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Theme park cast member stories: 'Yes, I speak Disney'

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Published: November 21, 2010 at 4:18 PM

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."

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:


I'd love to hear some stories from other past or present theme park employees about the code words and phrases you've used when working in the parks.

Readers' Opinions

From James Koehl on November 21, 2010 at 5:02 PM
I've never worked for a park, but I've known enough CP workers to know that rope-drop is called "The Running of the Bulls" and that park visitors were called "the animals", but of course never when anyone of authority was within earshot!
From Jorge Arnoldson on November 21, 2010 at 7:14 PM
That's nice for all of us to know. Isn't the term "taco tour" kind of offensive to CMs that might have family in South America? Tacos originated in Mexico, not South America.
From Stacy Healy on November 21, 2010 at 8:19 PM
I have to agree with Jorge, that isn't very nice.
From 69.14.216.42 on November 21, 2010 at 9:39 PM
When I have CP reunions with my fellow CMs from Splash, our conversations about events that took place on the ride are virtually indecipherable to anyone who wasn't a Splash CM. Other Disney CMs could probably understand some of what we're talking about, but the specialized lingo is just too specific for anyone who hasn't been around the ride to understand. We like it that way.
From Robert Niles on November 21, 2010 at 11:01 PM
That's why the "TT" comment earned a verbal.
From Anthony Murphy on November 21, 2010 at 11:52 PM
DVC is a bad word? I have heard that one a ton including using it too.

Time Share would annoy me more,but that could be that I am a DVC,er, Disney Vacation Club Member!

From Eric Malone on November 22, 2010 at 7:30 AM
Having been subject to winding up in the midst of South American tour groups in many Orlando ride queues in my time visiting theme parks, I find the term 'taco tour' to be absolutely hilarious. I know most of you will find it potentially offensive - as I've seen already in the comments - but everyone is so uptight these days. Personally, I can see the benefits in warning my fellow cast members that there's sharks in the water.
From Pyra-Danny V on November 22, 2010 at 9:17 AM
Heh heh... when working at the "W. Florida Theme Park" I've unofficially heard of those South American groups referred to as "waxes." (If it took you too long to realize, it seemed that most groups were Brazilian)
From Jason Jackson on November 22, 2010 at 9:42 AM
At one park, a 10-3 is litter and a wet 10-3 means someone has thrown up.
From Ted Heumann on November 22, 2010 at 11:16 AM
I already mentioned this in a previous posting, but there is no such thing as crowd control at Disney. Only guest control, but we called it pest control.
From Joshua Counsil on November 23, 2010 at 12:20 PM
Taco Tour? LOL. Man, that's a quick way to lose your job.

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