wednesday. Our supervisor put together a small gathering where we had cake and I was presented with my statue and name tag pin. It was a humble gathering attended by friends I've worked with during my time here. 


One of the attendees was Sandra. She opens the "it's a small world" attraction Monday through Friday and has been for years! Back when I was in Fantasyland as a lead, Eric and I worked with her.

 There are a lot of great times attached to this park for me. A lot of people remember moments as visitors, which I have too, but the ones that stand out the most are: feeling overwhelmed as I worked my first crowd control shift for Fantasmic, not knowing anyone well for my first few weeks at Star Tours, getting yelled at by a guest because something way out of my control happened, the first time I walked through Peter Pan with lights on, meeting Eric at "it's a small world", and walking through an empty Disneyland at night while holiday decorations are lit. With smiles and laughter, these were the sort of memories the group talked about as we ate our cake. 


Knowing the event would have many "open bars", we were dropped off at the event by my mother in law. I felt like a teenager being left at a party during high school, but safety first. 



The planners had rolled out the red carpet! The party was taking place in Frontierland, Adventureland, and New Orleans Square. As we entered the park, honorees were funneled toward the park's hub. We of course had to stop and take a photo, with Walt's apartment as a backdrop. After all, it was in his mind where the magic began.


As we reached the entrance walkway to the event, Cast Members and various managers were lined up congratulating everyone. If you look across the pictured banner you'll notice Disney gathers together people celebrating various milestones. Eric commented that those celebrating 50 years should have had their names displayed. I bet they have some great stories to tell! 

Eric and I chose to dine in Adventureland. Various buffet tables were spread throughout the area, as well as a few bars. We each began with red wine and then we figured we should probably eat. Right next to our table a band playing South American tunes was adding great atmosphere. The park really took on a different characteristic, while still holding onto its original charm. 


Although we were enjoying ourselves, we went in search of friends we knew were also celebrating 15 years. And maybe we also wanted to find the martini bar!

There was quite a queue formed for the lit up martini glasses! We had our choice of either Cosmos or Apple-tini. Both Eric and I chose the Cosmo.


A short time after, we located a few friends that were dining near the dueling pianos. Our friend Rita was also celebrating her 15th year at Disneyland. She also began in attractions, but she now works in Casting. Her and I became friends while working as schedulers. She is so funny and definitely has enhanced my time at Disney. 

Here are Rita and myself posing with Alvin, who also worked with us in the Scheduling Department. Do you like our glowing "15" lanyards?

Right alongside the martini bar, we came across another former "it's a small world" lead, Erin. The three of us ran that attraction with good humor, magic, and iron fists! Basically we had a fun time together, the best. She was standing in the martini queue, so we let her get back to it. We didn't want her and her guest to miss out on the glowing libations. 

As our little party within a party made our way to Haunted Mansion, we came across Princess Tiana and her gang. She was singing, along with Prince Naveen, one of my favorites, "Dig a Little Deeper"! And what perfection. She is from New Orleans, and here she was performing in her hometown. It was great fun to watch! 

Realizing we were approaching the time for the fireworks show, we held off on riding the mansion. We were lucky enough to see our pals Josh and Daniel. Daniel was also celebrating his 15 years! Soon after we saw them the firework show began, so I didn't get a photo with them. 


Just before we rode Haunted Mansion, we managed to get a quick shot with our favorite Duck, Donald! Here is a glance at the New Orleans Square dessert spread and dining area. What a party!


Once we stepped off the mansion we found ourselves at another martini bar. Well, there wasn't a queue, and it was only about 10:15 PM. We all had another round. Eric and I were lucky enough to see another "it's a small world" friend, Nieca. She was there for her 10th anniversary. Time goes so quickly. I remember when she first started. 


Minnie Mouse was also hanging about the area. She was all dolled up in her attire worn during Disneyland's 50th Anniversary. That was a big year for the park. (It's just now I'm realizing that I maybe didn't need to wear the name badge)

It was at this time we said goodbye to Rita and her husband Joey. (Should've mentioned Joey sooner. He works at Disney Imagineering and led the recent Juju craze in Adventuereland) Unlike Eric and I, Rita would be working the next day and their daughter was home with the sitter. 

There was still another honoree we had not yet seen. Our friend Melissa was there as well, attending with her sister Yvonne (former Cast Member). Melissa works in our office and we've known her for many years, at least 11. We found her right out front of the new Club 33 entrance. Although she has an injury she's been seeing to, she was giving it her all to enjoy the night. 


It was now nearing 10:40 pm and we wanted to sneak in a ride on Jungle Cruise before the final performance of the Golden Horseshoe Revue. As expected, the queue for the boats was a "walk on", but unfortunately our skipper was a little boring. Sorry, but I'm just being truthful. Either way, the night ended in an exciting way. Neither Eric nor I had seen the Golden Horseshoe Revue, so this was a perfect time to do it. The show retired after a 30 year run, but recently they've revamped it for special occasions or promotions. 

I text messaged both Melissa and our other coworker Steve (his 15th as well), and told them to join us. Being in a wheelchair that night, Melissa stayed in the back and Steve sat behind us. The performers were great and we could tell they had a fantastic time putting on the revue. I'm really glad we made it to see this. I feel like one of the last Disneyland fans that finally watched. Any other Disney parks fan would've seen this by now. 

When the show concluded we said our goodbyes and made a quick stop at the shooting gallery. There was no way we would pass up free game play! 

The time passed us quickly, but it is no surprise. Our night was amazing and filled with wonderful people. 


And it's really without wonder why these people are so great. We all work towards the same goal that was started by one person. That light in the window shows us that Walt's presence is still with us. But really I think I see it in the faces of our Cast. There's the custodian wiping down Tea Cups at 3 AM, the loader at Matterhorn in 95 degree heat, parking lot attendants out on a rainy day, and of course Eric and I waking up at 3 AM to head back to work. It's been an experience that will continue to evolve and grow. I look forward to the years to come. 


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Surfing Through a 10K Run

I think the more we participate in runDisney events, the easier it is to wake up at 3 AM. I'm sure it helps that it's our regular wake up time for work. 
I have to add that usually I have a little excitement the night before and I can't fall asleep quickly. This time around I had no problem sleeping. We had a long day. 

As I mentioned, we wake up around 3 AM for work. The Friday before the run we needed to pick up our race information. So after working ten hours we arrived at the Expo near 4 PM. There was a healthy sized crowd at the Disneyland Hotel convention center. The crowd flow was great and organized. Participants are sent into the parking garage, which was decorated for the occasion, then back out again to the halls. 

It was a hot day and we were ready to get back into the convention center. 
Eric and I didn't buy anything this time around. We did browse a few booths for men's active wear. The fashion was dedicated to women with character themed skirts and headwear. Don't these vendors know that men also wear clothes? We even wore clothes to the event to prove this. 

We were eager to get home. After a quick stop in the Official Merchandise store, we left. Eric and I had to make the same trek back to the car through a very hot Downtown Disney. I was crossing my fingers that the weather during the race wouldn't be as hot and humid as last year. 

Getting back to the start of our story, before the break of dawn.  It almost seemed like we were one of the first to arrive. Getting into the structure was so easy. I don't think we had seen this before. As it turns out, we had forgotten that both the 5K and 10K took place at the same time last year. This year they had been separated, a good thing. 

Here you can see we are ready to take on the world. (Translation : Take on the slope that dips under the hotel tram drop off....hate that part of the course)
I want to mention there was a slight, cool breeze happening!! No humidity like last year!  

As the participants gather with anticipation, all of our attention is locked on one individual. Kronk! 
This was the best costume we had seen that day. This guy even had Izma vocals and music from the film, Emperor's New Groove. I'm not sure how he dealt with wind resistance, but everyone loved it. Here's one more full body shot where Izma is shown. 

The route was the same as last year and that was a relief. It's great to know what you're in for so that you can prepare for the "ups and downs". 

As Eric and I made our way through the course, we kept an 11 minute per mile pace. We do enjoy character photo ops, but we didn't really see anyone that caught our eye. 
Apparently we were fine with photos of just ourselves! 
Eric used to drive this trolley through Toontown, during his attractions days.
The theme of Stitch/Polynesian/Retro Elvis was falling flat. I don't think I even saw Lilo out along the route. "Elvis" Stitch was near the river in Frontierland, but at that point we didn't feel like waiting in the queue. Running along the Rivers of America meant that we were almost through with this 10K! 

Both Eric and I paid homage to our friend Miley-chan, as we ran past the Pirates of the Carribean attraction. It was at that spot where Miley fell during the 2014 Tinkerbell Half. But, I think we promised not to tell anyone. 

We wound our way through Downtown Disney. Once we hit the Tortilla Joe's restaurant, that's when I knew it was almost over. This race had gone by quickly. I think it's my favorite length of a run event because it's all in good fun. There wasn't a moment where I had to negotiate with myself to keep pushing forward. I can recall whistling at one point, but I forget what melody I used. 

And look! They even gave us medals! We finished in 1 hour and 8 minutes. That's about 11 minutes shorter than last year's 10K, not bad! 

I can be seen here looking very awkward and hunched over. Not my best photo at all!

We also had a few pals running the event. Josh and Daniel joined in for the second year in a row. No one passed out and we all finished. Both Eric and I skipped the Half Marathon this year. I'm pretty sure we will run the Dumbo Challenge next Labor Day (run both the 10K and Half Marathon in one weekend). 

For the time being, Eric has the Avenger's Half in November. I'll train with him, and then cheer him on from the sidelines. I'm going to try and see him at as many cheering locations as possible. So, I guess it's a good idea I'll be training with him!!!