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Working at Disneyland Paris 2014 - Day 17 to 49 - 6 weeks - Days off, settling in at work and sorting out life

Sunday 22nd June to Thursday 24th July

So "time flies when you're having fun" as the old motto goes, and it certainly has flown by. Last time I worked at Disneyland Paris I did a daily blog but that simply wouldn't be possibly as a long-term thing, nor would it be very interesting as some days are pretty much the same as others. So here are some of the things that I have done or have happened over the past month.

1. Cast Member Party
Every 6 months Disneyland Paris hosts a party to celebrate how awesome all of the Cast Members are (this may be my own perspective on things). For the party, an area of Backstage is cleared out and the put up all kinds of food stalls, set up a stage and then wait for the evening. The evening usually starts at 5PM and goes on until about 2AM and we get as much food as we want (it was really good - everything from churros to burgers and candy floss), there is a DJ playing music and there's a talent show too. It was a good way to get to meet a few new people and to see some others outside of work which was nice.

2. A visit from a friend
Emma who I worked with in London came to Disneyland Paris with her friend . It was nice as it was a chance to take in the parks as a guest for a few hours and I got to see the Spring Promenade show which was really, really good. I am sort of ashamed I handn't seen it before that. it was also a chance to see Disney Dreams properly as I don't really get to see it regularly. And to explore the parks because as item number 3 says...

3. I'm kind of bored of the parks
Maybe it's the fact I know that I'm going to be working here for a while and so I don't feel obliged to cram everything in, maybe it's the fact I can only get in after 2PM (well, by doing it the proper way) but I don't really feel the necessity to visit the parks like I did when I worked at Walt Disney World. It might also be that comparatively there are very few things to do at the parks here compared to at Walt Disney World. There I took days off where I just visited a hotel and relaxed on the sand, or went out specifically to eat in a restaurant, or went in specifically to see the fireworks (3 different displays to choose from nightly). If I wanted I could do paraglading, visit one of four theme parks, play golf or minigolf, visit the water parks and many, many more things. Plus there are infinitely more stage shows to watch there. The weather also has been terrible lately which hasn't helped.

You're probably wondering, how could someone ever get tired of a view like this? (Side note: This photo was taken on an iPhone and it looks incredible)
Having said that, there are a few things I want to do in the parks that I haven't yet done this time round: ride Autopia, ride Orbitron, and see Disney Junior as I've never seen it. I'd also like to watch Captain EO but it's closed at least until the end of September. Outside of the parks but still on Disney property I'd like to go to Davy Crockett Ranch and do the adventure course thing that they have there. Outside of that there's a heck of a lot to do in Paris. I'm sure when the weather gets better that I'll want to return to the parks more too.

4. Ratatouille: The Adventure (Warning: Spoilers)
So, I got to experience Ratatouille: The Adventure weeks before its public debut as part of Cast Member previews. The area outside the ride is beautiful, the queue area indoors is very small but well  done, and the ride itself is, in my opinion 'just OK'. Don't get me wrong, it is enjoyable - and something that most people in Europe have never seen before. I however have experienced trackless ride systems before including The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man at Universal Orlando and Antarctica at Seaworld Orlando. I guess the ride just didn't have enough movement for me.

First the positives: The ride vehicles move around slowly and in a relaxing manner and the storyline is well told, the scenes are well animated, it is about 5 minutes long and it even has a Fastpass and single rider line - what's not to like, right?

I think the thing about the ride was that it just wasn't immersive enough and I put that down to a few things:

1) Disney has toned down the effects compared to Universal (Note: spoilers ahead) - When I enter the chiller area I want to feel the cold, I can feel a slight chill but nothing more. When the gas oven is lit up above me I want to feel the heat like I do in Disney Dreams, not just a waft of warm air, and when a mop whacks the car I want the car to spin quickly away not glide away slowly. The movement of the vehicles and the special effects just don't convince me that I'm in the experience. I would say there is one exception to this which is when the vehicles are each in front of their own small screen during a chase - here the ride vehicle moves, the sound is immersive and screen fills your whole view.

2) The screens just don't work for a multi-car experience - Something that makes the Spider-Man ride work so well in Orlando is that it is just your one car and the screen in front of you, and that screen is blended perfectly with the decors around it. When your vehicle moves, a technology called "squinching" is used to provide perfect perspective.
The high sides of the vehicle keep you from looking at the ground and move importantly keep your attention focused on the screen and exactly where the creators want you to look.



My biggest qualm about Ratatouille was that I could see the bottom of the screen in every single scene and this completely eliminated the idea that I was looking through a window into another world, simply because I could see the real floor and the end of the screen! This would have been incredibly simple to fix by making sure the screen did not go all the way to the floor and placing some objects at the bottom, by moving the car closer to the screen, having high walls on the side of the vehicle and by tilting the vehicle upwards. Once again as the Ratmobiles are so open, you can see the screen out of the corner of your eyes to the left and right of the vehicle.

Just to reiterate that a multi-car experiences doesn't work with a trackless system - look at Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and Spider-Man. And then look at the flop that was Antarctica.

Lastly, there wasn't as great a blend of the screens and the decors as I had imagined. To be honest, there were a lot more physical objects and decors hat had been constructed than I thought there would be which is great. On Forbidden Journey and Spider-Man when you leave a scene and the car turns the decor blends seamlessly with what you've just seen - there are times where you think "Oh, when did that screen come in" whereas on Ratatouille it is a more obvious move from decor to screen and back. Something that would also have helped more is placing physical objects in front of the screen like they do in the scene with the gas oven - it works very, very well there. However, when you move from the screen into the chiller the change is just too drastic in my opinion.

Also as a side note, I looked back during one scene and before the curtain/door closed behind my vehicle, the video jumped and reset to the beginning frame. Completely eliminating the immersion.

Having said all this, I think if I hadn't been to Universal Orlando and seen a better version of this, I would have been much more impressed than I am. Is DLP counting on Europeans not having seen anything like this before and therefore being wowed? Maybe. Will it be a success with families? Yes, undoubtedly it will. As has been shown by the 190 minute wait on opening day and the 120 minute wait the day after. I think Disney has learnt a thing or two along the way here too which can only be good as they experiment with "new" ride systems like this. In addition, this area and the ride was something that the Walt Disney Studios Park was severely lacking - great theming and an area which is actually nice to walk around and relax, unlike the concrete and asphalt jungle that the rest of the park is.

5. I worked the Rope Drop
When you do the opening shift, you can do one of many positions involved with getting the ride started up and ready for guests, or you can be put on rope drop. One day over the past week I was put on rope drop - and I rather enjoyed it. After the morning meeting, instead of doing the ride opening procedures you are given the much more calm job of going through the queue line and doing minor bits or cleaning - with no one in the queue this is actually quite a relaxing start to the morning. Then at about 9:25am you leave the ride and go through Adventureland to Central Plaza and the area in front of the castle to be there for 9:30am. When you arrive you have a rope in front of you which closes off Adventureland from Central Plaza. Then you spend the next half an hour answering guests questions and telling people that Adventureland does in fact only open at 10am. Even for hotel guests. At 10am the opening spiel plays in several different languages and when it is over, you slowly remove the rope and let guests into Adventureland.

I was lucky to spend about 20 of the 30 minute speaking to a Canadian lady and her daughter who were over in Europe as part of the daughter's end of school present. They were huge Disney fans and they showed me photos on the mum's phone of them dressed up as different Disney characters for Halloween. I talked to them about working in Florida and how the daughter might want to try for the College Program, and we talked about their visits to the US parks. It was really nice and made the time fly by. As it was their first time at DLP, I then walked with them over to Indiana Jones and bid my goodbyes.

6. I worked the Parade
The parade duty takes place during the middle of your shift and one person is chosen to do this from Adventureland attractions every day. Other areas of the park also send Cast to help man the parade. Here you show up to the parade department an hour before the parade begins and you are told where you ware put and then your surveil that area until the parade is over. In practice this means that I turned up to my location (Main Street - between Walt's and Casey's Corner - a long stretch) about 50 minutes before the parade started. I spent most of this time walking backwards and forwards with absolutely nothing to do. There were a few guest questions but not many. And then 10 minutes before the parade arrives everyone gets told to move onto the pavement with no feet or legs on the street area of Main Street itself so that the performers can perform safely. This was for the most part easy though some kids presented a challenge.

As you've probably guessed this was taken on a day when I was not working
I had a chat with a Cast Member working the other side of Main Street too and it was her first time doing the parade as well - she worked at the Ratatouille ride as a matter of fact. People from both parks are actually brought in to deal with the guest flow during parades. Then it was a case of kneeling down as the parade went past and surveilling my area. Of course I got to watch the parade but that wasn't the main focus - it was my guests' safety. It was really nice to see some kids eyes light up when they saw their favourite characters. Speaking of characters, Peter Pan ruffled my hair when he went past.

Overall, it was an exhausting experience but it did make a change from the usual dispatching of trains and greeting guests on attractions. Top marks to the people who work guest flow all day long.

7. A typical day at work
You might be wondering how a typical day is structured when you work on attractions at Disneyland Paris. Well here is how my days usually go. Full-time Attractions Cast Members work either 5 days a week for 8 hours a day (breaks are within this time) or 4 days a week for 10 hours a day. Those working at the studios at the moment do 4-day weeks year-round, where as at Disneyland Park we do 5-day weeks during peak times and 4-days a week during the rest of the year. Work can start for me anytime between 08:00 and 15:45, and finish any time between 15:55 and 23:45. These are based on park opening hours of 10am to 11pm. Obviously at certain times of the year the days will finish much earlier. Attractions open for Extra Magic Hours can have shifts which starts as early as 6:00-6:45am.

Overall, I prefer doing the opening shifts which start at 8am over any others. The reason for that is because the first two hours fly by between the morning staff briefing and the procedures to actually get the attraction open. After that you usually have a break within the next 45 minutes and already 25-30% of your day is over whereas the park will only have been open for less than an hour.

No matter what time of the day you start you have a briefing at the start of the shift which usually lasts 15-20 minutes where we go over the attendance of the day, any complaints and positive comments from guests, safety information, and important things to be aware of for that day in particular.

During the day every 15-20 minutes usually you change position within the attraction as part of a rotation system where you move from position to position. This involves working the Unload area of the attraction, the Exit area, the Fastpass return and Greeter area, being the Grouper, the Control Tower and the Load area. Once you have been through all the positions in a rotation you go on a break or lunch, or it is the end of your shift. The system works well most of the time, though I did have more faith in the computerised system at Walt Disney World if I'm honest as everything was tracked. It also gave out fun tasks to do which this doesn't. Fortunately stroller parking is not part of the rotation here. Usually once a day you also end up doing the trash in the queue line of the attraction which is not at all glamorous.

If you are wondering after the dining arrangements, there are several areas for Cast Members to eat backstage including big staff canteens where the food is reasonably priced but not the most healthy. You can of course also bring your own food and reheat it. There are also break rooms all over the place. All hidden very well from guests of course.

If you work the closing shift, you close the queue line at 11pm, usually by 11:05pm you are clear of guests and you do your closing procedures to shut down the attraction. Then it is time to do a "clear" of the land where Cast Members check to make sure every single area of the park is clear of guests, you then walk towards Central Plaza escorting any guests out. Usually we arrive at central plaza between 11:08 and 11:30 which means that most of the time we get to watch at least 5-10 minutes of Disney Dreams which is nice. In the evening, we then have a debrief for a few minutes which doesn't really result in very much and then we clock out. There you have it - a day in the life on attractions Cast Member at Disney.

8. Got my bank account sorted
I finally have my bank account with Credit Mutuel sorted including access to online banking, a debit card, a normal account and a savings account, and a cheque book. Turns out people really use cheques in France - including for deposits and for paying rent. There was also an issue where they initially gave me someone else's debit card!! and when I put money into my account it was transferred to them. The issue was eventually sorted.

Things to note: My bank is closed on Mondays and Sundays, and Saturday after lunch. It also closes every day during lunch for about an hour and a half.

On the upside here banking is quite personal where you get your own bank account advisor and mine actually remembered me when I went in to cash a cheque a couple of weeks later. You wouldn't get that with a standard bank account in the UK. Then again you probably wouldn't be paying a monthly fee for your bank account either, so it's swings and roundabouts.

9. Signed up for the gym
As soon as I got my chequebook (which involved once again going into the bank...because they obviously couldn't just mail it to me), I went and signed up for the gym. I ended up going for FitnessPark Montevrain as I had discussed in an earlier post. The price is €29,95 a month which is reasonable. Especially considering someone I know payed about €400 for his summer membership. It has a good selection of free weights and cardio equipment which is good.

A few things about gyms in France (or maybe just this particular one):

1) People here do not lift a lot of weight - Even the 'big' guys don't lift anywhere near as much weight as I saw people moving at my Uni gym in the UK
2) People work out their vanity muscles only - I think I may be the only person to have ever touched the Leg Press machine. I genuinely got stares from people. As another example the squat rack cage is used by people for pull ups, but not for squats.
3) People don't do compound movements but instead movements to targets specific muscles.
4) Everyone wears really tight clothing - Underarmour galore, and T-shirts two sizes too small.
5) All the men shave their chests and armpits - I'm not judging.
6) You have to have a towel with you - To lay down on machines as you use them to stop sweat. Hmm...OK, I guess this is hygienic. But also very French.
7) No trainers on the mats - This is a bit anal if you ask me.
8) I have seen maybe two women in the 3 times I have been there in the past week.
9) The whole gym smells like a mix of antibacterial gel and sweat
10) People openly admire themselves in the mirror - and pose.
11) You need your own padlock for the lockers. Because having a coin operated lock would have been too difficult.
12) People say Bonjour when they come in to the changing rooms. I do this at the locker room at Disney but I don't think this lends itself particularly well to the small confines of a mens' locker room.
13) The shower cubicles do not have hooks for your towels and underwear...and the water is freezing.
14) Year-long pre-paid contracts seem to be pretty common everywhere I look with some costing €500 or €600 - all to be paid at once. Luckily mine is monthly but with a 12-month commitment, thought that's still better as I don't have that kind of money to put down all at once.
15) Sign-up fees. Yes, it was €50 for that membership card. But hooray as my first month was discounted by €10.
16) Yes, I did really need a cheque for a deposit. They say they won't cash the cheque...
17) You usually need a letter from your doctor to say you are fit and healthy. I just signed a disclaimer instead.

So, I've been three times in the past week which is good but I think I'll only be going on my days off as it's hard to fit it in anywhere else. Having not been to the gym in almost two months I hadn't lost too much strength though I am aching. I did lose 4kg since I've been here though from all the walking (See the next point) - not a good thing when trying to put on muscle.

10. I'm walking a lot
So, it turns out that I'm walking quite a lot every single day. I'm been using a step counter app on my iPhone to log my walks. Every single day at work I have walked over 10,000 steps. The most I've walked in a single day at work? 18,979 steps or 14.3km.

That's a lot of walking
Just the distance from my room to my work location including catching a train and in internal bus is 1km each way. Then all the walking I do back and forth, plus to and from lunch and my breaks means that 10,000 steps is easily achievable. It's an incredible amount of walking.

11. Days out with the Adventureland Crew 
On July 14th, the French National holiday, I spent a few hours with some work people having dinner at Annette's - an American diner. Oh, the irony.

Another smaller night out was to Quick (like a McDonald's clone) last week too.

The other big day out was the picnic I had a few weeks ago on the Champs de Mars by the eiffel tower. It was a nice couple of hours getting to know people better.

Living the life
It was also really nice and warm and before joining everyone else for the picnic I decided to have a relaxing afternoon in the Parc de Tuileries sat in one of the sun lounging reclining chairs sunbathing and reading a book. Yes, I'm reading in French. It was such a nice moment to just appreciate life for a bit.

12. The Navigo transport card
Something that is great is that the monthly and yearly travel passes here (Called 'Navigos') allow you unlimited travel in all zones during the weekends, bank holidays and also now in the summer which means I can go into central paris from free, and I can even go to the airport without paying. This will give me the chance to go into central paris a bit more this summer.

13. Administration
So, I'm probably already stated somewhere that paperwork is excessive everywhere in France. Well, except for social security it seems. I still don't have my social security number. Nor, have I done my mutuelle/health insurance yet. Bit concerning in case something goes wrong health-wise.

14. Housing situation and the first work cheque
I paid my first rent payment a couple of weeks ago, and luckily it was pro-rated so I don't have tp pay for the whole month as I moved in on the 6th June. Just as well as I only get paid for the days I worked too, which was a part month from the 10th.

I've filled out all the paperwork for the housing cost help (APL) from the government. That will probably take a couple of months to come through but it will be a huge help when it does.

15. Still meeting new people at work
There are still people who I am meeting daily who have been here for much longer than I have. Most of them have been coming back from holiday over the last couple of weeks to all us new Cast which I can imagine is probably a bit daunting and strange.

16. New phone operator
It turns out that JoeMobile was a terrible decision as they just do not have any 3G anywhere near my flat or at work. There were even places that I got no signal, let alone 3G. I've now switched to Lycamobile where the signal and 3G are good but I'm limited to 500MB of internet a month - then again its only €9,99 a month including 4h or national and international calls, and unlimited texts which is cheap. I just wish there were a €14,99/19,99 option with Lycamobile including 1GB/2GB/3GB of data - it'd make such a difference.

17. Passeport en Scene
After one month seniority, I am now eligible to get my free entries for others into the parks. They are few and few between - only 2 entries (for up to 3 people each) for the first 8 month of my contract! After 8 months, they start to become more substantial and I think I'll 'pop over' to Florida using those. I'm keeping these two entries for my family for this Christmas however.

18. Fastfood is expensive
Yes, it's not healthy. No, I'm not proud. No, I don't overly care about how unhealthy fast food is. However, I was shocked at the prices - a menu at McDonalds (or Quick) will set you back €7 or €8, and a footlong sub and a drink cost me €8,80 last week. Absolutely shocking prices!

19. Food backstage
Backstage food is affordable, it's quick, it's plentiful and for the most part its tasty. The only thing is that the variety isn' huge and I'm starting to get a bit bored of them. I did cook a big batch of food but ended up only eating it there twice. I think a mix of the two will end up working well.

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4 comments:

  1. Really interesting read, thanks!

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  2. Hello.

    I'm finding your blog really useful in my preparations to start at DLP in March. I do however have a question about the birth certificate you have to take with you. Is the standard UK birth certificate acceptable or do I need to get it translated? I have just emailed Disney to check this but as you have been through the process I thought you might be able to help and have some advice on this. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated and maybe see you out there :)

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    Replies
    1. They won't even ask you for it...it'll only be social security who will ask if you decide to register with them if you're staying long-term

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    2. As a follow-up, despite it stating everywhere including on Disney documents that you need to get birth certificates translated, I did this and then found out that they take English birth certificates as is.

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