Theme park cast member stories: The company Christmas party
Published: December 14, 2009 at 9:38 AM
Having been in the workforce now for a couple of decades, I've watched companies' holiday parties deteriorate from expensive blow-outs to family dinners to workplace luncheons to... nothing. The first newspaper where I had a full-time gig rented the largest hotel ballroom in town for its event, serving a prime-rib dinner and hiring a live band. By the time I left the newspaper industry, the company Christmas party was reduced to a pitch-in luncheon in a staff meeting room.
Okay, the newspaper industry is dying, but businesses across the economy have cut back over the years. I don't know what Walt Disney World does for a company Christmas party these days (am I sure that a current cast member will fill us in...), but it used to be that Walt Disney World would rent out, well, Walt Disney World for the evening.
Specifically, the Magic Kingdom, where I worked. Today, of course, you know this event as Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. So many people in the Orlando area were angling for invites to the party from cast members they knew that Disney realized there was a market for this kind of event, and converted the cast party into an after-hours hard-ticket event.
I never went to the party, opting to work each night of the event instead. (Hey, someone had to!) I loved working the cast Christmas party, because they were the easiest "busy" shifts of the year.
First, you got to ignore a whole slew of rules about what you could, and couldn't do, on stage. The company figured that even though you were working the event, the party was for you, too. So you could buy the discounted food or go get one of the freebie goodies and eat it stage. Want to sit down on a bench in Frontierland and chat with a friend on break? Or sneak in a trip on your favorite ride?
Since the whole crowd was cast members and their family or friends, you got almost no grief from anyone, despite the large crowd. Working parade and need to clear a crosswalk? You felt like Charlton Heston parting the Red Sea - wave your arms, and they're gone. Trying to load the theater in Country Bear Jamboree? You didn't need to spiel for folks to slide all the way down to the end of each row. They knew, and did it.
These were park pros, just like you.
Frankly, the Walt Disney World cast Christmas party spoiled me forever on company Christmas parties. Even though I appreciated that first newspaper prime-rib bash, it didn't awe me.
I mean, it's not like we got a free ride on the Haunted Mansion or anything....
Here's the archive of Robert's stories about working at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom.