Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Memoirs of a Cast Member

Mouse Trap: Memoir of a Disneyland Cast Member 1987-2002 (Preview Edition), By Kevin Yee; Ultimate Orlando Press, 2007; 200 pp.

Many years ago (more years than I care to admit on some occasions), I was a Disneyland cast member. The experience was both fun and frustrating, exhausting and exciting, dull and delightful, but mostly it was probably one of the most enjoyable job experiences of my life. The one problem I've run into about the job is trying to explain what it was like to someone who never worked there. Sure, I could tell the person a few amusing stories and provide some general descriptions of what the job was like, but I felt that the only way anyone could really understand what it was like to work as a typical cast member was to actually become one. Well, Kevin Yee has solved that problem for me.

Mouse Trap is a memoir of Kevin's time working at Disneyland - mainly his work at one of the New Orleans Square restaurants, but he also includes stories about his work for the Entertainment Art department (those are the folks that prepare and provide temporary decorations for events at the Resort). Kevin shares stories about what it was like to get hired at the Park and indoctrinated into the "Disney way", the daily routine of a restaurant cast member and lead (first-line supervisor), and some of the amusing or just plain odd not-so-routine occurrences on the job. Kevin takes the reader backstage at the Park for a tour of the places that guests normally don't get to see, and tells us about some of the activities and places that cast members can experience while working for the Mouse. Kevin provides a basic introduction to the way things work at Disneyland - everything from the categories of cast members and the training cast members can receive to the reports and statistics leads and supervisors use to determine whether a Disneyland restaurant is running at peak efficiency and profitability.

If you're looking for a tell-all filled with the most salacious stories of cast members and guests behaving badly, or a diatribe about how wonderful working for Disney used to be but isn't any more, this probably isn't your book. Kevin does share some amusing stories about some of the odd and unusual things that happened to him, fellow cast members, and guests, but the aim of this book is primarily to give the reader a feel for what it's like to be a typical hourly cast member or a lead, and Kevin's done a great job. Reading the book, Kevin reminded me of some of the terminology and procedures that seemed perfectly ordinary to me at the time I was working for Disney and now seem a little unusual compared to other jobs I've worked; Kevin also told me about a lot of job-related items and issues that I wasn't aware of when I worked at the Park or that changed after I turned in my nametag.

My only complaint about the book - and it's a pretty minor one - is about a couple of illustrations. One illustration of the Park should have been labeled so that folks not familiar with the Park could more easily follow along on Kevin's tour of Disneyland's backstage areas; there's also a collage of forms and documents used by cast members included the book as an illustration, but it might have helped folks who never worked at the Park a little if some of the individual documents had been included elsewhere in the book to illustrate a point Kevin was making. Neither of these problems really takes much away all that much from the book.

Are you looking for a book that will allow you to getting a better understanding what the working life of that cast member serving you is like, or do you want to relive a few memories of your time working at a Disney theme park? Then you should definitely consider picking up a copy of Mouse Trap. Kevin's memoir of his days as a cast member may be the closest you can get to the experience of being a Disneyland cast member without applying to work there yourself.

1 comment:

Kevin Yee said...

Great minds think alike, Paul! The preview copy you reviewed had no 'key' for the backstage map and had all the images clumped together. Due to feedback just like yours, I changed some things, and the release version of the book just happens to change both of those things on your wish list! The map has a key, and the images are spaced throughout the book.

I'm glad you enjoyed the book, and you perceptively hit upon exactly the hope - that people will experience what it's like to work for Disneyland!