Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Magical Moments

I haven't blogged lately, mainly because I haven't felt like anything has happened that merits being blogged about. I wake up, go to work, come home and go to bed, alternating with days off, during which I do nothing because I'm usually pretty exhausted. I went through a really bad couple of weeks where I just wanted to quit and go home. It was a combination of bad days at work, the weather, anxiety and a whole mess of other things. This program is definitely tougher than you'd think, but worth it in the end.

Anywho, I thought this would be a good time to share some magical moments that have happened over the last few weeks. My job is pretty demanding and thankless a lot of the time, which makes the magical moments that much more special.

The first was when I was working with Daisy at the flagpole in Town Square. It's a tough location because she's very visible, and it's the front of the park so people are overexcited. As a result, her line is l-o-n-g all day. It's also in the direct sunlight, and on this day it was about 85 degrees. Needless to say, it was not the best. At one point, a Make-A-Wish family came to my line, so I asked the family at the front if they would be willing to let the Make-A-Wish family visit Daisy before them. The mom gave me a funny look when she said yes, which I thought was strange, but I didn't think anything of it. I showed the Make-A-Wish family to Daisy and turned around to see the mother in line crying. I asked her what was wrong, and she explained to me that last year, Make-A-Wish had granted her own daughter's wish to visit Disney World. Her daughter was standing in line beside her, in remission from the cancer the doctors thought she wouldn't beat.

A couple days ago, I was working at the Glade, which is where Tiana and Naveen normally hang out. Two women were waiting in line with a little girl when I heard them start arguing. It’s impossible not to eavesdrop, and I get the gist that one of them had lost the little girl’s autograph book. This wouldn’t have been so bad, except that they had spent all day waiting in line to get autographs. I radioed my captain, explained what had happened and asked him if he would get an autograph book from the store so I could go and find some of my character friends to sign the book. He went and got the autograph book and managed to get Tinkerbell, Terence, Pluto, Chip and Dale, Goofy, Donald and a few others to sign the book. I went over to the little girl and handed her the autograph book, explaining that my friends heard she lost hers and that while they couldn’t replace what she’d lost, they thought this might make her feel a little better. Her mom honestly started crying, hugged me and told me that I had made their vacation.

The last magical moment that really made an impact on me was in Town Square Theatre with the princesses. A little Make-A-Wish girl in a wheelchair was waiting in line. I struck up a conversation with her, which I do with a lot of little kids, but she really made an impact on me by how adult her speech was and how clever and funny she was. I started walking back towards the front of the line when the little girl’s grandmother stopped me and told me that the little girl’s last wish was to dance with the princesses at Disney World. So, I went up to Aurora, Belle and Cinderella and asked them if they wouldn’t mind dancing with the little girl when she came up. Of course, being the gracious princesses that they are, they each spent a good amount of time visiting with her and all three twirled around with her. While the little girl was dancing with Cinderella (who is the last princess you meet in Town Square Theatre in case you didn’t know J) the grandmother pulled me aside and told me that I had granted that little girl’s final wish. She said that if everything else went completely wrong today, the girl would still be happy because that’s all she wanted from her trip. I am not going to lie, I almost started tearing up at this point because that girl was so smart and funny. And for the record, I don’t like children, so she really made an impact on me.

Things like this make the bad aspects of my job a little bit easier to manage for sure. I do think that I am one of the few people in WDW who can really make or break someone’s vacation. And when I stop and think about how much parents sacrifice to bring their children here, and how it’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime trip for so many people, it does make me want to try harder to make it unforgettable.

And every post is better with a picture, so here’s me and Jack Sparrow from One More Disney Day J

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day! And Face Character Auditions!

So I've been sidelined with a nasty migraine for the past four days, to the point where I actually had to call into work for two days. Not pleasant. And just an FYI, if you do happen to get sick and you need to call in more than one day in a row, it's OK. I found out that they will still give you a point, but as long as it's a continuous illness, they will only give you one point, even if you're out for three days. I got a doctor's note, which I'm hoping will maybe give me some leeway and hopefully get the point off my record, but if not, it's not the worst thing in the world.

Anywho! Yesterday morning was the Face Character auditions at the Animal Kingdom rehearsal facility. I gave away my shift specifically so that I could go these, because Disney asked that nobody miss a scheduled shift to attend the auditions. The audition didn't start until 9, but they asked that people start showing up around 8. I took the bus with a couple friends and we got there at 8, and the line was already out of control. There was an unbelievable amount of girls there. We stood in line until our turn and then they measured us. The woman doing the measuring told me I was 66" and to remember that number. After that we went to a table with a woman sitting behind it who asked us to write down our names, heights, and gender (which was silly considering Disney had advertised this audition as a female only for CPs), and gave us numbers. I got to be 279 After that we sat down on the floor in this gym-like room until 9, at which point a guy came out and said they would be taking us back in groups. I think 450 girls showed up to this audition, this building was jam-packed with people. I ended up being in the third group of people to go back. When they called us, they first took us to this big dance room and had us line up along the walls in numerical order. They took groups of 50 at a time out of the room while the rest of us waited.

When my group was called, they took us down the hallway to a smaller dance room and told us to line up in rows of 10 on these markers on the floor. There was man and a woman standing at the front of the room waiting for us. The man happened to be the guy who coordinated the first audition I went to in Minneapolis for the CP, which was a nice little coincidence, but he wasn't really in charge here. They told us they were looking for girls for the "core princess group", which was nice to know since on the audition flier there were no specifics on who the audition was for. The woman told us that we would move forward in the room in groups of ten and all that would happen is that they'd look at us. If they liked you, they'd call your number at the end and you'd move forward in the auditions. That was it. They also made it a point to tell us that just because our number doesn't get called doesn't mean we aren't attractive, it just means that we don't have the features they're looking for in the characters. They also said that if we came up to them afterwards and asked what we could do differently, they'd say absolutely nothing, they don't want anyone crash-dieting or changing their face to get a face character role. That just sounds insane to me, I can't imagine getting plastic surgery JUST to be a face character. Definitely not worth it.

At any rate, they looked at the groups of 10 pretty quickly and at the end they only called out two numbers. It's kind of depressing but at the same time, we're all in the same boat as almost everyone else, so I'm not going to let it get to me.

I think the audition is a good experience and I think that everyone should go to one at least once, but it's also really unnerving. Not because of the casting directors, but because of all the other girls at the audition. I have never felt like I was being judged as much as I was yesterday. At one point when I got up to go to the restroom in the big gym, every single person in that room watched me walk out. It's a really terrible feeling. Wouldn't it be nice if we as women could stop hating and judging for like 5 minutes and realize we're all in the same boat? Good lord.

I'm also in the process of trying to think of more blog topics but it's hard because it seems like I do the same thing every day at work. So we'll see how I do as I go along.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Day Numero Uno: Teacups

Today was my first official workday. And it was crazy.

I got to work pretty early, just so that I’d have time to figure out where I needed to go and get myself checked in and whatnot. But I overestimated how well I know my way around Magic Kingdom. I checked in at the Entertainment base and they had a another girl who works in Entertainment walk me upstairs to the Teacups where I was stationed today. Normally, it’s the White Rabbit and Alice, but Alice was playing in the Queen of Hearts’ rose garden today, so Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum made a special appearance. The thing about special appearances is that it makes guests go crazy, because it’s someone they wouldn’t normally be able to see. Which means really long lines, no one listening, and people getting angry when the Tweedles needed to go check in with the Cheshire Cat. Yikes.

At one point, a family came through my line and the little girls had forgotten their autograph books at home, and they were scrambling to find park maps and such. I handed all of them notecards so they could get the White Rabbit’s autograph and they were really grateful. After they were done, the littlest girl came up to me and handed me a Thank You card, which seriously made my day.

How cute is this!?

I also underestimated how hot Florida is in the “winter”. Everyone was saying how it actually gets cold here in the winter, like down in the 30’s and 40’s. I have yet to experience that. All I can say is that if you have a job in the sun all day, get your job’s corresponding hat at costuming. And wear sunglasses and sunscreen. I would have been absolutely fried today if I hadn’t. An interesting little tidbit I read too is that if you eat 5 tablespoons of tomato paste and 2 teaspoons of olive oil per day, it can increase your resistance to sunburn by up to 40%. It’s something about the lycopene in tomatoes and the olive oil aids in absorption. It could very well be completely in my head, but I think it’s helping. Just an FYI :]

I also got my first Make-A-Wish family today, which was pretty heartbreaking. When a Make-A-Wish child comes to Walt Disney World, they get a card that says they can bypass the lines for attractions and also the lines for character meet and greets. When it comes to the meet and greets, attendants ask the person at the front of the line if it would be alright if the Make-A-Wish family goes before them, and most of the time they say yes, which is really nice. It’s just a really eye-opening thing, at least for me.

Yesterday was my first day off since I’ve been here, so I went to Animal Kingdom with a girl from training and her roommates. I got there later in the day (overslept of course) and I had never been before, so we got to do Everest and the Festival of the Lion King, which was absolutely breathtaking. My jaw dropped the entire time, it was so good. We ended the day with Kilimanjaro Safaris at about 4:30, which must be the perfect time to go, because we saw all (and I mean all) of the animals. I took some really great pictures, so I’m including them to end on a happy note :]

I can never like Wildebeest because of The Lion King

Second-favorite animal on the Safari (Giraffes will always be #1)


Try and tell me that doesn't remind you of Mufasa.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Final Training Day

Fourth and final day of training – completed! Actually it was yesterday, but I was too tired to post about it then. It’s a funny thing, because I don’t feel tired when I’m at the parks, but as soon as I get on the bus to go home, it’s like I just lose all my energy. I make all these great plans to work out and clean and Skype people at home, but that has not happened once yet. Hopefully I’ll get used to this schedule again soon and it won’t be so bad.

Anywho. Yesterday started out in Epcot Entertainment again. We went over more rules and things and then we played with the characters before lunch. I was super excited because I got to play with Gideon (from Pinocchio). After lunch, we played with the characters some more and this time I got Gideon and Foulfellow (also known as Honest John). I was SO excited about my characters, because those two almost never come out to do meet and greets. But it was somewhat difficult too, because most people didn’t recognize them, and Foulfellow is really tall and kind of intimidating. It’s hard to convince people to come visit with them when Mickey is standing right next to them, but they still got quite a few visitors. I know that most of the time I will be working with more popular characters, so this probably won’t be an issue.

At the end of the day, we had to take an assessment to make sure that we actually understood our training (HA!). It was easy, but I’m getting a little bit nervous at this point. I hope that I actually absorbed the information I was supposed to and I can actually do my job. My first official day is tomorrow, bright and early at 8:15. AND I get to work with Alice at the Teacups. I don’t think people fully appreciate just how much Character Attendants are doing and how much they have to keep track of. It is definitely not just standing by the line and taking pictures for people, like I thought.

On a lighter note, yesterday was the welcome event for my arrival date. I took the bus to Vista with a girl from my training group and her roommates. They had free pizza and drinks and a dancefloor type thing. And of course, we had special visitors. :]

And with that, I will try to blog again soon!

Monday, January 30, 2012

SO close to finally starting my job for real!

Day three of training and only one more to go!

Today was very short and sweet, blog-entry-wise. We spent a couple hours this morning going over stuff we already learned (safety for the characters, handling guest situations, etc.) and then we worked character meet and greets in Epcot. I worked with Chip and Dale, Goofy, Tigger and Mickey, which I still can’t even really believe. Seriously, how many people get to say that's their job?

Some things to keep in mind about being an attendant:

A) Once a character comes out into the park, ALL of the guests go nuts. All of them. Age means nothing.

B) Guests don’t listen. Like ever. Part of our job includes forming lines to meet characters so that it’s not just a giant mob, but that is close to impossible to achieve.

C) You are simultaneously a photographer, entertainer, small-talker, organizer and watchdog. There are a million things to keep track of all at once. Oh and you can’t be shy. At all.

Despite all of this, it was still by far my favorite day on the job. And it all makes me really excited to finally start working full shifts and be done training. I seriously have the best job you can have on a CP. For real.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Day 2 of Official Character Attendant Training

Sooooo getting the motivation to write blog entries is much harder than I thought. This program is absolutely exhausting. But in the best possible way :]

On to Day 2 of Training!

We started out the morning in Magic Kingdom, where we got to tour the Entertainment department again. It was more or less a repeat of the Welcome to Entertainment tour. We also watched some current Character Attendants in MK working with the Princesses, which was amazing. I revert back to a five-year-old in the presence of characters, so I will need to get over that. But seriously, does anyone ever not freak out a little bit when Cinderella waves at them? Didn’t think so.

From there we went to Animal Kingdom and viewed their Entertainment rooms. DAK is a really small park comparatively, so they don’t have much and there aren’t many people stationed there.

After that we went to Hollywood Studios and observed more character attendants (this time it was for Winnie-the-Pooh, Handy Manny and Jake the Pirate). We were supposed to be watching the attendants but it’s SO hard to not watch all the cute little interactions with the characters. It also makes me insanely jealous for obvious reasons.

Then we took a little break and ate lunch until it was time to meet at Epcot. There we practiced little scenarios with each other and then we actually got to host some meet and greets in the park. I was stationed with Donald and Daisy, and let me tell you, I am still infatuated with them even afterward. I had a little bit of trouble with a guest getting mad about not being able to take a picture but nothing too major. There was a Make-A-Wish family at one point, which was really sad but it makes me really grateful. All in all, it was a pretty good, successful day. But I think people planning to do the CP really underestimate how difficult and tiring this job is. For me, standing in the sun for even an hour is exhausting, so I can’t imagine what I will feel like after eight. Just a little something to keep in mind when picking your job. I still wouldn’t trade being a character attendant for anything (well, except for Character Performer), but it’s a tough job.

Tomorrow we are supposed to be reviewing some more inside before we do more work with the characters.

On another happy note, I got a CP e-mail saying that Disney is hosting an audition for female character performer look-a-likes, which is really exciting. I auditioned for character performer for this program but obviously didn’t make it, so I’m really excited for another opportunity. I’m hopefully going to do an audition recap, but we’ll see how much time I actually have.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Welcome to Entertainment, Training and More!

This is SO much busier than I anticipated! I meant to try to blog every day during training so I don't forget anything, but that's probably not going to happen.

I had Welcome to Entertainment on Thursday, which is a class for Character Attendants, Performers and Photopass Photographers. I can't really go into great detail about this class because it's somewhat secret information and I don't want to spoil anything. BUT there is quite a bit of safety information, some computer classes and such. We also got some general information about working in Entertainment, such as things that we can and cannot share with family and friends, questions we'll be asked by guests, etc. It was pretty interesting, but a fairly slow day.

On Friday, I got to take a tour of sorts of the park. It was pretty behind-the-scenes and full of cool history stuff. It was also a short day, so that was really nice, but it started super early in the morning.

Today I had my first day of official Character Training! Whoo! This was by far the best day, because we FINALLY got into role-specific information. Again, a lot of this is stuff I can't talk about, but just know that if you ever happen to be a Character Attendant, this is the day it starts to get good. It was also the longest day by far but it went by super fast. And we got to watch The Little Mermaid for no apparent reason. We also got the little red ribbons that say "Earning My Ears" to add to the bottom of our nametags. This is kinda neat, it's their version of employee in training. What's really nice about them is that you get to choose when you take the ribbon off. The other thing that was a huge emphasis today was the Disney Look. Because we are technically working in Entertainment, we are required to follow a little bit stricter dress code since we have so much guest interaction. We went over little scenarios we might have with the guests, and things we could say when the character's set is ending. I also got my schedule for the next week, which had the locations where I will be working first, and I'm ridiculously excited about that. After today, I'm really excited to start my role.