Theme park cast member stories: When nature calls....
Written by Robert Niles
This weekend, many of my former co-workers from Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom West Attractions held a reunion in Florida. (Magic Kingdom West attractions are the rides and shows in Adventureland, Frontierland and Liberty Square, including Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, Big Thunder Mountain and Haunted Mansion, among many others.)Tweet
Living on the "other" coast, near Los Angeles, I wasn't able to make the party, though I am enjoying the many pictures posted to Facebook. There was much reminiscing, I'm told, about "101"s, Disney's code for an attraction out of order. In that spirit, I thought I'd offer up a downtime story of mine own here this week. Let's see what other stories mine might elicit. ;-)
The first attraction I worked when I started in MK West was the Country Bear Jamboree, or, as Disney attraction cast members know it, "Bear Band."
Bear Band required very little skill to operate, which is why it was a popular first attraction for new hires. There were three positions in the rotation when I worked there:
Actually, there was a fourth position, making change at the Shooting Gallery, but every time we could, we froze some loner there so we wouldn't have to deal with people complaining about the aim on those lame infrared "rifles."
Theater was fun, the first dozen or so times you saw the show. By the time you'd seen the "Country Bear Vacation Howdown" for the 500th time, the 18-minute show cycle became a Kafkaesque experience. Your mind was forced to wander, simply to remain sane: How many times this show will people take flash pictures, despite my telling them not to do so? Should I teach myself French? If I kill myself now, will I simply reawaken when the next show begins? Do you think I can get a date with Andie MacDowell?
Ultimately, you lived for the downtimes. You cherished any malfunction that broke the monotony, and introduced some variance into the shift. (That, or Thunder having a no-show and calling you over there to cover.)
My favorite? Well, you need to know that Bear Band is a totally mechanical show, with hydraulics pushing, twisting, turning, raising and lowering each of the bears. The "host," Henry, appears on three turntables, sharing the each space with another character, on the other side of the turntable. For his first appearance in the show, Henry appears stage left, seated alone, wearing a green "Camp Grizzly" t-shirt and a pair of khaki shorts.
Henry bends forward at the waist when he laughs, controlled by a hydraulic line that runs up his core. And this day, that line sprung a leak, spewing hydraulic fluid at a point just below the bear's waist.
Right through his khaki shorts.
That's right, Henry was wetting himself.
Being a good, show-conscious Disney cast member, I threw the switch to stop the show, apologized to the crowd and asked them to exit the theater. Not that anyone heard me over the laughter from the audience. It took me a good five minutes to break up the queue of people who'd gathered in front of Henry's turntable, to get their photo taken with the incontinent bear.
After I'd cleared the theater and we'd called maintenance to repair the show, there was the usual downtime paperwork to be done. And neither my lead nor I could resist the temptation, in the section where we were to describe the reason for the downtime, to write:
"Henry peed his pants."
Former theme park employees, please share your silliest downtime stories, in the comments.
For more stories about working at Walt Disney World, please visit our "Stories from a Theme Park Insider" page!
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