From Tomorrowland To The Parking Lot!

Written by Jeff Heimbuch. Posted in Features, From the Mouth of the Mouse

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Published on July 03, 2012 at 10:11 pm with 2 Comments

Hello, and welcome to this week’s ‘From The Mouth Of The Mouse!’

Each week, we spotlight a different Cast Member story to give you more insight into some of your favorite attractions, resorts, and movies from all over the Walt Disney Company.

Today’s interview is Brandon, who had a pretty varied experience in the College Program. Going from a Quick Service Restaurant to the Parking Lot sure makes for an interesting change!


JEFF: How did get you into Disney to begin with? Any specific memory as a child that made you fall in love with it?

BRANDON: I have been a lifelong fan of Disney. Born and raised in Las Vegas, NV we took trips to Disneyland every few years as a kid. We always went to the Disney On Ice productions when they stopped through town. Always saw the movies. And of course my number one obsession on TV was the New Mickey Mouse Club that ran from 89-94ish

JEFF: How did you wind up working Disney to begin with? What drew you to the college program?

BRANDON: As long as I have had a love for Disney, I have had a love for theme parks and rides in general. Like many a coaster nerd, I had a dream of someday being an Imagineer or something to that effect.

I had first learned about the Walt Disney World College Program while in high school. I attended a special “magnet” school where I majored in Computer Assisted Design & Drafting and thought that would be the perfect in once I started my architecture studies in college. Then sophomore year I learned they were stopping through my school (University of Nevada, Las Vegas). I immediately started reading up as much as I could on the program, tips for getting accepted, etc. This was September 2002 – for the 2003 Spring and Spring Advantage programs.

Back then you had to attend the presentation in person in order to be interviewed. It was a fun, albeit nerve-wracking experience. We watched some videos, played some trivia, listened to both the recruiters as well as a few Campus Reps talk about the program and then they broke out for the group interviews. I’ll never forget mine – it was myself and another kid who seemed kinda shy. In my pre-interview research I learned that if they excuse you first from the group and say that you’ll “hear back from us within a week to 10 days” that it wasn’t necessarily a good thing. So when it happened to me, I immediately became bummed – even though that was unfounded.

Getting my acceptance packet was interesting story of its own…

One day I was working in the graphics lab when I got an email from my recruiter hoping that “we” (assuming it was BCC’d to a bunch of folks) would strongly consider accepting their offer as they hadnt yet received a response. Say what?

I had read that getting a big envelope with Mickey ears was ideal, a standard letter-size envelope was not. I immediately called home and asked for my sister to check the mail and see if anything came matching either description and had her open it. I WAS ACCEPTED.

Funny thing is that about 30 minutes after checking my email, I got another from the recruiter saying that she sent the email in error and that we’d basically be getting really good news soon. Apparently she overestimated the speed of the postal service. Go figure.

JEFF: You said you choose Quick Service Restaurants, though it wasn’t your first choice. What made you go with it?

BRANDON: As a part of the application process you select your top three choices as well as check (or not check) a box that says “will accept any offer”. Seeing as how I’d much rather go than not go, I chose that. Of course you don’t know what role you get until you get the packet…and QSR is what I got.

Now I had never worked in ANY restaurant, fast food or otherwise, but I was in this for the experience so I accepted. That coupled with the fact that many folks were posting that they had been able to switch roles was encouraging. Ultimately it was Florida for nearly 8 months working for Disney…I had to accept!

Side note…in the interview, the recruiter asked what role you would not like to do. I couldn’t see myself as lifeguard.

JEFF: What were your basic responsibilities in QSR? Can you give me an overview of what a typical day was like there? I know there is no “Typical” day for ANY position, but what was a day like?

BRANDON: I worked in Tomorrowland what was then called Plaza Pavilion (not to be confused with the still operating Plaza Restaurant steps away on Main Street). A typical day would start by arriving via the Utilidor entrance behind/under Fantasyland, picking up a “costume”, getting dressed and stowing whatever I brought with me to work in my locker. I’d usually head straight to my location where I’d clock in using the time clock and proceeded up one of two elevators to the back of the restaurant – either via the east side of Main Street or the elevator that was immediately in back of our restaurant by the Cast Members only cafe “Main Street Bistro”.

My basic functions were to serve food and drinks or collect and clean trays OR “make magical moments”.

2003 was right at the beginning of Cast Deployment System (CDS) which is the computerized staff management system. So we’d log in with our social and it would print out a ticket telling us where to go…Drinks 1, Drinks 2, Trays, Food 1, etc. When a new person came in or came back from break and you were bumped, you went back to the CDS to get your next assignment. I liked doing Drinks when it was busy because it really helped the time fly. Food was very fresh (a lot more so than people think) so sometimes you had to wait for things, at least with drinks there would be a constant flow of work.

As for the food, it was personal pizzas, chicken tenders, fries and salads. We also made a really good fresh toasted Italian sandwich.

Occasionally (and especially when things got slow after the start of the Afgan War), they’d send a lot of us CPs out to other restaurants so that we could make our minimum 35 hours/week. Some other places I’d be sent to included Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Cafe and Cosmic Rays Starlight Cafe (the bane of my existence)

The biggest task of the day was always cleaning. After working at other MK QSRs, I have to say we kept our work areas cleaner than any I worked at. For Plaza Pavilion, we had tons of stainless steel to clean so in addition to cleaning and sanitizing surfaces, we had to polish them as well. When we went to reduced hours, we’d often just have a single shift so that meant all the work of opening AND closing the restaurant, but I didnt really mind it that much.

Celebrating Epcot’s 30th Anniversary!


JEFF: Tell about the how and why you went over into parking!

BRANDON: After the Afgan War started a lot of things happened. First, they said that anyone wanting to leave and go home could without issue. (Being from Vegas which was an equal terror target, I figured I might as well stay.) Second, as a result of a predicted even further downturn in attendance, they weren’t going to recruit as many CPs as they were having enough issues fulfilling our minimum scheduled hours. Third, being such a off-the-radar restaurant they reduced operating hours and started closing completely two days a week. The combination of all these was why they started sending us out to work in different locations a minimum of two days a week.

One day mid-March (my program ran Jan-Aug) in our pre-shift they announced there were some openings at MK Main Entrance – otherwise known as the Transportation & Ticket Center. They listed the posting as Parking which just so happened to be my second choice behind Attractions. In the end three of us transferred, two of us to Parking (which amazingly enough was considered part of Attractions line of business) and one to merchandise in Mickey’s Gift Station. We were scheduled to report at the beginning of April.

JEFF: What was a day like there?

BRANDON: Parking at Disney is an interesting beast…especially at at the TTC. It’s so formulated and smart and definitely takes a certain kind of person to really “get” it quickly.

A typical day could start at almost any hour of the day really, but always started for me by going to East Gate (the low slung building closest to the bus lot) to clock in and then, if early enough, over to West Gate (closest to the Polynesian Resort) to either get a bite to eat or drop off lunch before heading to the little driveway in front of Mickey’s Gift Station for the Parking Coordinator to pick you up.

The coordinator was essentially the person running the operation at any particular time – most of them had been with Disney for a long time (some had even previously been CPs themselves). They kept a clipboard which kept track of everyone spread throughout the 125 acres of hot as hell asphalt be it on foot parking cars, on one of 9 trams or in random locations such as “Blue Point” handicap lot access or in the Bus booth.

They’d drop you off/tell you where you needed to be…

Trams: Either up front driving or spieling on the back. Routes depended on time of day and flow of incoming/outgoing traffic

Lot: We could park up to four separate lots at a time (usually only during the busiest times). This used 4 to 6 people per individual lot in the morning each with a defined role.

Bus Booth: Checking in busses to make sure they had the appropriate decal or parking pass to access the lot then assigning them a space for the day. This position was usually only staffed up through midafternoon. And there was air conditioning!

Blue Point: Positioned out near where the road curves around the speedway, this person controlled access to disability parking as well as the AAA diamond lot. They also kept coordinators aware of any serious backups or issues with the morning rush. This was another position that was only staffed up until a certain time.

Because it was Attractions line of business we got breaks every two hours. However because our role was based on inflow/outflow, you could have either a really long break or really short break. Christmas was the best as you’d go hard for the first two hours, but then the park would close for capacity so you’d sit in the break room and only run one or two trams, waiting for folks to start coming out so you could ramp back up. Interesting note…the park usually would fill before the parking lot.

JEFF: Any times you can think of that you went out of your way to make a guest’s visit more magical?

BRANDON: Little things that point out the individual always worked best such as having the tram sing Happy Birthday to a guest or letting a kid say “Driver Clear”. We were there first and last impression for the most part, so just being nice and informative they mostly appreciated.

JEFF: Any other fun stories that you’d like to share, I’d love to hear them!

BRANDON: As for lighthearted stories, most involve folks forgetting where they parked.

Once I had a lady who rode with me on the tram for an entire run before she asked when we would stop at “Film”…her car was actually parked at the Studios’ parking lot!

Some infrequent guests would aka about transportation options that didn’t exist such as a monorail to MGM. Then when we’d explain they needed to catch a bus from the TTC, they’d ask “when did they change that”….

Some folks also had a hard time understanding Universal and Sea World were separate entities, many miles from Disney. I’d always get asked where the monorail to Islands of Adventure was.

Thank you for sharing with us Brandon!

Don’t forget come back each week to hear more of the magic directly From the Mouth of the Mouse.

Tickets are now on sale for the


Come celebrate EPCOT’s 30th Anniversary in style with a live taping of MiceChat’s Communicore Weekly! Join co-hosts Jeff Heimbuch & George Taylor, along with MiceChat’s Dusty Sage, Kevin Yee, and the Communicore Weekly Orchestra, for a fun-filled night of fandom and frivolity as they tape a special hour long episode of the hit show, Communicore Weekly.

Join us on the evening of Saturday, September 29th 2912 in the Norway Pavilion Special Events Lounge in EPCOT’s World Showcase for this one of a kind event!

Your ticket includes:

  • Admission into the live taping of CW in the Norway Pavilion of EPCOT (note: admission into the park is NOT included)!
  • Meet special guest, Ron Schneider, the original Dreamfinder!
  • Decadent dessert reception!
  • Short scavenger hunt hosted by Kevin Yee before the show will be available to those who would like to participate (prizes will be awarded)!
  • Prizes, giveaways and more!
  • The chance to be a part of EPCOT and Communicore Weekly history!
  • Endless Five Legged Goats and perhaps even a real life Bathroom Break!
  • Exclusive late night ride after park closing on a selected EPCOT attraction to cap off the evening!


For more tickets and more information, be sure to visit!

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.

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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 Jeff is also writing a book with former Imagineer and Disney Legend, Rolly Crump. You can find out more about the book at

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  • WheresMickey

    Great story!

  • Dusty Sage

    When I read “Parking Lot” in the title, I assumed that this wouldn’t be very interesting. But I was wrong. I really enjoyed this article! Thank you.