In Mztress’ Opinion

DisneyQuest and a Quest of My Own

 June 15, 2011

The night before my Disney career began, I remember lying awake in our Orlando hotel room wondering how I would ever get enough hours making slightly over $7.00 hourly to afford a home for my family. I thought about all of my friends and family that I had left behind in Missouri, and I knew that it was up to me to provide a roof over the heads of my children because then-spouse certainly was not going to do it. I literally had the weight of the WORLD on my shoulders.

The following morning, I fed the babies and our oldest and begged then-spouse to be attentive to their needs while I was gone. I was not entirely prepared for how difficult going to work was going to be, for the biggest part of me wanted to stay home with them and be “Mommy”. That was a luxury that I couldn’t afford, however, so I shook off the feelings of gutting guilt and made the drive down I-4 and made it to Downtown Disney a few minutes before 9 o’clock.

The wardrobe building for Downtown Disney was, at that time, centrally located in the parking lot up from the Marketplace, in between the Marketplace and West Side parking lots. I was told to walk in and find a friendly face, so that is exactly what I did. I walked into the enormous building and up some stairs which signs assured me to go. There, on a second floor platform, was a counter with some Cast Members behind it. I doubt if I will ever forget Yvonne, a kindly middle aged woman who had worked in Disney Costuming for 22 years as of that day. She greeted me and told me to come on in through the side door to the right of the counter. I walked through that door and my breath was taken away when I saw the sight before me.

Hundreds of Disney Cast costumes were hung on racks floor to ceiling, and the ceiling was high. I saw everything from the recognizable, such as Disney maintenance jumpsuits, to the unrecognizable, such as vinyl type dresses that to this day I have no idea what they were for. I wondered to myself what I would wind up wearing (and for a moment I was  little concerned when I saw the vinyl dresses), but when I mentioned that to Yvonne she just laughed and told me not to worry.

We walked across the large area to some dressing rooms and Yvonne told me to wait right here after she backed up and mentally sized me by looking me up and down. In a flash, she was gone and had reappeared with clothing in both arms. First we had the black pants. They fit despite the fact that I had just had a baby. I knew they would loosen in time. Next, we had a purple, turquoise, and pink swirled top (yes, really) that was made of a lighter material and had short sleeves. Next, there was a heavy jacket made of a woolen material with DisneyQuest patches and logos on it. Finally, we had a black jacket with purple lining and DisneyQuest patches. It was a wild combo, but it looked fun. I really liked the jacket with the purple lining. Pretty cool.

Yvonne told me that I needed to get over to DisneyQuest and meet with my new managers. She told me how to go in through the back gate and in the back door, but warned me that since I didn’t have my Disney CM ID yet I would have to ask to be let inside that way.

I walked first to my car, which was across the street in the opposite direction (in Cast Member parking), and then hoofed it all the way over to the West Side where I saw the immense teal building up close and personal. It was HUGE. I had never been inside it, but I was very excited. I loved computer gaming and had grown up in the era of Pac Man and other Atari arcade favorites, so I figured this would be like an immense arcade.

A CM helped me inside and I was shown to the management offices in the very downstairs of the building. I could not tell a thing from this area, for it was like most offices with office furniture and doors that were not open. I waited for a short time outside of the main manager’s office, and soon a friendly and tall man with black hair shook my hand as he greeted me. He told me he was in charge of DisneyQuest and that he was very happy to meet me. He invited me inside his office and talked to me about his family and how long he had worked there (12 years at WDW). He said he loved his job and would be happy to answer any questions I may have. Obviously I did not want to come right out and say “I am living in a hotel and may not even have a roof over my head tomorrow”, so I kept silent as I took everything in.

Fifteen minutes later, he called someone and told me that Sheila would be right with me, that he had to oversee a technical problem and he would see me later that week after my Disney University training was complete. I had no idea who Sheila was, or why I was waiting for her, but I was beginning to feel comfortable and waited. Sheila was another smiling face, and she introduced herself to me- she was to be my trainer for the first month I was there. We hit it off immediately. It was hard not to get a kick out of her, for she was friendly and reassuring. She asked me if I had ever been in DisneyQuest before, and I told her no. She winked at me and said “Well, if you are going to work here, you had better know where everything is and what it does, don’t you think? How about a tour?”

I thought nothing of touring an arcade. Would you? Even to this day I have to laugh at myself for thinking an ordinary arcade would ever be in Disney World.

We walked outside the way I came in, for Sheila said she wanted me to get the full effect of the experience the way the Guests would see things. I was happy to comply, although I still didn’t understand completely what she meant.

She introduced me to those who were working at the ticket window and at the entrance in the front of the building, then they escorted Sheila and I into the elevator that would take us inside the massive structure. The ride was adorable with Genie from Aladdin as the guide, and then the doors opened to reveal an incredible wonderland. Sheila laughed at me, but it was something to marvel at and I didn’t care.

She took me to the Virtual Jungle Cruise and I went white water rafting inside the first level of the building. Next, we went on the Hercules 3-D attraction where I got to drive a chariot (this is now the POTC 3D attraction, which is wonderful!). She placed a virtual reality helmet on my head as I rode the Comix and again as I attempted to fly a magic carpet through Agrabah. I was having a ball- and this was my TRAINING?

We rode Buzz Lightyear’s Astroblasters (think bumper cars with CANNONS!) and laughed as we spun around wildly. The best part of the day came when we designed and built our own roller coaster on CyberSpace Mountain. We rode it together, and they are actually renovated and modified flight simulators that Disney purchased from the USAF. That was a thrill that I would learn in the coming months would never get old.

Sheila took me “offstage” to show me the lockers and the CM break room where we each had a cup of coffee and talked. It had been a great day with her, and the first time I had been able to smile in months. I thanked her as I became a bit teary eyed, and she asked me what was wrong. I suppose it was her trusting nature that enabled me to allow myself to actually tell her. She listened intently as I informed her of my current plight with then-spouse and the children. How I was terrified that we would be living in the car again (as we had been forced to do several times when a church could not help us gain lodging) the next night, and how I wanted nothing more than a roof over our heads but could not afford the rental deposit or rent on a home. Sheila placed her hand on mine and told me to come with her to the management. I did as she asked.

Back to the head manager we went, using stairs that seemed to be never ending in the wings of the building. Upon our arrival, Sheila wasted no time telling him what I was going through. I felt embarrassed, but I knew my pride did not matter anymore. I was on a Quest of my own to protect and care for my little ones, and that did matter. He listened intently and asked me where I was staying and if I had any idea of a place to rent. He asked me a lot of questions and called another manager in, then they asked me to wait outside with Sheila. I was beginning to doubt myself just a bit when the two managers finally came out from behind the closed doors. He smiled at me and gave me an envelope. “This is a loan from us, and you can pay us back  a little out of every paycheck. We think it will help you and your family and we always stick together here,” he told me. In the envelope was enough to pay the full deposit and rent for the house I had found the week before. I was speechless. Sheila gave me a hug and told me she would see me in a week, after I finished my Disney University training course. The managers shook my hand and told me to settle in, that they were looking forward to working with me. I thanked each one of them profusely and repeatedly, and to this day I have never forgotten what they did for me.

After six and a half months, we were going to have a home. We would no longer be homeless. Disney was indeed a place where dreams came true.

Now to move in and begin Disney University. What will that be like, I wondered. Would Disney be this magical for me always?

Until next time,

A Common Question with an Uncommon Answer

June 8, 2011

SO….how did you get involved with Disney, anyway?

This is easily the most common question I hear, so I thought it might be good to answer it here. My story is not always a pleasant one, but it does actually have a happy ending. Really- I promise.

I was expecting my third daughter when my then-spouse came home one day and announced that he had gotten a letter from a cousin that worked at Universal Orlando and there was a job waiting for him if he wanted it. This was welcome news, as my then-spouse had been seemingly allergic to any jobs at all up to that point. I was weary of the struggles we had been through and viewed Florida as the promised land through my own shade of rose-colored glasses. We announced the move to my family and off we went. We moved from Missouri and arrived a week later.

This is not where the happy ending is, by the way. No sir- this is where the bottom dropped out.

My then-spouse did get a job at Universal in pyrotechnics. However, the job paid slightly more than eight whopping dollars an hour, not the amount he insisted he had been promised beforehand. We were living in hotel after hotel, many of our rooms rented by the good graces of people our church had recommended. It was terrible. I was six months along and also had our four year old and nine month old to care for. I did the best that I could to make things stretch and make the time as pleasant for the children as I could. Each day I would teach the girls something, such as a new sign to read and recognize. I knew things were not going well, and told my family in Missouri that I had doubts about my spouse and his job. It was extremely stressful and expensive, yet I was not doing well health wise with the high risk pregnancy, so my options were limited.

We lived in and out of hotels for months. My then-spouse lost his job and in typical then-spouse fashion blamed someone else for taking his position. I was stranded in Orlando with no income, and no shelter in the summer. It was horrible. Gasoline was on the rise and we could barely afford to keep the car running. I did small odd jobs as often as I could for the church that was assisting us, but I was getting closer to my due date each day.

It was on July 25 that the day came. Early. I was alone with the children in our hotel of the week that evening when the pains began. Then-spouse had gone out, looking for work, he said. We had not been able to afford to have the phone turned on in the room, and I was in severe pain. I could not call for help. The children began to cry despite my efforts to put on a brave front. I knew there was only one thing to do, and I really had no choice. I had our four year old grab as many towels as she could find and I got in the hotel bathtub. My oldest daughter and I had a bonding moment unlike any other that night.

Then-spouse arrived back at the hotel at around 2 am. He was shaken by what he found and at last an ambulance was called. Our third daughter was early, but she was strong and thanks to my four year old and my quick thinking she was fine. I was another story, as I had lost a great deal of blood. It took three days before I was able to be released, and I was petrified that we had nowhere to bring the girls home to. I knew I had to do something. I wasn’t able to do much of anything while still pregnant, but now I was not as helpless. I was determined and had enough of living in such an unstable existence. I was Disney bound. Magic happened every day there, right? I was desperate for that hope.

Now, normally, a person applying to work at Disney must wait two full weeks to do so after having a child. I was not interested in following rules, however. My girls needed me to be strong and solve our dilemma. I marched into the Casting Center two days after being released from the hospital and took my place in a chair after the long walk of honor up the ramp.

A CM smiled and handed me the paperwork to fill out. I did so. Then, I was asked to go to a booth with a telephone that was located in the back of the room and take part in a telephone interview. I did so. Next, I was interviewed by a live individual. Then, after another hour or so, I was shown a movie all about Walt Disney World and their expectations and look. Finally, at the end of the business day, I was called back into a live person’s office again- to be told no.

Oh, she was very polite, but said that she didn’t think I was qualified for any management positions. She said if anything I was overqualified due to my college degree. I wasn’t having any of this, however. All I could think about was the ordeal my family was going through and what this job would mean to us. I would clean Disney toilets if necessary, it didn’t matter to me if I was managing anything. I suppose it was fueled by this determination and desperation that made my next move so confident. I did the only thing I could think to do- I sat on her desk.

She could certainly have called security, I realize now, but she was fairly calm when she asked me why I was sitting on her desk. I said that I was sorry, but that I needed this job badly. I told her our situation and told her I was going to sit on her desk until she helped me find something-anything- that I could do. She smiled at me after a few moments and told me she admired my tenacity. Then, she gave me a job. I had a Disney job- I was a Cast Member in training.

I was given my certificate and told to come back on the following day, for I had to pick up my wardrobe. I was going to work in Downtown Disney, at DisneyQuest. At the time I had seen the building but had no idea what DisneyQuest was or what I would be doing. This was going to be interesting.

I left at dusk, eager to tell the girls and come back the next day. I was going to make our lives better at last- with a little help from Disney magic.

My adventure had begun.

Until next time,


I have been reading blogs of many others for years, so with the encouragement of my friends and colleagues I decided it was time to take the plunge and begin writing my own. I hope you will stop by and leave me a comment from time to time. I will begin by introducing myself to you.

I am a college professor, wife, and mother of four. I have been a Disney cast member and am an avid Disney fan for many years. In 2006, I wanted to create something extra special for Disney fans like myself. I wanted a Disney online community that was unlike the larger, more impersonal boards I had been involved with. It was out of this desire that Walt’s Basementwas born.

Walt’s Basement truly is something special. I have met Disney fans and made friends from all over the world through our web site since it’s inception. Walt’s Basement has a group of committed Board Members and VoluntEars who contribute daily, finding and sharing Disney news and views, but it is much more than that. Walt’s Basement is a friendly community whose mission it is to share Disney magic based on the ideals of Walt Disney himself. We frequently slip our members “Mickey’s” (small gifts, pins, or post cards) just to make them smile. We have fun as a community both on and offline.

If you become a member of the Walt’s Basement Forum (we call our members “Basementeers”, by the way), you can expect a friendly greeting each day and a lot of opportunities for spreading pixie dust and magic. We share with one another and extend the invitation to all Disney fans to join us. We are not your average Disney fan site and we are not so large that you will feel lost or insignificant. Give us a try- I bet you will be glad you do.

I look forward to sharing with you in the years to come. I will share stories of my time as a Cast Member at Walt Disney World as well as share some insights into many Disney hobbies. This is the 11th year of Disney pin trading, so I will also be focusing many posts on that hobby which I have been a part of since day one.

Settle in, subscribe to me, and prepare for the ride. I am glad you are here. Leave me a comment or ask me a question- I can’t wait to hear from you!



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