The cast members at the Walt Disney World resort always seem to go above and beyond what you would expect at any other place…that’s one of the main reasons we love going there over and over again.
But then there is the rare diamond in the rough who is so amazing at what he or she does that you will remember them for a very long time, if not forever. This post is part trip report and part acknowledgement to one such cast member.
We were introduced to Aladdin by some good friends of ours. Mare and I hung out at an online community and first met in-person in December of 2005 at (where else) Epcot. You can read about that one here. We quickly became friends with Mare, her husband Mark, and their daughter, Renee (we affectionately call them the Badelves family...inside joke).
In October of 2007, Sheri and I were down at WDW for a great meet-up with nearly 70 friends, all from the same online community that Mare and I hung out at. During the main meet-up, we walked around with Mare’s crew as well as with another close mutual friend (Debbie, Dan, Lexie, and Austin). It was this trip that we first met Aladdin. He didn’t know me from Adam, but, taking a cue from Mare, he starts interacting with us like we’re close friends (i.e. talking with Genie about how the Moose Meet was going, repositioning the order for the pics so I could be next to Jasmine (THANKS, MARE!!!), etc). It was a very brief meeting, but it was the first of several memorable ones.
Fast forward 2 months. In a record number of trips to WDW that has since been unmatched, the entire Mushfam found themselves back down at WDW in mid-December. We met up with Mare’s crew and Debbie’s crew on our arrival night. After touring DHS that evening, we met up with the Badelves again the following morning along with Todd and Maureen’s family (another online friend) at MK. Our boys think it’s totally awesome being in the parks with friends, so we try to find a time to meet up with others again. The goal was to meet up with Mare and Renee at MK on our last night. While we were coordinating via text, I mentioned that we were going to do the AAA Storytime, and Mare replies that she thinks that “our Aladdin” (that’s what everyone started calling him) was doing that. Sure enough, he was…you can read it by clicking here. The funniest thing was that Mare talked to Aladdin prior to the Storytime, and he joked around with me about Jasmine not being there, called Sheri by name, etc. That is one of his special gifts…he makes every meeting a personal event with whoever he’s with. Check the top of the blog page, and you'll see the pic from that meetup. Oh, and the boys still have the bookmarks signed by him.
We met up again with Mark/Mare and Dan/Debbie in December of 2008, but we didn’t see our Aladdin during this trip, unfortunately. Well, technically, we did see him at Epcot, but we didn’t get in line as we were on a mission to do an attraction. Still, I paused for a quick minute to watch him interact with a family. Sheri saw me stop, and she also paused for a moment to see what he was doing. We both left the meeting area with smiles…the people who just met him were all smiles, and the children were wide-eyed with excitement – they had just met the real Aladdin, Jasmine, and Genie.
Now we come to June of 2010...this is where the trip report picks up. After returning from DHS (the previous installment of the trip report can be found at this link), we returned to Epcot, knowing (thanks to Mare), that Al was currently in Morocco. The boys protested vehemently as we told them that we were going to check out Morocco. Mare told us when he’d be there, and we made it to the meet-and-greet area in the Nick of time as Aladdin was coming out for his last set before heading back to Agrabah for the night. While we waited, I was in a text-fest with Mare. I mistakenly told her that I thought Jasmine was drop-dead gorgeous…she replied with “I’m going to have to find out who’s there today and let her know.”
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, the Badelves know a lot of the cast members at WDW.
His time to be off-shift was just about to be up before we even made it near the front, but he and Jasmine stayed out there to make sure every guest got their time with them. As we made it to the front of the line, I got to see the family in front of us talk to them. One of the girls in the party was wheelchair-bound. The attention that he and Jasmine gave her was unparalleled, and you could see tears welling up in her parents’ eyes. The best part was that they were having fun while they were talking with the family. For example: both girls had coloring books that they were hoping to have Jasmine and he autograph. Aladdin flips through to the page he was looking for and said that the girls colored in Jasmine really well. Then he opens up the book for everyone to see, and it’s turned to a page with Maleficent. Jasmine, of course, puts her hands on her hips and turns away (I think trying to stifle a laugh).
I was so awestruck at what he did for the family before us that I almost forgot that we were next. We let the boys go up by themselves, while we stood back to watch.
Aaron brings up Renee, and they get to talking about them a little.
(someone on Facebook thought Aaron was checking out Jasmine in that last pic…he truly is my son).
As we talked, the BeeGees tribute band started up nearby in the America Gardens Theater, and he paused momentarily to comment on a garbled refrain that got me, Sheri, and the Photopass guy laughing. We hopped in for a family Photopass pic and, as we say our goodbyes, I quietly said to him that it was absolutely amazing what he does and he truly is Aladdin to so many people. We talked a bit about Mark/Mare/Renee before thanking him, saying goodbye, and relinquishing them to the next excited family ready to meet them.
Sheri and I just turned to each other, smiled, and watched the interaction of the next family out of the corner of our eyes as we started towards the Japan pavilion.
I recall Mare posting an emotional entry where “their Jasmine” was leaving WDW to head to the Theme Park in Hong Kong. While the Badelves have come to know the alter egos of Aladdin and Jasmine outside of the parks for a while before that day, reading what Mare wrote and seeing the pictures with Renee inside Epcot shows that, while it can be just a job for some, the tears being shed by everyone shows that the cast member makes the character. It was the last time Jasmine was going to be Jasmine, and it was like a part of her was going to be gone forever. I then realized how much personality “our Aladdin” puts into Aladdin. He makes Aladdin who he is because he, in essence, becomes the character. I have seen it in others, too…not just face characters. Bus drivers, food service workers, attraction operators, janitorial staff…I have seen a remarkable job done by all sorts of cast members. They create and evolve the role that they do in ways that get what needs to be done actually done while still entertaining those around them.
All too often, I see guests in the parks take the cast members for granted. Some think that, simply because they paid money, they are entitled to 100% perfection in an imperfect world. There have been times where I have seen so many members in Guest Services having to patiently accept being screamed at because the weather forced the parks to cancel an event. I have read on discussion boards about how mad people are because they heard one family having “X” (where “X” is a ‘cool’ event) happen, but, when they tried it, they didn’t have “X” occur. The things that most would consider special about Disney are expected to be routine to them. They fail to see the magic. They also fail to realize that it’s the cast members who are responsible for the magic. Imagine trying to be a magic maker when only one or two out of every hundred guests are disinterested or upset, yet it’s the one or two who are upset that you hear about rather than the other 98 who are happy. Aladdin breaks the mold when it comes to creating memories for people. I hope that he, and all cast members, see the appreciation and gratitude in the guests’ eyes and expressions, if not in reviews.
If you see a cast member do something that meets that “wow” factor, please take the time to thank them and, if you have time, stop by Guest Services to give them some positive feedback (trust me…they’ll appreciate it as 98% of those in there will be giving not-so-positive feedback).
This post is also for those anonymous CMs who go on stage every day without fail and create the magic that is Walt Disney World. This post is a reminder for those guests in the parks who take what the CMs do for granted in the hopes that they’ll appreciate what it takes to provide you with the experience that makes us go back over and over again.
But mostly, this post is for you, Al…you rock!!!