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Theme park cast member stories: 'Is that *really* your name?'

By Robert Niles
Published: April 13, 2009 at 10:42 AM
Inspired a bit by the movie Adventureland, from time to time I'll be posting vignettes I remember from my days as a Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom attractions cast member. If you've worked in the industry, as well, feel free to post your favorite (reasonably family-friendly) stories in the comments.

My favorite place to work was Tom Sawyer's Island, driving the rafts to and from the island. A couple of times, however, glue holding my nametag to the pin attaching it to my shirt gave way, and I lost my nametag into the river.

No big deal; just take the pin back downstairs to the costume department, and they've give you another one, free. (They'd charge you a buck for the lost tag, if you didn't have the pin and the story.) If they didn't have a tag with your first name on it, you'd have to make do with one from the bin for a couple days, until they could make a new tag and deliver it to you.

Unfortunately, that meant that you would have to go by that other name while "on stage" until your new tag arrived. Having no "Robert" that day, I decided to have a little fun and go with the only other "R" name in the bin...

Randy. (UK readers, please contain yourself while I finish the story.)

The next morning, I was skedded to work the Tiki Room, which meant long stints standing in front of the Swiss Family Treehouse, as the turnstile position for Tree was part of the Tiki Room's staffing rotation. Without my regular Robert name tag, I was supposed to respond whenever a guest called me Randy.

Again, no big deal, until a couple of elderly English women approached the tree, and one near twisted her neck off whipping her head around to take a second look at my nametag.

She grabbed her friend by the arm.

"You've got to take a look at this!" she exclaimed, pulling her friend toward me.

"Is that *really* your name?"

"Yes, ma'am, it is," I lied, like a good Disney cast member.

She squealed, wrapped her arm around me and declared, "I have got to get a picture of this!"

So the women corralled the next person in line, and demanded that we all step out in front of the free for a photo: "Randy" the Walt Disney World cast member, with two elderly, and presumably equally "randy," English ladies draped over his sides, giving him a long and thoroughly inappropriate embrace.

"Wait 'til we tell the others about this!" the second giggled. And for the rest of my shift, I greeted in my queue dozens of older English ladies, chuckling, smiling and sometimes winking as they passed me.

I shudder to think of the stories that were told about me when the first two ladies were showing those pictures.

[For those unfamiliar with English slang, who don't get this story: here ya go.]

Readers' Opinions

From Joshua Counsil on April 13, 2009 at 11:18 AM
Nice.

I think I may have lost my tag more often for a chance at something like this.

From 199.99.195.10 on April 13, 2009 at 11:52 AM
Well, my name really IS Randy....
From TH Creative on April 13, 2009 at 12:21 PM
I'm thinking this one is reasonablly "family friendly."

My wife has worked in characters for years. She has played a variety of different characters including Mickey Mouse. Over the years she has made appearances with a bunch of celebrities who have visited the parks. On one occasion, the performer she appeared with was Dolly Parton.

Already everyone reading this knows where it's going.

Now everyone who has seen the character costumes understands that the size of the heads requires the performer inside to be aware of the proximity of the objects and people around them. When a character is posing for photos with children they are constantly working to be aware of what is around them -- so they don't turn too quickly and bump into someone or something ...

... or in this case, some things.

At the appearance (I believe) Ms. Parton was to walk to the center of the stage alone. Then Minnie was to skip over to Dolly from stage left and Mickey was to skip over from stage right. Dolly was to turn to Minnie and very slightly bow. Minnie who would curtsy. Dolly would then turn to Mickey, again bow slightly and Mickey would bow in return.

Now to add a little more "magic" to the story, The whole production was for a press event -- meaning the front row was wall to wall photographers.

Out came Dolly. Out skipped Minnie. Out skipped Mickey. Ms. Parton turned to Minnie and bowed to her curtsy. She turned to Mickey (my wife) who had lost a bit of her awareness about where the head was.

Dolly bowed and Mickey bowed -- placing his nose squarely into Ms. Parton's cleavage.

My wife realized she had bumped into something (again "things"). But when she pulled back what she remembered was about a million camera flashes blowin' up from the press.

Her Minnie (who later backstage laughed uncontrollably) played it off crossing her arms and stomping her yellow pumps.

From Todd Houts on April 13, 2009 at 12:30 PM
I really enjoyed your story Robert, until TH posted his. That was priceless. (And frankly, understanding the physical difficulties in being in character on stage - I have the greatest respect for those performers.) I'm sure Ms. Parton was just wonderful about the incident, since all I've ever heard about her is how genuine she really is. (And the performer in the Minnie outfit deserves kudos for providing the perfect Minnie response.)
From Derek Potter on April 13, 2009 at 1:26 PM
That's a fantastic story TH. Robert you have been upstaged this time.
From Anthony Murphy on April 13, 2009 at 1:26 PM
While I am just a Disney Store Cast Member, I have been multiple people including Pat, Chris, and William. It too awhile to get my nametag.

OK, so not as exciting as Roberts!

From Don Neal on April 13, 2009 at 1:51 PM
Great stories guys! Both were hilarious!
From TH Creative on April 13, 2009 at 2:34 PM
Now STOP it!. I never intended to upstage anyone. :o)
From Robert Niles on April 13, 2009 at 2:45 PM
Hey, I'm just kicking it off here. Folks are welcomed to offer their best stuff. Props to TH.

And there is much, much more to come. :-)

From TH Creative on April 13, 2009 at 4:14 PM
Here's another one from my better-half. A long time ago she was travelling nationally promoting Walt Disney World around the country by portraying Mickey Mouse on various local television shows. While in Chicago, she and some of the other characters were scheduled to appear on 'Bozo's Circus.'

The way she recalls it, the Disney characters were assigned a tiny dressing room and they could hear Bozo and Cookie the clown right outside their door.

Eventually she suited up and stepped out of the dressing room. And there was Bozo. Bozo spotted her and walked right up and shook hands. He started chattering away about how glad he was to have Mickey on his show. My wife (who stayed in character -- not talking) animated an enthusiastic response.

Bozo kept chatting when a production assistant walked up to tell him it was time to get to the set. As my wife reports it, Bozo turned to the production assistant and saind (indignantly), "I beg your pardon, but I am trying to have a conversation with Mickey Mouse."

From Corbin Barker on April 13, 2009 at 4:19 PM
Ok, so my story isn't as good as the others that have been posted so far, but I still feel like telling my tale of "spreading the magic."

I was a Walt Disney World College Program participant back in spring 2008, and I was assigned to Kali River Rapids at Animal Kingdom (DAK). It was around early march, so if you've ever worked at Disney you know that's the time when all the cheerleaders are rumbling around the parks while not at their competition. Well it was a Wednesday, which mean it was our evening Extra Tragic Hours, oh I mean Extra Magic Hours, and nobody was on our ride. Half way through, there was a big group of cheerleaders about 16 years of age.

Oh boy...here comes trouble...

They took up 3 rafts back to back to back. I was the only loader on the turntable at the time, so I had the "privilege" of loading each one to their rafts. At this point I should mention I forgot my nametag back at Vista Way, so I had to grab another nametag. Pretty much like Robert said earlier if you have lost your name tag you'd get whatever nametag the Asia managers had to lend. Today was my lucky day...that day I was Marge.

Continuing my story, I was going through my speel to buckle up and put all belongings in the center console, yada yada yada. Well one girl was yelling, "Marge, Marge!"...and I didn't think anything of it, thinking that somebody in the raft was named Marge. But she kept yelling "Marge!!" I completely forgot that I was wearing that nametag and I was Marge, so when we made eye contact I started to laugh and told them that wasn't my real name. She asked what my real name was, and playing along and trying to make small talk (there was a lot of turntable left, so I had time), I asked "What do you think my name is? Guess." She looked me over and...here it comes...she yells:

"You look like a McLovin!!"

Now I know what you're thinking...yes, I am a tall, skinny, white kid, but I don't really think of myself as a McLovin build. Anyway everybody in the raft started busting out laughing. The girl yelled out to the other rafts "Hey! Doesn't he look like McLovin?" And now everybody was giggling, even my fellow cast members were laughing. So they go on their merry way and we wait for them to complete their journey.

When they got back, the rafts were yelling "Hey McLovin!" and "We love you McLovin!". So with me taking advantage of this situation, started to raise my arms telling them to yell louder. Since nobody was in line, they decided to go again. So they leave again, 5 minutes later they come back around and the roars are even louder, screaming for me, McLovin. I play along, by jumping on their rafts and egging them on to keep coming up with stuff. So they leave once more, and me and the fellow cast members are convinced that they'll get tired of the whole McLovin routine and they'll probably get cold and tired of the ride and get off.

We were wrong...

As they rounded the corner coming back to the turntable, we all stop and one cast member looks and asks, "What's that sound? Do you hear that?" Well in the 3 or 4 minutes during the ride, the cheerleaders came up with (what else) a cheer.

"We're ready! We're Ready!! We're Ready...for McLOVIN!!!"

Just as they were coming back to the station, our manager and coordinator come down to the turntable with a confused look on their face. I could only stand there and shrug as these young cheerleaders chanted my fictitious name.

So from there on out through the rest of my program, I was known throughout all of DAK as "The Infamous McLovin."

From Manny Barron on April 13, 2009 at 5:16 PM
haha that was a nice story Corbin.
From Gareth H on April 14, 2009 at 1:32 AM
lol, so your temp tag giver says "Do I make you Randy Baby?"

Oh behave!

From hannah caller on April 14, 2009 at 9:44 AM
LOL Gareth I can imagine Robert dressed as Austin Powers!! That Mclovin one was my favourite though!!

I worked in a Disney store in the UK and they made us wear different nametags it must be global policy!!

From 216.223.173.45 on April 14, 2009 at 11:14 AM
I gave walking tours through the Land at Epcot. The one time I lost my name tag was the day my parents came through on my tour. That was a bit awkward to explain!
From Rob P on April 15, 2009 at 1:34 AM
All of these stories have been hilarious.

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What's it like to work in a theme park? Stories from a Theme Park Insider takes you inside the famous tunnels and backstage at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom for a look at how theme parks really work, sharing the funny moments and embarrassments that can happen when your job is someone else's vacation.
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