Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Main Street Electrical Parade, Back on Main Street

I almost forgot that being here at Walt Disney World brought with it a very important thing: The Main Street Electrical Parade.

The Parade
It's been quite a while since I've last seen the classic parade, and I've only seen it on Main Street. We never messed with that California Adventure stuff.

In those many years, I've listened to the theme song dozens of times, in the car with my mom, on my iPod, wherever and whenever. It's got to be in the top 10 of my favorite Disney songs. It's got everything the essential classic Disney songs needs: an upbeat tempo, whimsy, and basically all the famous Disney songs worked into it. That last part definitely helps.

Now, I'm not the biggest Disney parades fan. I watched them when I was little, but when I was little, there were much better. So it could be me aging that caused me to become disinterested, or over the ages the parades provided little to be interested in. I mean, c'mon, I grew up in the era of the Lion King parade and the original Main Street Electrical parade. I was spoiled.

One of the newer features, using the same tech
used for Madame Leota in The Haunted Mansion
 and Buzz Lightyear on his Spin

To prove my devotion, I waited on the curb, alone, surrounded by Brazilians. Our culture over here in the US, it's not anything similar to those down by the Amazon. Their sense of space is nonexistent, something us Americans don't understand. One person picked up my bag without warning, and when I snatched it back, his "Sorrrr-eee" made me look like the bad guy. But I could deal, because I was about to see the ultimate parade of my childhood.

And then the lights on Main Street went out, I stood up, and the thousands of lights began making their way down Main Street, and that familiar tune began pumping through the Magic Kingdom speakers, and I became giddy.

It was just as I remembered, with al the different Disney characters and their accompany techno music. There were some new tweaks, but overall, it kept its classic integrity, even after the trip from California to Florida.

Lucky for me, I'll be working in the park most nights, so I will definitely be seeing the parade again, and again, and again, and I'm alright with that.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Day Five, Gettin' in the Jive

Out of all the days that preceded real training, today was probably the second most important one, next to traditions, where I got my Cast Member name tag.

Me and my uni
Why? Because today is the day that I got my costume and got the final news on where I will be actually working. Turns out I got almost exactly what I wanted: I'll be working at Ice Cream and Popcorn carts and the Nut Wagon in Fantasyland. At least that's what I'm going to be trained for.

Since I got here, my work location has been my biggest question. I wanted some type of outdoor cart from the start, and that's what I got. Originally, I was not too keen about working at the Magic Kingdom. I wanted basically any other park. Like I've mentioned, Disneyland is the park that inspired my Disney devotion, so when I go to the Magic Kingdom, it seems almost sacrilege to me.

I don't feel like that anymore, so you can hold your white steeds. I've seen the light, and after being here for a couple days appreciate the Magic Kingdom for what it is: a inferior imitation of Disneyland, that is not Disneyland. I'm joking, kind of. It's it own thing and I'm learning to appreciate that. After seeing The Magic, The Memories and You!, the MK definitely went up a couple notches on my respect notch pole thingy. And, like I've said before, with the Fantasyland expansion, it'll be almost on par with its california forefather.  

Spaceship Earth has nothing to do with this post,
but I went there and took picture, and I think it's
gorgeous, so I'm using it. Deal. 
But back to Day 5. It was a day that started off at 4:50 for me. I had to be at Disney University at 7:15, which means I actually had to be there at 7:00, so I had to catch the bus that arrived there at 7:04, which got to my complex at 6:25, which meant I had to be at the bus stop by 6:05, which meant I had to leave my apartment at 5:55, and before all that I had to make myself breakfast. It was an early morning.

When I got to the Disney U, I met with my group and we got to tour the Magic Kingdom, getting to know the place we would work, and would no doubt be asked thousands of questions about.

While touring the MK, we got to go on Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, which I swear has a problem with its laser guns, because I keep on getting super low scores, and that's not how I do it at Disneyland. We also got to go on The Haunted Mansion, which stalled halfway through.

Then we had some computer training, which was as fun as computer training can be (Hint: it can't be fun). Finally, it was off to costuming where we got to get our threads. I'm pretty psyched that I got a simple uniform, and though the colors are odd, I get to wear shorts in the summer and a nice warm jacket now, and it's not horrendous, so I can work with it.

Tomorrow, I begin my first day of legitimate training, where I have to wear my uniform and all. I'm pretty pumped.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Day Four and the Mischievous Bus Driver

Day four, and the job finally gets started, kind of.

The training got started at least, which was quite the adventure. Mostly, the adventure was getting there. Here at the Disney College program, those of us who don’t have cars take the bus everywhere. Which means we rely on the bus drivers and a little bit of fate to get to where we need to be on time. Both those things turned out to amount to very little this morning.

My ride
I did my part, by getting up at 5:30 so I could make food, get dressed and be out of the door at 6:40 to catch the 7:05 bus that got to where I needed to be at 7:43 so I would be early for my 8:00 training. Everything was going smoothly at the Chattham square bus stop, the one nearest to my Patterson way apartment complex. A bus even got there early.

Then, all us trainees got on that early A bus to the Magic Kingdom, and when we arrived at Vista, the second stop on the way, the bus driver told us we all needed to get off, for there would be a bus waiting for us.

So we went to where the bus driver told us to go. And we waited, and waited, and then waited some more. That mythical bus never came. I called the bus services’s hotline number, and was told that there would be only one bus coming to where we were all waiting, and it would be at 7:50. Training for most of us was at 8, and it takes 15 minutes, on a quick trip, to get to the Magic Kingdom. We were not a happy bunch of people.

I decided to go over to the main bus stop, where an A bus, the one I needed to take, was leaving, filled to capacity. Another person called the bus hotline, and was told that the bus we were told to wait for was meant for people going to Traditions, the program most people from ou group had completed the previous day, where you get your name tags, which all of us had on, and apparently something the bus driver turned a blind eye to.

Eventually, another A bus pulled into the station, and when our angry mob of a group tried to get on, we were told to that we couldn’t get on. That was not the answer we were looking for. So kicked into a mob mentality, and were eventually let on the bus.

I got to where I was supposed to be at around 8:20, but our the people training us were understanding, see as about eight of us called in to tell them we were going to be late.

Then training started, and if you want to read about that, you’re a masochist and I will not enable your odd lifestyle by writing about it.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Traditions, and Seeing the Magic Kingdom through Disneyland eyes

 When I hear the word “traditions,” I generally think of the song from Fiddler on the Roof. Here at Disney, it means something completely different.

For the Disney College Program, "traditions" means officially starting the program and taking your final steps towards becoming a full fledged cast member.

Isn't it pretty?
Final steps as in watching a number of videos, and learning what makes the Disney company the fantastic business that it is. Most importantly, it means getting your Disney Cast Member name tag. Not to blow it out of proportion or anything, but getting my Cast Member name tag is probably the third most important event of my life, only less significant than my future marriage and future birth of my child, neither which have happened yet, which puts getting it at numero uno for right now.

Part of Traditions was taking a trip into the Magic Kingdom, a park I have not been too since I was 12, so it was a completely new-ish experience for me. I’m a Disneyland guy, so seeing this interpretation of Walt’s original Magic Kingdom was shocking. The part I first walked into was Main Street, next to Fantasyland which is quite possibly the least similar part of the Magic Kingdom in comparison to Disneyland. The whole time, all I could talk about was how different yet the same things are here at the World.

After Traditions was over, I ate a quick lunch of PB&J and Ramen (not eaten together) at my apartment and then headed back to the Magic Kingdom in my street clothes to visit with some friends. It was pouring, much like it was in the morning, so the park was nearly empty. The first ride we hit up was Stitch’s Great Escape, which was was Preston’s Great Disappointment. Essential it’s a cheap re-theming of the old Alien ride.
Main Street and Cinderella's castle in the rain 

Then we went on Space Mountain, which was much different than the Land version, but still pretty good. The two separate tracks were cool, and I found the ride itself pretty thrilling, though the sound system on the ride was nothing compared to the headrest speakers at Disneyland.

We also went on Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin and The Haunted Mansion, which were both essentially the same as in California. After that we went on Big Thunder Mountain Railway, which we got stuck on right out of the gate. We got to have a fun conversation with some extroverted cast members, and were given fastapsses to any one ride of our choosing, which we wisely used on Peter Pan.

After partaking in a few more rides, we watched 'The Memories, the Magic, and You,” a projected show that takes place in Cinderella's castle, using pictures taken that day and projecting them onto the castle, using different themes from a number of Disney movies. It was a truly innovative show that really scored some points with me for the World. I thought it better than even the “Wishes” fireworks show. ‘Twas definitely a great example of Disney magic.

But it’s late, and I’ve got training in the morning, and I don’t have much else to talk about from today, my third day in the Disney College program. So this is the end of this.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Day Two at the DCP

Then there were two...days of Disney College. Today was our day of rest, on a Thursday, instead of a Sunday, because Disney does what it wants to.

Well, most of it was about resting. We had to be at the Commons apartment complex down the street by 9:45 in the a.m., though here we just go by military time.

Getting pictures taken with Genie and Co.  
The meeting consisted of the housing people telling us what not to do if we want to stay the entire program. I’m going to be honest, I was a little scared throughout the whole thing. There were so many things listed that could get you “termed” or terminated, for. Luckily, most of it had to do with alcohol, which is not something I’m a huge fan of.

Then me and my roommates got to experience the bus ride to Walmart. It took about 15 minutes, depending on how long you stop in the Publix parking lot. We got all our food and such, and then we were on our way back, this time with an elongated stop at the Vista Way apartment complex. We finally got home, and just relaxed for a little bit. I even took a nap. Exciting stuff, and I’m sure you’re super excited to read about. Lucky lucky.

I decided to try out the pool later and do some laps. It was freezing, which was good for me, and bad for the people who wanted to play instead of work out in it. Sadly, it wasn’t cold enough detract them from getting in my way.

Throw yo hands up, the welcome party at Vista 
At 8:00, we headed over to Vista for the Arabian Nights welcome party, where we got precisely two free pieces of Dominoes pizza, a bag of chips and a soda. There was a DJ blasting music I’ve never heard because I live in the world of my iPod, and a huge line to take pictures with Aladdin, Abu and Jeanie. I didn’t partake in either, but instead watched girls hit on my roommate, fawning over him when he let it be known that he was going to be Goofy. You don’t get that kind of attention when you’re quick service food and beverage. But everyone’s got their job to do, and mine doesn’t involve heat exhaustion.

My roommate, Jacob, then took us over to his family’s timeshare, where they had authentic Gumbo waiting for us and freshly ironed shirts, so we would be prepared for Traditions. It was a great time, and the night ended with a group sing along of “Just Can’t Wait to be King” and “Hakuna Matata.”

Now it’s almost midnight, and I’ve got to get up at 5:30 to get on a bus no later than 6:45 to participate in Traditions, where I will get my job location assignment, name tag, and most importantly, my Disney ID, which can get me into all the Parks here, for FREE. Life will be good.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

First Day at the Disney College Program

It’s over, finally. “It” being my Disney College program orientation. It’s a day I’ve been looking forward to since I was accepted to the program last year. Then the day finally came, throwing me into a nervous flurry, and a couple of weeks prior to the big day, I just wanted it to be over with. When I got to the Vista Way apartments, saw the line, and that feeling increased tenfold. Lucky for me, that was only one of many lines I would have to wait in during my near eight-hour day.

Patterson, where I live
First, I got to meet my room mate, Livingston Denegre-Vaught, who was kind enough to give me, and another DCP Cast member, Darius, whom I met in the lobby of my hotel a ride to Vista way. All three of us had packed as much as possible, and Livingston and his mother had rented a compact Kia. The luggage was packed so tight, seat belts would have been redundant.

Then we arrived at Vista, and got to wait in line and meet some more DCP members, all of which lived in either Texas or to the East of it. Not many people from the West coast here, I guess they all went with the familiar. Not me, I want to learn as much about the domestic Disney parks as possible.

Then we got to the front of the line, signed some papers, then signed some more papers, then some more. We got to choose where we lived, and Livingston and I chose the newest apartment complex, Patterson, in a three room apartment, so we have four other room mates. Well we should have four others, but one never got here, so the first person Livingston and I met, Jacob from Louisiana, gets to have the room to himself, for now. Lucky him.

It was back to the busses it was back to Vista at 12:30, so in between we ate lunch and unpacked, which consisted of putting our bags in our rooms and taking off.

We got on a bus and it was off to the casting building, where I learned that I will be working outdoor quick service food and beverage at the big kahuna, The Magic Kingdom. Our fingerprints were taken, we got instructions for the next couple of days, and finally got a PhotoPass picture taken to commemorate the busy, monumental day.

The casting building, where I spend a good portion of the day
We were wiped out, me having only gotten 5 hours of sleep due to my West Coast time zone state of mind and general excitement about the day. We had to go shopping at Walmart for some of the essentials, then came back to meet our other room mates, Cameron from Texas and Sean from Detroit. To celebrate the end of the day and the meeting of new friends, we headed over to Downtown Disney and had some grub at the House of Blues, where I polished off everyones’ plates that didn’t finish. Now it’s 12:51 a.m., I’m writing this and about to go to bed. Then I have to wake up in time to get to the 9:45 housing meeting.

It’s been busy, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been exciting, even with the monotony. The day after tomorrow, I get to participate in Traditions, where I will get my Disney ID and name tag. Then, on Saturday, training starts and the whole thing gets rolling!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Day Is Here: Flying to Orlando

I write this as I sit in the Sacramento International Airport, with my over sized carry-on and overstuffed backpack accompanying me. It's currently 11:40ish Pacific time, and my flight is on time for 12:35. After takeoff, it will be the last time I'm in the Pacific timezone for the next 7 months. My flight is set to arrive at 10:00 EST, or 7:00 Pacific time, making my two combined flights about a seven hour journey. I've got a layover in Denver, the first time I will have ever done anything in Colorado, and the thing I'm doing won't be much.

Terminal A-14 for Southwest Airlines
I just hope my bags don't decide they like the high elevation and skiing and decide to stay. It's been a long time since I'd had a layover during a flight, and my luck has been good up until now. Let's hope it stays that way.

M.S. (Like post script, but mid script, because it's in the middle) Have you ever had massive carry on baggage and tried to go to the bathroom? It's not fun. Now that you can't leave bags anywhere and have to take them with you, going to the bathroom has become a daunting task.

Packing was the nightmare it always is. Being an anxious person to begin with, be glad you weren't near when the clothes were going into the luggage. But I'm pretty sure I have everything. I should. Both my checked bags were as close to the 50 lb. limit as possible without going over. And I'm pretty sure my carry on is around 40 lb. (I don't understand why it's ok to put what would be the plus in 50-plus pounds in the overhead instead of the cargo area, but that's just how things are done, I guess).

I'm excited. Can you tell?
This trip will mark the longest continuous period I've ever been away from home, so leaving was quite a bit more emotional that it has been in the past. But I see that as a good thing, being in a place in my life where I have a lot of people around me who are sad to see me go, and I sad to leave them. I am truly blessed.

 It's amazing that this opportunity even exists. As someone who aspired to work for the Disney company, it's almost too good to be true (I say almost because things that are too good to be true usually aren't). The fact that I get to live in my version of Mecca for 7 months, Disney World is truly the place where Dreams Come True.

All of it starts tomorrow, when I get to meet my new roommate, Livingston (I think it's safe to say a room occupied by Livingston and Preston is a room of character) and move in, relieving myself of a bit of stress. Then two days after that, I get to participate in Traditions, where I get to learn more about Disney's fantastic history, and find out where I will be working 30-50 hours a week for the next 7 months.

For now now, I play the waiting game, which is a lot like Monopoly, except with no physical parts and it ends eventually.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

California Adventure in California. Why? Because.

Yesterday, the big cement CALIFORNIA letters were removed from the entrance of California Adventure, beginning the remodeling of the California Adventure entrance. 

A sketch of the future entrance at California Adventure 
So, what did the imagineers think to change the entrance to? A retro, 1920's look.

Apparently, Hollywood Studios over at Walt Disney World exists in a 1920's bubble, because California Adventure's proposed entrance looks identical to the one in Orlando.

Which brings up a bigger issue, in that California Adventure is like Hollywood Studios in more than just that one way. Both parks have a "Tower of Terror" attraction, "Toy Story Midway Mania," "Playhouse Disney—Live on Stage!" (soon to be some Disney Jr attraction) and "Muppet Vision 3D." That's quite a few attractions for two parks that are supposed to be different.

The current entrance at Hollywood Studios in Orlando
Now, the two parks do differ in quite a bit of ways, having different landmarks designating each park, but that would detract from my point.

If you've looked through my past posts, I'm not the biggest fan of California Adventure. I've always though that it's like been the U.S. pavillion at EPCOT, just on a full-size park scale with a billion dollar price tag. If people want to see California in California, then they'll take a drive around the state they're already in. And the things that intrinsically make California Adventure what it is are either run of the mill (Grizzly River Run), or the opposite of what should be in a Disney park (Paradise Pier in general).

So what are the best parts about California Adventure? The things that are most like Hollywood Studios. "Tower of Terror" is the most thrilling ride at both parks in Anaheim, the new entrance is going to be fantastic, and "Midway Mania" always has the longest line in the park.

Besides that, nearly everything that's going into the re-theming of California adventure that isn't Cars Land (Which is also rumored to be moving into Hollywood Studios in the near future) is to make it looks like a 1920's Hollywood. HOLLYWOOD. The park wants to be Hollywood Studios, as it should be (a Rockin' Roller Coaster in CA wouldn't hurt). So just let it.

DCA's Version
When Disney and MGM split ways, Disney missed a great opportunity, because at that point, they could have switched the names of the two parks, "MGM Studios" being renamed "California Adventure," and "California Adventure" becoming "Hollywood Studios." The park in Florida could have expanded, making it more than just a half day park, and the one in California would have a less specific theme to work with, giving it more freedom and making it a better all around park.

But alas, they didn't, and it probably would have cost a lot if they had, seeing as at California Adventure they'd probably have to take out Grizzly River run (shucks) and retooled all the other California inspired areas of the park.
WDW's version

But one thing still rings true: the Hollywood part of California Adventure seems to be taking over the rest of the park, and rightfully so. It's got the most potential and one of the best rides. And if, as an LA Times article discussed, phase one of the California Adventure upgrade/expansion is successful, phase two will go into effect, making the Hollywood portion of the park even bigger, with a Hollywoodland era around the "Tower of Terror" speculated to be built along with a  Club 33-esque Carthay Circle Theater club.

I'm not complaining that California Adventure is becoming a Hollywood Studios West (even though Hollywood is in the West), in fact my feelings are the opposite. If the California Adventure is going to copy Hollywood Studios with such dedication, it should just pull a Magic Kingdom and do a blatant loose interpretation of it. I don't think anyone would be sad to see the park stop going along with an uncreative theme thought up by a money crazed, cheap CEO who is remembered in such a negative light.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

So, Explain this Disney University Thing

Today is January the 4th, 2011. That means it’s 14 days, or exactly two weeks before I get on a plane at Sacramento International, and then 8 or so hours later, get off in Orlando (I get to stop in Denver first, just to feel what freezing is like before I head off to the tropics.) Then, one day later, or 15 days from today for those of you who are doing the math and are having trouble adding that 1 to 14, I start one of the most important experiences of my life: The Disney College Program.

The original plan for EPCOT: Want to hear about it?
I’ve talked a bit about my upcoming experience, but now that it’s so close, I’ve got a completely different perspective on it.

Having come back home, I encounter people almost on a daily basis who are curious about the program, making me a sort of ambassador for the program, which thus far I’ve only been accepted into, having not experienced a day of the actual thing.

My most bare-boned response to their inquiry: “It’s a work study program, emphasis on the work.” I feel like a chump explaining it to people, because I only know what I’ve read, so I’m sort of giving them a cocktail of plagiarism and summarization.

I’ve also found that people have a preconceived idea about the program, that it’s more exclusive than it is, that there’s more “college” involved in the College Program, that it’s in Disneyland, even after I’ve said “It’s at Walt Disney World” a dozen times, or that for some reason, I’m going to ditch the resort first thing and head over to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter as soon as I can, because allegiance means nothing.

Eventually I explain to my lucky listeners everything I know about what it entails, to which they usually exclaim “that sounds amazing!” or “that’s so you!” and I say “Yes it does/is,” because I’m a little literal and extremely sarcastic, but I try to sound sincere (I swear, I can turn it off for on the job customer service).

If my audience is fortunate, I then will go on to either explain the history of EPCOT, or discuss with myself how it’s a stepping stone on my career path with Disney.

What all this has helped me discovered about myself is that I’m tired of explaining the program from the perspective of a prospective cast member. I want to do this, and I want it bad.

As with every thing, the closer the day comes, the further away it seems. But it really isn’t that far away, and when I think about it, there’s quite a bit to do before the important day of the 18, like say, booking my hotel room for the night before.

Better get on that.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Seeing Old Movies in New Way: The Commentary

Christmas is the time of giving and receiving, and I did a bit of both. What I gave isn't that important. I could mention how my gifts are all practical yet thoughtful and fun, but I don't want to brag. Plus, this post is more about what I received.
The "Toy Story" Box Set

Specifically, it's about the trio of "Toy Story" Blu-Ray's I got. Now, I've seen all three films about as many times and as many ways as possible. In 3D, in 2D, on DVD, Sneak Previews, re-releases. Just about every format they've released the films in, I've seen it in. So, the Blu-Ray format was great, but I've seen the films so many times, I could act out just about every scene at this point. But, I had these new shiny discs in this fancy format, so I had to find a way to watch these classic, familiar films that would excite me. 

Now, I know I'm not the first to discover the new-fangled director's commentary bonus feature, yet I've found something new in something old.

Like I said, I've seen each of the "Toy Story" films enough to have memorized most of the lines from all three films. I'm not someone who typically likes to view a movie multiple times. So, when getting these new Blu-Ray copies of the movies, I decided to turn on the commentary for the first time and see what the people who made the films have to say about them. 

Well, it turns out they have quite a bit to say, and all of it is superbly fascinating. On the orignal "Toy Story," the commentary features not just the Director John Lasster, but also Co-Writer Andrew Stanton, Supervising Animator Pete Docter, Art Director Ralph Eggleston, Supervising Technical Director Bill Reeves and Producers Ralph Guggenheim and Bonnie Arnold. That may seem like one too many cooks in the kitchen, but the group makes it work. Having been the first feature length film from Pixar, its brightest minds worked on the film, and it's a real treat listening to them discuss the obstacles overcome to making the first full length computer animated film. Think of if we could watch "Snow White" with a commentary by Walt Disney. It's not the same, but it's close. 

With "Toy Story 2," the commentary is provided by Director John Lasseter, Co-Directors Lee Unkrich & Ash Bannon and Co-Writer Andrew Stanton, once again giving you insight from the top talent at Pixar. Since "Toy Story 2" was the studios third film, they often discuses the different computer models their recycled from "A Bug's Life" and the original "Toy Story." Pixar is also known for its easter eggs, many of which are pointed out in the commentary. 

"Toy Story 3" takes a different approach, leaving out Director Lee Unkrich, this time featuring Supervising Animator Bobby Podesta, Supervising Animator Mike Venturini, Production Designer
Bob Pauley,  Head of Story Jason Katz and Supervising Technical Director Guido Quaroni. And, with the Blu-Ray, it's on the Bonus Features disk, instead of accompanying the film on the feature disk. That took a couple of Google searches and a argument (Which I lost) with my mom to find out. After watching the first two films with relatively the same people talking about similar things, it was great getting a different perspective on how the film is made. Being the most modern Pixar film,  and having come 11ish years after "Toy Story 2," the advancements in technology have been tremendous, and there's really no one better to talk about that occurrence than the people so heavily involved. Despite being people who work in front of computers fulltime, they've all got a great sense of humor, and are a joy to listen to.

Overall, all three of the films have a very unique commentary, and all three are very enlightening. They probably aren't very interesting to someone who is only watching the films for the second or third time, but for a Pixar veteran, they're a great way to give new light to a classic film.  

Next up: The "WALL-E" Blu-Ray coming from Netfilx, so I can get the commentary on Blu-Ray without having to make my mom buy it. I can't wait!