Since my very first forays online, starting with the Usenet group
alt.disney.disneyland in the mid-1990s and branching quickly into my own
websites, I've made no secret of my background as a Disneyland Cast Member (CM).
Over the course of fifteen years, I worked in three different locations, while
taking a couple of years off here and there during that interval.
As you might
imagine, I saw a lot of history in that amount of time, even as a front-line CM.
My history stretches from 1987 to 2002, a long enough time that I knew even
while living those memories that they should be recorded. A note-taker by
nature, I kept tabs on all sorts of things during my tenure, with the eventual
goal of sharing that truly remarkable experience. Ever since my first stint
ended in 1994, I've been gathering those thoughts and experiences into a memoir,
slowly writing a book so that the world can share my joy and insights into life
I spent the majority of those years working in Cafe Orleans and French Market
as a Working Lead (the hourly version of manager). If you've followed my online
columns before, that won't come as a surprise. What I've never announced
publicly before, and thus might surprise you, is the final career as a CM I had
in the early 2000s, working for Entertainment Art, a sub-department of the
Entertainment Division responsible for putting out temporary displays, temporary
decorations, and temporary makeovers. With some notable exceptions, I mostly
worked on the 'crew' who did the actual installations and removals. While that
sounds pretty unglamorous here in black and white, it meant I got to roam the
park and backstage pretty much at will, and it opened my eyes to a lot of what
Disneyland was really like.
That silver Mickey was created by Disneyland's Entertainment
The combined job experiences were so varied and so much fun for a Disney
enthusiast that I knew I'd have to share them with the world. I'd been planning
a book on being a Disneyland CM even in the early 90s, so it came as a shock to
me when David Koenig's Mouse Tales first came out. In that volume, I
recognized instantly many features of the CM life and attitudes. Yet there were
also gaps. David was never a CM himself, and without his 'boots on the ground',
it wasn't really possible to provide a full snapshot of that life.
So I pressed on with my preparations, outlines, and notes. Over the years as
an online columnist, I've sometimes tapped those notes for smaller anecdotes,
and of course my views and attitudes as they exist today were originally formed
during those years as a CM, so they've really been central to me being who I am.
It's taken me years to write up those notes into a single narrative.
By way of introducing the book, let me simply present the chapters and
provide a brief synopsis of each one:
This is the story of interviewing and hiring in, and the orientation
programs back in 1987. You'll also read about job types and benefits for
Welcome to the Disneyland Cast!
Me (on the right) in 1987.
This chapter provides specifics on 'continuing education' courses
offered at the Disney University, like Lead Development, Guest
Complaints for Leads, Performance Appraisals for Leads, and We Create
Studying at the Disney University
We Are Family
Disneyland did an awful lot of community building. Read my accounts
of canoe races, Disney Family Christmas Parties, Backstage Magic, Cast
Blast, Working Lead Appreciation Events, Distinguished Service Award
Banquets, Minnie's Moonlit Madness, Sorcerer's Apprentice, Spirit Award
pins, tours of WDI and the Disney Studios, Flashback, and, since this is
a chapter about family, that omnipresent visitor Arthur Holmson.
A cake in 1994, for my first parting with the company.
Follow along on a verbal tour of the entire Disneyland backstage,
going behind the berm, into the tunnels and underground areas, and
circle all the way around the back, passing by maintenance buildings of
The Happiest Backstage on Earth
Innovation and Reinvention
A front-line CM has the ability to suggest ways to improve the
workplace around him; these are some of my suggestions. Some were
approved; others not. You'll also read about the creation of the Fantasmic Dessert Balcony.
We're Not Carrots!
A definition and description of my department called New Orleans
Restaurants. See what it's like to work in the Blue Bayou, in the CM
cafeteria, in the cavernous food prep kitchen downstairs, or in the
steaming dishroom with an SUV-sized dish machine.
Some Enchanted Evening
Enchanted Evenings were private parties restricted to just one land,
with lavish decorations and special menus. From the private opening of
Toontown to Liz Taylor's gala 60th birthday party in
Fantasyland, I share my observations and experiences.
The Lead costume in 1990.
Stories of mishaps are universal to any workplace, but somehow they
are just more fun when they take place at Disneyland. To the stories
mentioned in the chapter title, I could add stories of falling stacks of
trays, CMs stealing money, bomb threats, and even the CM with the most
Guest complaints in our location.
Maggots, Fires, and Falling Elevators
Stupid Guest Tricks
From lost kids to strange Guest complaints, this section tackles the
unusual interactions with the visitors. Don't miss my strange series of
things that fell from the sky: bird poop, bones, berries, and
wristwatches seem to materialize with no warning. And no accounting of
guest tricks would be complete without the requisite clam chowder fight.
Boys Will Be Boys
What could be more fun than a chapter dedicated to listing the ways
people goof off while at work? There's playfulness with the cashcart,
horseplay (some of it involving the Mouse-O-Rail), last day pranks, and
some roaming around in off-limits backstage areas.
Attraction, infatuation, and even stalking occurs at Disneyland too.
Hook-ups were so prevalent, I created a 'kissing web' to chart who was
kissing whom, and it was astonishing to see just how connected the
department was. Hear also about the places people would retreat to for
some time alone, often just steps away from the Guests.
I folded and painted an awful lot of ribbons.
The Disneyland Ninjas
This is the chapter on Entertainment Art, with the cavernous
warehouse of props located off-property and the constant placing and
removing of decorations onstage. Almost every story here is fun and
fascinating in its own right, but two in particular stand out: crafting
many of the decorations you see in the Haunted Mansion Holiday (that is
MY name on the naughty/nice list in the snake's mouth, 17 names down
from the top), and being inside a fully deserted Disneyland at noon on
September 11, 2001.
The shadows tell the story: this is the middle of the day,
with no one around.
From goodbye parties on the last day of work, to young people who die
during their days as a CM (and the big funerals that result), all of us
escape the mouse trap eventually. Not that we ever escape mentally.
Escaping the Mouse Trap
Bonus Chapter: A Day as a Cafe Orleans Lead
More than you ever wanted to know: a detailed accounting throughout
the day of just what a restaurant Working Lead does. If you ever wanted
a perspective on all it takes to make Disneyland eateries function, this
is the chapter for you.
With the exception of the chapter on EntArt, all of these stories relate
Disneyland life from the perspective of my restaurants, and doesn't try to
present a holistic view of all of Disneyland. After all, I didn't work in those
locations and didn't live those experiences. Not that my memories are unique. I
have no doubt there are thousands of DL CMs out there, current and former, who
have equally interesting memories, and I hope some of them publish their
Behind the Indian Village.
At 200 pages, the book relates my stories in enough detail to provide a 'you
are there' feel, but tries to move quickly to the next topic, not lingering
overly long on any one memory. I tried to keep the audience in mind as I wrote
this, stripping out the parts that are presumably only interesting to me (the
crass term for self-absorbed writing is 'literary masturbation'). The result is
hopefully a snappy, breezy read that paints a picture of how dynamic life as a
CM is, how fun it can be, and how much a sense of family it engendered, at least
in my case.
The text of the book has been ready for some time, but the cover art won't be
ready until sometime in November. If I had waited for the cover art, the book
wouldn't be back from the printer until Christmas (or very nearly so), and
people would have missed a chance for stocking stuffers. Thus, I printed a 'preview
edition' of the book with its own cover artwork, restricting the print
run to just 1,000 copies.
To further sweeten the pot, I included the bonus chapter (A Day as a Cafe
Orleans Lead) that won't be in the final release of the book.
Now just about any author will tell you that one sure way to discover typos
is to print a few hundred copies of a book. I've discovered a couple and am willing
to sell this edition at a slight discount. Thus, the book's price ($17.99) has been
reduced for this preview edition to just $14.95.
Even better, since it's almost Christmas, I'm charging a mere five cents for
shipping and handling, so for an even $15, you get the book sent to you in time
for the holidays (Florida residents must pay $16 to account for state tax).
Obviously, this offer is only good while supplies last and for a limited time.
All domestic orders
(except Florida), click
below to pay by PayPal:
For orders to Florida,
click below to pay
For international orders, contact [email protected]
directly for information on how to order.
The book will also be available at MouseFest (December 8th at the Swan Hotel;
visit their website for details),
but only if there are still supplies left by then.
Once the regular cover art is finished and the book is reprinted, it will
eventually be sold at Amazon and possibly bricks-and-mortar retailers as well,
but that won't start until at least January and will be at the regular price of
No matter how you get your hands on it, I hope you have a chance to read the
book and share in the stories. My Disneyland story was simply too rich an
experience to keep to myself. My fondest wish, of course, is that others seize
the opportunity to also share their memories. Then we all win.
Editor's Note: I don't think you will ever find as informative and
sincere a book about working at the happiest place on earth. I'm sure you
will learn all sorts of new tidbits about Disneyland just as I did. - Al