So I dunno if you’ve noticed one of the pages on the site is called ‘All the Worlds a Disney Stage’ and probably thought it was just me destroying Shakespeare.
Well it’s not just that, it’s also a short 99c eBook I threw together all about my first year working for Disney, when I worked for Walt Disney World.
Anyway if you’ve been curious about it here is the chance to read some of it, this is an excerpt about beginning right at the start as a performer on the streets of the Magic Kingdom; Hope you like it.
It starts by simply throwing everything away we ever thought we knew about life and starting over again. Everything, even the tiniest most natural habitual movement is re-thought out, adapted and made better for the ‘new us’. Walking, waving, gesturing, nodding, nothing can be taken for granted. Our minds are being reprogrammed as if we have begun again as babies and are re-growing within a professional performer mould.
Days pass, and exhaustion takes hold. Overworking and terrible American food combine and I become very ill for the next couple of weeks, but I hide it from the trainers as each day was as valuable as it was daunting, and also physically exhausting.
Disney performance training is highly sought after and has a lot of sensitive information that I won’t/can’t go into. But after a few weeks of January sliding by, it is time to hit the streets for the very first time and embrace the next twelve months of my new life.
Training along with me were a bunch of other fledgling performers ready to make their mark on our new behemoth of a stage called Home, and would come to be great friends of mine in the months to come as we each performed in our respective spots across Disney World.
There are many places across Disney where one can perform, and most performers are never stuck in one spot for more than a day or two. So becoming bored with the job, in my opinion, is really difficult to do, particularly if you’re like me and are hired to complete a mere twelve month contract only to be sent home afterwards with an expired visa, kicking and screaming all the way.
Walt Disney World spans four theme parks, two water parks, one shopping and entertainment mega, several full scale golf courses, spas, retreats and more than thirty resorts boasting a combined effort of more hotel rooms than New York City. And plenty of shows, parades, and streets to go around. When you begin, you are likely to start the same as I did, on the street.
There are a great many street performers throughout Disney parks and resorts, never allowing a second for you to entertain boredom. Even many of the restaurants, in both the parks and resorts, boast performers that entertain people at their tables. My first discovery: grumpy people and suits on business trips eat at Disney, too. So learn early on how to spot them, and move on! Nothing takes the shine off your shift like having your first show of the day spoiled by a business couple you cheesed off during their protein loaded pre-meeting hangover-cure breakfast at six a.m.
Most of our guests are happy, however. I mean, it’s pretty difficult not to be when you’re at The Happiest Place on Earth, but some people still manage to be grumpy and I had to realize that early on so I could make my peace with it.
I began the year being perfectly fine entertaining grumpy people close up and simply focusing on the happy ones and allowing the grumpy to move on. It was only later in the year that they started to bother me, causing me to focus more on them to try and change their mood only to have them leave early making me feel like I’ve wasted my effort and the time of the happy people. I feel like mimes and other such street performers are going to be able to visualize my struggle very easily while reading this.
Performing on the street is hard, hot and tiring work. Depending on what you’re wearing, and the nature of your routine, some days can be brutal. I’m sure I’m preaching to the converted when I stress the importance of water and hydrating fluids like PowerAde. One fluid I can’t demote enough is coffee (actually let me add poisonous energy drinks to that also).
In those early days, I went through a massive life overhaul, and began to really rethink what I consumed and, in particular, how much water. I’ve done mime and clowning before, but I have never struggled so intensely to maintain enough water in my body to keep going strong. It became a very purposeful focus.
But no-matter what level of effort I committed to becoming better for the job, many, most even beat me out in commitment. People put serious time and effort into maintaining their bodies that allowed them to put their best foot forward.
Besides hitting the gym, running and yoga are important tools for a performer. Building stamina and flexibility are paramount to success. It’s an awful fact that we do get hurt, and eventually we get too old for the job which can come far too early if you don’t prioritise your health.
When I first started performing, I couldn’t imagine how my Captains and Supervisors were okay with having such performance knowledge and passion without ever getting out there and doing it themselves. To me, the benefits of promotion and a better title and position didn’t outweigh the downside, which was stepping aside and letting others hit the stage.
It was only after talking to one of my Captains, Brock, which I discovered a lot of them actually did perform, and did so in some absolutely spectacular shows.
Brock toured with ‘Disney on Ice’ as well as ‘Disney Live’ which staged shows around the world. He’s in his late thirties now and his body is just unable to cope under the physical pressure of such demanding work so he now looks after us while we have our time in the sun.
So next time you’re at Disney World and you see the performer supervisors standing near the shows and entertainment areas, strike up a conversation with one of them, ponder a little about their life. You never ever know who you might be talking to and what kind of life you may be able to hear about and be inspired by.
One friend of mine struck up a conversation with one such cast member while he was enjoying lunch at the restaurant she worked at. A little while into the conversation she found out that he was a casting agent, around the same time he found out that she was wonderful. He subsequently took her name and now she’s a friend and fellow performer of mine, happily cast a year and a half ago while serving someone lunch. Life has a way of laughing at, then throwing away our plans.
Well guys that’s it for this morning, today I’m going to an ancient village outside of Shanghai (train permitting) so if I find it thats where I’ll be. Stay tuned for more updates, and thanks for coming down memory lane with me, it was fun 🙂
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