A Fantasmic! Engagement
Ryan, 23 Gold Coast, Australia
an Aussie kid, I grew up all of the incredibly far off and nearly inconceivable
7297miles from Disneyland.
first discovered what an incredible, magical place it was when I was 10 years
old when my parents took my brother and I on our first international holiday;
first stop Disneyland.
have great memories of that trip, long lines at a newly opened Indiana Jones
ride, old fashioned lemonade, staying up late to watch the fireworks (and
consequently sleeping in the next morning, much to my own disappointment, for
wasting the morning hours I could have otherwise spent back at Disneyland).
The trip was over all too quick, and as I grew older, It was shelved alongside other childhood memories. I was amazed at Disney as a kid; but it’s my most recent experiences with them that proved how magical they truly are.
Eleven years later, all grown up, girlfriend in tow, I returned to Disneyland in 2008.
Now, things had changed (most notably DCA, which on my last visit
was still a parking lot), but from the moment my partner Trish and I walked
through the turnstiles (I didn’t even have to cross the berm) it all came
flooding back – and for 72hours I found myself a spitting image of my former,
10year old self. Grinning from ear to
Fast forward another six months and I find myself reminiscing about the great times magical memories I had of Disneyland. More importantly I started thinking about what Disneyland meant to myself and to my partner, whom had just had her own incredible first visit. A few passes of the photo albums and a couple of days consulting Google to confirm just how special a place it was and I found myself planning a trip of a lifetime, back to Disneyland.
Initially I had some difficulty deciding how to incorporate the Happiest Place on Earth into one of the most important moments of our lives. Once I had an idea in mind I started planning by going straight to the top. I contacted Jay Rasulo (the then, CEO of Disney Parks & Resorts) directly. He put me in touch with the Disneyland Resort Operations Manager, who after a few discussions, approved my requests and introduced me to the VIP Guests Services Hosts. Together we planned an awesome surprise trip for Trish.
In July of 2009, I announced to everyone that I had won a competition which included an expenses paid holiday for two to spend New Year’s Eve '09/'10 at the Disneyland Resort, Anaheim. In actual fact, there was no prize. It was all part of an elaborate plan, mainly to ensure my partner and I were able to get annual leave and travel at a busy time of year.
Also, we had just got back from a holiday there the year before; I
would have had a hard time getting her to go again so soon without proper
I created a prize winners letter and had it mailed by a friend
from onsite at Disneyland, and bounced a few emails back and forth with the
staff to have the ‘proof’ of the winnings.
The plan worked perfectly, not only convincing the one and only person
it had to, but many of my fellow themepark staff at Movieworld in Australia. A fellow employee even claimed to have seen
the online competition and entry form which I had entered with.
Trish and I had a quick (previously booked) trip to Hong Kong Disneyland to give ourselves another Disney fix in between, but once the cover story was out in the open, the rest of 2009 flew by, and before long it was time.
December 30, 2009
Still believing everything was part of the prize, Trish and I set off, as I worried about keeping an engagement ring hidden whilst travelling through airports and customs.
On our arrival at LAX we were met by a 12-seater stretch limo and transferred to Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel
At the hotel we were met by one of the Resort VIP Coordinators. He welcomed us, streamlined our check in and gave us a welcome package from Mickey and Minnie (all in line with the prize winning cover story)
During the back and forth of planning for the trip, I had been asked if it was alright that the staff through in a few surprises for myself along the way. I am thankful for the effort Disney went to, to ensure our trip lived up to the elaborate story I had conceived. Within moments of arriving at the resort, I myself could have believed I was lucky enough to win such treatment.
Our welcome package included photos, merchandise, tickets, dinner reservations, and a specialized itinerary for the duration of our stay.
The Coordinator then told us, he had taken the privilege of upgrading our room to a Pool/Park view suite, overlooking the newly opened expansion of the hotel.
We were also given $500 Disney
Dollars to spend during our stay at the resort (I paid for the Disney Dollars
in private, but the suggestion was made to purchase these instead of converting
currency as we would only be onsite at the resort during our quick trip to
America, it helped serve the prize winning ruse).
We had arrived mid morning, so Trish and I spent the afternoon doing some serious shopping at Downtown Disney. We also checked out the latest Disney release The Pricness and the Frog (2009) before heading back to the hotel.
During the planning stages, it
was the suggestion of many Disney staff members to have dinner at Napa Rose, so
our ‘special itinerary’ included dinner reservations for that evening. We were given a nice park view table and a
delicious appetizer and desert on the house.
The food was quite simply, the best I have ever tasted, and filling
enough that we both would have been pleased with entrees and mains. It was a nice surprise to have our waiter
follow up with a desert tasting plate, that the ‘chef thought we would like’.
After such a great evening, Napa Rose will definitely be a repeat stop for anytime we’re near Anaheim in the future.
December 31, 2009
It was an early start on New Years Eve.
We were at the gates by 6:30am.
The resort coordinator had informed us that as part of our "prize winning status" we had been preselected to officially open Disneyland for the last day of 2009.
Inside with the other Magic Morning guests (most of whom ran straight to the Plaza to secure spots for the midnight fireworks!).
It was great to be back in the park, and to see it still dressed in holiday decorations
Following our itinerary we
headed towards Fantasyland, stopping on the way to make use of the Photo Pass
photographers. As a themepark
photographer myself, Trish and I would often stop and snap a photo with any
photographer we saw.
All the more on this particular trip, as one of the added bonuses was the inclusion of a complimentary Photo Pass CD, so we could take home all the photos of our holiday.
We continued into Fantasyland,
and headed straight to Small World Holiday where we met our first Magical
Moment guide. Our guide had made sure we
got a private boat for a tour around the Holiday themed attraction (although it
wasn’t too hard; there weren't too many people there at 7am!)
With a trip to Hong Kong Disneyland fresh in our minds, we found Disneyland's Small World much superior. It was nice to see the holiday overlay, as during our visit the year before the attraction was closed for the holiday re-fit.
Our next stop was the Character Breakfast at the Plaza Inn. At the staff’s suggestion, this reservation was made to ensure we both got the opportunity to get multiple photos with the characters without waiting in queues on what is their busiest attendance day of the year.
After breakfast, we went back
to Fantasyland to reconnect with our guide.
He took us past the barriers into an unopened Toon Town where he had
organized a special photo shoot with our celebration hosts Mickey and Minnie.
So far all was going to plan, and Trish was pretty excited.
Before saying goodbye, our
guide gave us a handful of complimentary Attraction Readmission Passes so that
we could ride anything we wanted to, all day, without waiting in lines. I had not even considered this in planning,
but kudos again to Disneyland! It’s the
busiest day of the year, with lines exceeding 4hrs, and we didn’t have to wait.
We spent the morning using some of the passes as we ride hopped our way from Toon Town to Adventureland.
As we arrived at Rivers of
America, we were just in time to catch the first performance of Tiana's
Showboat Jubilee (glad we had seen the film, the night before). It was nice to see the Mark Twain all done up
We spent the day doing the
things we loved around the park. We
stopped to catch Mickey's A Christmas Fantasy Parade, although we were lucky
enough to have seen the floats beforehand at the filming of 2008's ABC
Christmas Day Parade.
After the parade we had a
private ride onboard the Lilly Belle scheduled, but unfortunately got crammed
in with a bunch of other Disney enthusiasts (so didn’t get any decent
photographs to show for it).
We spent the afternoon using up more of our readmission passes, until; unbeknown to Trish, the moment that all the planning was leading up to was upon us. We had dinner reservations overlooking the water at Blue Bayou before meeting up with another Magical Moments guide outside.
According to our itinerary we
had priority seating to see Fantasmic! Ever since that first late night I spent
in the park as a 10 year old boy, Fantasmic! has been my personal highlight of
Disneyland. I would happily return to America and Disneyland for the show
alone, no questions asked. Needless to
say, when I brought Trish along for her first visit in 2008 and saw just how
much she loved the performance as well it was clear what would make the perfect
setting for our most memorable Disney moment.
In 2008, Disneyland was continuing the second year of the ‘Year of a Million Dreams’ promotion during which guests would be selected to spend a night in the Dream Suite above Pirates of the Caribbean. I knew from my previous visit as a child, that the Dream Suite was also the home to the best view of Fantasmic!
With this in mind, according to
our itinerary we had priority seating to see Fantasmic! Our guide showed us up the stairs to the Disneyland
At this point Trish was bouncing with so much excitement she failed to see my nerves starting to kick in. It was too hard to suppress them, the show began and there we were happily watching from the balcony.
No Murphy!?! :cry:
So we came all the way from Australia to see the latest addition and she doesnt even show up! I was a bit disappointed that of all nights, the dragon failed to show tonight, but quickly realised that the reason I had planned the whole trip was upon us.
Trish had commented just how incredible it was to be watching the
show from our vantage point on the balcony.
During the soundtracks decrescendo as Tinkerbell spreads pixie dust
across the opening of the Fantasmic! finale I leaned over and told her there
would only be one more thing that could make this moment any more magical. Ring in hand; I proposed right as the finale
kicked off when Steamboat Willie appears atop the Mark Twain.
Her answer was Yes. I dare say in the shock of the moments that followed we did miss the shows finale.
As the show ended, our guide
returned to the balcony, drinks tray in hand.
He gave his congratulations on behalf of the Disneyland Resort and
offered us some celebratory refreshments.
He made special reference to the face that there were four flutes
instead of just two.
Unbeknown to Trish, but planned
from the outset, my parents (as her’s weren’t able to travel) had been hidden
away in another room of the Dream Suite.
I had wanted to ask that some of our family be there to share in the
moment as we celebrated our engagement overseas.
We watched the fireworks from
the balcony and then returned inside for our own private tour of the suite.
Dream Suite Tour Part 1 – http://tinyurl.com/RyanDreamSuit1
Dream Suite Tour Part 2 - http://tinyurl.com/RyanDreamSuit2
Dream Suite Tour Part 3 - http://tinyurl.com/RyanDreamSuit3
Afterwards, it was back out onto the street to wait alongside 70,000 other guests for New Years.
January 1, 2010
At the stroke of midnight we ushered in
the New Year as a newly engaged couple, amongst the first official Disneyland Resort guests of 2010!
NYE Countdown - http://tinyurl.com/RyanDisneyland2010Countdown
We spent New Year’s Day with my parents at Disney California Adventure. It was still pretty crowded, and very busy.
Despite the fact that the whole
"prize winning" cover story had been blown, Disney still came to the
party, making sure we continued to have more Magical Moments, more readmission
passes, reserved seating for Aladdin, a private talk with Crush and further
surprises over the next two days.
Come nightfall, I found myself again drawing on memories of the
past. The last time I saw Disney’s Electrical
Parade was during its first Disneyland Resort run 11 years ago.
As with most things Disney, it’s definitely got the ability to
stand the test of time and was great to see it once more.
Smee picked out my camera all the way down the street. When he got to us, he waited and waited and waited for me, insisting I take a picture – if everything else that had occurred of over the last two days wasn’t enough, this simple moment proved even the small things make Disney magic!
After the parade, family in tow, we rushed back to Disneyland to catch the next performance of Fantasmic! Apparently, according to my fiancé, proposing during the finale negates the remainder of the show! No complaints from me however; After all, I wasn’t content with coming all this way and not seeing the new dragon.
We did some of this on the way...
And still made it to Rivers of America by the end of the fireworks. Just in time for the snow.
Tonight, Murphy decided to show up...
Got some shots of the finale this time too.
January 2, 2010
Back for our final day in the parks, we got a few more photos on our way to meet yet another Magical Moments tour guide. This time, our itinerary called for a personal tour of Tomorrowland, which started with a special trip on the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage.
Next up was a ride in the drivers cabin of the Monorail
...complete with his staff's han
d-made "Just Engaged" signs. A fantastic personal gift we now have amongst our Disney memories.
After touring Tomorrowland, and getting another handful of readmission passes for the day we were introduced to Grandma Pat. She is a lovely staff member from Fantasyland (see Youtube). We spent the rest of the morning with her, as she shared many stories of favorite rides in her magical land, as well as parading us around Fantasyland announcing our recent engagement to everyone in sight.
We cut the day short to head back to the hotel, as I had moved up our flights by a day to meet work commitments back in Australia.
Everyone we met at Disneyland on this particular trip was happy and helpful. It is truly a magical place. I say the same thing every time I visit any Disney park; Disney just know how to do things right. As a guest from halfway around the world, all I did was ask about sharing a magical moment at Disneyland. They took my request so seriously, they went so far as to have me believing my own cover story that I had indeed won a Disneyland Holiday!
Everyone was friendly and keen to stay in touch whenever we visit again. So needless to say, a West coast stopover will be a necessity on the honeymoon!
Original Post: http://tinyurl.com/RyanFantasmicEngagement
Shortly after New Orleans Square opened in 1966, Walt posed for this photo with Cast Members at the Creole Café. Later renamed Café Orleans, you can still find delicious desserts, and of course, espresso there.
Nowadays, you can go to Café Orleans to see the very same espresso machine pictured with Walt after all these years.
These little connections to Walt Disney are always a special treat to discover at Disneyland park. Do you have a favorite place or item in the parks that especially reminds you of Walt?
And we have one more picture! This one was taken at the Plaza Inn, in 1966, and I can’t think of anyone I’d rather share a cup of coffee with.
Today I am the technical director (and lighting/sound designer) for a theater here in Phoenix and the cadre of actors. Directors and producers who bring their work to my stage consistently report their sense of being taken care of, as if I were one of the performers on stage with them. They note my attention to detail and how much that all makes a difference. They always ask where I learned how to do it, the way I do, because it's so much better than their experience with other technical people. I've always said "I just paid attention" but you know ... seeing this invitation to muse on Walt's impact on my life, I'd have to blame him as much as any other single stimulus. And even now, at 58, I'd rather just be walking through Disneyland than almost any other activity I can think of. Thanks Walt!
My first trip to Disneyland was in 1957, when I was four. I recall seeing the Park materialize out of the mist as we approached that morning. The next few hours changed my view of the world. Monsanto House of the Future had a giant flat screen TV, toothpaste that came out of the wall, and a shower with multiple heads. Accurate visions of the future, only recently realized, that ultimately provided me with a lifetime of motivation to learn electronics, computer programming, and engineering.
This sounds like a lot at four years old, and perhaps my memory is more idealized than accurate, but the next trip, a year later, and subsequent trips over the past 45 years have provided me with a lifetime of inspiration and motivation to duplicate the things that I saw, and attempt to surpass them. Of course, it was not just the technical aspects of the Park, but the artistic influences I recall. The streets were always clean, even though crowded with people. The same Cast Members, like a certain extremely tall cop in English Bobby attire, were part of my experience for many years (he always had a smile but you knew he was in charge), and I remember taking my grandmother to lunch at the Blue Bayou and ordering the obligatory Monte Cristo Sandwich. Riding the Monorail, even though it didn't go anywhere much. (we have one in Las Vegas that is used daily, talk about forecasting the future!)
I could name every attraction, feature, food, entertainment, and change that has happened at Disneyland over the course of my lifetime, since that first visit, and it still won't convey the true impact on my life. As for Walt, he caused it all to happen, brought the ideas, money, people, and energy to bring — reality to abstract concepts. Although I never met him, I have read every publication attributed to him, and listened intently to everything he said, on "Wonderful World of Color" broadcasts, newsreels, or advertisements, and I can feel the long-term effect of his ideas and ideals in every square inch of the Park, both in the past and today.
I have passed this appreciation along to my daughter, who just turned 18 -- she was born on Walt's birthday. She is continuing the tradition of fascination with the Disney miracle, and is as big a fan as I -- although we did not make her wait until she was four for her first visit.
Walt's influence on me is a belief system I carry with me, that anything is possible with enough hard work and wit.
One Magical Night
Charity, 32, Canada, FL
I was excited when my family and I decided to visit Walt Disney World Resort for the first time – our vacation was truly magical. We spent two fabulous weeks in Disney World and enjoyed every minute of it! On the last day, we returned to our favorite spot, the Magic Kingdom. As the "Wishes" show was about to start, a Cast Member suggested that we watch the show from Fantasyland. We took his advice and all I can say is "WOW!" ... what a beautiful spot to enjoy such a truly magical show! As the show ended, I became so emotional that the tears just started to flow. When in Disney World, it's impossible not to feel the magic!
All Kids Again
Ellen, 62, Clinton, IA
I am from a family of six children and my parents loved Disney. One year they took all of their adult children to Disney World as a retirement celebration. All of the little ones stayed home.
Mom and Dad had just one request when we arrived, as they knew that we couldn't all stay together all the time. We were to meet at Frontierland across from Country Bear Jamboree at 8:45, no later. My dad was a colonel in the National Guard, so you knew to be prompt!
Their goal was to have everyone together when we watched the Electric Light Parade for the first time. Of course he pulled it off – we were all there together, their six grown children and their spouses. At the end of the parade he said, "We got just what we wanted – you were all kids again during that parade." To this day those few minutes in time bring tears to my eyes.
Now that our own children are grown and we have little grandchildren we can relate to this feeling. It is one of the reasons we have bought points with the Disney Vacation Club. We love it!
My Star Wars Birthday
Erica, 34, Jacksonville, FL
I've been visiting Walt Disney World since I was young and am a huge Disney Fan. On May 21, 2010, I celebrated my 34th birthday along with the 30th anniversary of "The Empire Strikes Back." I've been to Disney's Hollywood Studios many times over the years, but this was very different. For starters, there were Tatooine Storm Troopers on top of the welcome gate, acting like they did in the movies. Walking through the Park was also very exciting, and I was just as thrilled as my seven and 11 year-old daughters to see "Star Wars" characters everywhere! Jedi and Imperial troops were walking down the streets ... we even saw Jawas! The parade featured an incredible collection of characters including the 501st Legion. It was amazing! My girls got lightsabers and battled with Cast Members and anyone passing by in costume. My seven year-old refused to leave the Park until she found the perfect "Star Wars" trading pin – Darth Goofy! When I got the tickets a few months prior to our visit, I never imagined that my birthday could be so special. My girls are still humming the music they heard in the Park that incredible day. We'll never forget it!
Today, June 22, 1968,The last time Tom Nabbe paid to get into a Disney Park, it was July 18, 1955 — the first day Walt Disney opened his new Park to the public.
Tom was a rusty-haired 12-year-old, enjoying his day at Disneyland. The very next day he landed a job as a “newsie,” hawking “The Disneyland News” to Main Street Guests.
In 1956, Walt Disney recognized the “Tom Sawyer” in a young Nabbe, and he became the “Luckiest Boy in the World.” That’s what the cover of the April 7, 1957 issue of “Parade” magazine said, beneath a full-color photo of Tom dressed as Mark Twain’s paragon of American boyhood.
“I used to approach Walt every time I saw him around the Park,” Tom said of his yearlong pursuit of Disney and the starring role on Tom Sawyer Island.
Disney’s first response to Tom was “Why should I put you on the island when I can put a mannequin there? Especially considering the dummy won’t be running off for hot dogs every half-hour.”
Disney, quoted in the “Parade” article, had a somewhat more gracious recollection: ” He was friendly and bright — and he sure looked the part.”
One job requirement was that Tom had to keep a C average in school. So every quarter, the boy brought his report card directly to Walt for inspection. It was perhaps the hardest part of playing the character.
After outgrowing the role of Tom Sawyer, Nabbe went on to manage other attractions. In 1964, he met his wife, Janice, while they were working together at Frontierland’s Oak Tavern at Disneyland. They were married on June 22, 1968.
In 1971, Tom was transferred to Walt Disney World in Orlando as part of its opening crew, where he started as the Transportation Supervisor for the Monorail System. He also helped in the opening of Disneyland Paris.
Forty-eight years later, in June 2003, 60-year-old Tom retired from his job as manager of distribution services at Walt Disney World. He was the last working member of Club 55, a group of original Disneyland Cast Members named for Disneyland’s inaugural year and for their chief qualification of membership — a paycheck from Walt Disney dated 1955.
Shortly after his retirement, Tom received the highly selective honor of having his name on one of the windows down Main Street at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.
In September 2005, he was inducted as a Disney Legend during a ceremony that took place at Disneyland. His wife Janice and son Ken were in attendance as he received this honor. Since then, he has spoken at numerous Disney enthusiast events, telling of his experiences as the “Luckiest Boy in the World”.
By Robert Niles
Published: July 13, 2009 at 8:22 PM
At what point do you stop being cast member?
Sure, there's the last day at work in the parks. But not always. My last summer at the Magic Kingdom, I worked as a "CT," or seasonal, employee, pulling weekend shifts at Tom Sawyer's Island and weeknight shifts at parade audience control. (On weekdays, I was working as a news intern for Orlando talk radio station WDBO-AM.) I didn't take special note of my final shift as a Disney World cast member because I hadn't thought it would be my last. My plan was to come back from graduate journalism school and work the Christmas holidays at Disney. But the local newspaper up in Indiana hired me instead, so I called up and quit my Disney job, to start my journalism career.
But in some sense, I never stopped being a CM, even after that day when I quit. Obviously, my love for theme parks has endured, and I continue to use this forum to help folks get the most from their theme park visits, just as I did (in a far more limited way) working inside the parks.
And when I visit the parks themselves, whether I am at the Magic Kingdom or another Disney park, I still find myself... slipping into the CM vibe. On Natalie's birthday at Disneyland last week, I chased down one of the Main Street Vehicles to return two hats to a mother and daughter, after they'd blown off in the street in front of me. Later, at Small World, I smiled silently at an older woman whose friend was fumbling with a camera while trying to take a group picture. The woman asked her friend to hand me the camera, and I took the picture, with everyone included. A couple of lost guests stopped to ask me questions. I picked up a piece of trash from the street.
I don't slip into this same mode when visiting other companies' parks. And frankly, I don't feel it as strongly outside the Magic Kingdom and its older twin, Disneyland. But five summers of working in the Magic Kingdom taught me habits I, obviously, have yet to break.
You know what? I'm happy with that. Creating magic is really just about creating a friendly environment where folks are always ready to help one another. At one point, that was my job and Disney paid me to do it. Today, creating that magic is its own reward, helping me feel the friendship and appreciation of folks whom I can have an opportunity to help, in whatever way. (And since I don't work for Disney anymore, that can include talking about rival parks, too.)
Maybe some people never stop being a cast member - at least not entirely. Thank goodness for that.
To see the original post and all the comments, click here!
Bruce, 48, San Jose, CA
My parents first took the four of us kids to Disneyland about 35 years ago. We'd arrive almost an hour before the Park opened and wait with excited anticipation as we were usually first in line those days.
The doors would open and we'd scamper in. First thing we'd hear would be the familiar low voice of the conductor, "Your attention please ... the Disneyland Limited is now approaching Main Street Station." Proceeding through the tunnel always made us smile and that first look at Main Street was always incredible – the cleanliness, architecture, and lights were magical. We visited the Penny Arcade and played the old Soccer Game, which was actually there until a few years ago. We even watched all of the old silent movies for a penny!
Then we'd wait behind the rope until a recording of the late, great Walt Disney himself announced, "Disneyland is your land. To all who come to this happy place ... welcome." We would walk fast and quickly went on all of the rides over and over again. It was incredible. We stayed until midnight and were barely able to walk to the shuttles that drove us to where our car was parked.
My wife and I have been taking our kids to Disneyland since they were three years old. A few years ago, I was sitting next to my then 13-year-old daughter on a bench in New Orleans Square when she admitted that the 'magic' wasn't the same as it had been when she was younger. I told her that even though I understood, I felt there was always MAGIC in Disneyland ... even after 47 years! The memories that our family has shared at the "Happiest Place on Earth" are magical and will remain in our hearts always.