April 10, 2008
Bigwigs always have skipped the linesAn article in the Orlando Sentinel this morning reveals that Disney World's been handing out all-day FastPasses to government officials, allowing them to skip lines for Disney World attractions at will.
The technology may have changed, but the practice is nothing new. When I worked at Disney World, every week I saw some VIP - including actors, musicians and government officials - being escorted past queues and on to attractions. We used to call it "back-dooring" the ride.
I remember some of the women I worked with at Thunder Mountain playing with a young Alexa Ray Joel on the grassy hill behind the queue while her dad, Billy, and his band rode the coaster. My sister almost gotten taken down by a Secret Service member when she told former President Jimmy Carter (whom she did not recognize) to get behind the ropes when she was clearing the parade route.
My favorite incident? When a confused and embarrassed guest services tour guide approached me at Pirates, asking for help because she's gotten lost in the queue trying to backdoor her VIP into the ride. (It was during the late parade and there was no line to skip.) I followed her through the queue to where she had left her VIP, and there we found, sitting quietly, former mayor of Paris and future French President Jacques Chirac (whom I did immediately recognize. Take that, Sis!)
That was the way folks used to skip the line, under escort of a Disney tour guide. (Walt himself being the original host to do this at Disneyland.) With the FastPasses, now VIPs can blow through the parks without Disney having to pay for the guide to show them around. Which, presumably, could allow Disney to extend the perk to more people.
Is it unfair for government officials, many of whom make decisions about laws and regulations affecting the Mouse, to get preferred treatment in the parks? Sure, but let's get real. Businesses have been handing out freebies, perks and deals to officials for years. Because Disney does not charge for FastPasses, though, these perks have no monetary value and do not have to be declared as gifts. (Unlike, for example, free admission into the park, which Disney also provides VIPs from time to time.)
Of course, the easiest way for Joe Schmo to get the same, no-wait treatment is to arrive at the park at its opening in the morning. Plus, there's the added bonus of no politicians in the park at that hour. It's waaay too early for them. ;-)
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