From the Wilds of the Jungle to Adventures in Space with Aaron!
by, 05-22-2012 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.
[FONT=verdana][SIZE=3]This week, we talk to Aaron. He started his Disney career at Walt Disney World, exploring the rivers of the world on the Jungle Cruise, before winding up in the final frontier on Space Mountain.
JEFF: So tell me a bit about how you got into Disney to begin with?[/I]
[INDENT][B]AARON:[/B] I grew up watching a good amount of Disney movies and shows, but I never specifically loved Disney for most of my life, which some find hard to believe. I came across Roller Coaster Tycoon when I was in 7th grade, and became addicted. I started thinking I wanted to work in theme parks, mostly designing rides. Doing research, I discovered the Imagineers, and became obsessed with Disneyland and Walt Disney World then. At that point, I've never been to either World but I knew them like the back of my hand.[/INDENT]
[I]JEFF: How did you wind up working at the Jungle Cruise? I know that's a coveted position![/I]
[INDENT][B]AARON:[/B] I did the college program at the Jungle Cruise. I wanted to work in operations for the chance to do a job not many people get to do. No one picks their specific ride though, and it was all chance that I was picked for the Jungle Cruise. When I was interviewed, I was asked if I minded speaking in front of guest, and I said I didn't mind doing a small safety spiel. I died when I learned I was going to be a Skipper, spieling for ten minutes at a time! I probably would not have picked it if I had a choice. At the time, I never realized how many people wanted that job or how many people loved the Jungle. But after the first horrifying week, the job became amazingly fun and I could not pick up enough hours to work.[/INDENT]
JEFF: What's the training like to become a Skipper?[/I]
[INDENT][B]AARON:[/B] Well, to be honest, I had a disadvantage. The three people I trained with frequented Disney parks and knew most of the jokes. Learning them really wasn't hard, because we rode boats over and over to learn the jokes. The hard part was getting the timing right, and putting enough gusto in to make the worst of the jokes funny; well, that and getting over any fears of performing in public. But they reward us with a Dole Whip when all was said and done![/INDENT]
[I]JEFF: What's a typical day like for a Skipper? [/I]
[INDENT][B]AARON: [/B]It really depends on your shift. If you open the Jungle, procedures include wiping all the boats dry and all of the benches and trash cans in Adventureland dry. Also, the Skippers take a little boat out with brushes and clean the show scenes. If they close, Skippers still lock up the guns in the gun boxes on the boats, even though they don't really fire anymore. One of the more exciting responsibilities for Skippers it to help evacuate Pirates of the Caribbean. Pirates is so large that there aren't enough Cast Members there to get the guests safely out in an emergency, so we go over and help them out. When there were more Cast Members than positions, we would get what's called a "bucket" position that usually was a short task. When I was at the Jungle, one of the buckets was to walk through the tree house. That never got old to me, because Swiss Family Robinson has been and still is a favorite movie of mine.[/INDENT]
JEFF: Do you have a favorite joke from the Jungle Cruise? Do you have any of your own that you made up?[/I]
[INDENT][B]AARON:[/B] We really aren't supposed to deviate from the Operation Guide for the jokes, but what I would do was tell my boat that I wanted to be famous. In order to be famous, I would remind them of my name, Skipper Aaron, a few times. As the cruise went on, I would say "Skipper Aaron" more and more, to the point where it was after every joke! People loved it and would say it with me, and it actually started working. Guest would come back and ask to ride my boat. Sometimes people would recognize me around Orlando and there was even a fan club on Facebook for a long time, all of which were unexpected.[/INDENT]
[I]JEFF: After your adventures in the Jungle, you moved over to Space Mountain. Why did you move over there?[/I]
[INDENT][B]AARON:[/B] My college program ended, so I went back to Texas for school. I did another program, which started me at Space Mountain. As much as I loved the Jungle, I'm glad I had a change in atmosphere and work. I stayed at Space Mountain after my program ended. Even though we are normal Cast Members at Space, there's a strong pride and a sense of power that comes with the most popular coaster in the world that's pretty addictive and hard to leave.[/INDENT]
[I]JEFF: What are your responsibilities on Space Mountain?[/I]
[INDENT][B]AARON:[/B] Safety is number one, not that it wasn't at the Jungle as well. However, because of the nature of the ride , there is a lot more to look out for. Safety aside, it is the goal of the Cast there to load a train and launch it every 19.5 seconds. To make this work, we have to rapidly merge the lines, group the parties, get them seated, check the restraints and monitor in the tower. There was actually more to memorize with Space than Jungle. Space Mountain, despite being older, is a highly advanced piece of machinery that is operated by four computers constantly getting software updates. Learning how to turn the ride on and off and to restart it is difficult, as it is a tedious and complicated sequence of actions, both in the control tower and on the track. And learning all the sections of both tracks and how to get there was crazy, like learning your way around a M.C. Escher sketch. Working Space is incredibly different and more of a challenge, but I love it.[/INDENT]
JEFF: Now that you've worked two completely different attractions, do you prefer one ride over the other?[/I]
[INDENT][B]AARON:[/B] It's not fair to compare the two because they are vastly different. Different operations, with different co-workers and management made for completely different experiences. Jungle was more laid back, but also somehow more exhausting. Space doesn't allow the same amount of guest interaction, which sometimes was depressing. At the Jungle Cruise, anyone could ride, even on a wheel chair. At Space, there are a lot of disappointed young guest who can't ride, which leads to upset parents (usually more upset than the kids). Jungle Cruise, there was no air conditioning, even in the break room, but Space Mountain is dark and cool. Space Mountain was a lot more fun to ride before and after work, and it was a lot cooler to be able to avoid waiting in line there. One had animal sounds, one had space sounds. I lost my voice at both and both had Fastpass. One closed because of lighting and one closed because of slow guest. At Space, almost all the guest were happy at the end of the ride, and at the Jungle, a surprising amount of guest don't appreciate the experience. Both have pros and cons. The pride and hard work that happens at Space is stronger than the Jungle. Despite how coveted the Jungle job is, I think the general love for the job is stronger at Space.[/INDENT]
[I]JEFF: Do you have any stories about going out of your way to make a Guest's visit more magical?[/I][INDENT]
[B]AARON:[/B] Many times on my way into work at Space, I would bring along a random family through Fastpass. It was a tradition that started when there was a long line in the queue, and someone joked as I passed by on my way to work if they could come along and I said sure, why not![/INDENT]
JEFF: Any other fun stories that you'd like to share, I'd love to hear them![/I]
[/FONT][/SIZE][INDENT][SIZE=3][FONT=verdana][B]AARON:[/B] At one point, there were three Aarons working at Space Mountain, so we all had to adopt nick names. I was Skipper Aaron, and there was a New Aaron and a Just Aaron. At the Jungle Cruise, we all had nick names even if there was only one of us, like British David, Martini John, or Dear Abby.
I'll share a Jungle tradition that I'm not sure many people know about. When a skipper leaves the Jungle Cruise, they leave behind a boot (back when they wore boots) hidden around the Jungle. Every once in a while, the boots piled up, and they have to remove them. One of my friends at the time decided that the best way to keep his boots at the jungle was to hide them in plain sight. He left them nice and neat on stage in Albert Awol’s office in the queue, where it looked like one of the props. When last I checked, they were still there.
Another memorable moment at the Jungle was when a family got off the boat and said "Well, that wasn't the pirate ride after all!"
One of my all-time favorites was when a guest proposed on Space Mountain by holding up a sign that said "Will you marry me?" and when she saw the photo at the end of the ride, he got on his knees and pulled out the ring. She said yes and we let them ride over and over.
One of the best parts about being a Cast Member is the previews. Annually, we get to watch the parades before the guest, which is always fun. On rare occasions, we get to experience attractions before guest, like I did with Captain Eo. Even rarer is being on an opening team for a new attraction, because they are part of the final product, testing with Imagineering to polish the attraction. I was lucky to do something similar with Space Mountain. The installation of the "Stary-o-phinc" sound began during my training. My trainer pointed out the mysterious phantom speakers that were coming and going. With air quotes, he emphasized that we were not getting sound.
Over the course of the next few months, we could notice more and more speakers being installed around the track. Shifts started appearing for Test and Adjust, which usually just is for software updates. I'm a workaholic at Disney, so I picked up a lot of these shifts and discovered that the Imagineers were there testing out the sound. One of the bonuses of the late late late shifts was Imagineering brought food that we could all eat. For months, the Imagineers rode the ride over and over for hours at a time to measure sound and timing. After a while, the Space Cast Members were given the chance to ride and give input. We were expecting more space-like music to match Disneyland, but we discovered it was a new unique soundtrack. The cool part is the music is layered. At the top of the track, you hear one part of the music, in the middle another part and at the end, the end of the song. We lovingly dubbed it "80's B movie sci-fi Christmas pop music." The strange part is that we could tell no one. Usually Disney is gung-ho to share coming new things, but we were to remain silent and no one knew when the music would start permanently. One day the music was turned on, and there were some issues because most of the cast were unfamiliar with the new sounds. We are trained to hit the E-stop when we hear an unusual sound, and that happened a few times! As for the guest, little noticed the change the first day. Even Cast Members from the west side of MK didn't know for a few days, but then the word spread, and the lines grew with people waiting to hear the new sound. It was funny seeing all the bloggers holding phones and recorders up to speakers to catch as much new audio as they could.
Okay, here's the second to last story, I swear. One time when we were down for a while, and I was out front telling guest that we were down for technical difficulties. Then a man said to me "I blame Obama!" His wife looked at him confused and asked why. He pointedly said "NASA budget cuts!" Not thirty minutes later, a teen girl with a sibling (I think it was a girl) and a Guest Relations guide came up to the ride. I told them that the ride was closed. The girl, who I just assumed came from a family who could afford a guide, started talking to me. She asked questions like where I was from, and did I like working there. We had a nice conversation that led to her noticing my school on my name tag. "Stephen F. Austin State! I was accepted there, but this whole acting and fame thing happened." She said it jokingly but it left me confused for days as to who it was. Turns out I talked to Debby Ryan for about ten minutes!
[INDENT][SIZE=3][FONT=verdana] Ok, so I lied, this is the second to last story! One of my co-worker friends from the Jungle dated Jim Gaffigan. He brought his family to Disney and apparently was close with my friend still, so she invited me along to spend the day at Animal Kingdom with him. He walked around like a normal guy and did not tell any jokes. However, a Skipper can't stop saying puns, as we do it in our sleep, eating dinner, and while praying at church. It's hard to turn the jokes off when you tell them for hours a day. The entire time I was with him, I tried so hard not tell jokes, or at least say "Hot Pocket." But after a few hours, I managed not to tell bad jokes to a comedian. I thought I was safe until the next day his family came to the Jungle and decided they wanted to ride my boat. Talk about pressure! There's a difference between a comedian on stage and a Skipper. Once on the boat, you can't leave, so the audience is stuck with the Skipper and the Skipper is stuck with the audience. Another major difference is comedy clubs don't have to worry about mutiny from an angry audience! I pulled out my best scripted jokes and told them the best way I could, somewhat predictably, and made Jim Gaffigan laugh. I've seen a hand full of famous people at Disney, but only Gaffigan was subjected to ten minutes of bad jokes with me.
One last story! Since the implementation of the new software on Space Mountain, there have been a lot of program bugs that cause frequent automatic E-stops. Strange things like closing and opening the gates too fast, or all the control panels at load hitting stations stop at the same time. We adopted a little mascot to blame. A space monkey we call Otte E. Stoppe! He has a [URL="https://www.facebook.com/pages/Otto-E/185841548100806"]Facebook page[/URL] too![/FONT][/SIZE][/INDENT]
[FONT=verdana][SIZE=3][SIZE=3]Thank you, Aaron, for sharing with us![/SIZE][/SIZE][/FONT]
[FONT=verdana]Don't forget come back each week to hear more of the magic directly [/FONT][B]From the Mouth of the Mouse[/B][FONT=verdana].
Tickets are now on sale for the
[B]COMMUNICORE WEEKLY 38TH WEEKAVERSARY
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[/FONT][/SIZE]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:
[LIST][*]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! [/LIST]
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[/URL][B]By Jeff Heimbuch[/B]
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