I was fortunate to spend a week in Anaheim exploring the land where Walt dreamed and walked. Join me over the next few weeks to experience the first-hand experiences of a Disneyland first-timer. From Cast Members to clothing and everything in between, you can see Disneyland through my eyes. If you’ve spent time in Anaheim, maybe it’s “I remember when,” or if you haven’t been to the land where it all began, now you can go with me!
Disneyland is known for many things, and some become the highlights of people’s vacations. Riding Haunted Mansion Holiday, snacking on a Matterhorn Macaroon, and maybe even meeting a certain mouse. But for me, none of these things were my favorite memories from the trip. My favorite Disneyland memory is reversing magic. Cast Members give magic to others every day but receive nothing (sometimes even worse, rude comments) in return. I decided to make it my mission to thank some often overlooked Cast Members by giving them a letter written from the heart. I told them that I appreciate all that they do to help make magic and how I want to become a Cast Member one day. I wasn’t sure how they’d respond, but what I didn’t expect was all the advice, hugs and pictures I would get because of this one small token of appreciation. It even caused one Cast Member to get down on one knee in front of me, but more on THAT moment later. Join me as I share some amazing Cast Member interactions that I was fortunate to experience in Disneyland last week.
First, I have to say that I gave these letters for a variety of reasons. I witnessed some Cast Members deal with rude guests, go above and beyond for my party, and some who just seemed like they needed a little magic themselves. One group checking into the Blue Bayou was VERY rude to the poor hostess when she couldn’t find their reservation right away. Ends up, they gave her a different last name than what the reservation was under. To try to turn her day around, I gave her a letter. I ran into some Cast Members who seemed really shy and quiet, so I gave them a letter. The first person to receive a letter, Ryan, took time out of what he was supposed to be doing to help for us. Ryan is one of those people who carry around the cool iPads attached to their hip and stand in front of bellhop services. Courtney (my friend who was amazing enough to invite me to Disneyland to celebrate her birthday with her) had just bought a ring that she wanted to wear that night for dinner, but the tag was still on it. We went up to Ryan and asked him if he had any scissors. He did not, but he proceeded to go to EVERY SINGLE CAST MEMBER AT CHECK- IN until he found one. He literally went right down the line until someone finally had a pair of scissors. I gave him a letter, and he decided to stand right next to me and read it. He, then, gave me a hug, and we went about our day.
It became a joke that every time we passed Check In, we would look at each other and scream “RYYYAAAAANNNN!” under our breath as if shouting for him. Then we would look for him and discover that he wasn’t there. On Thursday, four days after the scissor event, I was shocked to ACTUALLY see Ryan there! I grabbed Courtney, and said “It’s Ryan!” We then proceeded to scream “RYYYAAAAAAAANNN!”, this time not under our breath, and run over to him. He looked shocked at first, and then smiled when he realized who we were. We had a group hug, talked for a while, and took photos. Now whenever I search for something, I say “RYYYAAAAANN!”
As evident in that previous story, Cast Members who received my letters were mostly amazing and memorable. For example, our interactions with four of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror™ bellhops make me smile just thinking about them. The first one started when we arrived at the gates to the hotel. The wait time was displayed as 13 minutes. Mr. Mike, one of my guardians for the week, said “I wonder if the wait time is actually thirteen minutes.” I leaned over and whispered “It is actually ten. They make it thirteen because it’s an unlucky number. We were walking by a bellhop when I said this and he screamed, “IT’S JUST A COINCIDENCE.” I jumped and screamed “OKAY” in reply. We stared at each other and both started chuckling before we made the trek into the Hollywood Tower Hotel.
On our second journey through the Tower of Terror, we were walking into the queue line when I heard, “Dee or Dum?” I froze, turned around and said, “Excuse me?” The bellhop looked me up and down and said, “Are you Tweedle Dee or Tweedle Dum?” (I was Disneybounding not as Tweedle Dee or Tweedle Dum, but as something else. “What were you Disneybounding as, you may ask?” Why, that question will be answered in a future blog!) Anyway, I explained who I was and we moved on down the line. We eventually decided to step out of line to meet up with another member of our party which caused us to backtrack out towards the Cast Member, who then asked why we backed out so quickly. I replied that we were looking for Dee and Dum, which earned me a high five from him.
Now this next one is one of the BEST Cast Members I have ever met. His name is Tony and he was so in character. We asked him to sit in the front of our elevator, and he said, “Absolutely not”, before looking straight ahead. We were stunned, so we just stood there. He then slowly locked eyes with us again, lowered his head and gave us a creepy smile. He then proceeded to mess around with every one waiting for the elevator by standing behind people and waiting for them to turn around or giving others bunny ears. Eventually, it was our time to board the elevator. At this point, we had talked to Tony the whole time, and we thought that he really liked us. The elevator boarded from front to back, so we were the last people to board our vehicle. The bellhops board by calling the row number and then leading you to your corresponding row. He didn’t do that to us. He proceeded to call our row-row six- then said “Not yet.” He then hopped in the almost full elevator and shut the door, all while giving us that creepy smile and waving. The doors completely shut, and I had my jaw on the floor. He is really making us wait for the next elevator! The doors then shot open as he led us to our row. When he recited his safety spiel, Tony made sure to target our party. When our ride was over and the doors opened for the first time, he said “Glad to see that you all made it.” Then looking at me he said, “Especially you.” On the way out I said “I love you”, and he said “Aw thanks. I love me too.” That’s when we took a photo with him, and I gave him his letter.
Our last experience with a Tower of Terror bellhop really pushed me personally out of my comfort zone. Andy was our bellhop, and he was very serious. I was one of the last people out of our elevator once the ride concluded. I skipped out, and I stopped next to him with my arms out. “Can I have a hug?” I asked. He just slowly turned toward me with his hand still on the button that kept the door open. I held this pose for about ten seconds before smiling. He still didn’t budge. I then walked over and gave him a hug, yet he STILL didn’t move his hand from the button. At this point, I should have been long gone from this area of the ride. He should be loading the next people on their trip to the Twilight Zone! I backed away and said, “You have to smile now!” while pointing at my mouth. He STILL didn’t budge, except to let go of the button, and the doors slamming made me jump. I held this for another ten seconds before switching to a serious face and initiating a staring contest. Long story short, he won. So I said, “Okay, I am leaving now…” and made my trek down the hallway to the stairs. At the bottom of the stairs I turned around to see Andy staring back at me. He followed me down the hallway! I found it amazing how he was willing to do all that just to create a magic moment for me that I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.
There were two specific Cast Members that have affected my singing life. Two specific Dappers Dans, Dapper Drew and Dapper Jon, were my inspirations to pursue singing because they always seemed to have an amazing time whenever performing. I wanted to experience that kind of happiness. In fact, the audition song I chose for my first musical was Darkness on the Delta, which is a song that the Dappers sing often. I wrote specific letters to each of them thanking them for all they do and how they have influenced my life. The one addressed to Jon and the one addressed to Drew were different, except for the final line: “Just remember that you make memories. Even for people miles away.” Drew was on tour when I visited Disneyland, so I dropped his off at the Guest Relations at Disney California Adventure. I actually sent Drew a message on Facebook explaining that I wanted to meet him but could not, so I was leaving a letter for him so he should anticipate receiving that. He responded no less than thirty minutes later, which I was NOT expecting. He said he was touched by the message I sent him, and he couldn’t wait to read the letter!
As for Jon, I saw him as a Dapper Dan on Wednesday. Actually, I saw them from a distance and RAN. I arrived and as I listened to them, I smiled so hard that my face hurt. When the set ended, and Jon said the final goodbye, I walked over and said “JON!” Jon (the one in purple in the image to the left) looked around and said, “Did someone say my name?” I replied, “I did. This is for you” and handed him the letter. He took his hat off and offered it to me almost like a basket, and I put the letter in the hat. He proceeded to say, “Thank you, sweetie” before taking a photo with me. I decided to go to the flag retreat and stood behind the Dapper Dans as they sang. Towards the end, they wanted everyone to join in singing God Bless America, the conductor turned around along with the Dapper Dans. I was NOT expecting that. I immediately dodged behind the adult in front of me because I thought I was in the way. I peeked around the person I was hiding behind to see Jon looking around. He winked when he made eye contact before turning back around. That’s when I knew he read the letter. He also tweeted me later that night, expressing his gratitude.
There was one specific occasion that I will never forget. Yadher is a Cast Member who was working the Alice in Wonderland ride. I overheard him talking to the family in front of us about how he was allowed to pick which ride he operated and he chose Alice because it was his favorite growing up. He went on to tell stories about how he memorized the order of the caterpillars on the track and how much he loved being a Cast Member. The line moved forward and I took a letter out of my bag and gave it to him. He opened it right then and there. Now, I was NOT expecting that. He was working after all! The line began to move super slowly, and by the time he finished my lengthy letter, we were still around. He turned around and gave me a HUGE hug. He went on to tell me just how much that letter meant to him and how he knew he wanted to become a Cast Member as long as he could remember. Then the phone rang, and he said that he had to pick it up. Unfortunately, the line moved, and I was separated from Yahder.
If you have ever been on the Alice in Wonderland ride at Disneyland, you know that there are two Cast Members you see before you hope in your caterpillar. One is operating the ride and another is directing people to their caterpillar. Yahder was the operator, but he switched with the person directing the caterpillar just so he could talk to us more. It was our turn to board our caterpillar when he stopped us. I was confused as I watched what was supposed to be our ride vehicle continue through the ride without us in it. Yadher then got down on one knee. I am NOT making this up. I just froze. Courtney, my friend who was in line with me, grabbed my arm and tried pulling me away from him. I just met him two minutes ago, and now he is PROPOSING? WHAT?!?!?! I stood my ground, mostly because I was stuck in shock, and I wanted to hear what he was going to say. He began his short spiel. “That phone call I just received was from Cinderella. She wanted you to have this.” From his back pocket, he pulled out a small plastic replica of Cinderella’s glass slipper and raised it up to my level. He continued on, “She said as long as you have it, all of your dreams will come true… including becoming a Cast Member.” I then took the slipper from him, and he stood back up. I was relieved that he didn’t propose (Imagine the explaining I would have had to do when I got home!) and very touched that he gave me this slipper. I have never seen anything like it before! He then led us to our caterpillar, and we continued our trip down the rabbit hole, with me holding the glass slipper in my hand like my life depended on it. By far, that glass slipper means more to me than any pair of Mickey ears, pin or character autograph.
Oh, but my story with Yahder isn’t over yet. As we were departing, everyone in line was staring at us (Remember when Yahder was giving me the slipper? We were at the front of the line and no one passed us, so at least 5 caterpillars went through the ride without people in them. We were the first people to appear in a long time.) The other Cast Member ran to our caterpillar as we departed and said, “This is from Yahder” and gave me this piece of paper. It was a fastpass for up to six guests for ANY ride of our choosing! I was SOO surprised, and I have never even seen anything like that before. The parks were so empty that day that we didn’t even use it. In fact, I still have this slip of paper, with the slipper, packed with my souvenirs. We got another fastpass a few days later from a MuppetVision 3D Cast Member named Jodi that we didn’t use, so I actually have two of these papers!
My goal was to reverse the magic – to thank Cast Members for all that they do to make people’s dreams come true. I could go on for days about my interaction with all the Cast Members that I thanked and others I met, but what surprised me most was that, by recognizing the hardworking people who are often overlooked, they made memories for me that I will treasure for a lifetime. Not knowing what to expect (it was just a piece of paper, after all), I was beyond happy to have my fair share of Cast Members contact me to say thanks for the letter. That was AWESOME! The most shocking of all of this was when Cast Members that didn’t receive letters, and even Cast Members from FLORIDA, started messaging me. At first I was confused, and then I realized that through word of mouth between Cast Members and the ease of sharing things on the internet, my letter must have gotten around. A Floridian Cast Member tweeted that my letter was going viral between employees, and she wanted to thank me, from the East Coast, for my appreciation. I thought THAT was spectacular! I was making people smile all over the COUNTRY! I had no idea that a simple act of kindness, surprising the people who deserve it the most, could make so many people smile! This must be a small taste of what it’s like to be a Disney Cast Member! This was no doubt the highlight of my trip.
I want to hear about your amazing Cast Member moments. Did you ever do something great for a Cast Member, or has a Cast Member gone above and beyond to make you smile? Share your memories involving a terrific Cast Member by leaving a comment below!
See ya REAL soon!
Quote of the Week: “As long as you have this, all your dreams will come true… including becoming a Cast Member.” ~ Yahder, Ride Attendant at Disneyland’s Alice in Wonderland attraction
Makena is a 15 year old high school student who spends much of her free time researching Disney. She enjoys sharing Disney facts and even plans Walt Disney World vacations (including searches for secrets and Hidden Mickeys) for friends and family. You can follow Makena on twitter @Makattack98 or on Facebook (Makena Wolcott). Makena began blogging for WDW Radio in December 2011.