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Theme park cast member stories: Here's to the folks who keep the workers warm

Written by
Published: January 11, 2010 at 7:20 AM

With the record cold weather in the Orlando area this week, I thought I'd use this week's cast member story to give a shout out to the people who try to keep Disney's cast members warm in this frigid air - the folks in Disney's costuming department.

Most weeks of the year, Disney cast members don their standard costumes. But when temperatures head south (or, uh, north?), the wardrobe crew brings out an assortment of cold weather gear.

I was a big fan of a grey, long-sleeved undershirt that I wore underneath both my Tom Sawyer Island and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad shirts. Both those were short-sleeved shirts, so having thick cotton long sleeves to keep the cold air off my arms was a must.

My favorite single cold-weather item was the Disney blue pea coat, which I wore while working Tom Sawyer Island. A lined, thick woolen coat, the pea coat felt absolutely luxurious compared with every other item I ever wore at Disney. No cold I encountered in Florida could penetrate the Disney pea coat, and I retreated within it on every crossing of the Rivers of America during those cold snaps.

Other cold weather items, well, didn't fare so well. Disney issued us black cotton gloves, which worked nicely while working Country Bear Jamboree or even Thunder Mountain. But at TSI, the gloves were a total fail. Even the suggestion of water rendered those gloves worthless. And if you did manage to keep the gloves dry, you still couldn't use them while driving a raft - the cotton slipped over the fiberglass tiller, keeping you from getting a decent grip on it so you could steer. After the first day, I turned in my gloves without replacement, and just shoved my hands into that toasty pea coat to keep them warm.

Fortunately, once the temperature sank below 50 degrees, supervisors ceased caring about the "bad show" of cast members putting their hands in their pockets, so we could get away with that.

The worst winter costumes were those from Pirates of the Caribbean. From the waist up, you rocked - a turtleneck underneath the flimsy shirt kept you warm and the winter pirate jackets may have been the most spectacular costume piece in Magic Kingdom West attractions - a thick, cropped jacket with flared cuffs. But from the waist down... shiver me timbers. Just your same old flared knee pants, with thin, striped knee-high socks. Brrr.

At least you got to spend most of your shift indoors. Pirate CMs send to work turnstile or the queue tried not to venture past the front doors.

For toasty warmness overall, though, you couldn't beat the Thunder Mountain gear: a green corduroy vest over your pale red (okay, pink) shirt, topped with a fake-fur-lined heavy brown jacket. The Disney-issued cowboy boots kept your feet warm and the hat was one of the few issued by Disney that you didn't mind wearing, even if the temperature climbed up into the 60s. They certainly beat those awful straw hats they issued us for TSI.

(FWIW, the Haunted Mansion had some awesome winter great coats, but I never worked Mansion, save a few greeter shifts during the summer.)

Add everything up, though, and you're talking two time, maybe even three times, as many costume pieces as you'd wear on a normal day. That's two to three times as many pieces to check in, launder, sort, hang and then check back out again as usual.

So that's why the costuming crew deserves a thank you on weeks like these. Ultimately, everyone working in a theme park works as a team. And without folks in wardrobe, that'd be quite the chilly team this week.

Readers' Opinions

From Tyler Bell on January 11, 2010 at 10:44 AM
I am going to Disney World today.
From Rob P on January 11, 2010 at 11:22 AM
....and there's me thinking that you guys just wore your own weekend gear to work.
From Corbin Barker on January 11, 2010 at 12:42 PM
Back at DAK, Asia had this orange looking jacket. At first, I wasn't a fan of it (nobody really was.) But my first EMH, the temperature got down in the 40s, and working a water ride, Robert may have had to deal with this maybe not, the water on the rafts were nice and frigid. The coldness went straight from your hands to your arms and then everywhere else on your body. That orange jacket that everybody didn't really like became our best friends. That thing was warm as could be.

Great story, Robert. The Costuming department def. deserves a pat on the back.

From 69.122.57.31 on January 11, 2010 at 2:59 PM
yay for the tomorroland jacket! the best one ever! :D
From Joshua Counsil on January 11, 2010 at 4:50 PM
And here's to the people who, more importantly, keep us cool.

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