• Magic Off the Record - Cast Members do what???

    Welcome back to Magic Off the Record! I must say that I was very happy to hear so many positive responses to last week's article! I'm glad you enjoyed learning about some of the Disney Magic... Off the Record, of course!

    This week, I thought I would tell you about a few of the departments at the Disneyland Resort that you probably never knew existed. Whether it is because they are so small and bizarre or because perhaps the job is something that just doesn’t exist anywhere else, there's a lot of people that make up the magic at the Disneyland Resort. In fact, quite a few Cast Members positions are uniquely Disney in fact I'm pretty sure some of these titles don't exist out of the largest theme park on the West Coast.

    Circle D

    What many people may not know is that there is a full-size, working farm in Disneyland. It's located directly behind the Festival Arena, right next to Toon Town. It's actually visible from the upper levels of the Mickey and Friends Parking structure, take a look next time you're parked on level Minnie!

    Circle D is not only home to all the horses that pull the streetcars on Main Street (more on them later!) but also to the animals for the petting farm, the birds in the Jungle Cruise queue and shops (most people don't even know about them!), and even the crane that likes to hang out on the Rivers of America. Circle D is even responsible for the setup at the Fantasyland Motor Boat Dock which provides a respite for all the feral cats of Disneyland to eat and sleep.

    At the center of the Circle D farm is a building called the “Pope House”. This is a real house, originally built in the 30’s, that housed the farmers who lived on the property back when it was still just orange groves. Ever resourceful, Walt Disney had this house relocated to its current position so that a man named Owen Pope and his family had a place to live.

    Owen Pope was the horse trainer that Walt had at the studios and was the only person that Walt trusted to care for and train his horses. Pope literally lived full-time on property with his family in this home until 1971 when they moved to Florida so that he could train the horses at the Magic Kingdom. Pope and his family are the only people to have actually ever lived in Disneyland.

    After the Pope family left, half the house was converted to offices, but the other half was left completely untouched; it remains preserved that way to this day. Even the front sitting room of the house still contains some of Pope’s original living room furniture, remaining almost like a museum to the family that once lived in the Happiest Place on Earth. It is not uncommon for there to be team meetings around the big dining room table, or to see a Circle D Cast Member fixing lunch in the kitchen that overlooks the ranch.

    Owen Pope has his own Main Street window at a Disney Park, however you won’t find that window in Disneyland. Instead, you will find it at the Car Barn at the Magic Kingdom in Florida.

    One of the main duties of Circle D Cast Members is caring for the numerous horses that call the ranch home. These horses may do various jobs, like being shown in parades, pulling the horse drawn carriage at the hotels for weddings, or pulling the Street Cars down Main Street.

    Circle D horses only work a short amount of hours (I believe it is 4) a week, and are actually scheduled in the same computer program that is used to schedule and deploy human Cast Members. Each horse has a name of course, next time you're on Main Street take a look inside the streetcar and you'll see that each horse has its very own name tag.

    Before a new horse is allowed out into the park with Guests, it requires months of extensive training. Everything from crowded areas, to strollers, to an umbrella or balloons can spook a horse, so obstacle courses are set up for them. Their handlers in Circle D train them to understand that these things are not as scary as they seem.

    Finally, Circle D Cast Members run and operate the Disneyland Kennel Club which can be found to the right of the Disneyland Park entrance. For a small fee, the kennel will board just about ANY animal (as long as it isn’t poisonous and has proper paperwork) while you visit the parks. In its time, the kennel has seen the normal array of dogs and cats as well as the slightly less frequent monkeys and lizards, or right on down to the bizarre such as goldfish and miniature ponies! Yes, ponies. If you want to know more about Circle D, ask one of the Horse-drawn Streetcar drivers or Kennel Cast Members, they’ll tell you what you need to know!

    Sign Shop

    The Sign Shop is another department that we have at the Disneyland Resort which you may have never even thought about. Think back to the last time you visited the Happiest Place on Earth. You probably don't remember them specifically but all day long you were looking at signs; directional signs, attraction signs, refurbishment signs. They were all very likely made in the on-property Sign Shop.

    Maybe you've stopped at the Info Board on Main Street to see how long the wait is for Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy? Also, the Sign Shop. As you were walking around, you might have seen a sign in front of an attraction that said it was closed for repairs. Where was that made? The Sign Shop.

    The Sign Shop sits in an area that I like to call Facilities Row; directly in-between the Rivers of America and the Mickey and Friends tram route. Cast Members in this department are assigned the surprisingly-busy task of designing and printing all the signs used around the Resort including both parks and at the hotels. From the ones I mentioned above to signs such as restaurant menus, promotional banners, murals, and even those for special events. You can bet that the infamous Tron-orail shrink-wrap that covered the former monorails as well as the current Toy Story parking lot busses were conceived and created in the Sign Shop.

    Besides creating the signs, the Sign Shop is also tasked with making repairs updating any signage around the Resort as necessary. This small group of Cast Members performs the monumental task of making sure guests can easily see and understand the signs throughout the park. Everything from how to get around construction walls, where to find the nearest restrooms, and even just exactly how much to shell out for that churro.

    On your next visit to the Resort, try to notice how many signs you see, and think about the people who’s sole job it is to create them!

    Audio Central

    The next little-known department isn’t so much a department in as much as it is a branch of another. But this one is totally AWESOME. Tucked away backstage, not far from the Sign Shop, is a tiny room where you can literally hear magic happen; it's called Audio Central.

    Staffed by just one Cast Member at a time, this room controls more than just the audio in the Resort. From this bank of computers on the walls in the room, a Cast Member can control a slew of different things from the sound coming out of walkway speakers, to individual atmosphere lights, to air conditioning levels for most buildings, and even right on down to the water features in every fountain throughout the property.

    At this single person's disposal is a magic wand's worth of power to keep the Disneyland Resort buzzing. If there is an issue with, lets say, with the lights above the entrance to the The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undrersea Adventure that make the wave pattern, Audio Central is able to isolate the problem and address it remotely from the room. Or perhaps the fountain that jumps over the walkways in Pixie Hollow has low pressure that doesn't allow the jets to clear the path, Audio Central is able to remotely disable the fountains so that no more guests get splashed.

    It makes for pretty rapid response time to make things flow smoothly all around the Resort. For instance, a few years ago, right before the new-at-the-time Pixar Play Parade, the wrong pre-parade announcement was signaled. So 15 minutes before the new parade was supposed to start, the speakers proclaimed that “Block Party Bash will be hitting the streets in just 30 minutes”. A friend of mine called up Audio Central to address the issue. It turns out that not only were they aware of the issue, but they had already fixed it. Within 2 minutes, the correct announcement was played.

    With great power comes great responsibility and as you'd imagine, they aren't using Cross-U with churro vendors in this position! If you are thinking about getting a job in Audio Central, plan on spending decades in Facilities, or Entertainment Tech Services because only the highest-ranking senior Cast Members are able to secure a position there.


    Our final story this week is about the PBX department which controls all the in-house phones for Disney. Now this doesn't just link up the parks and the hotels but all the internal lines for Disney Parks in California, Florida, and Paris. This means that a Cast Member in Anaheim can use the tie lines to call virtually anywhere in any of the resorts, from a hotel room at the Pop Century in Orlando to or an attraction Disneyland Paris.

    Through an inconspicuous door on the side of the Main Street Opera house, and up rickety old staircase, you will find the oldest room on the property (Pope House excluded). This is where you will find the PBX operators. If you've ever called a non-direct line at the Disneyland Resort then you've likely been sent to the PBX operators in the Phone Room.

    This set of very high seniority Cast Members (all, coincidentally, women) answer all incoming calls to the Resort that are not called to a direct line. They have a list of all the extensions in the entire resort, and who “owns” them. If you want to talk to the “tower” at Space Mountain, they can connect you. If you want to talk to the churro cart in Hollywood, they can connect you. Even if you want to talk to the President of the Resort, George Kalogridis, they can directly connect you. Just note, some phones are wired to not be able to accept calls from off property, so chances are you can’t call the cast member working the third register from the left at Pizza Port or the Paradise Pier break room.

    One thing that the Cast Members at PBX are responsible for is all in-park pages. Their phones are the ONLY phones that can connect to the whole park PA system to do this. The in-park paging system is tested daily. However, in-park paging is only used in the case of EXTREME emergencies, (i.e. Medical Emergency, Terrorist Attack, Bomb Threat, etc.) “Theme Park 1” is the codename for the Manager in the park who is in charge of the operation of the Resort for that day and is the only person who can approve park-wide pages.

    Welp! I believe that that is all I have for you right now! I hope you enjoyed hearing about these people who work behind the scenes, or in some cases, right in front of you to make sure your day at the Resort is flawless. Make sure to check back next week for another edition of Magic Off the Record!

    Comments 4 Comments
    1. dlfreak's Avatar
      That's awesome about the Pope House! Thanks once again Ernie!
    1. DisneySquirt's Avatar
      Fantastic article! Thanks!
    1. Bob38dizfan's Avatar
      Awesome article! Keep up the good work.
    1. Iframedroger R's Avatar
      I love this article, I never knew that someone actually lived at Disneyland, and for almost 20 years, too! That must have been awesome!
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