I'm a Disney Intern! Part 2
With just a couple days left of my Professional Internship at Disneyland Resort (DLR), it seems about right that I reflect on my time as an intern here! I don't believe I've mentioned this in my previous posts, but to begin, the intern program here is much much smaller than its counterpart at Walt Disney World (WDW). Considering the sheer size & location between these sister parks, this makes total sense that each one is rather unique. Because of these differences, the intern experience is also just that -- cue super cool opportunities that I'm about to share!
For those not tapped into the Disney culture at the moment, here are some of the goings on for the company surrounding my internship:
Disney made the huge 21st Century Fox acquisition in December
Paradise Pier at Disney's California Adventure (DCA) closed (a week before my internship began in January) and is being transformed into Pixar Pier, opening this summer
Pixar Fest began at DLR in mid-April and goes through the beginning of September
The Maleficent dragon at WDW's Festival of Fantasy parade torched itself. This doesn't have to do with anything over on this coast, just getting everyone up-to-speed!
Frozen is really popular (...which is also irrelevant)
Lots of Marvel and Star Wars movies are being released lately as well as The Incredibles 2 coming up in June, which brings us back to PIXAR EVERYTHING
In case you didn't catch on, there's a ton of Pixar going on at the resort right now. Two of the most anticipated coming attractions go hand-in-hand: The Incredibles 2 (COMING SOON TO THEATERS) & The Incredicoaster, which is the transformed California Screamin' rollercoaster at the pier formerly known as Paradise. And this is all tied together by the celebration of Pixar Fest at DLR. This limited celebration entails exclusive Pixar merchandise, new character meet-and-greets, and themed food & drinks. Literally everyday seems like there's something new being featured like Finding Nemo caramel apples or Monsters, Inc. color changing noodles and I don't know how anyone can keep up with all of these offerings! But let's get back to business.
To recap my role, I am currently the Technical Direction & Audio Design Intern. Being in the Live Entertainment department meant that the audio scope covered any speaker in the park NOT on a ride. So for shows, events, parades, spectaculars, that was us! The big project that I got to observe/assist with (on the audio side of things) was the new firework show, Together Forever: A Pixar Nighttime Spectacular! After countless hours of getting the show ready and hearing the music on repeat, it was so rewarding to finally see the show with an audience.
And that's all I have to say about that... because Disney magic is REAL.
On the technical direction side, I got to help with special events held in the park. The most recent the Disneyland After Dark hard-ticketed event was Star Wars Nite: May the 4th Be With You. Essentially, it was Pixar Fest/New Year's (but instead Star Wars) for one night only as a countdown to May 4th. Supposedly the event sold out in 2 minutes after going live... So then they added a second night on May 9th (#MayThe9thBeWithYou) to allow more guests the opportunity to join in on the fun! And I got to experience what it's like to plan an event like this complete with new meet-and-greets, photo locations, light saber tutorials, awesome DJ's, and introducing the March of the First Order on this coast. The guests really got into the Star Wars spirit and dressed up like their favorite characters, some of which were much more creative than others. It was a really successful event and I had so much fun working on the Disney Parks Live Entertainment (DPLE) team making sure that everything ran smoothly!
So there you have it, two of the bigger projects I got to work on as an intern at Disneyland! However, I also got to see some extra special things that wouldn't have been possible had I been living on the East Coast -- things that I never dreamed I would get to see.
Periodically, the DPLE department would schedule tours for its interns. The first tour was early on when I started, and was very basic in terms of how we bring meet-and-greets, parades, and shows to life within the parks. It was the first time I really got to see the backstage magic in my new park and I absolutely loved it!
Our second tour was where we walked through Walt Disney's apartment + the Dream Suite! This is one of those extra special intern opportunities because most Cast Members, even the
ones that have worked here for decades, don't get to see this. Some people think these rooms are just a myth, but they are both tangible places and are oh so magical. The story goes that while Disneyland was being built, Walt thought it was necessary to build an apartment to help oversee the construction of the resort. There were even nights where he didn't have enough money to get on a train back up to LA, so having a place to sleep on property made things that much easier on him. Once the park opened, Cast Members would get excited whenever they would see the light above the fire station on because it meant that Walt was in the park. After he passed away, the light has remained on every single day to keep his spirit alive throughout Disneyland. It was such a surreal experience to stand in that little room and take in the history. I literally felt like I was breathing it in. And maybe I cried a little... JUDGE ME.
We then moseyed over from Town Square to New Orleans Square to tour the Dream Suite. (Which is above the Pirates of the Caribbean ride and was built to be Walt's new and improved apartment, an upgrade from the 500 sq ft room above the fire station.) Sadly, Walt Disney passed away before completion of the project. This then prompted the idea that the space should in fact be utilized! And so the Dream Suite was born. Similar to the Cinderella Suite at WDW, there is a guest lottery system in place that allow guests a one-night stay in the stunning space. The Dream Suite is actually much more spacious than Cinderella's: this has two bedrooms that are tied together by a living area (See pictured below!) whereas Imagineers had to get very creative with making the limited space in the Cinderella Suite seem much larger than it actually is. There's so much ornate detail complete with theming in each room -- note the painting of Neuschwanstein reflecting back in the mirror!
The third and final tour of the program took our group up to Glendale and Burbank, each housing the Imagineering campus and the Walt Disney Studios respectively. It was such an honor to be at Imagineering and seeing where the magic happens before being implemented into the parks. I then got in touch with as many people as I could and kept revisiting in the weeks following; I really wanted to learn as much as possible about Imagineering before my internship was over!
After our morning at Imagineering it was time to visit the studio lot, and it was everything I had
dreamed it would be and so much more. Not only did we get a rundown of the historical film aspects, but we also were fortunate enough to walk through Walt's office. It was such a special visit because past interns haven't even been able to do that! The office was restored to its original working condition and looked as if Walt still could stroll in for a typical 9-5 work day. There were even his original plans for "The Florida Project", aka Walt Disney World, adorning the walls. I was in heaven. One of my friends even said that the best part of the tour was watching my reactions to everything -- which I find hard to believe, but it made me smile!
And that concludes the highlight reel from my internship. I met so many wonderful people, experienced Disney parks magic first-hand, and I can't believe it's already over. It was such a great ride and I'm so excited for the upcoming chapter of my California journey!