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Theme park cast member stories: Writing your own script

By Robert Niles
Published: July 20, 2009 at 7:16 AM
Every Monday, Theme Park Insider editor Robert Niles shares one of his stories from working as a cast member at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. If you have ever worked at any theme park and have a story you'd like to share in this weekly feature, e-mail Robert.

Most Disney World attractions jobs require some level of spieling - that is, speaking a script to guests. At minimum, you offer a few safety instructions as guests board a ride vehicle. At the other extreme, you're working a ride like Jungle Cruise, where your spiel is the attraction.

By dumb luck, I was one of the few male cast members who worked more than a year in Magic Kingdom West attractions and never once pulled a shift in the Jungle. But that didn't stop me from telling silly jokes to try to get a laugh.

Weird Al is right about one thing - the Magic Kingdom is filled with actors - former actors, aspiring actors and part-time actors. The nature of the job attracts people who are comfortable in performance. So we spiel. (To this day, if you call me for a public speaking or TV gig - and my sked is free - I'll be there.)

There was no script for spieling on Tom Sawyer Island, but I always enjoyed talking with (and performing for) the guests. So at those times when we enough people in the rotation to cover a dock attendant, I made up some spiels, rather than stand there in awkward silence while waiting for the next raft. None of these were SOP (standard operating procedure, Disney-written spiels); I just made 'em up myself.

My favorite was a "safety" spiel.

"Good morning, everyone!" (Wait for response.) "Oh, come on, you can yell louder than that; I said Good morning!" (Wait for response.) "My name is Robert and I'd like to welcome you to the Tom Sawyer's Island rafts. Now our rafts are the only way over to Tom Sawyer's Island, which really is an island. It is completely surrounded by the Rivers of America.

"So just come on back to the raft dock where you arrived on the island when you want to come back to Frontierland. Now, if you don't want to ride the raft back, though, there is one - and only one - other way back off the island.

"Everyone raise your right hand, over your heads, please." (I raised my hand, and waited for the crowd to do the same.) "Now put that down, and raise your left hand, over your head." (You have to envision us all raising and lowering our hands over our heads.) "Now, the right again, then the left, and the right... and if you want to add in a kicking motion, that'll help you get off the island a lot quicker, too.

"Or... you can just come on back to the dock and wait for the raft."

This spiel, in addition to waking everyone from their slumber before they visited what is, essentially, a playground, helped prevent the second most-frustrating question we got from guests: "Is there any way else back off the island?"

(The first most-frustrating question was "Are these rafts on tracks?" Grrrr.....)

I had a go-to line while driving the rafts, too, which I delivered as I pushed the raft away from the mainland dock.

"If anything should go wrong during our trip, oxygen masks will drop from the compartments above your heads, and your seats may be used as a flotation device."

Of course, the TSI rafts have no roof, and no seats. Still, every time I cracked this joke, some people would look up to find the masks or down to find their seats. And their friends would laugh at them for doing it.

I'm sure the current and former Jungle skippers who read TPI have some personal favorite non-SOP jokes that they could share, as do folks who worked other attractions. Feel free to share 'em in the comments.

Readers' Opinions

From Anthony Murphy on July 20, 2009 at 8:05 AM
The last time I was down at WDW, I went on a night Jungle Cruise and I got to see the illusive talking hippo calling for his mother! (Skipper turns off lights in hippo area and yells "HEY MA!". Guess thats not Disney's SOP.
From kerri kosmas on July 20, 2009 at 9:57 AM
i used to work at speedway. our only spiel we needed was "no bumping" like that did anything but tempt them! Questions I got all the time: "where's the break?" (there is only one pedal push to go take your foot off to stop) "which one is the break" "how do i go" "i ran out of gas(they took the foot off the pedal)"
From Joshua Counsil on July 20, 2009 at 11:19 AM
Not bad, Robert. It's nice to see people put in extra work to entertain the guests.
From Albino Pygmy on July 20, 2009 at 12:08 PM
Former Jungle skip here, and I have to say, you would have been a living legend in the Jungle if you had decided to venture out in our neck of the woods. I've taken guests down the rivers of adventure a couple years ago, so I'm no legend, nor do I have any of my own lines to brag about.

However, there were a few times when my mind goes into "autopilot mode" where I'd just do the standard OG spiel and I'd start spieling about how we just discovered the secret bathing pool of the Indian elephants, and we have just passed the plane crash heading into the hippo pool. When that happens, it does snap me out of autopilot mode and trying to not make myself look dumb, I continue onwards with my elephant spiel in the hippo pool, continue the rest of the normal spiel, and then do the hippo spiel as soon as we pull out of the temple, and then comment how I'm still learning the difference between hippos and elephants. I know my zebras because they're black and white, and not large gray matters.

And then when we do pull up to the unload dock, there are a bunch of great lines I loved using:
-"Now I'm going to leave you with some words of advice my father once told me on my 18th birthday . . . Son, take off that pink dress, you're embarassing the family, get out." (originally, 'pack your bags and get out, the free ride's over')
-"Please make sure you leave the same way you came on, pushing and shoving the family infront of you, it's payback, and the Disney way. If you came in the front, go out the front, if you came in the back, go out the back, DO NOT CROSS THE CENTER CRATES! Crossing those crates is a FIRE HAZARD! You cross those crates, you will then trip and hurt yourself, I will then have to laugh at you, and then I will then get fired for that, so please don't cross over those crates, it's hazardous to my health."
-"Go out with (insert name here), someone please go out with (name). He hasn't had a date in over 3 years and isn't quite the same anymore. He used to enjoy long walks on Pygmy beach, hanging out with Chief Namee, skinny dipping in the hippo pool, and reading romantic novels cuddled up with a gorilla."
-(Skipper Joe exit spiel, the day is not complete unless you have done this spiel once in you shift)
"Please do not cross over our crates, folks, head out the back door, it's got 30% less calories and full of anti-oxidents, and here at the Jungle Cruise, we would like to prevent any oxidents from happening because we're really big on safety, also Hostess products, rotisserie chicken, the magenta crayon in the 64 Crayola box, the one with the built in sharpener, Peeps!, Taco Bell, and anything grilled at the Goooooooooooooooooooooooooolden Coral, but mostly safety. So have a magical magical magical magical day . . . and pie. Nothing's more magical than a slice of warm dutch apple pie with a scoop of french vanilla ice cream. Delish!"

From 208.103.52.73 on July 20, 2009 at 12:20 PM
We were in Disney In December and got on a early ride of JC. The Skipper asked if we were all loaded? Of course we said "Yes!" and his reply was "Kind of early to be loaded don't you think?" Of course wanting to have a good time I just could not resist replying "It's 5 o'clock somewhere!" Our skipper just laughed and said "I see its going to be one of those mornings already!" The rest of the cruse was one joke after another. A good time was had by all! Just goes to show that not just CM's can get in on the fun.
From 152.16.51.158 on July 20, 2009 at 1:50 PM
I was a fantasyland cast member and when things would get slow at Dumbo the Flying Elephant, we would sometimes tell guests to make sure they didn't bump into the dumbo in front of them.
From Brian L on July 21, 2009 at 2:59 PM
At Splash Mountain everyone always used the "Please lower your lap bar" spiel when, of course, the lap bars are firmly held in place. The guests would try to lower the bars but to no avail. Then when the log was being dispatched the guests would yell out to us, "They aren't coming down!!" and would freak out a little bit. We would reply in turn, "Oh sorry, you must have got the busted one....Have Fun!!!" That never ever got old.

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Stories from a Theme Park Insider

Stories from a Theme Park Insider

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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