In today’s From The Mouth Of The Mouse, we begin a multi-part series where we talk to Stan, who worked all over the Walt Disney World Resort! Today, we chat a bit about how he started to get into Disney, and his first few jobs in the Magic Kingdom.
Let’s hear what he has to say!
JEFF: So tell me a bit about how you first came to love Disney.
STAN: I first became a fan of Disney with The All New Mickey Mouse Club in the ’70s. I know it is looked upon as a relic and a seriously dated product of its era. It is also generally treated as the red-headed stepchild of all the iterations of The Mickey Mouse Club. However, it is what I grew up on. I was right at that age where it captured my imagination. I think it is one of those shows with a lot of closet fans who are Gen X’ers like myself. It is unfortunate that the show will likely never see the light of day in a true home video release, and I never realized that the Disney Channel ran it on late night Vault Disney airings at some point.
My fondest memory of the show was the soundtrack album, which I played incessantly on my Mickey Mouse record player (the one where the needle was on Mickey’s hand). I was specifically obsessed with the song for “Let’s Go Day” (Tuesday’s theme day, for you detail nerds). That record got so much play for me in between episodes of the show (and for years after it went off the air) that I am sure my mother would show signs of Post-traumatic stress disorder if I played my copy of it for her. Come to think of it, it might be fun to do that, since I actually have it ripped down to my iPod. It would be a double whammy if I could find a working Mickey Mouse electric toothbrush with the stand that sings…
JEFF: Was it just the show, or were there other parts as well that captured your imagination?
STAN: I was taken to all the live-action and animated film releases in the theater. Even with this, I wouldn’t say that my parents were huge Disney fans. Obviously, they supported the fact that I had become one. Growing up in Orlando since the age of 5, they took me to the Magic Kingdom as often as they could, which was never nearly as often as I would have liked. Almost every weekend, I would run into my parent’s bedroom to wake them up and ask if we could go. So, you could say that I was in the park enough to know my way around from a young age…except that one time when I took my visiting cousins to ride the Peoplemover on our own and somehow ended up in the Carousel of Progress while my parents looked for us for 20 minutes.
JEFF: How did you wind up working for Disney?
STAN: Well, somehow, for years, I never considered Disney as a place to work. I know many kids grow up saying that they want to work for the company, but it never dawned on me as an option. Maybe it was that I believed so much in the fantasy of it all. So, after high school I went to work for a local movie theater. Since I am a major movie fanatic, this was the perfect job for me.
Flash forward a few more years to 1995. After an experience that soured me on working in a job where I handled money, my father gave me the idea of going to the casting center. His friend’s son was working in the Mickey Mania parade as a skateboarder. Since he knew I had a theater background in high school, it might be an option. So, I went out and applied, but thought it might be more interesting to work in attractions
After going through the phone and face-to-face interviews, I was offered a position in Magic Kingdom Attractions. I was given a choice between East Side (Fantasyland / Tomorrowland) and West Side (Frontierland / Adventureland / Liberty Square). I asked what my possibilities were to be put at 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (since that had always been my favorite as a kid) and was told that it was down for a refurbishment. My recruiter went on to say that if you were a male working on the East Side, you were guaranteed to be trained at 20K (as we called it for short). So, no matter where I was put, if I chose East Side, I would eventually be trained there. I took that advice and started my Disney career in Tomorrowland, working in the Tomorrowland Complex (TLC for short). In those days, it consisted of Delta Dreamflight, Carousel of Progress, Tomorrowland Transit Authority, Astro Orbiter and Galaxy Palace Theater.
JEFF: What was the next step for you while there? You became a trainer soon after, right?
STAN: I became a trainer as soon as I had enough time under my belt to do so. I couldn’t wait to help mold new Cast Members into the Disney culture. As much as the Traditions program instills a lot of what you need to know, it is your first trainer within the company that really sets the bar for how easily you transition into being a true Cast Member. That trainer can make or break how you feel about it. Luckily, I had one who was fantastic and showed me all the ropes to set me on the right path (Thanks, Mike!!). I wanted to pay it forward and be that trainer for others to follow me.
Once I became a trainer, I started to learn the remainder of the Tomorrowland attractions. Next up was Alien Complex, consisting of Alien Encounter, Timekeeper and the Alien “catwalk”. Yes, there really was someone up there in the rafters getting “eaten”. Not everyone could do the catwalk, since there were height restrictions on it. I was about an inch or so too tall, but being a trainer, they let it slide. This led to probably my most embarrassing moment working for the company.
JEFF: You clearly can’t just leave it at that! Tell me what happened!
STAN: I was working my first live Alien catwalk show on my own and forgot about the slight, but VERY important, difference in the two show chambers. One chamber had a crossbar in a different location than the other (it was usually not a problem if you met the height requirement). Upon exiting this chamber (once the maintenance man turns off his lights and “sees the problem”) you had only a few seconds to clear out before the chamber went pitch black and you were stuck in there. I went to leave and forgot about the bar that I needed to duck under to clear. I caught it on my helmet and fell backwards on the catwalk. My flashlight and helmet cam light came back on about the same time that the lights went out, and in my thrashing around to stand up, my lights were flailing all over the chamber as the maintenance man is being eaten.
I never again heard screaming as loud as I did during that particular show. Once the show in that chamber ended and I was headed back downstairs to break, I was stopped by the Cast Member who was in the chamber during that show. She was laughing so hard that she was in tears. There may still be people working in Tomorrowland who remember that story. I never lived it down.
JEFF: Where did you go after that?
STAN: After learning Alien Complex, I moved on to Space Mountain. This presented a major challenge for me, as I am terrified of heights. Luckily, they put me with a VERY patient trainer. He got me over it with constant track walks any time we had the opportunity. That was only in regards to that building, though. I still have problems with heights and you will soon see where this presents an even bigger problem for me later in my career.
My Space Mountain trainer, Ron Weaver, was a very special Cast Member. He was probably the most model Cast Member I ever encountered and I am proud to say that I worked with him. I think if you were to poll the people who worked in the Magic Kingdom about the Cast Member that best exemplified what it meant to work for the Walt Disney Company, most people who knew him would tell you that it would be Ron, without a doubt. Sadly, Ron suddenly passed away about a year and a half ago. But, I feel that it is important that people know about him. I know he had a major influence on many of the cast members that came through the Magic Kingdom, and there are many of us that miss him dearly.
JEFF: It was around this time that you were coming to an end of your time at the Magic Kingdom, right?
STAN: Right. My final stop on the Tomorrowland tour was Grand Prix Raceway. This was an unbelievably hot attraction to work. All positions were outside in the blazing sun with no cover. On top of that, our costumes back then were 100% flame retardant, since we worked around gas engines. Those costumes simply didn’t breathe. There were many days where all you wanted to do was eat a small salad or cold sandwich and drink water, because anything else would make you feel sick. However, I as probably in the best shape I have ever been in, working over there.
This time in the Magic Kingdom encompassed about 3 years. At which point, I wanted a new challenge. So, I transferred to Disney MGM Studios, and the Backlot Tour Shuttles.
Thanks for sharing with us, Stan! Check back in two weeks for the next part of this interview!
A brand new book from a Disney Legend, as told to MiceChat’s own Jeff Heimbuch!
The Imagineers, those men and women who helped Walt Disney bring his creations to life, have achieved legendary status among theme park enthusiasts. It’s Kind Of A Cute Story is the life story of one of the most beloved Imagineers, Rolly Crump. Covering his long and varied career, including designing some of Disney’s most famous attractions and working directly with Walt himself, Rolly’s stories weave into a lighthearted yet riveting narrative of his life and accomplishments. Packed with over 200 photos, many of which have never been seen before, It’s Kind Of A Cute Story is a tribute to the life and work of a true original.
Paperbacks are on sale at the Bamboo Forest Publishing webstore.
Also available as a limited edition, signed hardcover from Bamboo Forest Publishing.
If you are, or know, a Cast Member who would like to share some of their stories and possibly be featured right here on MiceChat, please email me at [email protected]. I’d love to hear from you!
You can read older columns of From The Mouth Of The Mouse here!
Jeff also writes a MiceChat column titled The 626. We invite you to check it out!
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