Okay, if you know me in real life (irl as the kids are saying today–I just learned that one) then you’ll know what I have to say next. If you don’t know me and want to skip to the Disney part of this blog, too bad, real life sometimes happens too.
My grandfather, grandmother, and the whole brood of grandchildren. Christmas 2011.
Four days after I arrived at the Disney College Program, the day before I was supposed to go through Traditions, I got a call from my father around noon that my grandfather had passed away early that morning. It wasn’t unexpected news, but expecting something doesn’t mean you can’t still be surprised by it. My grandfather, my father’s father, is someone who will always be remembered for his generosity, and his large and loving family. And, of course, his many wonderful delicious recipes. He would tell jokes, long story jokes, that my brother learned dutifully and would pass off as his own. When I was six, he taught me to play Yahtzee, and said he should bring me to Vegas to clean out that joint. I was six, enjoyed any attention I could get from adults, and for the next ten years proceeded to play Yahtzee every time I went to my grandparents’ house.
I got to see him last week, while he was in the hospital, while he was still talking.
I can’t talk about this any more.
I asked around to see if it was possible to go back home for the funeral on Monday and got the same reaction everywhere: sympathy while saying that my training could be pushed back by two or three weeks by any unexpected absence.
They said that once I got my real schedule (in like a week and a half) I could switch shifts for some time to get home. Which was totally unhelpful.
Meaning all the other grandchildren are there and I’m in the most magical place on earth. This is the weirdest juxtaposition of my life.
I never believed in putting my very personal life on the internet, but some of the rest of the story won’t make much sense if you don’t know what every other member of my family is doing this weekend. And why if there was ever a time I would wish to not be in Disney World, it would be now, just so I could be with them.
Okay. On with the Disney stuff.
Every single Disney cast member, from custodial staff to monorail operators to character performers, go through a job orientation called “Traditions.” This includes a brief overview of the company and the important aspects of the general job you’ll be doing.
Only thing missing from this is my name tag, which is very fancy and I asked them to redo because I am not really a Kathryn.
Hint: it has to do with making people happy. In the Happiest Place on Earth, that’s a top priority (not the top priority, which is safety, but safety is not nearly as awesome as creating happiness. Yeah, when you work at Disney, you’re expected to/get to create happiness out of thin air. And they do. And it’s awesome.)
Part of Traditions includes going through the tunnels under the Magic Kingdom. Notice there is no picture of this because cameras are very much forbidden and you can get fired on the spot. So: word picture.
Behind the Magic Kingdom is a bus stop that lets cast members off at Disney University/West Clock (did you know there was a Disney University? This is where we oriented ourselves. It has the best wall decorations I’ve ever seen. Also clean bathrooms.) From this bus stop you take another bus to the tunnels.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the tunnels. They’re not actually underground, they’re on the first level. All of the Magic Kingdom is built on the second level. There are pipes overhead that use suction power to get all the park’s trash over to big dumpsters. Most of where we were in the tunnels–from Fantasyland to Main Street–smelled like baked goods and Disney magic.
One of the best things to see is everyone mingling backstage in different costumes. This effect is even better at the apartment bus stops, where you can watch one person going to work at Expedition: Everest in Animal Kingdom, another on their way to Africa in Epcot, and they’re standing next to a cast member going to Tomorrowland and another heading off to Star Tours. It’s bizarre and makes me smile every time (that picture will come when I catch a cool crowd.)
Anyway, Traditions. We went through the tunnels then went up Main Street to see the castle and watch cast members in action. This was almost the end of our Traditions class. We had already gotten Mickey ears, and little figurines for answering questions, and we were pretty content.
Mickey Mouse was IN MY CLASSROOM!!
Until a very special guest arrived with out name tags.
Have you ever been greeted to your first day on the job by Mickey Mouse himself?
It’s pretty frickin cool guys.
And Traditions meant more than meeting my new boss and getting swag–it meant we finally got entrance to the parks! Which means, of course, Magic Kingdom.
If you ever have three hours in which to do the best of the best, follow our lead: parade, pretzels in Tomorrowland, Haunted Mansion, Tiki Room, Jungle Cruise, fireworks, Mine Carts.
It doesn’t have to be in that order but it should be because why ruin a good thing?
Definitely do a night cruise if you’re going to stop by the Jungle Cruise. Everyone is 1000% sassier. We got jokes about measles in Disneyland. Things get real.
(though nothing is more real than Eeyore doing a choreographed dance to “Let It Go,” which is the sight we glimpsed directly afterwards. Nothing in this world is more precious than that morose donkey standing in front of the crystal palace jamming to a musical number.)
Then Wishes. Which made me cry cuz I’m a sap.
My roommates left me this note when I got back from Traditions. MK means “Magic Kingdom.”
We grabbed Steak n’ Shake on the way home, talked about grammar, and I passed out in preparation for another 5 am wake up call.
5 am led to a distinctly less exciting school day. No Mickey, but lots more safety instruction from people who really loved Disney. Everyone really loves Disney here, which you think would be a no-brainer but leaves you with lots of ice breakers in case you needed something sharp to break through the January permafrost. “What’s your role?” of course but also “What’s your favorite movie/character/park/ride?” Everyone talks, for now, until we start work and 4 am wake up calls are the norm.
After a class that very closely resembled a high school schedule (5 am wake up? check. lunch tables segregated by ‘who’s hot and who’s not’? check) I headed back to the apartment to change before going out to Hollywood Studios.
And I tossed some laundry in because why not. Then I headed over to Hollywood Studios to check out what my costumes could look like (range from awesome to boring. What am I going to be doing?!?) and of course watch the best of the best shows, Beauty and the Beast and Fantasmic. I may be slightly obsessed with Fantasmic. I tear up every time. I rally am a sap.
Disney things I learned today: Fantasmic is my favorite thing in all of Hollywood Studios. Fantasmic is my favorite thing in the parks. I hope I still love it even if I watch it every night. There’s a hidden Mickey in the ballroom scene of Haunted Mansion. Also in the graveyard. You’ll have to visit me to figure out exactly where.
To my family: wish I could be there with you guys. I hope to see you soon.
To everyone else: Be nice to cast members. Keep on reading. I hope to tell you all the good parts.