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Working at Disneyland Paris - A Halloween Trip Report - 9th October 2014 (Day 126)

Working at Disneyland Paris - A Halloween Trip Report - 9th October 2014 (Day 126)

With at least a couple of weeks since my last visit to the park as a guest, I thought I should take advantage of my free admission to the parks to enjoy the 2014 Disneyland Paris Halloween season. The Halloween season this year runs from the 1st October to 2nd November, and I visited just one week after it debuted.

I visited with Margaux and we had strategically chosen to go on the 9th October as the kids were still in school and therefore we would have short waits for all the Halloween events.

This year guests can enjoy a beautifully decorated park from the moment they step in.

As you step onto Town Square and down Main Street USA, you can't help but notice the incredible effort that has gone into making the part Halloween-like. Orange is definitely the colour of the season and you can see Pumpkins in every direction you look as you walk in. It was equally nice to have a live band playing to add to the atmosphere, and all along the rooftops you can see ghosts themed to their environs.

Even the horse-drawn streetcars had a Halloween twist.

As you can see below, the rooftop of Casey's Corner features a ghost with a baseball bat, and you will find even more pumpkins along every inch of Main Street, USA. On top of Main Street motors you will see a ghost with a tyre, and another eating ice cream on top of Gibson Girl.

As we walked towards central plaza, we were just in time to catch the 10:30am Halloween opening celebrations. Here the characters walked down the hill of Sleeping Beauty castle...

And then Maleficent came along on her float and directed the villains as they did their promenade around central plaza.

The whole promenade maybe took five minutes at the most and the villains then disappeared. Admittedly, it was a bit of an odd way to introduce the Halloween celebration.

After this, we started hunting for the characters as most of the Halloween entertainment is composed of meet-and-greets. I am not typically a character hunter and in fact I find that taking photos with characters can actually be rather awkward but I had always wanted a photo with Jack from the Nightmare Before Christmas, and that is exactly where we went next.

Before, leaving Central Plaza I had the chance to take some nice photos of the pumpkins in the area.

Then, it was time to go through the Frontierland fort and venture towards Jack. Frontierland is themed as well, if not better, than Main Street USA with pumpkins abound, as well as scarecrows everywhere.

Located between Phantom Manor and Big Thunder Mountain, is the photolocation for Jack and Sally. Unfortunately, Sally wasn’t meeting guests on this day but Jack was still there.

I counted the groups ahead of us and there were 10 groups, so approximately a 10-minute wait. We got in line and about 10 minutes later we were chatting to Jack. It was really good to talk to a face character as it is much less awkward than the fur characters which do not talk in my opinion.

As soon as we said “Hi” to Jack, he took an interest in my black umbrella and began asking “What’s this?” just like in the film. He was determined to find out what it did, was it a decoration? Could it fly?

"What's this?" Jack trying to make the umbrella fly
After two attempts and dropping my umbrella to the ground, and even (accidentally) damaging a bit of his photolocation, he finally gave it back to me. It was really good as he took the time to chat to us even though we were adults and it made for a fun couple of minutes.
Jack hands my umbrella over to Zero - seems he doesn't know what to do with it either

And voilĂ  - the photo!
 After we got our photos with Jack, it was the end of his set so he went to quickly search for some Christmas presents for five minutes after we left. He was so in character which was great and he even walked off in a bizarre manner, just like he walks in the film!

After that – it was time for a quick tour on Phantom Manor (5 minutes posted) followed by Big Thunder Mountain (15 minutes posted).

Then, it was time to visit the castle courtyard behind Sleeping Beauty Castle which had been transformed in Maleficent’s Court for Halloween.

The brambles in Maleficent's courtyard in the form of a dragon

Just as we arrived, and began to admire the great brambles that had been installed in the area, we saw smoke above us and Maleficent came out to greet her guests.

After a brief speech, she was gone and her villains began to appear all around us for photos. This was the big photo meet and greet of the season and several characters came out to play.

The villains come out to play!

Gaston announced his arrival with his booming voice which had everyone smiling
Unfortunately, unlike most other meet and greets nowadays here there were no formal queue lines and instead it was up to the characters to pick who would get the next photo. The characters were for the most part very fair and went around in a semi-circle fashion. In front of us as we arrived was the Evil Snow Queen who did a particularly good job of being in character all the time asking “What do you want?!” to guests and telling kids to move when they tried to skip their turn. She was hilarious and I really enjoyed watching her as we waited our turn patiently. It is really interesting too to see the characters switch from one language to another - we as Cast Members do it all the time but it was interesting to see. The majority of guests this day were French so the characters mainly stuck to that.

After our photo with the Snow Queen, Margaux got a photo with Gaston who had a new costume – his voice was great and he acted perfectly in character but unfortunately the Gaston we had on that day was skinny and the fake muscles in his costume looked terrible on him. It was a shame. No one else seemed to mind, but having seen some of the others I was a bit disappointed that this one didn’t look at all like Gaston even if he acted like him.

 The characters were around for 30 minutes and then switched with others, and the second time round we got some photos with the Old Hag who was really very good – and was the most in character out of anyone I saw all day. She mocked people and scared people as she went around. Unfortunately, she didn’t seem to have a system for picking people but she was the funniest of all and was incredibly in character. We even had a small chat about me wanting to keep her apple. She wasn’t impressed.

Cruella de Ville was also there who was fabulously in character too. I can't really fault any of the characters really. They were great. There were also Cast Members in the area giving out small bags of sweets as the Halloween treats are sponsored (and provided free to guests) by Haribo - a nice touch.

Throughout the day we rode Pirates of the Caribbean (the ride is in incredible shape after its recent refurb and had lots of effects I had never seen working), Snow White’s Scary Adventures, Peter Pan’s Flight, Orbitron, Space Mountain: Mission 2, and we watched Captain EO which was great to watch after having not seen it for a year!

The only Halloween prop in Adventureland. Great theming though!
We also ate at the Blue Lagoon restaurant which is inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. I had already eaten at the restaurant in Disneyland in California and was disappointed – here the restaurant really lived up to its image.

I had a steak which was cooked to perfection, the service was great and the atmosphere inside was ten times better at Disneyland Paris than at Disneyland.

Even the lighting, decor and bathrooms were better here, and I particularly liked the touch of a bamboo cup for my steak sauce.

We also watched the Halloween Cavalcade which has a great song ‘Vive la Vie’ and is short at only 5 minutes long but definitely worth a watch. It will be expanded over the coming years but it was worth watching it.

The opening float for Halloween cavalcade

The new float added for 2014.

There were no crowds for the cavalcade or the rides really and the longest we waited was about 10 or 15 minutes all day. Only the characters had longer queues.

To be fair we didn’t see everything at the event and we did skip some characters – we didn’t get a photo with Goofy and his Candy Co, Minnie or Stitch at the Costume Couture, or Winnie the Pooh in his Halloween finest but we saw all of the characters from a distance as we went past. We were only there for a few hours though and we were thorough impressed.

To finish off the day we hopped over to the studios to finish our day of spookiness with a ride on The Twilight Zone: Tower of Terror. All in all, a fantastic day out.

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Working at Disneyland Paris - Day 70 to Day 125 - Summer is over!

Working at Disneyland Paris - Day 70 to Day 125 - Summer is over!

Thursday 14th August 2014 (Day 70) to Wednesday 8th October 2014 (Day 125)

We are just about to hit the four month mark of my time working at Disneyland Paris and of course I have many updates about what I have been up to at work and outside of work.

The Summer Peak
August was a busy month, so busy that I only visited the parks as a guest once or twice during this time. I don't particularly feel the need to wait in 120 minute queue lines and have to push past people to enjoy the parks. Instead, during one of my visits I decided to make the most of my free admission to the parks simply to enjoy the atmosphere.

During this visit in mid-August I only went to the park for an hour and a half and I saw that the park was extremely busy. I didn't feel the need to do any rides, I simply walked around looking at the details around the park, took some photos and left. It was a nice and relaxing way to see the parks with no pressure. It did allow me to take a better look at Frontierland in particular where it is sad to see that the Pocahontas area is cordoned off and everything around the Chaparral Theatre is just dead. There are some fences up so they are working on something though at the theatre though. I'm looking forward to doing the parks when there are almost no visitors - that will be cool.

Despite the fact I did not do any rides on this particular day I have still kept track of all the rides I have ever done using the RideCount.com website - at the time of writing I have ridden 560 attractions around the world. You can see my current ride count below:

I also went with a group to Walt Disney Studios Park where we met Spider-Man which was great fun!

Pirates of the Caribbean ride evacuations
Any time that we have to evacuate Pirates of the Caribbean, it is an enormous operation - with up to 24 boats at one time and 23 people per boat, there can be upwards of 500 people in the flume at any one time. When you add in hundreds of people who are in the queue line and at the restaurant too you can see how big of a scale evacuation this attraction is. I am not trained/'checked' on this attraction and therefore I cannot go inside the rides scenes and evacuate boats themselves but last month I helped evacuate by signalling guests when the came out backstage. It is such a smooth operation and everything has been thought of to keep everyone safe. Great work.

Here are the most common questions asked by guests at work:
- Where is the entrance?
- Where are the toilets?
- Where is the pirates of the carribean?
- So this isn't The Mine Train/Big Thunder Mountain?
- Where is the exit?
- Where can I get a Fastpass?
- Why can't I use my Fastpass yet? Read the ticket.
- *Cast Members stand at ride with a rope* Is it closed? What is the technical problem? Is it going to reopen today? At what time? How long has it been closed? How long is it going to be down for? Is it the rain? Has someone died? Can I get a Fastpass while the ride is closed?
- What time does this ride/the park close?
- What time is the parade? Oh, there's only one per day?
- Can you explain Fastpass to me?
- Incomprehensible thing (to me) in either Italian or Russian.

The Slow Season begins
It is now the start of October and the Seasonal Contracts have all left - it is all now full time Cast Members like myself. The end of September was sad as people left the company - some will come back, others will not.

September signalled the end of the Summer season. At the end of August, Indiana Jones was getting waits of 40 minutes instead of 65 minutes. As of October the wait time rarely passes 5 minutes during weekdays.

September was an interesting time as the makeup of guests in the park was predominantly Spanish (over 50%) as their schools start in mid-September.
As we can see the parks aren't hugely busy right now...
The number of guests in the park on weekdays is a third of what we were getting just 5 or 6 weeks ago and it completely changes the atmosphere of the parks. It has to be said that the Saturdays in September were all extremely busy (even busier than a lot of summer days) and Sundays have been less busy than the Saturdays but still significantly busier than the weekdays.

One of the best things about the slower season is that the park begins to shut much earlier most days - it is now closing at 20:00 instead of 23:00, and this will eventually gradually be reduced to 19:00 over the coming months. This means that we work longer days at this time of year (10-hour days versus 8-hour days) but only work 4 days a week instead of 5. I can tell you now that a 3-day weekend is fantastic and really gives you the chance to relax. The last shift of the day for me now starts at 11:05pm instead of 3:55pm like it did a week or two ago.

Also, in just over a week the peak of the Halloween season will begin with half-terms and holidays, as well as Halloween itself almost here.  This means that on the 18th August, the Seasonal CDD contract cast will be making a return as well as longer park opening hours.

The Weather
Late August and the beginning of September seemed to be a bit of an unpredictable time. September was better than August by a far bit, but October has been a mixed bag with days of 23 degrees celcius and days with highs of 14 degrees and lows of 6 degrees. This is worrying for the winter - but thankfully we now have brand new 'winter' coats which I have heard are very warm!

In search of my ID
Here at Disneyland Paris in order to access the backstages of the workplace you must show your Cast Member ID card which is also used to clock in at work. In September, I managed to lose mine on a backstage bus. When it was found, the bus service called my workplace who passed on the message that my ID was waiting by the bus control depot. This then forced me to go to places I had never been before backstage - I had to go into the Discoveryland backstage area and find the bus depot. I got some directions from a driver though they weren't hugely helpful - I have no idea how I managed it but by following what little directions I had been given, my instinct and pure luck I found the exact place I had to go to including the exact room where my ID was located. In the process I had the opportunity to see things i had never seen before like the parades building, the cast parking lot and all of the Halloween and Christmas decorations which are backstage - there was a lot of orange back that now is in the parks as Halloween.

Paid directly to bank account now
After having to deal with cheque payments for several months, I am now being paid directly into my bank account. Sounds like you have to wait for the month after your probationary period is over to get paid directly. I also got my Eurostar travel to France refunded too.

Pirates of the Caribbean rehabilitation
I was generally quite surprised at the relatively low number of guests who asked me about Pirates of the Caribbean as it underwent a 2-week refurb - most seemed to be aware and accepting that the attraction was closed and only a very small number (probably less than five) have me where the attraction was located.  During this refurbishment we regularly worked La Cabane des Robinsons as part of our Temple rotation. La Cabane is a relaxing position - if, however, extremely boring with the low number of guest we had during the refurb.

In addition, we also did the Galeon/Pirate Ship for one day. There is even less to do there than at The Cabane somehow and this position can be extremely boring. I don't envy that the Pirates have to do that as part of their rotation.

Bought a TV and a bedside table
In an effort to learn some more french and to settle in I bought a brand new 39-inch LED TV from Auchan for under €300. This will be great to stream films and TV series onto when I get the appropriate cables sorted. I also bought a flatpack bedside table and built it myself (first time doing DIY and I'm very pleased) which has come in handy - I'm already wondering how I lived without it.

Social Security done
I finally took the opportunity to do my Social Security paperwork during my 3-day weekend at the start of September. Turns out there is no automatic letter that will come to your house like it says on the paperwork from our induction. Instead it is all up to you to do. The closest social security office (C.P.A.M) is in Bussy - St. Georges (1 stop on the RER from Val d'Europe) where you hand in all your paperwork. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that I did not have to wait for longer than five minutes to see anyone to help me the two times I was at the office on that day.

You will need to take with you photocopies of all the following documents: Passport, birth certificate and certified translation, work contract (all pages), your RIB (bank account information) and you will need to fill in a form with your personal details. You then hand this in together to a member of staff.

I did not have photocopies of all the documents so I had to go to La Poste located just by the Bussy - St Georges station and get some photocopies. The price was printed as €0,20 per sheet, but the photocopies did in fact only cost €0,15 per sheet. I was annoyingly caught out by the fact that La Poste closed for lunch...like all French things seem to do.

I was told it would be two weeks to get a temporary social security number and then my permanent one would be given to me a few months later. Apparently I will have to go and look for this SS number as it will not be mailed to me. They said to allow three weeks to be safe. My friends says last time she received her permanent number within a month at her house in the post.

We will have to see if the Carte Vitale (health card) was also automatically done too or if that will involve yet more paperwork. After I have my social security number I will need to make sure to do my mutuelle (health insurance) at work too - but that's a way down the line still.

Update: A temporary social security number finally came in the post about a month after, and I was told by the lady at my residence that the proper one should come in the post eventually, as well as my carte vitale in under 2 months.

CAF/APL details
So at the start of October I finally received my CAF letter telling me that I will be getting housing aid from the government which is great - it is about 30% of my rent but will make a huge difference to me. What's more I will be reimbursed for all the months I've been waiting so essentially next month's paycheck is all mine and the month after will be about 50% of the usual price. Time to put some money aside and be sensible though!

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