In today’s From The Mouth Of The Mouse, we talk to Hadden, who worked all over Tomorrowland! He got into Disney VERY young…just a few days after he was born! He has some great stories to share, so without any further ado…
JEFF: How did get into Disney to begin with? Any specific memory as a child that made you fall in love with it?
HADDEN: Disney has always been a part of my life. When I was born, my parents had some of the first Annual Passes to Disneyland; you know the ones that required your Magic Kingdom Club Membership. My first outing, at 17 days old, was to the park. Since then it has been a part of my blood. There are two very big memories, as a guest at least, that stand out and really made me want to become a Cast Member.
The first memory that stands out is my ninth birthday. Since my birthday fell on a weekday my parents said I did not have to go to school and I could do anything I wanted. Of course I picked Disneyland. Since it would be expensive to take everyone, I could pick one person to go with. I picked my Dad, since he worked all the time, and it was hard to get alone time with him. It was a great day. It was in March, on a weekday so the world was our oyster. We got to walk on almost everything. Then there was Splash Mountain, which had opened that past summer, and I had yet to ride. The line was long and since FastPass had not yet been invented, we waited the whole line. That year I was obsessed with what time I was born being my actual birthday, so in line for Splash Mountain I “Turned” 9. I will forever remember that day each time I pass the carving of the bears on a tree in the Splash Mountain queue where I “turned” 9.
My second memory that stands out occurred about a year and a half later when my parents went all out and got us a 2 Bedroom suite at the Disneyland Hotel, complete with concierge services. We stayed a week, and it was the greatest vacation of my short life. Once that week was over, that was it; I knew I wanted to be a part of Disney forever.
I always dreamed of working for the company, but it took me until I was 21 to actually go for it. I was preparing to move home after breaking up with a live in girlfriend. I was driving past Disneyland, feeling a bit lost, and it clicked. I pulled off the freeway, walked into TDA, filled out an application, got two interviews and left with a job in East Side Attractions. It was the best decision I had ever made.
HADDEN: My first job at Disney was as an Attractions Host in East Side Attractions. This was right before they “Land Locked” us and we became Tomorrowland Attractions. Autopia was a great place to work. Sure it was always outside in the elements and always fifteen degrees hotter on track with the cars than it was anywhere else, but it was still great. Guests never believed they could actually hit us so they would often try; because of this I always used to joke that we were in real life Frogger game.
Joking aside, a day at Auto (as we shortened it) was never really the same. We would rotate through positions every thirty minutes to keep everything fresh and not keep anyone in a safety position too long. When I started, there were more positions than when I left. There were four tracks each with up to three persons working a position. Eight cars were allowed in at a time, and position one handled vehicles 1-3, position two handled 4-6, and position three handled Vehicles 7 and 8 as well as ran the ADA lift, when applicable. The grouper position assigned people to cars and ran two tracks per grouper. On the non-ride side there was the greeter, Split (manned the FastPass split), Turnstile (who handed out the drivers licenses), and Exit (on the busy days). Inside the attraction we had Y-1 (tracks 1 and 2) and Y-2 (tracks 3 and 4) who released cars into the station and made the spieled about bumping. Then there was secondary Y which asked people to slow down as they approached the station and monitored bumping. There was Auto 3 who stood in the area of the old Fantasyland station and watched that no one jumped over the fence to have a picnic (which has happened more than once) and ensured no one tried to get out in the off-road. I know it seems strange but the off-road apparently looked real enough that people thought they shouldn’t go that way and would get out to the car. The last (and my personal favorite) position was Auto 2. They are the roving Cast Member who wanders around to assist children who can’t reach the pedal, folks who seem to have trouble judging the proximity of the vehicle in front of them (bumpers), and any guest who may need assistance. Believe it or not some people, even adults, are driving a car for the first time in their lives and have no idea how to press the pedal. A language barrier (often 3rd world guests) will often mean you are riding in the car with them or side pedaling to help them in.
With so many different jobs there was no typical day. Since guests controlled the ride vehicles there are quite a few interesting stories to share.
JEFF: How did you go from Autopia to adding the Monorail to your resume?
HADDEN: Monorail was an interesting story. As part of my development, my manager recommended that I take a second attraction. Space Mountain was the obvious choice since it needed the most people (except for Autopia). I was scheduled to train in Space Mountain the week it suddenly had to go down for its major rehab where it ended up closed for years as it was rebuilt for the 50th. To make up for the sudden change I was scheduled for Monorail instead. This was especially exciting since it usually takes years to get up there.
JEFF: I know you left for two years…what made you decide to come back?
HADDEN: I never really left in spirit. In 2004 moving up within attractions took at least 3 to 5 years. I was an experienced retail manager and was in a position of needing more money. I left in that pursuit. I knew I would be back as I had decided that my goal was to become an Imagineer. When the 50th rolled around, during the economic bubble, Disneyland was very busy, and very understaffed. I heard from some friends that positions were available, so I came back to a part time job at the park. Humorously, I ended up working more hours at Disney then at my full time job.
JEFF: What were you doing during this period? What was a typical day for you?
HADDEN: Upon my return I again ended up at Autopia. My second attraction was Space Mountain (back up from its rehab). A coaster is a fun place to work. A typical day there involved the obvious positions of greeter, split (for FastPass), Exit, and Lap Bar check. We rotated here every thirty minutes as wel,l but they had these rotations cross so that the Lap Bar position was changed every fifteen minutes as it was a high stress position. Grouper here was a big job. On the busy days we had two of us who switched every two rockets. To keep things moving we would often have grouping wars where we would be “perm’d” (skipped in the rotation) for a full hour at group, and we would try to have a higher count than the next pair of groupers who would take the next hour. This was a fun way to ensure efficiency, and any safety concern was of course a disqualification (as safety is always first). At this location there were a lot of safety positions that monitor the station and the attraction itself. Down times could be caused by a number of issues, most of which were guests being a little slow either physically or otherwise. If the rockets back up in the station, the attraction shuts itself down to keep everyone safe. When this occurs you get to do my favorite task – running the mountain. This is where we go into the attraction backwards and stop at each break zone. In the break zone we open the breaks, push out any rocket in the zone (and gravity takes over), and reset the zone. When we get back to the tower the attraction is ready to re-open. Space Mountain is a very fast paced, high-capacity, attraction. Sometimes you find yourself having no choice but to yell and shout. Often the guest’s safety has to come before courtesy, but overall it is still a great place to work. Plus every summer playing battle of the mountains was a blast- especially since we usually won.
JEFF: After working in Tomorrowland for another 2 years, you left again, and then came back. Same question applies: what drew you back to Disneyland?
HADDEN: I left my part time Disney job to return to school – difficult to become an engineer without it. In 2009 I was laid off from my job. Most people view getting laid off as a bad thing. I saw it as my chance. I came back to Disney as a Vacation Planner (fancy words for a ticket seller). I could never rationalize leaving a high paying job for a part time job at Disneyland. Getting laid off gave me the excuse for the change, and I have never looked back.
JEFF: Tell me a bit about your current position.
HADDEN: After coming back I was with the Main Entrance. I was a Vacation Planner and a Lead (supervisor). Soon I became what we call an Issue Resolution Specialist, who basically are the system experts who the Leads refer to. There I dealt with all sorts of issues. I was one of the go to people for Monthly Payment Annual Pass Contracts and had to work with the guests who had someone pass away, get deployed, or any number of issues. I often worked in the ticket booths as the head Lead or just a booth lead. If you care to hear it there are plenty of great stories from the booths.
Currently I am with the Walt Disney Travel Company. I work to book vacation packages to The Disneyland Resort in California and Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa in Hawaii. In addition I am one of their Guest Service Specialists (supervisors). It is really a great job as we get to plan all these trips for people who have never been or are coming for their 50th time and everyone in between. As a supervisor I get to take anything that may go askew and make it right. I couldn’t ask for a better job at the parks.
JEFF: Did you enjoy any of the positions more than the others?
HADDEN: Monorail has always had a special place in my heart. I used to love to interact with Mr. Voice and just watch the guests delight. I will always consider my home to be Autopia and Tomorrowland. I loved my time at the Main Entrance; my leader there really empowered her Leads to own their park and their job. Making magic was not only my pleasure but my job. Finally here at the travel company I have the same empowerment, a sign of good Disney Leadership. I love being able to work for Disney. Every moment is a unique and magical experience. I probably sound like an advertisement for the job but it’s true.
JEFF: Any times you can think of that you went out of your way to make a guest’s visit more magical?
HADDEN: This is what I do. I feel if I don’t take that extra step, I haven’t given them that quintessential Disney experience. On many days in attractions it was smaller things, and now in my supervisory role it can often be a little bigger, but it always makes a memory. If you remember back when Autopia used to give out winner Drivers Licenses I had a fun game to play. When I was working the split and would have to hold guests for a long time as fast pass went through, I often had a large group of angry guests. To make a special memory I would always play trivia, and the prize would be a card. I love park history and had questions to stump even the savviest of guests. They had a lot of fun and learned a little about my favorite place in the world.
In the main entrance I was the keeper of the key to the Kingdom. Our boss never let us forget that we held the keys to the Kingdom. This meant I could really make a guests day. When the situation called for it, I could give them a park ticket. Although I can’t give too much detail, there was a time when a guest called me as her husband had passed away suddenly leaving her with no job and five children; I obviously felt for her. I was able to work magic and ensure that she did not have to worry about anything and could simply come back with the children and start with fresh passes.
Here at the Walt Disney Travel Company I always take the time to explain things like Fast Pass and hidden gems within the parks. I also have the pleasure of putting things right on any reservation. Magic comes differently pre-arrival, but we even have a magic department. One time I was able to take a guest traveling through Make a Wish and take the extra step to get them a suite during their stay. I could not have done it without the help of my partners in the hotels and in community relations, but we all made that magic together. I don’t know if I will be able to do that again, but I jump at any opportunity to make every stay extra special.
HADDEN: I could probably go on forever, and probably already have. So I will leave you with this one great story. This is just an example of what it is like to work for Disney. In the same week we received two different e-mails. One had the title “Watch for Flying Elephants” which informed us to watch the skies above Disneyland one morning as they lifted an elephant out of Jungle Cruise and then put its replacement in. A couple of days later we were informed that the break area behind the Bank of Main Street will be unavailable for a few day as they remove a dinosaur from the diorama. When you step back a moment and look at these situations you realize – only at Disney. Believe me I checked, and the guy at Home Depot said this never happens to him.
We have announced our very special, Cadet-only trip: The CommuniTour! It will take place April 27th-May 2nd 2014!
That’s right, you have the opportunity to spend a week with your favorite Communicore Overlords by going on this special Adventures By Disney: Backstage Magic! See the wonderful sights of Southern California, including Disneyland, California Adventure, Imagineering, The Jim Henson Company, and much, much, more!
Here us talk about it in this special announcement episode on our iTunes feed!
Space is very limited, so be sure sign up today! For more information and the full itinerary, head over to
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!
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