(photo: There was only one Theme Park open at Walt Disney World when jungle jeff began his Disney career)
Have wanted to tell you a story. Been carrying it around for 50 years.
Between 1963 – 1966, Sunday night was the only night the brother and sister wouldn’t fight over what to watch on TV.
Fast forward a baker’s dozen years later and on the way through the Student Union Building (the SUB), the University Junior notices that Disney will be doing an internship presentation at 10pm. Something about Epcot Center opening October 1, 1982… Afterwards, interested students signed up for an interview. Interviews would be the next day, conducted across campus at the administration offices above the student cafeteria.
Two months later, nearing Christmas 1981, letters of acceptance were sent to prospective Cast Members.
And on January 25, 1982, with his Dad’s Army duffle bag and a back pack, he boarded the plane to Orlando. On the flight he sat next to a couple who fell in love with his sense of adventure and opportunity. Since he had no idea how to get to Snow White Campground (pre-Internet, obviously), the couple insisted on driving him there once they secured their rental car.
The next day, Monday, about 50 Magic Kingdom College Program (MKCP) students participated in Disney Traditions – Disney’s version of company orientation.
Interesting to note that shuttle service from the Disney intern housing area to Magic Kingdom had not yet been established and those without vehicles had to wait at Snow White Campground’s exit to ‘bum a ride’.
At Disney Tradition’s conclusion he was told to report the next day to the Jungle Cruise, in costume, to begin on-the-job training.
It was a week of driving the boat around and around with the Disney Trainer and two other MKCP interns. They took turns driving sections, memorizing the 10-minute spiel. The same spiel Walt Disney approved decades prior.
Eventually, nearing the end of the week, rather than pass through the loading area like they had all week, they occasionally stopped and filled their boat with Guests and one of the trainees took a try at being able to fly on their own. After the Guests disembarked, the boat cruised without Guests so the trainer and trainees could exchange feedback.
Within weeks of arriving in Orlando, a notice was sent to all MKCP Cast Members that Cast Activities was hiring an intern to help work the desk at the Center Building (now called Disney University) on Fridays and lifeguard at Little Lake Bryan on the weekends.
One lucky Jungle Cruise Skipper was selected which meant he only had to say the 10-minute spiel over and over twice a week versus five days a week.
However, less than 90 days into the job, Spring Break and Easter arrived and it was all hands on deck. Mandatory 14 straight work days at Jungle Cruise. Mandatory overtime. Some days were double shifts. Simply to cover all the shifts needed for one of the three busiest holidays of the year.
The pivotal moment.
A front line supervisor (his name long forgotten) pulled the rookie skipper aside and said:
Your cruises at the end of your shift need to be as good as the ones at the beginning of your shift.
The supervisor knew everyone would be physically tired, but it, predictably, was going to be a serious challenge to overcome the psychological exhaustion from working so hard for so long. So he added (and this was the moment):
Some of the Guests riding your boat will have saved the Jungle Cruise for last. Some will have had circumstances preventing them from visiting earlier. Many of these Guests, for a variety of reasons, will never return. Walt Disney would want every single Guest to have an excellent Jungle Cruise experience.
The Disney Leader embedded a key concept in the impressionable 23-year old. Excellence is not only expected, but gently demanded. All day. Everyday.
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