Theme park cast member stories: 'Yes, I speak Disney'
Written by Robert Niles
Walt Disney World, like many workplaces, has its own language. When I got my start in newspapers, at a small daily in Bloomington, Indiana, I was told on the first day that should an irate visitor storm into the newsroom, I was to get on the phone, dial the line that put me on the building loudspeaker and ask for the editor of the paper to come to "proof-reading."Tweet
That was the code for security to come to the newsroom, now. There is no "proof-reading" department in a newspaper. That's the work of what we call the "copy desk." But the average Joe doesn't know that. So the paper used that word as code, to alert security without alarming the visitor and escalating the situation before help arrived. (Using the editor's name was the code to alert security to come to the newsroom. If you used the name of another department head, security would run to that department.)
If that newspaper had a code phrase, Disney World had its own code language.
Some you might know already: If you're inside the park you are "on stage." The people visiting are never customers, they are "guests" (as Marty Sklar reminds us).
When an attraction was down at Disney, we never used the words "down" or "closed" in front of guests. (And especially not "broken"!) Instead, we were to use the code "101" when talking with other cast members, whether in person, on the phone or over a radio. When the attraction came back up, we were to say that it was "102."
Obviously, when speaking directly with guests, you would tell them that a ride was "temporarily unavailable," before suggestion an alternative in the area. The codes 101 and 102 were just for use with other cast members, in case guests were in hearing range.
I was told that the number 101 was selected because, at the time that Disneyland opened that was the number of the highway that ran just north of the theme park. (It's now Interstate 5.) So, in essence, the cast members were joking that, since the ride was closed, it was time for guests to "hit the highway."
If you're wondering, the idea behind saying "102" instead of "open now," was to prevent an even larger rush to the now-available-with-no-line attraction. (If you've ever seen Space Mountain get mobbed after a downtime, you'll see the wisdom in that.)
Those weren't Disney's only "on-stage" codes. A "signal 70" was a lost child. A "signal 25" was a fire. And a "signal V" was a "protein spill" - someone losing their lunch.
On stage and off, Disney cast members frequently use abbreviated names for locations around the park. Pirates of the Caribbean becomes "Pirates" and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad becomes "Thunder," for example.
You were supposed to use the proper, complete name of a location when speaking with a guest, but supervisors rarely objected if you used "Pirates" or "Thunder" on stage, since many guests used those terms, too.
Other terms were strictly for use with other cast members, though, such as "TSI" for Tom Sawyer's Island or "Bear Band" for the Country Bear Jamboree. Most guests would need a moment or two to figure what you were talking about when you mentioned "Bear Band," for example. I know I needed several seconds to realize that I supposed to be at Country Bear Jamboree when I was told to report to "Bear Band" for my first day in attractions.
Yet, from time to time, an edict would come down that certain abbreviations weren't for use on stage at any time if guests were in the park and might overhear. One famous example was "DCA," used on message boards as well as internally to reference the Disney California Adventure theme park. Another I recently heard was verboten is "WOD" (pronounced "wahd") for the World of Disney stores.
And of course, anyone using within guest earshot the very-popular-among-cast-members phrase "taco tour" to reference a tour group of South American teen-agers could look forward to an immediate verbal reprimand.
On the topic of names forbidden-by-Disney, I had fun recently asking this question about two banned terms:
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