From the Mouth of the Mouse

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The folks who know the most about Disney aren't always the Imagineers but rather the 'regular' people who manage the lines, serve the food, clean up the trash. Jeff Heimbuch has interviewed dozens of them. Their fascinating stories present Disney from new perspectives: you'll learn what it's like to work for the Mouse on the front-lines. And, of course, you'll hear from the Imagineers, too. So buckle up! What comes From the Mouth of the Mouse may surprise you...

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FROM: From the Mouth of the Mouse Published Wednesdays

Cast Member Interview: Kevin, Disney Custodian

If there's such a thing as the 'unsung' Disney Cast Member, it's the folks who clean up. Officially, they're part of Custodial Guest Services, and you see them all the time, but do you know, really, what they do? Jeff Heimbuch digs for answers.

When you walk into any of the Disney parks, one of the things you'll notice is how clean it is. No matter what time of day (or night), the park always seems spotless, no matter the crowds, and no matter the mess those crowds always generate.

For that, we can thank people like Kevin!

Kevin works in Custodial Guest Services, the front line for keeping the park clean, 24/7.

Here's Kevin!

Tell me a little about your job.

Well, my role is in Custodial Guest Services. I basically clean the park during the day while all the guests are there. We all try to keep our areas tidy, and make sure there is no garbage visible for an extended period of time. The title changed a couple of years ago from Custodial to Custodial Guest Services, and with good reason. We're out there every day, in front of the guests.
Aside from the people at attractions, I think we interact with the guests the most. Someone sees you while you're cleaning, and you have that familiar name badge on, they'll come right up to you and ask you a question. On any given day, each of us will talk to maybe a hundred or so guests. I mean, we all did it anyway, but when management realized this, our titles changed, and we had a little more guest service training. Well, I did at least!

Do you have an assigned area, or do you get moved around a lot?

Most people tend to get the same area, but I like a change of scenery. I've worked in practically every land of the park, just for it to be different every day. Cleaning the same area gets to be mind-numbing, day after day, so moving around is nice.

Do you have a favorite area to work in?

Definitely Main Street, and the Hub, because that is where all the action is. I love to talk with guests, and since the Hub is basically the heart of the park, that's where I get to chat with guests the most.

What's a typical day for you?

Well, it depends. If I'm working an early shift, I help tidy up the park before it opens. Sometimes, when you're on Main Street, or out by the front gate, you can do the 'street art' that's been pretty popular lately. That's when you fill your pan with water, and basically use your broom as a paint brush. They've been teaching us how to draw the characters now, so we draw them on the streets and sidewalks for the guests. That's always fun, because it usually draws a pretty decent sized crowd and gives you an opportunity to entertain the guests, which is great for a ham like me!
But after that, you generally stick to your area, and try to keep it as clean as possible. There are a few people working with you, so you can move around and shift a bit with them, but you want to make sure the park is clean. Literally, if you see someone drop something or make a mess, your job is to get rid of it ASAP. We don't want guests to come across it and see our park dirty! We're constantly working, the whole day, and almost the whole night, so the park is spic and span for everyone.

Have you ever made a Guest's day more magical?

Absolutely! I know it sounds cliche, but I try to do something magical for someone every day I'm at work. From a simple gesture to something larger, I really do. For starters, though, I love letting a child help with the street art. I do most of the drawing, but with simpler ones you can pick somebody and enlist them to help you draw part of it. They always smile because they get to help create something. They almost always want a picture with it, and me, when they're done!
The thing about the street art, though, is it's fun, but it's also fleeting, because usually within a few minutes, your drawing is gone from the heat or guests' trampling over it. One custodial worker started doing it a few years ago, on a whim, and it sort of caught on. Our managers got wind of it, thought it was a great idea, and decided to train the rest of us to do it. It really is a huge hit with the guests.
As for more magical memories, it's always the little stuff that counts. If someone drops their ice cream and is upset about it, I try to make it a point to replace it with a new one. Or, I'm talking with a family, and they have children, I usually give them a special FastPass ticket for a ride of their choosing. Stuff like that.

I know the Magic Kingdom has a unique trash removal system. Can you tell me about it?

Well, we call it the 'AVAC' which stands for Automated Vacuum Collection System. It moves the garbage through pneumatic tubes at about 60 miles per hour. It all goes to a central collection point located behind Splash Mountain. (Some of us call it Trash Mountain!) Once there, the garbage is processed, compressed, or recycled.
There are access points hidden all over the park. My favorite thing is to watch the garbage 'sucked' into the tubes. It makes an awesome sound, and it never gets old for me. It's funny, because a lot of folks who know about it always ask where they can see it.
Some of them even ask if they can ride it! Most of it is hidden in the Utilidor, though.

Since you're part of Custodial Guest Services, you must visit the Utilidor a lot.12:51 PM

Of course! I wouldn't be able to do my job without it! That's one of the main questions I always get: "How can I get to the Utilidor?!"
Well, I can tell you, but you won't be getting in! Almost everyone in the park HAS to use it to get to where they need to go. I was amazed by the Utilidor when I first saw it, because it really is this whole other world, hidden underneath the park.
Disney likes to keep it a big secret, but there are maps of it online, and I know some people on tours sneak pictures a lot, but it really isn't that big of a deal. It's just a lot of long, boring hallways. But, for some peopke, it's like the Holy Grail.

I think it's just the mythical quality of the whole thing that draws people to it.

Exactly! To me, it's just old hat by now. It's like "Why in the world do you want to see this big concrete hallway for?" Maybe it's because DACS is down there, and people want to see it. DACS is pretty neat.
(Jeff's note: DACS is the 'Digital Animation Control System' that controls everything in the park, from the Audio-Animatronics figures to opening stage doors, curtains, and park lighting!)

Thanks, Kevin, for chatting with me, and for all your hard work in keeping the park clean for guests!

Next time you see Kevin in the Magic Kingdom, or any of Kevin's co-workers anywhere, make sure you let them know how much you appreciate what they do.

If you haven't done so already, please don't forget to subscribe to our podcast! We have lots more interviews coming your way, and you don't want to miss them.

If you are (or know) a Cast Member who would like to share some of their stories and be featured here on Disney Dispatch, email me at jeff@bamferproductions.com. I'd love to hear from you!


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