Jeff Rides The Skyway!

Written by Jeff Heimbuch. Posted in Disney, Disney History, Disney Parks, Disneyland Resort, Features, From the Mouth of the Mouse

Tagged: , , , ,

Frontpagepic_frmt-5-29-13

Published on May 29, 2013 at 12:01 am with 9 Comments

In today’s From The Mouth Of The Mouse, we begin another multi-part series, talking to Jeff (who is already awesome in my book!) about working at Disneyland during the late 1980s. He goes from Skyway…and then later on, finds his way at Disneyland Paris. But today we’ll start with his humble beginnings sorin’ above Disneyland.

Take it away, Jeff!


 

JEFF: So, tell me about your early history with Disney. How did you get into it?

JEFF: Growing up in California, some of my first vivid memories are when we would come to Southern California to visit my grandparents on their Sunkist orange ranch in Fillmore and my grandfather, a Union Pacific railroad engineer living in La Habra.  However, all that was just a warm up for the pièce de résistance, the visit to the Magic Kingdom!!!  I was enamored not only with my days in the park; I avidly followed Walt and the Wonderful World of Disney via television practically every week.

During my freshman year, my father was transferred and we relocated to Yorba Linda.  As a result, I had the opportunity to visit the park often with family and friends, falling in love with the park all over again, now as a teenager.  It was also a pretty good place to meet girls!

JEFF: You also mentioned to me before the interview that you got to attend a pretty special event at Disneyland. Tell us about that.

JEFF: In 1986, I was fortunate enough to win two tickets via a drawing to the television filming of Disneyland’s Summer Vacation at the park.  It was a who’s who of the 1980′s including musical acts Culture Club, Kenny Loggins, and many other stars.  A full Disney Dress Code (jacket and tie for gents) was in effect, so I had to search with my parents for several days to find the Miami-Vice pastel blue jacket complete with shoulder pads, accompanied by skinny tie!  It was a lot of fun and a real eye opener to see the Disney production machine in full operation, with military-style precision.

Skyway3

JEFF: After that, you decide to work for the Park, correct? How did that go?

JEFF: Right. It was about six months later, early in my junior year at Esperanza High School in Anaheim, when I stopped by the Orange County Regional Occupation (ROP) fair where I met recruiters from Disneyland. Later that spring, I secured an interview at the Casting offices, which were located in the Disney University building right next to Harbor House, the cast member entrance right off Harbor Boulevard.  I still remember that I interviewed with a gentleman named Joel Hicks (more on him later), a very personable gent who chatted with me about my interests and explained the different roles in the park.  Following a long period waiting in the lobby, many of us were called back in to advise us of our roles – I was thrilled to learn that I had been assigned the role of Attractions Host in Fantasyland!!!  My heart was pounding as I floated out of the Casting office and rushed home to call everyone I knew…no cell phones in 1987!

JEFF: And then the training process began, right?

JEFF: Yes, prior to my first day on stage, I had to attend a full day of class at the Disneyland University.  This was very serious business indeed, with business attire required.  All new cast members had to speak about themselves and reasons for joining the cast.  Classes on proper Disneyland vocabulary, company policies, including grooming, cast dos and don’ts, and many other sessions were complete with several brochures that directly communicated the Disney company culture, values, history, and high expectations for each cast member.  I still have some of those brochures, as well as my first badge.  I left the Disney University that day feeling the weight of responsibility for my role.  I felt so fortunate to have this amazing opportunity while many of my friends were working “just another summer job”.

On my first day, many new cast members were taken around the park for a front- and back-stage tour with trainers, which included a group lunch at a cafe upstairs from Space Mountain (where the queues are).  Then the fun began…

449050167_47bf5f0d3d_z

JEFF: So where did they wind up putting you?

JEFF: Nearly all new C/S (Casual/Seasonal) male cast members at this time were assigned to the Skyway while many females were assigned to the Storybookland Canal Boats.  So on Day 1, I entered Harbor House, physically punched my orange (seasonal) timecard with pride, and passed under the railroad bridge into the backstage area for the first time.  Turning left, I saw a row of teller windows as far as the eye could see – this was Costume.  I frantically searched for my window and hit the large red button that rang the bell.  Here I was issued my first pair of lederhosen and related costume.  After I changed in the sweaty old locker rooms, I headed out on stage for the first time.  It was truly a transformation!  Walking from a utility area, breaching the facade and entering a world of fantasy via discrete passageways and seamlessly entering the crowds, it was amazing each time, honestly!

When you were scheduled on the Skyway, it could either be on the Fantasyland Skyway (“F-Sky”) or Tomorrowland Skyway (“T-Sky”).  This was interesting because, in most cases, Attractions Hosts/Hostesses could not cross lands.  I by far favored the Fantasyland side because the costume was so much more comfortable in the heat of the summer.  The Tomorrow Skyway costume was a hot, itchy “space age” light blue polyester pantsuit complete with a shirt with a short zipper, something out of the late 60′s or early 70′s, really unpleasant.  Also, as Fantasyland Attractions cast, we didn’t really know anyone else in Tomorrowland and were sort of outcasts.

JEFF: Did you enjoy working on the Skyway?

JEFF: It was a labor of love. The work was often hard physically, especially in the summer. Pushing Skyway cabins – and especially bringing them to a screeching halt – especially when loaded down with four (or more) guests, could be downright dangerous. Keep in mind that I was an athlete in high school and in pretty good shape. That first summer I lost something like 10 pounds and who knows how much water weight every day. I would return home and fall into bed. When on occasion I had to work overtime or even the occasional double shift, I was a wreck for a day or two after. I can’t even imagine doing that now! Also, that first summer I developed heavy callouses from gripping the rails, they took at least 10 years to finally disappear.

A big thank you to Jeff for sharing his story with us! Check back in two weeks for more!




By Jeff Heimbuch

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 can help you plan your perfect Disney vacation with Fairy Godmother Travel! Call him at 732-278-7404 or email him at [email protected] for a free, no-obligation quote for Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, Aulani or Adventures By Disney.

Jeff also writes a MiceChat column titled The 626. We invite you to check it out!

Jeff also co-hosts the VidCast Communicore Weekly on MiceTube.

LIKE US ON FACEBOOK: www.facebook.com/ftmotm
SUBSCRIBE TO US ON ITUNES: iTunes – Podcasts – From The Mouth Of The Mouse by Jeff Heimbuch
FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER: www.twitter.com/jeffheimbuch
FRIEND ME ON FACEBOOK: www.facebook.com/jeffheimbuch

 

About Jeff Heimbuch

Jeff has been in love with all things Disney since a very early age. He writes From The Mouth Of The Mouse and The 626 every week for MiceChat. He also collaborates on The Disney Review every weekend. Aside from that, he is one half of the devastatingly good looking duo of the weekly vid/podcast Communicore Weekly (the other half being fellow MiceChat columnist George Taylor), which you can find at www.communicoreweekly.com Jeff is also writing a book with former Imagineer and Disney Legend, Rolly Crump. You can find out more about the book at www.itskindofacutestory.com

Browse Archived Articles by

9 Comments

Comments for Jeff Rides The Skyway! are now closed.

  1. Sounds like fun! (being sarcastic).

    I worked the gondola at a ski resort a few seasons ago. While it’s more modern than the Disneyland Skyway (not by much), we had to load every single pair of skis or snowboard into the rack on the outside of the cabin. I went though three pairs of hard leather work gloves. 10 hours of standing, running, lifting, pulling and pushing all day long, and since we were short staffed I usually worked 5 days a week (40 hours of overtime a month).

    It was no doubt one of the hardest entry level jobs at the resort, and I’m sure it was the same for the Disneyland Skyway.

    I still managed to have a lot of fun though, just not usually while working.

  2. Great interview! I loved the Skyway, but can see how it would have been a VERY difficult job to work.

    I liked reading this little snip:
    “Classes on proper Disneyland vocabulary, company policies, including grooming, cast dos and don’ts, and many other sessions were complete with several brochures that directly communicated the Disney company culture, values, history, and high expectations for each cast member.”

    It sure would make good sense for Disneyland to revisit those old training procedures. Training is one area which has slipped considerably over the years.

    • I agree. It just isn’t what it used to be. Not only is there a problem with training, it also has to do with the quality of cast members they are hiring these days. Many cast members today are simply apathetic. It shows in their body language, verbal communication and lack of overall enthusiasm. There used to be a level of professionalism that just isn’t there anymore.

      Occasionally, you’ll encounter a true believer in the company who values their work and the guests. When you come across one of these cast members, pay a visit to Guest Relations and recognize that cast member. It’s not often that an employee in any business is complimented for the outstanding work he/she does.

    • Lik

  3. I can’t tell you how much I miss the Skyway. I dare say, you might have been on of the cast members that pulled my party aside from what I know now to be rather dangerous actives on that Skyway during my indiscriminate youth.

    However, I digress. I truly live to design the theme environment, where reality is unreality and time is timeless. I’ve spent a career designing buildings where people forget the real world around them, focus on the here and now, and distort perceptions. Disneyland remains as always the pinnacle of themeing design.

  4. You left me wanting to read more! Man I love these interviews!

  5. Jeff worked at Disneyland during the time when hiring was extremely selective. It was truly a privilege to work there.

    • I was hired there in 1992. The process you went through and the training was amazing and everything was about the Disney way and making the guest top priority.

      I don’t see that nowadays. Do they even do interviews anymore?

  6. This- is awesome.
    Thanks so much for sharing! Now on to Part 2!!