Reflections on My Disney College Program

©Julia Lillegard

It seems like forever since I blogged last.  And with good reason. . . it has been forever!  I’ve been so busy lately that I hardly get on my computer at all.  At any rate, I thought I’d share a few more thoughts on my Disney College Program.

My program ended May 11, 2012 – over a month ago!  It’s hard to believe that my nine months in Florida have come to an end!  I spent my last couple of weeks in Florida catching up on some last-minute Disney fun.  And let me tell you, did I ever make the most of my time in the parks.  I collected a few more autographs for my autograph book, a few more Sorcerer’s Cards for my collection (I have over half of them now), did a little pin trading and crossed a few more items off of the park guide maps.  As of the time I left, I managed to sample everything on the guide maps that didn’t require extra money.  I partook of cuisine from every pavilion in the EPCOT World Showcase, and I got multiple scores above 150,000 in Toy Story Midway Mania! (although I still want to hit 200,000.)  I experienced some pretty cool special festivities (such as the Food and Wine Festival and the Christmas parade), and I picked up some pretty great jokes on the Jungle Cruise, not to mention the kind of in-depth Disney knowledge that only a Disney geek or a cast member would know.  (Speaking of the Jungle Cruise jokes, I’m pretty sure that rhino actually did manage to “poke Ohantas.”)

I also made some pretty amazing friends at Walt Disney World.  I spent some of my last days hanging out with friends before I headed back.  I will miss my fellow toys from Toy Story Midway Mania! and my cousins from DinoLand, USA!  There’s nothing like seeing your friends from work show up in the parks on their days off when you’re working, or even when you’re not working, but playing in Magic Kingdom at 4 in the morning during One More Disney Day, or somesuch.

That brings me to another thing that has amazed me: how Disney has a unique ability to create a bond among people from all over the world and across multiple generations.  My friends from work, my friends from the neighboring apartment complexes, and the guests I met on a daily basis were all brought together by one man, Walt Disney, and his dream.  No matter our native languages, or where we come from, we all grew up on the same animated features from the same entertainment company.  We know the same songs by heart, compare favorites, and sometimes confess to crying when Mufasa dies as “The Lion King” plays on the Disney Channel in the break room.  Disney stories, parks, songs and experiences are things to which we all can relate, and people of all ages can enjoy.  I’m glad to have contributed to the Disney legacy through my time in the parks.

My last days were also dotted with some special events.  The Night of Stars, the semi-annual talent contest, was good fun.  I had been in Disney’s Hollywood Studios on my day off and was wandering though the Streets of America, having completely forgotten about the event, when I saw a red carpet next to the more-or-less hidden theater in the Streets of America, and a group of college program housing personnel checking people into the event.  I decided it just might be worth my time, and I was right!  Fellow participants displayed their talents ranging from baton twirling to singing and dancing.  In the end, the top performers from several categories, as well as an overall winner, were chosen to receive Mickey statuettes.  Dan Cockerell, the vice president of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, as well as many other Disney cast members, participated in the judging of the event.  There was some pretty amazing talent on display, interspersed with a running tribute to the ’90s.  I certainly hadn’t heard some of those Brittany Spears songs for a while.  And afterward, since the park was still open, I treated myself to one of those delicious raspberry frozen lemonades.  (Just don’t tell my dentist.)

The Backlands Attractions area leaders had a special going-away party for the outgoing “CPs”  (as we are known in the world of Disney.)  After closing, we were able to go to Pizza Planet (a truly authentic Toy Story experience), where a mechanic put the arcade games into free play mode.  One of my colleagues set up a skeeball tournament, and the leaders provided us with popcorn and pop (again, it’s best that my dentist doesn’t know about the latter.)  I managed to tie my first game in skeeball, but lost in the rematch and thus lost out of the tournament in the first round.  I attempted to hone my arcade skills on the other games, with limited success.  It was a fun evening, and a great way to say “See ya real soon!” to the friends I made at Toy Story.

I’ve had so many great adventures on my Disney College Program.  There are countless people, places, and experiences that have helped me grow as a person, or at least gave me something to talk about.  I will never forget the times I had ringing in the new year at the Chatham Square bus stop with sparkling cider and grape juice, finding myself in the Italian-speaking corner on the C Bus, or skipping the country on a last-minute cruise to the Bahamas.  I’ve made friends from all over the world, and I hope to stay in touch with them.  The program was truly an experience worth having.  I’ve enjoyed sharing my experiences with you, and hope that you enjoy(ed) reading about them.

At Disney, there is a common belief that there should be no such thing as “Good bye.”  Instead, we say in the words of Mickey Mouse himself, “See ya real soon.”  Although I’m no longer in Florida, I don’t like to think that I’ve left Disney for good.  I don’t know what my next adventure will be, but I hope to reinstate my employment for Mickey Mouse sometime in the future.  And when that time comes, I hope to have more adventures to relate as I “work for the mouse.”  So don’t think of this blog as dead.  Maybe just hybernating, or on vacation away from Disney.  You never know when it might pop up again.  So until next time, see ya real soon!

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Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom

Times, they are a-changin’.  And so is the Magic Kingdom.  This, I believe, is a good thing.  Walt Disney himself once said, “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.”  I’m assuming the same goes for Walt Disney World, because the park itself has been constantly changing ever since its beginning, offering new experiences, attractions, and even entirely new parks.  Right now, we are in the process of unveiling a new Fantasyland, for instance.  And there is the matter of the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom.

Some of you may remember an earlier post of mine regarding my experiences on the Disney Dream.  (In case you don’t, you can catch up by reading it here.)  In this post I mentioned going on an on-board mission to solve mysteries with the Midship Detective Agency.  Well, that technology has come to the Magic Kingdom.  This time, however, the threat is much greater than stolen puppies or artwork.  This time, the forces of evil are likely to take over the Magic Kingdom, under the leadership of Hades.  Luckily, Merlin has taken initiative and is training more sorcerers by the day to help defeat said villains.

Several weeks ago, I started my adventure in Magic Kingdom.  I opted to go to the recruiting center by the Christmas store in Liberty Square, as the fire hall on Main Street, USA can get a mite busy these days.  There, a cast member assisted me with my wizard’s training and gave me six new cards and a map to start my adventure.  The map I was given shows where to find the portals of the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom.  It is drawn in a style reminiscent of those of Merlin’s day, and entirely suitable for use in quests.

The first card I got was a key card that will unlock my personal game.  I was also given five spell cards to assist me in vanquishing the forces of evil.  Each spell card is based upon a character or movie reference, and contains different properties.  I was quite impressed with them.  Rapunzel’s hair whip is probably my favorite, although Bolt’s Super Bark is pretty impressive, as well.  I then proceeded to traipse around Frontierland in pursuit of the evil Ratcliffe.  At each portal, I faced off with evil using my magic spells under the guidance of Merlin and (in this case) Pocahontas.  The chase led me from portal to portal throughout Fronteirland, and ended in an intense showdown at the landing of the Liberty Square Riverboat.  With the help of Pocahontas’ Colors of the Wind, the advice of Merlin, and the patience of my fellow sorcerers who are far better at this sort of thing, I was able to defeat Ratcliffe.  I was quite impressed with the quality of the portals, and how well they blend in to the theming when not in use.

While the day’s journey was fun, I decided that one adventure quite did me in for the day, and that I should leave the other lands for other days.   I finished the afternoon with a ferryboat tour of Tom Sawyer’s Island.  At the end of the day, I was quite impressed with the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom.  It’s an exciting way to spend a day while exploring the Magic Kingdom, and I’m sure the game will flourish in the years to come.

Adventures in St. Augustine

Old Town Saint Augustine. ©Julia Lillegard 2012.

It’s hard to believe, but for the first time in my young life, I spent seven solid months in the same city.  Even when I was in college, I went home for breaks, or I went on some trip or another to someplace nearby; but I spent seven straight months in Orlando.  This past Saturday (also known as St. Patrick’s Day), I broke that streak by going to St. Augustine with some friends for a girls’ day out.

I remembered learning about St. Augustine in history class, and it struck me as a really cool place to visit.  After all, it is known as the nation’s oldest city.  According to http://www.staugustine.com, “The City of St. Augustine is the nation’s oldest permanently occupied European settlement, having been founded by the Spanish in 1565.”  It changed hands between the Spanish and British twice before the Constitution of the United States was written.  I know that compared to the sights my brother has seen in Europe, this isn’t much, but for us in the United States, it’s kind of a big deal.  It was one of places that I never really believed I’d visit, but somehow wound up visiting anyway.  Sort of like Guatemala, Australia, and Canada.  Well, except for Canada – I’ve still never been there, but that’s another story.

I met up with some friends to carpool in front of my apartment complex at about 9 in the morning.  We stopped for a quick bite to eat at Chick-fil-A, and then were on our way.  The drive took us about an hour and a half, but it flew by.  The buildings even thinned along the way, giving me the wondrous feeling of not being in the middle of a city for the first time in quite a while.

Entering Old Town St. Augustine for the first time, I couldn’t help but feel that I was in a different country.  The architecture and feel of the place felt much more like the Bahamas or even Guatemala than what I think of as an American town.  This makes sense, considering St. Augustine has the only city structure in the United States to have been truly the fashioned after the Spanish style.  We passed Flagler College, an amazing architectural wonder, and drove among the narrow cobbled streets and sidewalks paved with seashell concrete to find a parking space in a pay-by- the-hour parking lot.  From there, we wandered the streets, stopping in stores and browsing as we went.  We found some neat shops and pubs, as well as a Greek Orthodox shrine.  Apparently, the British (who took over the Spanish settlement that was St. Augustine, in addition to founding the failed colony of New Smryna to the south) felt the Greeks would be well-suited to the Florida climate, bringing them into the area.  Greek Orthodox settlers built a beautiful shrine in St. Agustine, which still stands.

The Castillo de San Marcos was completed in the seventeenth century. ©Julia Lillegard 2012.

The oldest surviving structure in St. Augustine is the Castillo de San Marcos, which was completed in the late seventeenth century.  It is the only structure to have survived destruction of the city by invading British forces in 1702.  It has a very unique architecture, which includes sharp angles, sloping walls, and a long-dry moat.  Like the concrete in town, the bricks that comprise the castillo contain a large amount of sea shells.  These were accented by barnacles on the retaining wall by the shore.   The whole effect reminded me of Pirates of the Caribbean.  We walked along the outer walls and through the moat, but didn’t pay to go in.  We met up with another group for a bit, then split up for a while.

Walking the streets, we discovered a neat little mom-and-pop popcorn store, as well as some pubs.  Many people were indulging in St. Patrick’s Day festivities, so there was lots of music, green, and people dressed up in their Irish finery.  We stepped into the Basillica of St. Augustine for a few minutes and walked around some more before going to eat at a small restaurant.  I was torn between eating the traditional corned beef and cabbage or something slightly more adventurous.  Adventure won out, and I ordered my gator tail with little remorse.  It was quite good; my friend said it kind of reminded her of a mozzerella stick, and I have to agree.  The marmalade complemented it perfectly.  On the way back to the car, we stopped into a bakery for some gelato.  We left just before it started to get dark.

Gator tail with marmalade. ©Julia Lillegard 2012.

My day in St. Augustine was amazing.  Seeing the old buildings and reading the few plaques that I did inspired me to want to learn more about St. Augustine and Florida’s history.  If I ever get back, I would love to do more exploring of the area.  And of course I will be more prepared next time!

One More Disney Day

The Magic Kingdom on Leap Day 2012.

Rumors had been circulating for years.  With the coming of several milestones, there was talk that Magic Kingdom and Disneyland would be open for 24 hours straight.  It never materialized.  That is, until this year.  In honor of Leap Day, the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland were both open 24 solid hours, from 6 a.m. to 6 a.m. on February 29, 2012.  They called it “One More Disney Day.”  And yes, it was crazy.  Hundreds of people were waiting at the gates of Magic Kingdom at 6 a.m.  They were greeted by many of Disney’s most beloved characters, including the Mouse himself and his sweetheart Minnie (in their pajamas, no less!)  The mice did meet and greets at Main Street, USA in their pajamas before being whisked away to Disneyland to interact with more guests.

The park was packed with people claiming commemorative pins and merchandise in the morning.  The crowds subsided during the afternoon as guests explored other parks, but later in the evening, attendance was back up.  I was working that day, and saw many commemorative tee shirts, mouse ears and buttons come through Pixar Place during my work day.

The entire Leap Day was packed with activities and opportunities, including some that were special for the day, or offered at increased intervals.  For instance, “The Magic, The Memories, and You!” could be seen at 7:45, 9:00, 11:00, and 5:30 a.m., and there were two showings of the Main Street Electrical Parade. With the exception of scheduled down times for maintenance, several of the attractions were open into the wee hours of the morning.  There were also some special character meet-and-greet opportunities.  Phineas and Ferb came over from Disney’s Hollywood Studios for the night.  All seven of the dwarfs were with Snow White, and the ever-popular Jack Sparrow and Flynn Ryder made special appearances.

Like many of my colleagues, I went to Magic Kingdom after work.  I originally intended to stay for an hour or two.  I was going to check out the line to meet Rapunzel, something I’d wanted to do for a while, but never managed to wait in line long enough to accomplish.  I figured, “How long could her line be at midnight?  I mean, her line is usually pretty long, but in the middle of the night?”  Then I ran into some people, and walked around with them for a little bit.  Cue: Flynn Rider.  We walked by Rapunzel’s garden and saw Flynn with Rapunzel, as well as the line to meet them.  I stayed with the group for a while, then went back to stand in line.  And stand in line I did.  For about 4 1/2 hours.  And yes, it was worth it.  I can hang out in Magic Kingdom any day, buy Flynn Rider is hardly ever seen anymore, so I had to acquire his autograph for my collection.  Plus, I can safely check it off my bucket list.  I even had an enjoyable time in line.  I met a family from North Dakota, and a nice fellow CP from San Francisco.  I also ran into a cousin (read: colleague) from DinoLand, USA, who stayed for a while.  The people around me were quite pleasant, and the managers who came by to check on us were very nice, as well.  I’m glad I ended up staying.   I’m sure I didn’t make a whole lot of sense as I tried to talk to Rapunzel and Flynn when I finally met them at 3:30 in the morning, but they were very gracious.  I do remember that we decided that they were going to use my idea of a line of paintbrushes using Flynn’s color names (i.e. Pascal Pink.)  I expect a royalty check soon.  Rapunzel even allowed me to take Flynn’s arm, and assured me she was OK with it.  It was a fun evening.

I finished the morning with a stop at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe, the second-busiest eatery of its class in the world.  I had chicken nuggets on the go, and stopped to say “hi” to my roommate in Fantasyland before heading back home.  A glow was creeping over the horizon as I made my way to the Ticket and Transportation Center.  There was an incredible line at the bus stop, but I did make the second bus, thanks to the engineering of the bus driver, who got us to scoot back and stand back-to-back.  By the time I rolled into bed, it was 6 a.m.   I did get up at 9:20 to make food for our potluck at work, but I was surprisingly energized the entire day, and things went well.  It must have been the magic from Magic Kingdom staying with me.

Overall, the day was a success.  Everyone I met was pleased with the outcome (at least until it was time for the Magic Kingdom cast members to go home in the morning.)  All of the guests and many of the cast members were energized to be there.  Some of the guests took it to the extreme, visiting both parks in the same day!  I’d never take it that far, but I guess it did add to a spirit and energy that made the entire day magical.  And I know that many more magical moments lie in store at Walt Disney World.

Flora, Fauna, and Merry Weather

If you look closely, you can see that this bird is eating lunch.

It’s time for a post that has been a long time in the making.  I’m sure quite a few of you have wondered how this Montana girl is taking to the weather in Florida, and after much deliberation, I have reached a verdict:  I’m not.  I don’t like it one bit, and yes, I would rather freeze my  legs off walking through knee-deep snow drifts in 20 below weather than stand outside wearing polyester pants in 85 degree weather  in the middle of February.   I think I’m in the minority when I say that, but it’s true.

Intellectually, I knew coming down to Florida that the weather would be hot, and August was not going to be my friend.  However, I did naively hope that the weather would cool down a little in September.  When that didn’t happen, I shot for October, then November.  I kept asking people around me when the weather was going to be bearable, and the date kept being pushed back in my mind until I basically gave up hope.  November/December brought some relief, and I am eternally grateful for that.  The first time temperatures dropped into the 60s was such a relief.  I even got to wear the sweatshirt my sister sent me in September.  I have managed to wear jeans (comfortably, I might add), on numerous occasions, and especially since my new costume requires pants, I hope that my legs will return to their normal pale shade.  (It’s going to take a while.)

Weather in Florida can actually be as moody as the weather in Montana.  I’ve heard it said that if you don’t like the weather in Montana, wait five minutes and it will be completely different.  To some extent, that motto can be applied to Florida.  We have some pretty crazy rain storms  here.  They come and go extremely quickly, and sometimes multiple times a day.  (Working merchandise can get kind of crazy during these times, believe it or not.  Ponchos sell like hotcakes.)  Some of the storms can get a little nasty, and one day I was working an outdoor cart when we had a tropical storm scare.  It turned out to be OK, though.  Day to day, the temperature can vary greatly.  Once in January, the temperature actually fell to the 40s for a couple of days, then without warning skyrocketed up into the 80s.  You can never get to comfortable in one temperature range.  At least in January.

With the change in weather comes a change in vegetation.  Gone are the lilacs and caraganas of my youth; instead I am actually growing accustomed to seeing palm trees.  It’s still a little unsettling to see people cutting grass in February, but I suppose I’ll get used to it, too.

There have also been some peculiar creatures running around.  For instance, the entire area is filled with small geckos that scurry up and down (but usually across) the sidewalks.  There are also birds of a more tropical nature who prey on said creatures, as pictured above.  Another interesting creature is the love bug.  These things were going at it when I got here in August, and apparently the new season is already about to start.  They’re unlike anything I’d ever seen.  Let’s just say they come in twos and the birds and the bees have nothing on these things.  At least this go-around, I won’t have to deal with them floating in the ice of the merchandise drink carts, or stuck to the sides.  More than once I have been caught off-guard by the different animals and insects in the area.  When I worked in Disney’s Animal Kingdom and occasionally commented on the nature of a certain animal or insect, the usual response was, “Well, we ARE in Animal Kingdom,” accompanied by a roll of the eyes.  I can’t exactly use that line in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but it still lurks in the back of my mind.

All said, my time in Florida has given me a new perspective on weather and living conditions.  I am glad I got to have experienced an new climate, but I am eager to return to the old one.

Toys in Training! Adventures in Toy Story Midway Mania!

© Julia Lillegard

Arguably the most popular ride in all of Walt Disney World today is Toy Story Midway Mania!  The attraction is so popular that it runs out of Fast Passes by 10:30 a.m., and standby lines have reached 3 to 4 hours.  It’s completely insane.  And I work there.

My first day of training was last Wednesday.  I woke up bright and early for my 8 a.m. training time, when I met my trainer at the costuming location for Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  Like a good girl, I had already picked up my costume the night before, so I didn’t need to get anything.  From there, my trainer and I went to our work location to start training.

Since I’ve been in the Disney College Program since August and I’d already gone through Traditions and other College Program beginning-of-program sessions, I am one of the first in the new wave of CPs at Toy Story Mania.  This is a definite change from my last program, as there were plenty of CPs already working in DinoLand when I showed up.  Two other extending CPs were training at the same time, and there’s one more CP who extended in the same work area.  So far, I’m the only one extending from merchandise to my location.

Some of my readers may recall that for my first training, there was one trainer with two trainees.  This time, it was the other way around; the trainers outnumbered me.  Over the course of five days, I was trained/assessed by no less than five individuals.  (They took turns, of course; it would have been just plain too crowded otherwise.)  One of them was shadowing to become a trainer, and he remained constant throughout the process.  The others were only there for one or two days of the experience.

A customary example of my costume.

One of the first things we did was get a feel for the attraction.  This included the strenuous, but necessary task of performing a “ride through.”  Yes, that’s right;  I had to go on the ride.  Toy Story Midway Mania! is a slow-motion ride-through attraction featuring arcade-style games with 3D graphics.  Gamers use GIDs, or Gaming Interface Devices (read:guns), to aim at various Toy Story-themed targets throughout the ride.  For example, one game is themed after the green aliens; another is themed after the green army men.  Throughout the ride, guests  can compete for high scores, which are tallied at the end at the “game brain” game consoles.  The shadowing trainer and I rode through, and I must say that my score was relatively dismal compared to his.  He showed me some game secrets, and assured me that I would improve with time.

Next, I learned the basics of the ride operation.  We toured the facilities and observed various cast members in action.  We talked about what they did and got a little bit of experience by working in positions such as greeter at the front of the attraction and working in the unload area at the end of the attraction. We also walked around the catwalks, and were able to see the ride in action.  My trainer taught me a little about the layout of the ride, as well.

The next day, I came in early to experience a ride opening.  While I’m told CPs never open the ride, at least I will know how should the need arise.  It also gave me an opportunity to walk the ride track and see a little of what makes the ride run.  I learned about important safety features and procedures, such as the intrusion mats that warn of possible people or objects in the ride area, hidden phones, step stools, and wheelchairs placed strategically in the ride, and even how to evacuate a vehicle in case of an emergency.  Even being present for the opening procedure gave me a new appreciation for everything they (or we, I guess) do a Toy Story.  There is an elaborate opening procedure in which everything is tested and inspected.  The ride is powered up in a way that assures no one gets hurt, and everything is in tip-top shape for guests.

This system isn’t the only impressive thing about the opening of the ride.  As each of the cars “wakes up” in the morning, they make an “ooh” sound like that of the green aliens.  The effect reminded me of the tractor-tipping scene in Cars.  It’s not something the guests will ever hear; it’s just one of those things the powers that be designed for the cast members here at Walt Disney World to make our lives more entertaining.

Other roles at Toy Story involve parking strollers, maintaining the 3D glasses, and working with the Wheelchair-Accessible Vehicles (WAVs).  Perhaps one of the more intimidating roles for me was that of grouper.  If you’re like me, whenever you go on an attraction, you eventually come across a person standing in front of the ride vehicles who asks you how many are in your party and proceeds to tell you where to go with such confidence and swiftness that you wonder how that person did it.  Well, it is not as easy as it looks.  There is a lot of thought and math behind the loading system which I am only beginning to understand.  At Toy Story, two vehicles are in the loading dock at the same time.  Each vehicle has two turrets and seats 8 people, so the grouper divides people into eight rows of two.  To do that, one must pull from a main line and a “party of twos” line in order to fill in as many seats as possible before the vehicles are dispatched every 42 seconds.  All the while, as grouper you can’t always see what’s going on in the rows and people tend to move around on you.  It’s basically an invisible game of Tetris, but I’m getting better at it.

Last but not least are the consoles.  There are 8 consoles, referred to, in order, as Unload 1 Assist, Unload 1, Unload 2, Unload 2 Assist, Load 2, Load 2 Assist, Load 1 Assist, and last but not least, Load 1 (alternately known as Load Fun.)  For each of the two stations, the four people work together to prepare a vehicle to launch, and all four need to be pressing a button at the same time in order for it to advance.  Load 1 and Load 2 have additional responsibilities, including making sure people cross the tracks safely and making sure the track is clear of people through a special system.  It’s pretty technical.

Speaking of technical, Toy Story is one of the most complex Disney rides.  There are 18 vehicles on the track at any given time, plus several more in the maintenance bay.  Each vehicle has approximately 9 computers, and as a whole the ride has over 300 computers that work together to make it run.  I’ve been in the computer room and I must say that I can now understand why the ride doesn’t work perfectly all the time.  It’s amazing that so many computers can work together as well as they do.  But because of how computers are and the fact that our ride is extremely popular, we have our own maintenance staff on hand to take care of any glitches we might have.  This helps expedite the recovery process whenever the computers decide to stop talking with each other or throw fits on us.

As you can tell, there is a lot to remember when starting to work here at Toy Story.  However, I have already worked 10.5 hours without my trainer, and they haven’t terminated me yet, so I still have hope.  And if you’re ever in Disney’s Hollywood Studios and you have a Fast Pass or feel like standing in line for a minimum of an hour, you can feel free to come visit me!

On With the Show!

©Julia Lillegard 2011

Today was a very exciting day: Property orientation for Disney’s Hollywood Studios, a.k.a. “On With the Show!”  You may remember my first property orientation, DAKlimation.  This property orientation was similar in a lot of ways, but also quite different.

I arrived at the bus stop bright and early, about 29 minutes before the bus I needed to take, or one minute after the bus I intended to take (depending on how you look at it.)  At the bus stop, I met two new friends who were also going to my property  orientation.  One of us kind of knew how to get “backstage” at Hollywood Studios, so that got us off to a good start.  Once backstage, we asked for directions and took a scenic route that eventually landed us where we needed to go, with time to spare.  There, we met our trainers for the day.  They helped us sign in for the course and clock in using a wall clock, something I hadn’t done in quite a while.

Perhaps the first notable difference in On With the Show! when compared with DAKlimation is that we started with the walking portion of orientation rather than in the classroom.  What follows would be the conspicuous absence of sanitized, dried animal feces and examples of Disney’s recycled cardboard packing material.  That being said, the day was not totally unpleasant.

Our group split into two smaller groups, and each of our two trainers took half of the new recruits around the park.  Going on the tour made me realize again just how amazing my new park really is.  As with the non-DinoLand parts of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, many things in the park are designed from originals in other parts of the world, or at least in keeping with them.  For instance, some of the buildings are built in the style known as “California Crazy,” which is an out-of-control design meant to attract attention.  Also, The Hollywood Brown Derby is fashioned after a real restaurant, and includes several menu items to classify it as a genuine Brown Derby.  I only remember the Shirley Temple and something about a salad.  The Great Movie Ride is housed in a building that looks a great deal like Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in the real Hollywood, complete with the [authentic] signatures and prints of various stars on the sidewalk in front.  Our whirlwind tour took us through the entire park in just a few hours, but it inspired me to want to go back as a guest and spend more time in my new home park.  The food seems especially delicious,  with the incredibly thick milkshakes and family atmosphere at the 50’s Prime Time Cafe, the amazing car-like tables in the Sci-Fi Dine-In, and the very idea of eating at Pizza Planet just like the characters in Toy Story (which I’ve done, by the way.)

After our tour, we went into the classroom portion of the orientation.  We  learned that the park was started from an idea for a pavilion in EPCOT similar to The Land and The Seas.  Eventually, this idea became Disney’s MGM Studios.  It later was expanded from focusing just on movies to including a wide range of entertainment venues, including music and live theater.  This prompted the recent name change to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, a more all-encompassing title.  We then split up into factions with various trainers to do some computer training.  After that, we were free to do whatever we wanted – well, within reason, provided we clocked out on time.  I conducted my own research in my new area, meeting some very nice cast members along the way.  I then procured my new costumes before clocking out and returning home for the day.

Over all, the day was a very pleasant experience.  I think I’m going to like my new home park, and I look forward to the many adventures to come.  Now, it’s on with the show!