From the Mouth of the Mouse

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The folks who know the most about Disney aren't always the Imagineers but rather the 'regular' people who manage the lines, serve the food, clean up the trash. Jeff Heimbuch has interviewed dozens of them. Their fascinating stories present Disney from new perspectives: you'll learn what it's like to work for the Mouse on the front-lines. And, of course, you'll hear from the Imagineers, too. So buckle up! What comes From the Mouth of the Mouse may surprise you...

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FROM: From the Mouth of the Mouse Published Wednesdays

Interview: Jennifer, Fantasyland

How many people can say they work in Fantasyland? Not many. How many wish they could? While at Disneyland for a recent "working" vacation, Jeff Heimbuch ran into Cast Member Jennifer, who shares perhaps a bit more than you might expect.

When I was younger, I would often drift off into my own imagination. Sometimes, when it happened, I was at home, but more often than not, I was sitting in school. Of course, my teachers would always notice, and bring me back to reality, robbing me of my brief (but always fun!) visit to my own personal Fantasyland.

And what does my Fantasyland look like? Well, I imagine that it looked a lot like the ones at the Disney Parks.

Now, imagine: how you would feel if you got PAID to work in your own personal Fantasyland? Lucky for us (and for her, too!) Jennifer knows. She was another of the few Cast Members I met during my "breakfast club" morning at Disneyland, and she was nice enough to share some of her stories with me - one of which you will find quite surprising!

So, Fantasyland... that must be nice to come to every day!

JENNIFER: It is. I live in a world of fantasy anyway, so it was a perfect match for me. I get to work and play in a place where people can really forget about everything else in the world for awhile.

What do you do there?

JENNIFER: All of the attractions, pretty much. We bounce around, and I get to work on all of my favorite "movies" all day. I really can't complain about that!

How did you get into Fantasyland to begin with?

JENNIFER: Well, actually a funny story. I wasn't a ride operator at first. When I was hired, I auditioned to be a "face" character. And I got the role.

Wait, wait, wait... you were a...

JENNIFER: ...a "friend" of a certain princess, as they say, yes. I literally dreamed of that moment since I was a little girl. Who DOESN'T dream of being a Disney princess someday, right? So, that was a great experience for a little while.

I feel like there is a "but" coming up somewhere.

JENNIFER: You ever see Pee-Wee's Big Adventure? "We all have big buts... let's talk about your big but." That's one of my favorite quotes, and very applicable here, literally. So, yes, I was a princess, and it was great. For awhile. But, like everything, all good things come to an end. I'm sure you've heard from other folks about the unofficial "caste" system here, like it's medieval times still, or something.

Yes, I have. The face characters are at the top of that list, though!

JENNIFER: Yeah, so I've been told. It's like a set of unspoken rules. Well, apparently, one of the other "friends" of another princess had it out for me, for whatever reason. I get that girls can be catty sometimes, and that's fine, I've been like that myself before. But she was REALLY out to get me, for some reason. Like, borderline unhealthy obsession. She went out of her way to make me feel uncomfortable and unliked. It made for a very bad working environment. On top of that "but", the other "but" of the story has an extra "t" on the end of it - she started telling people that my posterior was too big for the role.

That... sounds a little off the wall.

JENNIFER: I know, right?! It was out of control. So, on top of her openly tearing me a new one, now she was blasting my character portrayal for no good reason. It's hard to go out there and smile for the kids when you just got ripped apart by another princess. It became like Mean Girls out there. I'm not one to play politics, which is what this was, so I put in for a transfer elsewhere. I know, it's unheard of, who leaves their role as a princess, the most coveted role ever? But I did, and I'll tell you, I'm much happier for it!

Was she ever reprimanded for what she did?

JENNIFER: She was, in a few ways. She's gone now, for a completely different reason, but good riddance.

Have you given any thought to going back?

JENNIFER: Yes, and no... while it would be fun, there is still politics attached to the role. Politics I don't want to deal with, so I'm much happier where I am now than I ever was as a princess.

Tell me a little about your job now.

JENNIFER: As funny as it sounds, I feel like I now have more interaction with kids, working on the attractions, than I did as a princess. I get to talk to them on a more personal level, in some ways, and I enjoy it a lot more. I love kids. I chat with them, and their parents, all day long when I'm getting them ready for the ride.

Do you have a favorite attraction to work on?

JENNIFER: Peter Pan, without a doubt. Mostly because, before we open, and after we close, we do a walkthrough of the attraction to make sure it's all in working order. I LOVE pretending I'm like Godzilla, stomping through downtown London. It's so much fun! It also doesn't hurt that it's my favorite animated movie, too! A close second would be Mr. Toad. Such a classic ride!

Do you get any chances to make a guest's stay more magical?

JENNIFER: All the time! It can be as simple as escorting a crying child to the front of the line, all the way to pin trading, to just a general conversation. It's really the simple stuff that most people remember from their trips, so I try to go out of my way and interact with each and every guest that comes to the park!

Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing!

If you haven't done so already, please don't forget to subscribe to our podcast! We have lots more interviews coming your way, and you don't want to miss them.

If you are (or know) a Cast Member who would like to share some of their stories and be featured here on Disney Dispatch, email me at jeff@bamferproductions.com. I'd love to hear from you!