The Mouse Knows Best Podcast

Friday, November 24, 2017

Tips for the DCP: Playing

Now that the work day is done and you can finally find your way from the parking lot to your work location, it’s time for the best part of the Disney College Program: playing in the parks.  On my CP, and even after I became a full-time Cast Member, my ID was swiped nearly every week at a different park.  One time, I was bored in the afternoon and headed to Magic Kingdom for dinner just because I could.  Once there, I decided that I wanted to go to each park in four hours.  I built on that and ended up doing one attraction at each park over the next four hours.  It was a great evening just spent wandering around by myself at Disney.  This is the one time in your life where you will have unlimited free access to the parks so use that.  

Bucket List

Make a bucket list of things you want to do before you leave and set out to accomplish them.  This is something that I didn’t do but really wish I had.  Even though I didn’t write them down, I knew some things I wanted to do and I was able to accomplish them.  I have been on the Keys to the Kingdom Tour three times now.  I have experienced the Wild African Trek in all its amazingness.  I have eaten at every place at the Walt Disney World Resort that I’ve wanted too...except California Grille and Victoria and Albert's if anyone wants to pay for those.


Let me reiterate once more that this is the one time in your life where you will have unlimited free access to the parks.  Get off work before a park closes?  Go and watch the nighttime show.  Got a day off from work?  Go to the parks and eat a caramel apple.  Your time on the Disney College Program goes by so fast that you don’t want to waste it.  Spend your mornings before work doing laundry and other chores so you can be totally carefree on your off days.  Some weeks you will only have one day off, and you don’t want that day to be filled with errands.

An aspect of the parks that cannot be overlooked is the details.  Sometimes, we get so focused on getting from one attraction to another that we don’t take the time to catch the little glimpses of Disney Magic (for example, the windows on Main Street or the different animal encounters at Animal Kingdom).  

Depending on the time of year you are in the DCP, you will experience either the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival or the Epcot Food and Wine Festival.  Both offer a great selection of food, drink, and entertainment from countries around the world that you can only experience at the festival.  Grab a passport and wander around the countries.  I’m not one for trying new foods, but the festivals give you the perfect chance to try something unique and be adventurous.  It’s also a great idea to go with someone, or a group, so you can split the costs of the food and drinks and also try more without breaking the budget.

A favorite pastime of mine while at DIsney was meeting all the different characters I could.  I even had a canvas print made of a photo I took of CInderella’s Castle and would take it around to have the characters sign.  It was such a fun experience and the characters, Cast Members, and guests I saw all seemed to love the idea.  I would recommend doing something as a way to collect signatures from Character that is a better keepsake than an autograph book.


Most of us are not lucky enough to have stayed at every Disney Resort, but on the DCP, you can at least visit them all.  When I first moved to Florida, there were several resorts I hadn’t even been to, but now, there's not one that I haven’t been to, ate at, shopped at, or swam at.  Although the introduction of MyMagic+ has kinda eliminated the last one for everyone.

There is so much to do at the resorts other than spend the night.  Each resort has at least one place to eat and some of the best food on Disney property can be found there.  The Zebra Domes at the Animals Kingdom Lodge’s The Mara are an absolutely must - sometimes several times a trip - for me.  Trail’s End Restaurant at Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground has some of the best BBQ and breakfast you can find, and since most meals come with a Cast Member discount, it’s a hard bargain to pass up for an unlimited buffet.

Several resorts offer some kind of outdoor activity, from biking to renting boats to horseback riding.  Do as many of these activities as you can because most offer a Cast Member discount.  Personally, I love the walking trail at the Port Orleans resorts and the biking trail at the Boardwalk. If you’re on the DCP during the holidays, be sure to walk through Fort Wilderness Campground because a lot of people decorate their cabins and campers for the holidays.

Speaking of holidays, visit as many resorts as you can if you’re around when the Christmas decorations are up.  Each resort has unique Christmas decor that is themed perfectly to the resort.  The Grand Floridian even has a life size gingerbread house in which you can buy gingerbread cookies.  Getting dressed up with some friends and making it a day of resort hopping is the perfect way to avoid the parks when they get too crowded.

Although it wasn’t open on my program, I would highly recommend everyone visit Trader Sam's Grog Grotto whether you drink or not.  In addition to a variety of alcoholic beverages served in amazingly detail mugs, the atmosphere alone is one that all Disney fans need to experience at some point in their life.

Housing Events

Part of the activities fee you pay when you first accept your Disney College Program position goes to funding housing events for participants.  Although I personally only attended one event other than graduation (it was super crowded, so we took a few pics and went home), for those who like to mingle more, it is a great time to meet DCP participants who are not your roommates or your co-workers.  There are typically flyers up at Disney Housing to inform you what events are coming up and where they are taking place, so if it is something you want to do, be sure to keep an eye out.

Even if you don’t want to go to the housing events, be sure that you go to the graduation ceremony toward the end of your program.  You’ll get some cute keepsakes, a certificate of completion, and you’ll get to meet some characters decked out in caps and gowns.  It’s adorable and fun and you won’t want to miss it.  Coming from a girl who missed everything else but went to two graduations, that’s saying something.

Outside Disney

It is easy to get lost in The Disney Bubble while on the Disney College Program, but don’t forget that you’re near other theme parks and beaches that are only a little less fun than Disney.  :)

My roommate and I decided to get annual passes for Universal Studios and went several times during our DCP.  It’s a nice break from Disney and let's you experience something different.  I know back a long time ago when I was there in 2012, they offered a discount on annual passes to DCP kids, but I’m not sure how accurate that is now.  

Either way, get out and explore the world around you.  You’re two hours away from either coast, so just get in the car and go one day. Personally, I'd recommend the Gulf Coast side, and Clearwater is an easy drive from Disney.

Robyn Fleenor is a contributing writer for The Mouse Knows Best Podcast. She is an avid Disney fanatic and would rather be at Walt Disney World eating glazed almonds than anything else.  When she isn't working to pay for her next Disney vacation, she likes to binge watch TV shows and fall in love with fictional characters. She can be found tweeting at @rahrah6263. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

Tips for the DCP: Working

After applications have been accepted and you’ve arrived in Central Florida, it’s time to get to work.  Literally.  The Disney College Program is a working internship after all.

Disney Traditions

On your first official day as a Cast Member, you will attend Disney Traditions.  This is a day filled with the history and heritage of The Walt Disney Company that is taught by a current Cast Member.  The class is taught at Disney University, which is located behind the Magic Kingdom.  I would highly recommend that you take the bus since parking is limited and you wouldn’t want to be late for your first day.

For Disney Traditions you will need to be dressed in Disney Look, otherwise you will not be admitted into the class.  It would also be a good idea to bring a snack and/or money for food for when you get a break.  If you get cold easily, be sure to also bring a jacket as the rooms at Disney University are more often than not rather chilly.


Usually halfway through your Disney Traditions class, your facilitator will lead you out to the buses where you will head to the Magic Kingdom to walk through the Utilidors and have class inside the park for a few moments.  It’s a truly magical experience, and for me, it was the moment where it all hit me that I was a Cast Member.  Be sure to take a picture on the trip to Magic Kingdom!  You’ll want it to remember the day.

Back at Disney University, you will find your blue Disney IDs have arrived at your table!  The facilitator will finish the class and then inform you that a special guest has arrived.  The door to the room will open and in will walk Mickey Mouse carrying a box with your name tags in it.  Having Mickey give me my name tag was a moment I will never forget.  It is like Walt Disney is passing along the torch to you, and it’s your turn to create magic.

Orientation & Training

After you’ve completed Disney Traditions, it will be time to begin your work location orientation and training.  My time at Disney’s Hollywood Studios started with On With the Show, the orientation class for DHS Cast Members.  It includes a walking tour of the park to get familiar with the layout as well as backstage areas for Cast Members so we know where everything is located.  

Honestly, my training days were a blur and I’m no longer sure what happened on what days, but I know over the course of two weeks, I learned everything from where the break rooms were to how to stock merchandise shelves. Since I was in merchandise, I also had to attend a Merchentainment class.  This class teaches you how to entertain with the merchandise, like wearing a Mickey glove and waving at guests, for example.  The class also teaches you how to count money the Disney Way, which honestly, I never really mastered.

The first few days on the job are stressful and you will mess up and have to ask for help, but the great thing about Disney is everyone is generally very helpful.  Aside from a few gruff Cast Members you will meet, everyone is eager to help the next generation of CMs out however they can.

It is important to remember that although you may not have gotten the role or location you had been dreaming about, everyone is there for a purpose and that is to carry on Walt’s dream.  This is where going into the DCP with an open mind is key.  During my first DCP, I was asked to work in the bakery in my merchandise location.  I protested (very loudly to my mother) about it but eventually gave in, and it was in that role that I made friends with several people whom I still talk to regularly.  If I hadn’t sucked it up and taken the role in front of me, I would have missed arguably the best part of my DCP and beyond.

The Hours

Some people think that CP stands for College Program, but really, it stands for Closing Person.  CPs generally get stuck with the shifts that full timers, part timers, and seasonal Cast Members don’t want, and this means a lot of shifts starting in the evening and going to the early morning hours.  It can be a hard schedule to adjust to for some but after a few weeks, you will get used to it.  

A key thing to remember is that Disney runs on a 24 hour clock.  This means if your shift starts at 6 p.m., it will say 18:00 on your schedule.  One way to get accustomed to this is to change the setting on your phone to run on the 24 hour clock as well.  During my time at Disney, I got so used to the system that I haven’t changed my phone back even almost three years later.

In addition to working long hours, you will also be working holidays and weekends.  Walt Disney World is open 365 days a year and that means Cast Members have to be there every day of the year.  Since full-time Cast Members can ask off for holidays, it’s often left to the CPs to work those days.  

Enjoy It

Before you know it, you will look at the calendar one day and realize your program is coming to an end.  It will be time to go back to your college life or step out into the real world.  While you are at Disney, embrace everything there is to do.  If you are able to, pick up shifts on your days off in areas that you don’t normally work.  

Most importantly, get to know your coworkers because they will become your second family. You will be spending more time with them than anyone else, so it is best to get to know each other.  Although you may not like everyone you work with, you will make friendships on your DCP that will last long past the end of your program.

Also, get to know the managers and leaders in your area.  They are in management roles for a reason and they know how to help you achieve your goals, whether they are within the Walt Disney Company or beyond.  During my time at Disney, I sought advice from my managers regularly, as I knew I wanted to stay on with the Company after my Program ended.  I spent several days following managers around, shadowing them in their roles to see if that was a job I would want to pursue.  I scheduled meetings with managers and leaders outside of my work area to get to know other parts of the park I hadn’t gotten to work in.  I strongly credit my management team and their constant willingness to help for getting me where I wanted to go within the Company, and that connection all started on my College Program.

As Charles Dickens once said in his novel A Tale of Two Cities, the Disney College Program will be the best of times and the worst of times.  You’ll experience immense joy when Mickey Mouse hands you your nametag, and you will be ready to cry (ok, you’ll probably actually cry) when you are so stressed when long hours, no sleep, homesickness, and roommate drama all combine to hit you at the most inopportune time.  

At the end of the day, though, the Disney College Program is an experience you will never forget.  The things you learn - both on and off the job - will teach you more than you can learn anywhere else, in my opinion.  I learned more about myself and what I wanted in life during my time on the DCP than I ever thought possible.  It was hard at times, yes; but it was so worth it in the end.

Robyn Fleenor is a contributing writer for The Mouse Knows Best Podcast. She is an avid Disney fanatic and would rather be at Walt Disney World eating glazed almonds than anything else.  When she isn't working to pay for her next Disney vacation, she likes to binge watch TV shows and fall in love with fictional characters. She can be found tweeting at @rahrah6263. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

Looking Back to Look Forward

Robyn Fleenor
Over the past few weeks, we took a look back at Future World as we explored the EPCOT Center pavilions. On today's blog, I wanted to take a different look back as a way of saying thank you to everyone who brought EPCOT Center to life and to all of those who still inspire the next generation today.

Looking Back: Robyn at Epcot

According to my mother's photography, my first trip to Epcot was in 1993 when I was two.

Me and my mom by the Epcot fountain.

I need Minnie's bow.

Oh look! Dad had on a fanny pack. Shocker. 
In 1995, I had my first dining experience at the Garden Grille.

Little did we know then that he would be my boss in a few years.
I have always loved the chipmunks!
Minnie forgot to come by our table, but made it up to me with a private photo op. :)
Although we apparently didn't visit Epcot on our 1996 vacation, it was Cody's first trip, so I thought the moment warranted some photos.

Look how happy he is!
His planning days started early.
Cody apparently experienced Epcot for the first time in 1997. Props to Mom for getting a photo by the now iconic fountain.

And yes, that's my model pose.
Some things never change. For example, its now 1998 and Dad still has a fanny pack on.

RIP Ellen's Energy Adventure.
The millennium came with two trips to Walt Disney World for the Fleenor family, and after flipping through the first photo book, I complained to my mom that she missed the most iconic thing about 2000 at Epcot. Of course, I had to apologize upon opening the next book and seeing this photo. Thanks, Mom!

Glad it's gone but it's cute looking back.
Again, I have to give props to my mom for taking photos like these. This one was from 2002.

Dad and his fanny pack: a true love story.

Out of courtesy to Cody and myself, I'll stop the photos there before we enter the awkward teens years.  Flash forward to 2012 when I became a Cast Member, and I got to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Epcot with my roommate and best friend, Erika.

And yes, we had Happy Birthday Epcot buttons on.
During my time at Disney, I spent many days off at Epcot. It was my favorite place to go and take a book and read. And of course, have some fun.

It was a jolly holiday with Mary and Bert.
Roommates & BFFs for life.
First time visiting me as a Cast Member!
My Food and Wine Festival costume.
At the end of the Princess Half Marathon.
Sunset at World Showcase Lagoon.
Epcot has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember and I cannot wait to see how it grows and changes as I continue to grow and change with it.

Robyn Fleenor is a contributing writer for The Mouse Knows Best Podcast. She is an avid Disney fanatic and would rather be at Walt Disney World eating glazed almonds than anything else.  When she isn't working to pay for her next Disney vacation, she likes to binge watch TV shows and fall in love with fictional characters. She can be found tweeting at @rahrah6263.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Looking Back to Look Forward: Wonders of Life

The last pavilion to receive one of the iconic logos was the Wonders of Life pavilion.

Wonders of Life

Opening in 1989, this pavilion was the last pavilion to open that would not be replacing an existing pavilion.  Its main focuses were life, health, and the human body.

Theme Park Tourist

Looking Back

The gold dome that sits empty for most of the year between Universe of Energy and Mission: SPACE once housed several attractions that informed and entertained guests about the human body.  Body Wars was a motion simulator in which guests joined Dr. Cynthia Lair in her exploration of the human body via a body probe ship called Bravo 229.  Guests followed Dr. Lair as she observed how the body reacted to a splinter.  Body Wars was also the first attraction at Epcot to have a height requirement.

Cranium Command was a show which featured Cranium Commando recruit Buzzy, voiced by Corey Burton.  The show was hosted in a tiered theater and was made to look like the inside of a mechanical brain as Buzzy tried to navigate a 12-year-old boy through a typical day.  According to Lost Epcot, many of the voice actors for the show were cast members of Saturday Night Live: Jon Lovitz as the right brain, Charles Grodin as the left brain, Dana Carvey as the heart's right ventricle, Kevin Nealson as the heart's left ventricle, George Wendt as the stomach, and Bobcat Goldthwait as the adrenal gland.

The Fitness Fairgrounds section of the Wonders of Life pavilion featured several different attractions in tent-style theatres.  There was Goofy About Health, in which various Goofy shorts were played featuring Goofy eating healthy and exercising.  The Making of Me was a film about conception and childbirth that was hosted by Martin Short.  Other attractions included AnaComical Players, Wondercycles, Coach’s Corner, Met Lifestyle Review, Frontiers in Medicine, and the Sensory Funhouse.

The Wonders of Life pavilion also featured it’s own gift shop and quick service restaurant. Well & Goods, Limited sold Disney-themed sports memorabilia as well as sports hats and shirts.  Pure & Simple featured a low-fat menu.

Matthew Cooper Photography

Looking Forward

Wonders of Life was closed in 2004 and over the next three years, the entire place was gutted and any evidence of the original pavilion was gone.  Now, Wonders of Life serves as a gift shop and food stand for both the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival and the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival.

I would like to see some major TLC come to the Wonders of Life pavilion.  Having worked in the building during the 2013 Food and Wine Festival, I saw it’s unused potential and saw what it could be again.  It would be a perfect place for a new attraction or theater that could bring back the original ideas and themes of EPCOT Center.  I can only hope they don’t tear this pavilion down.

Oh My Disney
It's time to bring life back to the Wonders of Life pavilion.

Robyn Fleenor is a contributing writer for The Mouse Knows Best Podcast. She is an avid Disney fanatic and would rather be at Walt Disney World eating glazed almonds than anything else.  When she isn't working to pay for her next Disney vacation, she likes to binge watch TV shows and fall in love with fictional characters. She can be found tweeting at @rahrah6263.