Jason On The Monorail
by, 03-27-2012 at 03:51 AM
Hello, and welcome to this week's [B]'From The Mouth Of The Mouse!'[/B]
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.
[SIZE=3][FONT=verdana]This week, we're chatting with Jason, who worked on the Disneyland Monorail for a few years before Disney's California Adventure was built. He has some great stories to share, and some pretty interesting insight into what went into working one of the most beloved attractions at all of the Disney Resorts.[/FONT][/SIZE]
[SIZE=3][SIZE=3] [FONT=verdana]And now, here's Jason! [/FONT]
[I][SIZE=3][FONT=verdana]JEFF: What made you want to work at Disney to begin with?
[/FONT][/SIZE][/I][/FONT][SIZE=3][FONT=verdana][INDENT][B]JASON:[/B] I've always had Disney running through my veins. As a child, my Mom would take my older sister and I to Disneyland a few times a year. When relatives from out of town would come to visit (which was often), Disneyland was always first on their list of things to see. I remember I would always find myself looking up at the Monorail Beams mesmerized. I use to think to myself that when I grew up, I wanted to be a Monorail driver. One time, I got to sit up with the driver on a Mark 3 Monorail and that did it for me. I had to drive one of these things when I got older!
There is nothing like sitting in the bubble glass top and viewing Disneyland & the parking lot (which is now DCA). It was the coolest sensation, not to mention the bragging rights you got from it! You felt like royalty up there. Too bad they didn't bring that back in the new design. My stepfather’s dad (my step-grandfather?) worked for the Disney Studios back in the day, and worked with Walt. He would often share stories of how Walt did things and I would just be fascinated. My step-grandfather actually helped build the fountain in the Tiki Room. So, I guess all of this was a big part of my childhood. Who wouldn't want to work somewhere that reminded them of their childhood? [/INDENT]
[I]JEFF: When you were first hired, did you pick the area where you wanted to work or was that assigned to you?
[/I][INDENT][B]JASON: [/B]That is kind of a funny story. When I first applied, I obviously had Monorails on my brain, but I never really said anything about it. I was just going to play it cool and see what happened. I was just happy to be there. I was fortunately lucky enough to interview with the manager of the Tomorrowland business unit. She said during the interview that I seemed very mature and that she was looking for mature individuals to work on the Monorail. Again, I played it cool, but in my head, I was jumping for joy. Right out of the gate, I was going to be a Monorail Driver? Amazing!
That was always considered a privileged attraction to work. Typically, you had to be at the park for a few years before you got to work Monorails. I went on my merry way and started my orientation at the Disney University. Day 1 was all the basics. Learning the "Disney way." How to look, dress, act, and speak in the way Walt envisioned. The usual.
Day 2 was more relevant to what role I was hired in, Attractions. The class was called "Attractions & You." We got to watch some cheesy training videos, then go out into the park, and ride some attractions. The purpose of that was to observe Castmembers working various positions. I don't know how much that helped me, but I was having fun going on attractions without waiting in any lines! We also got a free lunch out of it!
We did this for about 3 hours before going back to TDA (Team Disney Anaheim). Towards the end of the day, we were handed our attraction that we were to be trained on. We were all handed a white piece of paper with our schedules on it. When I got mine it said…Autopia??!!
My heart sunk! It had to have been some mistake. I immediately brought it to the attention of the instructors. I told them that the manager of the Tomorrowland business unit requested for me to work Monorails. They told me unless I had a health condition, I had to work my assignment. Before I could even think, the words “I have asthma” shot out of my mouth. Everyone knows that gas fumes + asthma = BAD. So, they looked at me kind of funny and told me to have a seat and they would get back to me. About 10 minutes later, I was handed a new piece of paper with the word "Monorails" right on top. Whew! That was a close one. Once again, my destiny was going to be fulfilled.
Aside from the Monorails, I also worked on the Steam Trains, Fantasmic, and GC (Guest Control). [/INDENT]
[I]JEFF: Can you give me an overview of what a typical day was like for you?
[/I][INDENT][B]JASON:[/B] Well, I mostly worked closing shifts. The morning was mostly the Cast Members with the most seniority. Usually older and everything “by the book.” To be honest, these Cast Members were not much fun to work with. Then there was the night crew. It mostly consisted of college-aged kids and it got pretty loose and crazy at night. Lots of fooling around and flirting went on. I have to admit, it was FUN!
Coming in for a Monorail shift went something like this:
· Drive to Katella Lot (Castmember Parking Lot) and spend 10-15 minutes looking for a parking spot. This is where you better have left the house early, because there was usually a lot of delays getting to your shift.
· Stand in line to take the “Cast Shuttle” to get to Harbor House (backstage Disneyland). This was just like waiting in line for an attraction that you really didn’t want to go on. Except this queue was long and boring with nothing to look at and no theming. Sometimes you had to wait 2 or 3 shuttles before you got on your “ride vehicle.” This was another delay by 15 minutes that you needed to factor in to get to your shift on time.
· Check in at Harbor House. This is where you’d wait in another line to scan your ID card so that the security guards know that you belong backstage.
· Go get your costume for the attraction that you would be working. This was yet another delay that could cause you to be late. This line could get pretty long, too. At least they had a flat screen to watch Cast TV (News & Information for Cast Members) on. Now comes the moment of truth. Did you get a nice new clean costume or did you get something that looked like it been on property since America Signs debuted?
· Go to your locker and change into your costume.
· Go to your attraction. Has anyone ever timed how long it takes to get from Main Street to an attraction on the other side of the park? God help you if you were working Splash Mountain! You had to figure another 15 minutes to get to your attraction.
Moral of the story is that you better plan on leaving the house up to 2 hours before your start time to make sure you don’t get any points. Points? You don’t know what points are?! Well, let me tell you. Points are something that a Cast Member does not want. If you are late or call out sick, you will get points. I believe if you are late you will get 1 or 2 points. If you call out you will get 3 points. If you accumulate too many points in a 12 month period, you will be suspended. Not a good thing to have on your record.
Now comes the fun part, working your attraction.
At the time I worked there we had 4 monorails: Monorail Orange (was always breaking down), Monorail Blue (the work horse of the bunch), Monorail Purple (the oldest one), and Monorail Red (the quickest one in the fleet).
If you worked a morning shift you would go to the Tomorrowland business unit which was located where Buzz Lightyear is located now. If you were walking down the path towards Tomorrowland from the castle, to the right there is a bunch of phones and water fountains. The business unit was located in between the water fountains and the Tomorrowland Terrace. It just looked like a bunch of blacked out glass windows. Inside was just a small office with a break room, complete with vending machines and TV. Here you would find out what position you would be starting out for the day.
The prize position was starting off in a train (monorail). If you had that privilege, you would then go to the roundhouse located backstage by It’s A Small World. The roundhouse was so cool, because you had the trains on the ground floor starting up for the morning, and the monorails up top on the second floor. The mechanics that ran the shop would decide which monorail would be in service that day. So if they told you that “Blue” was going out first, you would grab your checklist and go through it and sign off that the monorail was in good working order. Sort of like a pre-flight check in on an airplane.
They had this old wooden staircase on wheels that you would wheel over to your monorail and climb in. At this point, you would find out if you were afraid of heights because the monorail was about 15 feet off of the ground! There is something strange about climbing into a monorail instead of walking onto it. From here you would do a radio check and wait for clearance that the switch was in the right position to back the monorail up on the main line. Running the train in reverse was always cool. You had a monitor in the nose cone to see out of a camera that was installed in the tail cone. Then you would bring your monorail to the hotel side (Downtown Disney) and wait for all the guest to start making their way into the park.
Once you got back to the Tomorrowland station, you usually got “bumped” to be on a break for 15minutes. That was the cool thing about working monorails…you could get bumped to 15 minute breaks a lot during your shifts.
You would move from position to position depending who was coming back from a break or who was coming on to a new shift. We were constantly moving around. You would start off at the entrance of the attraction. This was called the greeter position. Then you would move to the “SA” (special assistance) elevator. Next, you would be at the turnstiles. From there, up to the platform. After working the platform for a bit, you’d jump in a train for some drive time. This is the part where every monorail driver wants to be. There is nothing like having full control over a monorail. Training was twice as long as a normal attraction just because of the complexity and skill needed to drive one of these things. I remember some Cast Members never really got the hang of it and were re-assigned for something else. Then you’re at the hotel, and you work that side for a bit. Then back into a train for a ride back to the Tomorrowland station. Then you go on a break. This cycle would repeat over and over till you were done with your shift.[/INDENT]
JEFF: Before the interview, you mentioned you had a great story about FANTASMIC. I’d love for you to share it!
[/I][INDENT][B]JASON:[/B] Ahhhh Fantasmic, where do I begin? I guess this story ties in with everything else. During my second day of training (Attractions and You), I noticed a young lady (her name was Jane) sitting across from me that looked like Snow White. I kept thinking that she must have been lost from the Character Department. As the day went on, I found out that she was in fact a transfer from Character Department. She played Snow White in the park and in Fantasmic. We had a fun time training that day, and I found out that she was assigned to Fantasyland.
I’d see her ever once in a while working the parade routes. I use to drive the monorail right by Alice in Wonderland and would honk the horn to get her attention and wave to her as I was driving (very slowly) by. This went on for a few months until I had built up the courage to ask her out. She said yes, and a year later we were married!
But let me digress…when we were dating, I found out that she was the female vocalist in Fantasmic during the Princess Melody, and did Wendy’s voice during the Peter Pan sequence. I was blown away by this since I seen the show so many times. She had a background in musical theater, so the recording session was just another gig to her.
She told me that a year before the attraction debuted, another person had recorded her part. As it turned out that, it was discovered that this other person posed nude in a publication, so Disney fired her from the gig. That’s when Jane got to re-record everything. She had no clue what she was doing it for exactly when she started. When she found out that it was for a new attraction at Disneyland, she thought that it was going to be a flop! Boy, was she wrong.
It was so strange to see Fantasmic with Jane standing right next to me. Thousands of guests that would watch the show, night after night, and not know that the person singing in it was working as a Cast Member near-by. Sadly, Jane died on July 17, 2010 from liver disease. We were married for 10 years and have 2 beautiful children together.[/INDENT]
JEFF: That is an amazingly romantic story. It definitely sounds like one of those magical Disney romances. I’m so sorry for your loss, though. Just know that she still brings joy to thousands of people every night when they hear her during Fantasmic![/I]
[I]Do you have any other stories that you'd like to share?[/I]
[/FONT][/SIZE][INDENT][SIZE=3][FONT=verdana][B]JASON:[/B] Riding in a Monorail is usually a nice, smooth ride. We were instructed to travel at different speeds, depending on what location or “zone” we were in. Generally speaking, we went 35 MPH outside of the park, and 15 MPH inside the park. Since everything was still controlled manually, this speed limit was a guideline to follow. At night, after the park closed, was another story. If you were a closer, there was always some reason or another why you wanted to get off as soon as possible. A lot of the times it would be to meet up with your fellow Cast Members at Denny’s across the street for an early morning breakfast.
Monorails was one of the longest attraction to close out at the end of the day. You have to shuttle guests back to the hotel till they were all gone. This would put it somewhere around 1:15 am in the morning, even though the park closed at 12am. So if you were the last monorail back to Disneyland from the hotel, it would go something like this…
We would be sitting at Downtown Disney in our monorail, loaded up with Cast Members that needed to get back to Disneyland. That would include everyone from the monorail, main gate ticket folks, and sometimes custodial. Basically, enough people to fill up the nose cone.
We would have to wait until we had clearance back to the roundhouse. Then, the monorail became a whole new E-Ticket attraction. We would put the monorail in its fastest speed setting (P4) and never look back. Doing 40 mph in a monorail outside the park is one thing, but inside the park is nuts! Once we entered the park, with all of its banks and turns, was downright violent. The monorail would shake and slam from side to side so hard that it would literally knock us out of our seats. This, of course, was fun to us, as we would laugh uncontrollably. Quite the ride! This isn’t possible in the new monorails because they are almost fully automatic. No more driving in manual mode anymore and everything is recorded on a hard drive. So now if something breaks, everyone knows who was driving and who at fault![/FONT][/SIZE][/INDENT]
[FONT=verdana][SIZE=3]Thanks, Jason, for chatting with me![/SIZE][/FONT]
[SIZE=3][FONT=verdana]Don't forget come back each week to hear more of the magic directly [B]From the Mouth of the Mouse[/B].
[/URL][/FONT][/SIZE][SIZE=3][FONT=verdana]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="[email protected]"][email protected][/EMAIL]. I'd love to hear from you!
Jeff also writes a MiceChat column titled [URL="http://micechat.com/blogs/the-626/"][B]The 626[/B][/URL]. We invite you to check it out!
[/FONT][/SIZE][SIZE=3][FONT=verdana]Jeff also co-hosts the VidCast [URL="http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLFFAFAC3F767465A9&feature=plcp"]Communicore Weekly[/URL] on [URL="http://www.youtube.com/user/MiceChat"]MiceTube[/URL]. [/FONT][/SIZE]
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