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Superstar Cast Members

Friday, October 03, 2008

 I have not exactly been shy about my fondness for the Year of a Million Dreams. So, you’re probably not surprised to learn that I’m sad to see it coming to a close at the end of 2008, especially given that I’m not all that excited about Celebration Vacations (which seem to me like a reasonably good strategy on Disney’s part to capitalize on the “staycation” trend, but doesn’t do much for me).

But my favorite part of the Year of a Million Dreams promotion has never been the pins and Mickey Ears – it’s always been the notion of Cast Members being encouraged to create a little extra magic here and there, do a little extra kindness for a Guest. And y’know, there have always been Cast Members who go that extra mile, regardless of any particular marketing strategy. And I’ve been the lucky recipient of an awful lot of kindness.

(Now, a reader of my Broke Hoedown blog reminds me that sometimes, the Year of a Million Dreams may have been used as a way to further browbeat overworked Cast Members. It makes me sad to know that this may be true in some cases….perhaps I hold out a naive hope that it’s not true for most, and I share my BFF’s cynical and pragmatic view that if management wants to be obnoxious, they’re gonna be obnoxious regardless of the current marketing scheme.)

So, as Celebration Vacations reminds us that the Years of Millions of Dreams (thanks Jonathan!) is coming to a close, I’d like to remember some of the magical moments that Cast Members have made possible for me, and in particular those extra kindnesses and pixie dust which did not include any officially branded certificate, and (to the best of my knowledge) didn’t require any special Year of a Million Dreams authorization:

Birthday Lost-and-Found: To celebrate my 40th birthday, I spent a day all by myself at Disneyland. To some that may sound lonely…but to this working mom, it was a beautiful thing! I ran into a real snag at the end of the day, though: While exiting Mulholland Madness at Disney’s California Adventure, I lost the FastPass holder in which I’d stashed my 7-day park hopper pass, as well as a gift card from my BFF. It was dumb of me to put them in such an insecure place…but the Cast Members who quickly re-united me with my lost items were understanding, kind and patient. (And no, they didn’t even know I was celebrating my birthday.)

Mickey Mouse Rescue Operation: Tokyo Disneyland is unparalleled when it comes to the friendliness and helpfulness of its Cast Members. As my then-five-year-old son and I were carrying our meals to a table in the Pan Galactic Pizza Port, he dropped his Mickey Mouse souvenir cup. Before we’d even had a chance to finish picking up the pieces, a Cast Member had appeared to ask if something was wrong. When I explained that my kid had just dropped his cup, the Cast Member nodded and scurried off, then returned with a freshly-filled replacement. I don’t think I even have to tell you that another Cast Member had already arrived with cleaning supplies, or that everybody was cheerful about the whole thing.

Is He a Stalker, or Just Attentive? My French is lousy. I can usually order dinner in a restaurant, and sometimes manage to ask directions, but in many cases the best I can do is to say, in as apologetic a tone as I can muster, “Pardon, je parle seulement a petit peu de francais. Parlez-vous anglais?” (Sorry, I only speak a little bit of French. Do you speak English?) So, getting around Disneyland Paris was sometimes a bit difficult. But while waiting for a showing of Moteurs, Action!, we met a Cast Member who chatted with us, suggested good locations for pin-trading, and even found us after the show to see if we’d enjoyed it. My son found it a little creepy, but I just felt welcomed.

Sometimes You Just Really Need a Mug: On the last night of a fabulous Free Dining trip to Walt Disney World, my son lost his souvenir Buzz Lightyear mug from Pizza Planet. Unfortunately, the restaurant was closed, and we had an early flight to catch in the morning. We went to Guest Services to find out how to file a lost-and-found card, and to inquire about whether this mug could be purchased through mail-order (nope), and met a kind Cast Member who walked my son over to pick out a different mug from the gift shop, free of charge. The replacement mug was instantly cherished far more than the original.

Now, we all know what to do when we’re lucky enough to meet an extraordinarily helpful Cast Member, right? Let Disney know about it! Contact information for WDW Guest Services is available on my blog, and I’m sure intrepid readers could scare up the info for any other park they visit. It’s a great feeling to send a letter to thank Disney for a terrific Cast Member…and then to hear back from Disney, letting you know that the compliment was received, and passed along not only to the Cast Member him/herself, but also to his or her supervisor. If somebody made a little extra magic for you, why not return the favor?