Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Disney Parks Attraction Cast Member Interview - Ashley

On a trip to Walt Disney World in October of 2009, I participated in Disney's Hollywood Studios' attraction "The American Idol Experience." When I was checking in for my show I met an AIE cast member, Ashley. We had a memorable little conversation about fashion and then that was the last time I thought I'd see her. Months later I got a message on Facebook from Ashley! She happened upon a photo of me doing American Idol Experience and remembered my performance and decided to say 'hi.'  Ever since then we've kept in touch and Ashley is actually going to be my touring companion in a week when I'm down at WDW.
I decided to interview Ashley on what it's like being an attractions cast member at WDW. Big thanks to Ashley for participating!

Stacey: Where are you from and what drew you to being employed by Disney?

Ashley: I'm from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.  I moved to Orlando to work for Disney after a trip I had with my friends and I absolutely fell in love with WDW.  I've been plenty of times before but not for at least 10 years because after we got older we never wanted to go to Disney because it was for "little kids."  We wanted Universal and Busch Gardens for the thrill rides and roller coasters.  But that first time walking down Main Street, being 17 years old, I have never felt so much like a little kid before in my life.  I had one of the best times of my life and didn't want to give it up.  So I came up to Orlando and worked for the company.  On June 5 will be 3 years that I've been with the Disney Company.

Stacey: It's so interesting that you learned to appreciate WDW until you were basically an adult. I love how you knew you just HAD to work for the company and be a part of the magic. What attractions have you worked at in your three years with Disney?

Ashley: I've worked at Jungle Cruise, Soarin', American Idol Experience, and Space Mountain.  My favorite so far has been American Idol.  Even though you don't operate a ride, you have so much free time to interact with guests, wander around and make Magical Moments, and just the fact the we were in Hollywood favorite park.  Then come 3 o'clock we didn't have a show so we had a blast watching Block Party Bash when it was still there.  I think AIE is great.  It really does make the guests feel like stars.  Though it does take a lot of your day up and it's not as popular as it should be.  It's definitely a great experience.  Not to mention I met an AWESOME girl named Stacey!

Stacey: Aww, thanks!  Sounds like you've sort of had a taste of all different types of attractions.  I agree, American Idol Experience is seriously underrated. Well, that and all of Disney's Hollywood Studios.  Tell me, what is the best and worst parts about being an attractions cast member?

Ashley: The absolute best part of working attractions is seeing how the rides operate.  The whole backstage scenes of an attraction blows my mind every time I see it.  Being a guest who has never worked on a ride, you don't ever think how your carriage is lifted into the air over an IMAX screen to feel like your flying or actually seeing how big the IMAX screen is and being able to stand in the middle of it.  Or even how your rocket gets you into space and how many thousands and thousands of guest a day we're able to put through the rides.  Being able to see a kid who's so excited for his first roller coaster ride, or surprising people with FASTPASSES for no reason, and just the fact that I can say that I've worked on some of the most popular/well known rides in the world.  The people you meet, cast and guests, having friends from all over the world... it's something I'll always cherish and never forget.

Now the worst part of working attractions is FASTPASS. I think it's a great concept but... it causes drama. Guests don't understand that we can't let you come back with your 9:30 p.m. FASTPASS at 1 in the afternoon, or a 4 month old FASTPASS that you forgot to use last time you were here. If we let everyone in with old, later time, or lost FASTPASSES, the FASTPASS queue would be two hours long and standby would be waiting 4 hours. You would be surprised how many guests ask every few minutes about that and how they think their the only ones who are doing it. The other worst part of working attractions is New Years Eve...need I say more? Absolutely crazy.

Stacey: I really had NO idea that many people attempted to use invalid FASTPASSES. Ridiculous! Hopefully with the new FASTPASS features that they're going to implement in the future these troublesome guests will be limited. But, I'm sure the “bad seeds” are far and few between compared to genuinely happy and thankful guests. Do you have a magical guest moment that sticks out in your mind?

Ashley: My favorite guest memory is with this family who I will never forget. I was working Soarin' and I got a party of about 8.  As I'm bringing the family into the theater to their seats, the little boy was pointing to the signs that are telling you to remain seated with your hands inside.  But, he was pointing to the sign and saying, "Mommy, no dancing! No dancing!"  I've never laughed so hard!  I started to give the little boy a hard time for it.  When their flight landed, I went in the theater and asked if they would like to ride again and of course they said yes.  While they were waiting for their flight I did the pre-show safety spiel but added, "We would like to remind you at Soarin' there is no dancing."  All I could hear was them laughing!  They took pictures with me and I gave them FASTPASSES which they used for Soarin' again.  One of the greatest families ever and I hope I run into them again.  A few months later a friend showed me a blog where the mother actually posted the story and the picture!

Stacey: I think cast members are the driving force behind the Disney parks' success. Making every guest feel special at some point is what keeps people coming back. As a guest you don't just feel like a body through the gate but rather a human being looking for an amazing vacation experience. Everyone deserves that. You mentioned earlier that your favorite park is the Studios. Why is that?

Ashley:  I love the whole 1930s - "The Hollywood That Never Was.” I always get so excited walking down Sunset Blvd. Every time I go I always find something different that I haven't seen before. Like the well next to the Indiana Jones show, or Eddie Valiant's office. Personally I think DHS has the best shows and rides. My favorite ride is Tower of Terror. I love the theming... from the lobby to the basement and the casts costumes. No matter how many times I've been on it, it still scares me. I had the opportunity to go on the roof of Tower of Terror and that is such an amazing view! And very scary! You can actually feel the elevators dropping below your feet!

Stacey: I totally agree with you about all of the details that many people pass in the Studios. Do you happen to have a favorite restaurant to eat at when you're not working hard at Space Mountain?

Ashley: BOMA!! I feel like everyone should agree with me on this one. I'm not one for buffets but... Oh My God. Coconut rice, salmon, hummus, pork, ZEBRA DOMES, and bread pudding. Personally I love that they put french fries on the buffet also because Disney has the best fries. I can't wait to go back!

Stacey: Soon enough, Ashley. Soon enough.  Now, Disney World goes through many changes every year.  Some big and some small, seemingly insignificant alterations.  What are some things that you would change about the parks if you could?

Ashley: If I could change anything I would bring back Block Party Bash and Spectromagic. I want the Year Of A Million Dreams back also. That was an awesome promotion for the company. I would also take out Stitch's Great Escape. Turkey legs would be prohibited. And Fantasmic would go back to being every night.

Stacey: Fantasmic DOES need more show times! It's hands down my favorite nighttime show in all of WDW.  Lastly, and this is an important question... Have you ever seen any celebrities in the parks?

Ashley:  Yes, so many!  Michael Phelps, David Tutera, Mandy Moore, Jodi Benson, Rhianna, Ryan Seacrest, Megan Fox, and tons of athletes.  I can't even name them all.

Thank you so much, Ashley for chatting with me about your employment with the Disney company. Have fun in the parks and keep spreadin' the magic!


  1. Awesome interview! I'm so going to be looking for Ashley on our next trip. :-)

    I hope when she says that she'd take out Stitch, that putting Alien Encounters back in is implied? Because I so agree.

    It's funny, I was really not impressed when I first heard about American Idol coming to DHS (not a fan of the show), but hubs and I went to one of the earlier shows before it was officially opened, and were so hooked that we saw it three times in one day! And spent the rest of the afternoon arguing with each other over why we picked who we picked, despite the fact that all the "contestants" were cast members. *lol* The show is even better now that it's "live".

  2. oh, i have been working in disney as an CP as well, and none interview me!

  3. the contestants arent cast members! i did it last summer. it was a really good timee. =]