A Dutchman in Orlando – Part 6: Merchandise (Mickey’s of Hollywood)

By Sam Vlas

Dear Disney Avenue pedestrians, it’s my honor to present the sixth installment of “A Dutchman in Orlando” to you today. This time around, we are going to delve into the exciting world of Merchandise, to be exact, we’ll take a stroll down Hollywood Boulevard and stop by Mickey’s of Hollywood to meet and tell a few, fun stories. I hope you’re ready! Lights… Camera… Action…

(If you haven’t had the chance to do so, be sure to check out Part 1 – 5 of Sam’s adventures in the Disney International College Program here.)

After four weeks of working at the EPCOT Food & Wine Festival, it was time for the ICP’s (International College Program) to switch my roles. The “HUB” informed me that I would be working in the Left Block Merchandise, and for those of you who don’t know, Left Block is basically everything on the left side of Hollywood Boulevard. That includes (the largest store in Disney’s Hollywood Studios) Mickey’s of Hollywood, the clothing and jewelry store Keystone Clothiers, and the little carts by the (now gone) Sorcerer’s Hat and Main Entrance. That’s quite a large area to cover, but completely up my alley, since I LOVE the Boulevard.

My costume at Mickey’s of Hollywood modeled after Walt Disney’s own clothing.

Special mention is deserved for my costume at Mickey’s of Hollywood, which I really liked. To the untrained eye, it just seems like a regular 1920’s outfit. But I learned during my training, that this particular costume is modeled after Walt Disney’s own clothing! The women costumes was modeled after Lily’s clothing. I was really impressed by that. It felt like I was wearing a piece of Disney history, and for a fan like myself, that’s kind of a big deal.

Mickey’s of Hollywood

I got into Merchandise around Halloween time, which Disney starts to celebrate in the beginning of October. Therefore the store was busy with people trying to get the latest Halloween merchandise, which often accumulated to calling the central Disney Hotline to call other stores and see if they had the items requested. Halloween was a mystery to a European like myself, we don’t really celebrate that over there. However, it immediately became one of my favorite Holidays.

There are a couple of different assignments you can get when working in Merchandise. You can be on Register, that’s pretty straightforward. You can be a Door Greeter, where you greet the guests walking in the stores (my favorite). You can be “Merchantaining”, which basically means: take something from the store and play with it. It’s awesome! Especially with the “Glow with the Show” items. You can be a Floor Stocker, where you make sure the store looks neat and is well stocked. And lastly is the function everyone dreaded… Area Stocker. This basically means you make sure the Main Entrance is well stocked. That doesn’t sound too bad, but get this… the supply shed is out of the way, EVERYONE passes the Main Entrance and you have to be working fast to keep everything in stock, mainly water (because, you know… Florida heat). You are running back and forth between the two Main Entrance merchandise locations and the supply shed. Believe me when I tell you, it’s a very tiring shift.

Citizens of Hollywood

I liked being a Door Greeter the best because I would always have fun with it and mess with the guests any chance I could. I created a little barker persona for myself who would, in 1920’s style, inform what was happening in the store and, of course, shake the hand of EVERY guest walking in the store. I would often put some kind of apparel on and interact with it, whether it was a princess hat (don’t ask), a tail or Mickey ears. We have Mickey gloves to put on, so I would often combine the ears and gloves and do my best Sorcerer Mickey impersonation. Sometimes I would take a giant Mickey or Stitch plush and do a little puppet show, which was a great hit with all the kids. I loved doing those things, and they were even encouraged by management too!

One of the greatest things about working in the store, especially when I was a Greeter, was seeing the Citizens of Hollywood perform. Any regular of Walt Disney World will be familiar with this troop of people. They are movie stars, directors, talent agents, police officers and other people roaming the streets of Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard, doing exceptional improv comedy for and with the guests. One time they were “filming” a commercial in front of the store and certain guests were assigned to help the stars get ready. One called Mimi Kaboom walked into the store and demanded a shoulder massage. Guess who was up to the task… this guy!

Other than working inside the store, one could also work at the Main Entrance. Now there are too locations where they sell merchandise by the Main Entrance: the little stand by bag control and a place called Movieland. I know what you’re thinking: “Sam, I never heard of that!” You’re not the only one! It’s tucked all the way to the left in the Main Entrance area and not really visible. It mostly sells plushies, but it’s the only place in the Studio’s to get baby supplies. People don’t know this. I quickly found this out on my first shift there. I had three guests in two hours and I thought to myself: “I need to do something or else I’m gonna lose my mind.” I took one of the bubble shooting guns, unpacked them and started playing with them. After a while the whole working place was covered in bubbles and they flew right into Guest Relations to the delight of the many people standing in line. BUBBLE PARTY!!!

It’s these kind of things that keep you motivated and fun as a cast member, even if guests come up with the most ridiculous questions. Speaking of that…

Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights

Christmas came around and we all know what that means… Christmas merchandise and the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights (OFSoDL). On opening day of the OFSoDL, I was stationed at one of the Hub carts (the little Merch stands near the Sorcerer’s Hat, well… not anymore), which mostly sells, you guessed it, Frozen merchandise. I don’t hate Frozen, I really don’t, but working in Hollywood Studio’s made me HATE Olaf with a passion. And I worked at a stand full of Olafs and I had to pretend I had fun. Awesome.

These stands are generally not busy at all, and since you’re in the middle of the park you’re almost always answering questions for guests. Mostly where the toilets are (“right behind you, madam”) or where the Frozen Sing-Along is ( “right down this way…”), but this day was different. The OFSoDL had opened and there were dozens of signs pointing to the Streets of America. Because the layout of Hollywood Studios is incredibly confusing people couldn’t find it, so by the end of the day I was able to direct people to the Streets of America in almost five languages. Once again, I had to find a way to entertain myself, so I started to play with the “Made with Magic” wands, you know, the ones that can change colors on a Mickey hat. I would sneak up to people and change colors without them even noticing, to the delight of their company.

The OFSoDL is truly marvelous and a must-see when you are at the Studio’s during Christmas time. The same can be said with Mickey’s of Hollywood apparently since it was ALWAYS busy during the Holidays. And when I say busy, I mean BUSY! How busy? Well, we stayed open for 13 hours and my register alone made almost $17,000(!) in one day. That’s one register, in one store, in all of Walt Disney World. That just blew my mind. People in the US are all into Christmas. I can’t say I blame them though; it’s truly a nice time with good spirits and plenty of nice food to go around. It is also the time to look out for other people. That’s what some guests did too. I was working outside on Christmas Day and we have just opened. A little girl comes up to me with a little candy cane, wishes me Merry Christmas and walks off again. Disney guests can be so awesome sometimes…

January 5th was my last day of work. It was a normal shift, yet so different. A sad atmosphere hung in the store. This was our last day working for the Mouse, the last day making magic for guests, the last day cracking jokes with each other, the last day cleaning up the store for the next day… We didn’t want it to end, but we all knew we had to move on. After the last cleaning, the manager gathered us all in the middle of the store and thanked each of us for our contributions. Many people shed a tear, including me.

Disney has a way of nestling itself into your heart, never to leave again. At that time, I remembered the journey I had made, all of the people I encountered, and all the magical places I had seen. From my very first step into Walt Disney World to my very last. It was a very emotional moment. I would like to take this time to thank everybody I encountered during my time in the Program. You all made a huge difference in my life and I still miss you, and Walt Disney World, every day. It was my pleasure and always remember…

“It’s not farewell, it’s see ya real soon!”


Friends, my journey may have ended here, but we’re not done yet. There’s much more to cover, like the other theme parks I went too, the Disney Cruise I took, and all the other shenanigans in Disney I still have to tell you about. So tune in next time as we delve deeper into the things CP’s do on their days off 😉

Until then: stop, look and listen, then safely cross the Disney Avenue. I hope you enjoyed it and I’d love to see you next time!

– Sam

 
******
 
 
 
 


Sam Vlas comes to us from the Netherlands. In everyday life Sam is a Communication major, studying International Event, Music and Entertainment Studies at the Fontys Academy for Creative Industries in Tilburg. He is following the Theme Park course, since he is an aspiring Imagineer. Sam has been a life-long theme park and Disney fan since he was a kid. He has been going to Efteling, which is a world class theme park in the Netherlands. When he was a teenager, Sam became more interested in the technical side of things. It was around that time that he found out that Walt Disney was an actual person, not just some company name. Since then he has been pursuing a creative career in the theme park industry. Sam will be participating in the Academic Exchange Program in Walt Disney World from July 2014 to January 2015. You’ll be hearing much more of that in the near future! Besides Disney and theme parks, Sam has a broad interest in everything fantasy, sci-fi and horror. He writes short stories and is currently working on his own website “Dreamventurer”, which he hopes will be released very soon! Sam will write about many different aspects of the company, from the very well known places and movies to very obscure corners of the Company. Since he will be working in Orlando, he’ll be able to share some Cast Member stories too. Everything Disney grabs Sam’s attention, so if he finds something exciting, he will be sure to share it!

You can find Sam’s articles here.


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A Dutchman in Orlando – Part 5: Epcot Food & Wine Festival

By Sam Vlas

Welcome back dear Disney Avenue pedestrians to another appetizing installment of A Dutchman in Orlando. This time, we’ll talk about my experiences working at one of my personal favorite things: the Epcot Food & Wine Festival, more commonly referred to as “Binge Fest”… at least for me! Continue after the page break for the next course of my adventures in the Disney College Program…

The day is Anno Domini August 28th in the good year 2014. The sun was shining as bright as ever, the heat index was just over 110 degrees and I just walked in for the day. I was putting away my stuff, when I stumbled upon a form on the pin board:

“If you are interested in working at the EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival, please sign up here!”

You have to know that of all the Walt Disney World parks, EPCOT has to be my second favorite, right after Magic Kingdom. So the opportunity to swap the Studio’s temporarily for such an exciting place like EPCOT was a no-brainer for me. So I signed up and didn’t think much about it after that. A week passes and I log onto The HUB (the cast member portal) and I see in my schedule that EPCOT showed up: a park orientation and about a week of F&B training. I was beyond excited! Finally, this was my chance to work in EPCOT.

The old Wonders of Life pavilion
 
 
 
The first day of my training was upon me and it was time to take a different bus, the C-bus (thank goodness) to EPCOT Cast Services. First, it was time to pick up my costume. You’ve probably seen this costume before: the shirt with the flag pattern and the white pants. It’s a nice costume, heck, anything is better than the Pizzafari-costume! I was issued a locker and put my stuff there. The locker was right next to the Hairport, a cast member serving barbershop; I’m not making this up.
 
I learned that I was going to work in the Red Zone. For the record, Food & Wine operates as three zones. You have the Blue Zone (roughly from Mexico to China), the Yellow Zone (from Germany to France) and the Red Zone (from the United Kingdom to the World Showcase Promenade). I was excited about that, since many of my favorites were in the Red Zone and a novelty for 2014 was taking place in this zone: EPCOT Late Night Live, an extended VIP-party with musicians, theatre acts and specialty drinks.
 
It was time for the training. What kind of training, you ask? Well, you’re dealing with all different kinds of food, so a bit of food safety standards is in order. Also, how to hook up kegs of beer to drafts, how to uncork wine bottles and how to open champagne bottles. All very delicate stuff, but a lot of fun. Now Disney and EPCOT fans may love this tidbit, the training took place in the old Wonders of Life pavilion; the former home of Body Wars and Cranium Command. It is a huge space and during the actual festival home to the Festival Center. It was during that day that we also received our Cast Member-exclusive cap which I still have! We also got a tour of the entire (!) Festival with head chef of EPCOT, Chef Jens from Germany. A really nice guy and really passionate about food.
 
 
 
 
 
 
The festival started September 18th and we were immediately put to work. The first day I was stationed at the Hawaii stand, which was awesome and hectic, and the two days after that at Greece (where, I’ll admit, I shouted Opa! way to many times). But the rest of my first two weeks were spent working at the Terra marketplace: the all-vegetarian stand. This is the least busiest stand of all of Food & Wine, so there were many times I was just staring at the World Showcase lagoon doing nothing. For some reason, people seemed scared to try all vegetarian stuff, even though we had some amazing things on the menu: (vegetarian) chicken breast with gumbo, (vegetarian) crab cake with coleslaw, watermelon juice and even vegan beers and wines!
 
It’s a fun stand to work at if you can fool people a little bit. One thing I learned while working at Disney: people don’t read. So there were times where people didn’t know Terra was a vegetarian stand, so I played a long with their unknowingness. I’d give out the food and urge them to try it right at the counter. They’d try and then say to me: “oh my god, this is one of the best chicken breasts I ever had!” Then I would laugh quietly and lean over the counter and say to the person: “what if I told you this wasn’t real chicken?” The look on their faces was priceless!
 
I would often get in early on the day, before World Showcase opens. There’s nothing like walking through an empty World Showcase, believe me. The music and the quaintness is unmatched anywhere else in Disney.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Most of my time, however, was spent working at the Canada marketplace. The change couldn’t be any bigger: this is by far the busiest stand of all of Food & Wine!!! This is the only marketplace themed to one of the pavilions that isn’t operated by the actual people from the pavilion. We had some amazing things on the menu: filet mignon from Le Cellier, seared rainbow trout and, all-time favorite, the cheddar cheese soup with bacon bits. Because of all this goodness, the lines extended way into the actual pavilion! One benefit of that: time flies by really fast. But, again, I like to mess with people so I invented a new game, once again playing on the fact that people don’t read: “How Many People Can Sam From The Netherlands Convince That He’s From Quebec By Putting On A Horrible French Accent.” The answer: 8 people in about an hour!
 
Working Late Night Live was awesome too. Many times we would be overstaffed, so my manager would instruct me to (and I kid you not) “dance with the guests until your shift ends”. No joke! Can you imagine how awesome that is! The fun thing of working late night is how many drunken people you encounter. Drinking Around The World is a popular thing and I would deal with people who couldn’t stand anymore almost every day.
 
 
 
Me rocking the cheddar soup station! Look at that fly costume 😉
 
 
 
EPCOT Food & Wine is an evil thing to me. It robbed me of almost 200 dollars when I came through as a guest. They made it to easy to spend money with the new wristbands they introduced that year and I fell for it every time haha. But it was also an unforgettable part of my Disney College Program experience. Seeing the Monorail glide by and waving at the people became a favorite thing of mine. Seeing IllumiNations while closing down was a privilege each and every night. Also, during this time I had a chance to see the very last performances of Off Kilter, one of my favorite EPCOT entertainment acts ever. It was an awesome time, but, again, it was time to do something else! Something completely different: Left Block Merchandise in my home park: Disney’s Hollywood Studio’s.
 
How will Sam from the Netherlands deal with Halloween, Christmas, the hat rack and millions of pins and charms? Find out next time in a sparkling installment of “A Dutchman in Orlando”. See ya real soon!
 
 
 
 
*****
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sam Vlas comes to us from the Netherlands. In everyday life Sam is a Communication major, studying International Event, Music and Entertainment Studies at the Fontys Academy for Creative Industries in Tilburg. He is following the Theme Park course, since he is an aspiring Imagineer. Sam has been a life-long theme park and Disney fan since he was a kid. He has been going to Efteling, which is a world class theme park in the Netherlands. When he was a teenager, Sam became more interested in the technical side of things. It was around that time that he found out that Walt Disney was an actual person, not just some company name. Since then he has been pursuing a creative career in the theme park industry. Sam will be participating in the Academic Exchange Program in Walt Disney World from July 2014 to January 2015. You’ll be hearing much more of that in the near future! Besides Disney and theme parks, Sam has a broad interest in everything fantasy, sci-fi and horror. He writes short stories and is currently working on his own website “Dreamventurer”, which he hopes will be released very soon! Sam will write about many different aspects of the company, from the very well known places and movies to very obscure corners of the Company. Since he will be working in Orlando, he’ll be able to share some Cast Member stories too. Everything Disney grabs Sam’s attention, so if he finds something exciting, he will be sure to share it!

You can find Sam’s articles here.

 
 
 
 
 


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A Dutchman in Orlando – Part 4

By Sam Vlas

Try to imagine, just for a moment… a world where one is surrounded by giant heaps of popcorn, aggressive bees, Dining Plans and late night shifts. That was the amazing world of Outdoor Foods in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. A place filled with kernels, cheese and the craziest nuts… Let’s continue where we left off…

For the first half of my Disney International Program, I was assigned to Outdoor Foods at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Now at first I didn’t know what Outdoor Foods really encompassed, but I quickly found out that it meant basically ALL the little food stands scattered around the park. You know the ones: they sell ice cream, pretzels, popcorn, soda’s etc.

At first I was totally NOT excited, I didn’t have any food experience, I wanted to do Operations blah blah… Florida can get pretty hot, I am a Dutchman, so that basically means I thought I was gonna melt on the spot. I paid a $1200 plane ticket to sell Mickey bars?! All in all, many things that convinced me I wasn’t gonna have a good time… Things turned out to be pretty different than I thought they would go.

Outdoor Foods is basically the place where everyone they couldn’t fit otherwise in the Studios is placed. Therefore we were a large group of people, scattered all over the park. That makes for lots of potential friends… and a lot of drama! Of course, being an ICP rather than a regular CP, it takes a bit longer for us to get “involved” with the rest of the people. The first four weeks in ODV (outdoor vending, from now on ODV) were very quiet. I would get to work, get my assignment to work Coffee Cart (our name for the refreshment stand next to the DHS main entrance), work it, sign off and take the E-bus back to Chatham.

Slowly I would start to get to know the people a little bit better. Most of them were Americans, and because I speak English fluently that wasn’t exactly a problem. I felt like they were “testing” me, seeing what kind of person I was. Then, after about 4 weeks, things started to get crazy. I was officially part of the group now, which, I should mention, was very tight. Our common hatred for the job (more on that later) bonded us all really well. After almost every shift we would go to the local Applebee’s (whose clientele is for about 80% Disney cast members 😉 ) and stuff ourselves with booze and half-prized appetizers, which became a favorite pastime of mine! I became known as “Sam from the Netherlands”, a nickname that stayed with me my whole program!

The people were awesome, some of them remained friends of mine even to this day. The one I really cherished on my DCP were the people I met, and I’m sure anyone who is a College Program alumni will agree.

Now let me take you through a regular day in Outdoor Foods at DHS. We get up in the morning/afternoon, approximately 1,5 hours before your shift. We realize we are late, and since we don’t want another point on our record card, we quickly shower, put on our costume and rush to the Chatham bus stop. Now in order to get to the Hollywood Studios, we have to take the E-bus (so kindly provided by every CP’s friend Transtar). The E-bus can be safely compared to the “Disaster” ride in Universal Studio’s. Never have I experienced a bus that dragged a pylon from the DHS parking lot all the way back over I4 to Chatham, caught fire at multiple occasions, would shut down on the middle of the road and have drivers’ shift changes take 45 minutes. Quite an exciting adventure overall…

Because of the E-bus being half an hour too late, we get to the DHS Costuming Building five minutes before our shift is supposed to start. We rush through the building, pass the backstage of the Indiana Jones stunt show and rush to “The Cage”, which is our headquarters. We clock in and let the computer give us an assignment…

Now this is always a surprise, you never know what you’re gonna get. The computer tells us to go to Star Combo. Now I can hear you think: “but Sam, what is a Star Combo?!” Excellent question, dear reader. It’s the little stand across from the Jedi Training Academy. It’s about 11am so we don’t have to open anything, we walk up to the guy to give him his break and take over the stand. Now here’s when the real fun begins…

Because it’s summer, Frozen Summer Fun is in full swing. The parade is passing by. It doesn’t bother me anymore, I’ve seen it 30 times already! I see the streets getting flogged with people eager to see the parade and, of course, people get thirsty after a while. Then a family sees me, and walks up to my stand. In broken English, a lady asks for “ehh please… eh… two number 1”, while they point at a picture of a Mickey Bar. I’m more than happy to fulfill their desires and lay them on the counter. Then the whole family (about 11 people) joins the lady and they think it’s time to order too. Three people start to talk to me simultaneously about numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 in all different orders. After a while, I get the order out and it’s time to pay. Now, Disney has this wonderful invention called the Dining Plan that comes with snack credits to spend on, in this case, Mickey Bars. I’m a sensible person, so I try to explain that scanning one MagicBand is enough to complete the transaction. Instead, the lady looks at me rather sheepish and says “NO!”, then proceeds to instruct the ENTIRE family to scan each of their bands separately, which (by applying simple math) makes the transaction 11 times longer than it needs to be! Meanwhile, a line had formed behind the family and all the people in that line were getting upset with me for not speeding it up. I encountered things like these daily. I learned a lot of Spanish and Portuguese this way, for sure!

And let’s not even talk about bees! These bloody things were everywhere! Soda fountains and slushy dispensers were inaccessible because of bees swarming around them in groups of 15. Many of my coworkers were allergic to bee stings, so I was ALWAYS called over to places with bees to stand in for people. I managed to not get a single sting in all of my hours working with them, it is quite challenging!

But for every negative, there is a positive story. As a Cast Member in Outdoor Foods, we are given the opportunity to give away free stuff whenever we feel like it. It’s called making a Magical Moment and believe me, it is the most satisfying thing to do. I had a little girl coming to my stand at the FastPass kiosk one day. I’d say she was about 5 or 6, and she was celebrating her birthday. She was by herself; her parents were on the other side of the street. She had four dollar bills in her tiny hands and asked in the cutest and sincerest voice for a Mickey Bar. Of course, that makes my Cast Member’s heart melt and I figured I should do something special. Something special could be something small and even the tiniest gesture could make a world of difference. I took a Mickey Bar from my little freezer and laid it on the counter. I said to her: “Mickey was just here to look for you! Unfortunately he had to make his way to the studio, but he left this surprise for you. It’s on Mickey today!” I give her the Mickey Bar and on her face is the biggest smile I had ever seen on a child. She thanks me and she runs off to her parents, overflowing with joy. It is things like these that make long shifts bearable. The work of a Cast Member is demanding, but very gratifying!

Half of my shifts were Fantasmic shifts. Outdoor Foods is also responsible for all the food offerings in the Fantasmic arena (called the “Hollywood Hills Amphitheater”). If you’re familiar with Fantasmic, you know it has two food pads in the arena, two smaller stands on the little square in front of the arena and people with trays walking up and down Sunset Boulevard and in the arena. Guess what this guy did most of the time… You guessed it! Vending, that’s what I did.
Vending in Fantasmic basically means you are equipped with a giant blue tray that can be filled with one of the following: popcorn, cotton candy, water, soda and beer. Because I was a guy, I was given either water or soda, the two heaviest things. In a tray fit about 20 bottles, imagine that weight on your shoulders! Vending can be a heavy work and quite repetitive. I soon figured that Vending was the only thing I was going to be given by the coordinators, I think because I was an ICP… So after a few times of vending, I figured a way to keep myself distracted from my sore shoulders and to make it fun for the guests: I started dancing with it! You may think I’m nuts, but it actually worked. The Frozen fireworks would go off at 9, I was always vending on Sunset at that time, so I started to respond to and dance with the music. Guests look at me with great joy and I was entertained for a few minutes. I wish you could have seen it in person, I think I created a new art form…
I also distinctly remember a funny story. One night, I was actually given something else than Vending: making popcorn at Pad 2. Basically that means: crank out popcorn until your coordinator tells you to stop. That doesn’t sound too difficult, right? Well… So here I am, rocking the popcorn machine. Popcorn is popping and boxes are filled. My coordinator tells me to stop making popcorn and go help the drink pourer immediately, so I stopped making popcorn. What I had forgotten, was that I had put oil in the machine, but no kernels… Anyone who has worked with popcorn knows what can happen. That’s right folks, a grease fire ALMOST happened! Sam from the Netherlands ALMOST burnt down Pad 2! My coworkers removed the oil before it happened. I was never given popcorn again…
Intense vending look…

Fantasmic is an awesome show, and because I was there so many times it has become very dear to me. I have the soundtrack still on my iPod and I play it regularly. To me, it represents everything what Disney stands for. The fact that I could make the show a bit more special for the guests by being a goof while vending is something I still miss to this day.

After shifts we would always hang out, go to Applebee’s, drink profusely, discuss both good and bad guest stories and just having the time of our lives. In mid-September I was going to be send to EPCOT, to work at the Food & Wine Festival. How will Sam from the Netherlands handle so much amazing food and a new park? Find out next time!

********
Sam Vlas comes to us from the Netherlands. In everyday life Sam is a Communication major, studying International Event, Music and Entertainment Studies at the Fontys Academy for Creative Industries in Tilburg. He is following the Theme Park course, since he is an aspiring Imagineer. Sam has been a life-long theme park and Disney fan since he was a kid. He has been going to Efteling, which is a world class theme park in the Netherlands. When he was a teenager, Sam became more interested in the technical side of things. It was around that time that he found out that Walt Disney was an actual person, not just some company name. Since then he has been pursuing a creative career in the theme park industry. Sam will be participating in the Academic Exchange Program in Walt Disney World from July 2014 to January 2015. You’ll be hearing much more of that in the near future! Besides Disney and theme parks, Sam has a broad interest in everything fantasy, sci-fi and horror. He writes short stories and is currently working on his own website “Dreamventurer”, which he hopes will be released very soon! Sam will write about many different aspects of the company, from the very well known places and movies to very obscure corners of the Company. Since he will be working in Orlando, he’ll be able to share some Cast Member stories too. Everything Disney grabs Sam’s attention, so if he finds something exciting, he will be sure to share it!

You can find Sam’s articles here.

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A Dutchman in Orlando – Part 3

By Sam Vlas

Ahoy there travelers! Prepare to set sail, or set flight actually. In this chapter of A Dutchman in Orlando we finally board the plane on the way to the Sunshine State and the beginning of my magical journey as a International Cast Member at Walt Disney World. Let’s get this party started and continue after the page break where we left off…

A Dutchman in Orlando – My Adventures as an International Cast Member in Walt Disney World

• PART 1: The Beginnings (The Application Process, Interviews and Acceptance)
 PART 2: Packing for the Trip (+ Packing list)


PART 3: First days in the Sunshine State (Traditions, Magic Kingdom)

We departed on the 14th of July from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol first thing in the morning. It was the longest flight I’ve ever been on, but it certainly wasn’t bad. The seats were comfortable and the food was alright. Once we arrived in Detroit we had to go through the security check and then we were on our way to Orlando. A good first impression was made the first day, as it rained like crazy!

Once we finally landed in Orlando, it was off to the Radisson Blu, where we stayed the first night. It was a very nice hotel, looked very fancy as well! I shared the room with some of my fellow travelers: Ken, Kevin and Martin. We stayed here for the night and after a nice breakfast at the Waffle House (good stuff!) we were on our way to the Vista Way Welcome Center. This is where we would get our introduction into this International Program.

View from our hotel room. Pretty nice, ain’t it?

Vista Way Welcome Center

After check-in and settling into my apartment, I decided to hook up with some fellow Dutchies and head to Walmart to do some groceries. To step into a Walmart for the first time as a Dutchman is an eye-opening experience. It’s big, it’s VERY big. Literally everything is for sale there, it’s amazing.
Downtown Disney was the first real Disney part of the Resort that I experienced. Disney Traditions was scheduled for the next day, so we couldn’t go into the Parks yet. Therefore we decided to go to the “free” areas in Walt Disney World. Some shops (like the Art of Disney) are very very cool! We had dinner at Bongo’s, a Cuban style restaurant, which was delicious (and not too expensive, I might add!).

Bongo’s Cuban Café

The next day it was time for Disney Traditions, which I like to refer to as Disney Brainwash Day! We all gathered inside the Disney University, a pretty nondescript building close to West Clock, the backstage access to the Magic Kingdom. Here we got the introduction into the Walt Disney Company, the history, and our goals and values as cast members. After a very special surprise at the end (which I won’t spoil), we got our first pair of official Mickey ears and our official name tags! I was beyond excited.
The fun didn’t stop there, because we got our first backstage tour of the Magic Kingdom (yep, through the Utilidors). Then we went onstage through Central Street, and turned the corner to see Cinderella Castle for my very first time ever. Can you imagine how that moment feels!

The next day was spent, of course, in the Magic Kingdom. Exploring the Kingdom was one of those moments I’ll never forget. Believe me; I was skipping around like a 5-year-old. And then came Wishes… I was absolutely slack jawed when I first saw this show. All those memories of watching the movies when I was a kid came flashing through my head. At the very end there was pure unfiltered pixie dust oozing out of my pores.
The first week was filled with play, but work was lurking on the horizon. More on that… next time in A Dutchman in Orlando! I hope you enjoyed this installment and I’d love to see you again next time when my adventure of a lifetime continues!

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Sam Vlas comes to us from the Netherlands. In everyday life Sam is a Communication major, studying International Event, Music and Entertainment Studies at the Fontys Academy for Creative Industries in Tilburg. He is following the Theme Park course, since he is an aspiring Imagineer. Sam has been a life-long theme park and Disney fan since he was a kid. He has been going to Efteling, which is a world class theme park in the Netherlands. When he was a teenager, Sam became more interested in the technical side of things. It was around that time that he found out that Walt Disney was an actual person, not just some company name. Since then he has been pursuing a creative career in the theme park industry. Sam has participated in the Academic Exchange Program in Walt Disney World from July 2014 to January 2015. You’ll be hearing much more of that in the near future! Besides Disney and theme parks, Sam has a broad interest in everything fantasy, sci-fi and horror. He writes short stories and is currently working on his own website “Dreamventurer”, which he hopes will be released very soon! Sam will write about many different aspects of the company, from the very well known places and movies to very obscure corners of the Company. Since he worked in Orlando, he’ll be able to share some Cast Member stories too. Everything Disney grabs Sam’s attention, so if he finds something exciting, he will be sure to share it!
 
 
 

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A Dutchman in Orlando – Part 2

By Sam Vlas

Hello Disney Avenue-pedestrians and welcome to Part 2 of A Dutchman in Orlando, where I recollect memories from my time in Walt Disney World. If you haven’t had a chance yet, please make sure to read Part 1. In this segment, I will tell you all about packing for the trip. I’m glad you tuned in and I hope you’ll have a fun and informative read. And now… ONWARD…

A Dutchman in Orlando – My Adventures as an International Cast Member in Walt Disney World

• Prelude
• PART 1: The Beginnings (The Application Process, Interviews and Acceptance)

• PART 2: Packing for the Trip (+ Packing list)
• PART 3: First days in the Sunshine State (Traditions, Magic Kingdom)
• PART 4: Role #1: Outdoor Foods at Disney’s Hollywood Studio’s
• PART 5: EPCOT Food & Wine Festival
• PART 6: Role #2: Left Block Merchandise at DHS
• PART 7: Shenanigans
• PART 8: The “other” parks
• PART 9: Reflections of Orlando
• Epilogue


PART 2

April 4th… that’s when I received that fateful email that told me my Disney adventure was about to begin. A little bit more than three months were left, a time that may seem long, but passes so quickly. Of course, a good chunk of that is dedicated to filling out paperwork that makes filing tax returns seem like Building-Your-Own-Pizza.

[BTW, this is the last part of the series that is spent at my house. For those of you waiting to go to Florida, just a little bit more patience haha.]

Once the month of July came closer, it occurred to me that I hadn’t even started packing yet. That’s an important part of preparing for a long trip. And of course, being the silly Dutch guy I am, I had NO CLUE what to pack and what not to pack. I decided to grab the bull by the horns and consult many Disney sites I regularly visit. The “Disney Tourist Blog” had a nice packing list, but that was more designed for shorter theme park trips, instead of the half-year program I was going for. Thank goodness, there were DCP Alumni blogs that had some good advice on what to pack for this trip (one was by a person who became my roommate…).

Then the actual packing could finally begin. The hardest choices are made in this part of your Experience.  I have a limited wardrobe, but I can imagine if you’re a woman, you’re gonna have a hard time here. Also, airlines are very peculiar about what you can take or not, so be very careful when packing liquids (even tooth paste: the deadliest weapon in the world).

For this article I put together a small and, I hope, comprehensive list of stuff that’s handy to pack when you go to Florida:

• Paperwork (put in a folder in your hand luggage, you’ll NEED this at the airport! Just ask Roz…)
• Summer clothes (duh!)
• Winter clothes (not much, but be prepared: it WILL get cold in Florida)
• Business clothes (for the Disney Classes and Housing formal(s))
• Laptop (best friend!)
• Anything to keep yourself busy on the way
• Camera (of course)
• Chargers

It’s really not a whole lot, because many things you will be able to buy cheaply in Orlando. Disney Housing offers bus transportation to the local Publix, Walgreens and Wal-Mart. Everything you’ll need, you can find there.

DON’T:

• Pack food (you WILL get trouble at Border Control)

Just putting it out there 😉

With everything I needed in place, my journey could finally begin. FOR REAL, THIS TIME!!!!

I hope you enjoyed Part 2! Tune in next week, when I arrive in Orlando and make my way around the first few days in Walt’s world!

************
 
 
 
 
Sam Vlas comes to us from the Netherlands. In everyday life Sam is a Communication major, studying International Event, Music and Entertainment Studies at the Fontys Academy for Creative Industries in Tilburg. He is following the Theme Park course, since he is an aspiring Imagineer. Sam has been a life-long theme park and Disney fan since he was a kid. He has been going to Efteling, which is a world class theme park in the Netherlands. When he was a teenager, Sam became more interested in the technical side of things. It was around that time that he found out that Walt Disney was an actual person, not just some company name. Since then he has been pursuing a creative career in the theme park industry. Sam has participated in the Academic Exchange Program in Walt Disney World from July 2014 to January 2015. You’ll be hearing much more of that in the near future! Besides Disney and theme parks, Sam has a broad interest in everything fantasy, sci-fi and horror. He writes short stories and is currently working on his own website “Dreamventurer”, which he hopes will be released very soon! Sam will write about many different aspects of the company, from the very well known places and movies to very obscure corners of the Company. Since he worked in Orlando, he’ll be able to share some Cast Member stories too. Everything Disney grabs Sam’s attention, so if he finds something exciting, he will be sure to share it!
 
 
 



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A Dutchman in Orlando – Part 1

By Sam Vlas

Welcome foolish mortals to “A Dutchman in Orlando”. Now this title seems pretty straightforward, but let me explain… As some of you may know, I was an International Cast Member at Walt Disney World from July 2014 to last January. It was an awesome, educational, meaningful, emotional, fun and eye-opening experience. I meant to do this series while I was in Florida, but every minute of my spare time was spent in and around Walt Disney World. I collected enough stories to share with you guys and I hope this will help those of you who want to be a Cast Member through the Disney College Program. So, if your imagination is ready, here we go…

A Dutchman in Orlando – My Adventures as an International Cast Member in Walt Disney World

• Prelude
• PART 1: The Beginnings (The Application Process, Interviews and Acceptance)
• PART 2: Packing for the Trip (+ Packing list)
• PART 3: First days in the Sunshine State (Traditions, Magic Kingdom)
• PART 4: Role #1: Outdoor Foods at Disney’s Hollywood Studio’s
• PART 5: EPCOT Food & Wine Festival
• PART 6: Role #2: Left Block Merchandise at DHS
• PART 7: Shenanigans
• PART 8: The “other” parks
• PART 9: Reflections of Orlando
• Epilogue

PART 1

This thrilling ride began last year, in September to be exact, at my school: the Fontys Academy for Creative Industries. It was the very first class of the then newly created course “Visitor Attractions”. Our lecturer, Pieter Cornelis, just came here from the NHTV (a leisure oriented university in Breda) and we had a blast learning more about the exciting theme park industry. Pieter had already set up an exchange program with Walt Disney World while he worked at NHTV. So when the opportunity arose to create a similar program at our school, we were immediately interested. Every week we asked him about how the program was going along and, after a little while, we finally got the news that this program was going to happen.

From there on, things picked up fairly quick. Over the weeks, 15 students expressed interest in the program. All of them are very passionate people, so that couldn’t go wrong. The first big step was to apply for the Program via Yummy Jobs, which is the mediating agency between Disney and us. We had certain things to prepare (like a resume and motivation emails) for the Pre-Screening Interview, which was held January 31st of this year. It was a nerve-wrecking experience since I had never done this type of interview before. Luckily, my passion for Disney and theme parks helped me express my sincere interest in this program. Not long after that, I got the email that I passed the pre-screening interview; the first of many steps was made.

Then it was time to face the Final Boss, the people from Disney. March 24th was the date when the casting agents from Disney would arrive at our school. Everyone was very nervous; this was the only chance we had to prove that we were “worthy” of an internship at Walt’s world. We all dressed up nicely (which is a thing we should do more, it adds so much class (PUN!) to a school day) and we all went for it.

We had two interviews to go through. One was with a representative from the sponsoring school CMU (Central Michigan University) and one with Sue, a darling woman who was the casting agent for International Programs for Disney. I can guarantee you, my dear readers, that these were some of the most nerve-wrecking moments of my entire life!

After that we played the waiting game… Everybody was in doubt whether all the hard work and preparations would pay off. Around the middle of April, we finally got the mail that would change our lives… at least temporary.

And thus our epic journey to Walt’s world could finally begin. For me it were the Realms of Food & Beverage and Merchandise which would be my home the coming months. Nothing could prepare me for the journey ahead. And after many other preparations, the time had finally come. On July 14th we departed from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, headed for Orlando, Florida. Our Disney adventure finally began!

Stay tuned for Part 2, where I arrive in Florida and dive into the first days of Cast Member-ship!

*************************
 
 
 
 
Sam Vlas comes to us from the Netherlands. In everyday life Sam is a Communication major, studying International Event, Music and Entertainment Studies at the Fontys Academy for Creative Industries in Tilburg. He is following the Theme Park course, since he is an aspiring Imagineer. Sam has been a life-long theme park and Disney fan since he was a kid. He has been going to Efteling, which is a world class theme park in the Netherlands. When he was a teenager, Sam became more interested in the technical side of things. It was around that time that he found out that Walt Disney was an actual person, not just some company name. Since then he has been pursuing a creative career in the theme park industry. Sam has participated in the Academic Exchange Program in Walt Disney World from July 2014 to January 2015. You’ll be hearing much more of that in the near future! Besides Disney and theme parks, Sam has a broad interest in everything fantasy, sci-fi and horror. He writes short stories and is currently working on his own website “Dreamventurer”, which he hopes will be released very soon! Sam will write about many different aspects of the company, from the very well known places and movies to very obscure corners of the Company. Since he worked in Orlando, he’ll be able to share some Cast Member stories too. Everything Disney grabs Sam’s attention, so if he finds something exciting, he will be sure to share it!





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