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Vote of the week: What's the best theme park job?

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Published: October 24, 2008 at 12:06 PM

I'm feeling nostalgic today for my old gig, working attractions on the west side of Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. Not that I'd want to go back - I couldn't come close to making ends meet on that pay anymore. But driving rafts, rolling out the parade route and hanging out around Pirates and Big Thunder was a blast.

Robert Niles, in Big Thunder costume, circa 1990.

As theme park fans, we're likely all familiar with the roles that theme park employees play. But which would you most like to do for a day, in lieu of your current job, and for the same pay? Let's limit the options to top jobs in the attractions and entertainment departments, leaving out the many merchandise, food, custodial and support jobs for now.

Here are the options:

Ride attendant: The folks who stand on the loan and unload platforms, push the buttons at dispatch and tower and watch the camera monitors for, um, inappropriate activity.

Ride driver: For me, it was driving a Tom Sawyer Island raft, but for others, it can be driving monorails, fire trucks or even horse-drawns stagecoaches.

Spieling attractions host: Think Jungle Cruise, or any other of many spiel-driven tour attractions.

Dancer/parade performer: Whether it is a stage show or an afternoon parade, these are the folks working the crowd, dancing and burning more calories than Homer Simpson consumes in a month.

Face character: For example, Prince Charming, Cinderella and other characters who do not wear a mask.

Rubberhead character: Mickey, Homer and any other person who climbs in a suit and dons the big rubber head to play a theme park 'toon.

Describe your dream theme park job, in the comments.

Readers' Opinions

From Reid Loveland on October 24, 2008 at 12:31 PM
I loved attraction operations. I did it for 10 years.
From Greg Bark on October 24, 2008 at 2:01 PM
You forgot the guy at the Dippin' Dots stand!
From Alan Puscus on October 24, 2008 at 2:11 PM
I'd love to inspect various rides before park opening. Checking to see if all the AAs, FXs, soundtracks were working right. After that, maybe helping guests maximize their day by working in an information booth.
From Joshua Counsil on October 24, 2008 at 3:53 PM
I'd say "spiel" from the list you provided, but what about mechanics, engineers, promotional staff, and the like? Or are you just focusing on part-time jobs?
From Robert Niles on October 24, 2008 at 4:05 PM
As I wrote, I included just "on stage" attraction/entertainment jobs, leaving the food, merch, custodial and support (such as maintenance) jobs out for this one.
From Robert Niles on October 24, 2008 at 4:12 PM
BTW, I voted for ride driver, with the TSI rafts in mind. Fun, literate crowd, an active job without a supervisor in sight (I had to stock the lead office with plenty of doughtnuts and coffee to get sups to drop by when I had maintenance requests)... not to mention the best weight loss/maintenance program on Earth. (See what happens to your weight driving those rafts in 98-degree heat and 98-percent humidity for eight hours while wearing polyester from neck to ankle.)

And we got to wear sunglasses.

From Corey Romberg on October 24, 2008 at 4:57 PM
Well, I currently work in Attractions, at the Seas with Nemo and Friends and Turtle Talk with Crush at Epcot, and I love it! But its not the pushing buttons part I love the most, although it is fun to have control of the ride (and since we have a moving belt, we often have to slow or even stop the belt)...the part I love the most is hosting Turtle Talk, because I get to do a little spiel and just watch the ever hilarious Crush interact with the kids, which is always unique and thus never gets old...I could host that show all day long! Kidcot is also fun cause I get to color with little kids while sitting down in A/C right next to a window to the 2nd largest aqarium in the US! Doesnt get much better than that! I also love closing and opening the ride and getting to walk the track with the lights on, and getting to see the awesome Angler Fish kuka robot arm AA in action in the light...its kinda scary actually!

Anyway, if I had to do a different job at WDW, it would be on a spieling attraction, since my fave part of my current role is speiling in Turtle Talk, and when I previously worked on the Friendship Boats, my favorite part of that was speiling as well....it would be awesome to get to spiel on Jungle Cruise or Kilimanjaro Safaris!

Character Performer (Fur or Face) would be a lot of fun too! I actually think Im going to audition to switch to that soon...I wanna be Peter Pan!! Im the right height and Ive been told I look the part

From Amanda Jenkins on October 24, 2008 at 9:28 PM
I always wanted to be a character. Whether face or mask. I think that it would be so much fun. I think you should go for it Corey and try out for Peter Pan.
From Anthony Murphy on October 24, 2008 at 9:51 PM
Speil workers would be fun! I would love to work on the Jungle Cruise, Kilimanjaro Safari, or Jaws.
From TH Creative on October 25, 2008 at 4:15 AM
Three words: Jungle Cruise Skipper
From TH Creative on October 25, 2008 at 4:16 AM
Robert, what year was that pic snapped? And where can a guy get a pair of those stylin' frames you're sporting?
From James Rao on October 25, 2008 at 7:57 AM
I wanna be the guy who makes sure there are plenty of barf bags in the Mission: Space ride compartments. I do not, however, want to be the guy that cleans up the occasional "spillage."

Honestly, despite the fact that I am a moderately successful project lead and software engineer in Kansas City, I would shovel the elephant sh-- at DAK for a chance to operate Expedition Everest.

From Robert Niles on October 25, 2008 at 9:00 AM
August 1990. Old school tortoise-shell Ray-Ban Wayfarer knock-offs.
From TH Creative on October 25, 2008 at 3:34 PM
Suh-weeeeet!
From Bruce Lane on October 25, 2008 at 6:19 PM
The fact that you left out any mention of animal trainers/show presenters was a surprise to me, especially considering that many non-zoo attractions do have some sort of wildlife show.

Just as a few examples: The Grouse Mountain resort, in west Vancouver, BC, has a raptor show every summer. And let's not forget that the Great America parks, at one time, had dolphin shows at a couple of their locations. So did Magic Mountain (in fact, I was a volunteer there for a while).

Jumping over to Ohio, let's not forget Cedar Point. They've had a dolphin show for ages (assuming it's still there).

So, with that in mind -- If I could do something like that for a day, at my current rate of pay, I'd pick presenting a birds-of-prey show at Grouse. Gorgeous location!

Happy travels. Oh, and Happy Birthday Robert!

From Robert Niles on October 25, 2008 at 7:17 PM
You're right, Bruce. I had Magic Kingdom on the brain when I did this poll, and completely space the animal trainers. My bad.

And, thank you. :-)

From Bryan Fear on October 27, 2008 at 7:40 AM
"August 1990. Old school tortoise-shell Ray-Ban Wayfarer knock-offs."

aka - The Jake Blues. ( I should know... )


I'd agree with the post above and second "Jungle Cruise Skipper." any other job in the park would be pointless to me. It's JCS or nothing.

From brian lochridge on October 27, 2008 at 11:17 AM
Gotta be a driver, that would really break up the monotony of a typical day. Robert, it had to be great driving those Tom Sawyer rafts, I always wanted to do that when I was a kid, heck I still would love to now.
From Joshua Counsil on October 27, 2008 at 3:15 PM
As for what to spiel on, my favorites are (limiting myself to Orlando):

Universal Studios:
Jaws
Universal Horror Make-Up Show (the host)
Terminator 2: 3D (the overzealous and peppy Public Relations guide)
Disaster! (the worker interacting with Christopher Walken)
The Simpsons Ride (I never received a spiel, but I'm such a Simpsons nerd that I'd make one up - "Welcome to The Simpsons Ride, the world's most cromulent attraction")

Magic Kingdom:
Haunted Mansion

Disney's Hollywood Studios:
The Magic of Disney Animation
The Great Movie Ride
Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

Epcot:
Innoventions (any of the attractions)
Mission: Space (I just love this ride, despite that Gary Sinise covers most of the spiel)
Living with the Land
O Canada! (appropriate due to my heritage)

From TH Creative on October 27, 2008 at 4:27 PM
There is a You Tube clip called "Jungle Cruise with 7 Pretty Okay Skippers." The first guy who speaks has poor sound quality. But the rest of the stuff is CLASSIC!

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