It was the twinkling white lights that made me cry. It was my first trip to Walt Disney World, a high school graduation present from my mom, a hardworking single mom and nurse. It was a balmy June evening and we were standing on Main Street USA in front of Cinderella Castle about to watch the fireworks. The trees around us were twinkling as I looked over at my mom to thank her for taking me to Walt Disney World and I saw her, smiling, transfixed as she watched Tinkerbell fly through the air. In that moment I was overwhelmed with love for her, for Walt Disney, for the people who create magical moments just like this one every single day.
Since that memorable day, as a television reporter and a fan of Walt Disney World, I have been back dozens of times to vacation, to cover events like the grand opening of the Animal Kingdom and on one very special trip, to honeymoon. Walt Disney World is my happy place as it is for millions of people around the world. Imagine, if you had a job working at Walt Disney World where you could use your expertise and exquisite attention to detail along with a healthy sprinkling of pixie dust to help make people's dreams come true. Recently I was at Walt Disney World to cover the grand opening of the New Fantasyland and I had the opportunity to talk with Tye Arnold, one of the 2013/2014 Walt Disney World Ambassadors, and a guy with one of the happiest jobs in the world.
Enchanted Tales With Belle at New Fantasyland
The Happygirl: Hi Tye! You have an incredible job here working as an Ambassador for the Walt Disney company! I imagine there is so much to learn when you come on board. How do even begin to learn everything about Walt Disney World?
Walt Disney World Ambassador Tye Arnold: The Walt Disney Company has a class called Traditions and all of our Cast Members go through that on day one. It gives a good foundation. Today we are here at New Fantasyland. Here, classic Disney films come to life inside the park. I went back and pulled out my copy of “Beauty & the Beast” and “The Little Mermaid” because it’s been awhile since I’ve seen these films. I know the characters very well because they live and breathe in the park, but it's always nice for a refresher. There are hidden treasures all around the park from the movies. We have Gaston’s Tavern and Belle’s Village. . . There are so many gems here in New Fantasyland.
HG: What are some of the things you need to know about New Fantasyland and being a Walt Disney World Ambassador?
Tye: Pretty much everything! (laughs) We celebrate our Cast Members every day who create those magical experiences like the Cast Members here at New Fantasyland. You’ll notice that they say "Bonjour!" They welcome you in the way that Belle would using the verbiage from the film. We need to know our character base, all the venues and the different parts of the company. We focus a lot on our community and community efforts in Central Florida and even beyond that.
HG: How would you describe your role as a Walt Disney Ambassador?
Tye: The Walt Disney World Ambassador program has the honor of representing 66,000 Cast Members at the Walt Disney World Resort to the community and at internal events. Our scope covers everything from emceeing events with high profile guests/Cast to being the lead VoluntEAR in the community. We also get to share a "Cast Member" point of view on all the new and exciting things happening at Walt Disney World with different media outlets like yours.
HG: Tye, marathons have become a big part of guest experiences here at Walt Disney World. Can you talk for a moment about the marathons? What can someone new to Disney marathons expect? I am registered for the Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend. It will be my first race experience. I don't know much but I was told by previous runners that I shouldn't wear ear buds because exciting things happen along the way.
Tye: The great thing about Run Disney and specifically the Disney's Princess Half Marathon is that it has the same thrill and excitement as being in a race environment but now you have the Disney experience along with that. When you run you see Disney characters and entertainment. You hear music. You really get transported to this magical place. You get that motivation. Instead of running though a city area, you see Cinderella Castle in the distance. You’re motivated. You think “If I can just make it to the castle!” You also run through Epcot so you think “If I just make it to Spaceship Earth.” These things cheer you on. You are entertained as you run and there is a family reunion at the end of the race. There is music, fun and all sorts of Disney touches along the way.
Tye: I have a question for you. Have you picked out what you’re going to wear?
HG: A tiara. Obviously. (laughs)
Tye: (laughs) It is so exciting to see the racers cross the finish line. They all get so creative! They are dressed as princesses with tiaras. It’s not implied that you have to wear a costume but have fun with it! No masks but anything else is fair game.
HG: And men can run it too?
Tye: Absolutely. Men can run it too, of course! There are partnerships too, a husband and wife team could even run it.
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow at Disney's Hollywood Studios
HG: Let’s talk about The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow. This is different from Pirates of the Caribbean?
Tye: Exactly. Pirates of the Caribbean is at the Magic Kingdom park here in Orlando, Florida as well as in Disneyland in California. Over at Disney’s Hollywood Studios we have a new attraction that when you walk in it is an immersive experience. You’re met with a skull and crossbones that give you the Pirates lore. They let you know what you need to do to become part of Captain Jack’s crew. There is a storm that brews. . .you’re on the ship. There is a pirate battle. Hopefully you’ll come out on the end, no battle worn fatigue! (laughs) Captain Jack shows up at the end and you take the oath to become part of his crew.
HG: This is great, especially for young boys.
HG: Because there is so much for little Disney princesses.
Tye: That is a great thing too about Walt Disney World. You asked earlier about the marathons. There are a lot of things for families to do. In New Fantasyland there are princess experiences but there are great things for the boys too with Storybook Circus. I love walking through these areas because they’re so interactive with great experiences, especially with the new Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow which is also great for the little ones. They feel like they are part of the crew.
HG: Is it a little bit darker than the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction in the Magic Kingdom?
Tye: The tone is darker, not in feeling but in environment. A lot of digital projection and Disney magic. You feel immersed. You feel like you are on that ship. You feel like you are battling the waves. You feel like you are there.
HG: Let’s talk about happy moments here at Walt Disney World. What makes you happy?
Tye: I have always been a Disney kid. I loved the Disney Channel growing up and I was so excited to actually visit Walt Disney World for the first time when I was 9 years old. There was so much excitement on that trip. Our entire family was along for the experience and some of my greatest memories come from that Walt Disney World vacation. That is why I love our new promotion called Limited Time Magic. We know that some of life's greatest moments are from a snapshot in time with family and friends. Because of that, every week during 2013, in one-week time frames, special events will happen here at Walt Disney World Resort and at The Disneyland Resort in California.
HG: How will guests know what the Limited Time magic events are?
Tye: We will release information DisneyWorld.com, Disneyland.com, Twitter (#LimitedTimemagic), Facebook and of course the Disney Parks blog. (ed. note: the Disney Parks blog is a great place to check every day to see what's new in the parks. Especially essential when planning your next trip!) It really is an extra sprinkling of pixie dust when you’re out there in the parks. It may be smaller things like special merchandise released for that one week or bigger things like special meets and greets. For the Fourth of July, Patriotic Mickey will be here. Cinderella Castle colors will match and reflect that time of year as well. Lots of neat experiences will be happening throughout 2013
HG: What makes you happy?
Tye: Every day when I get to put this nametag on. I take that as the greatest gift I can have. I know what this company stands for. I know what we do here every day to provide great experiences for our Guests. I am also happy knowing that Walt Disney World not only creates magic every day for our Guests, but it also cares about the community we live in. Our philanthropic efforts focus on building better futures for our children and improving their lives. I am proud to represent this company and all that we do to make dreams come true. Like here in New Fantasyland. (laughs)
I mean how can you not get happy when you wear this nametag and walk through New Fantasyland seeing these new vistas? When you see Prince Eric’s Castle in the background, Beast’s Castle and Maurice’s cottage in the distance. I get to work for a team that helps make all that come to life. That, every single day is my happy moment.
HG: You’re a lucky guy.
Tye: (laughs) I feel like a lucky guy!
About the Disney Ambassador history
1964 was a busy time for Walt Disney and The Walt Disney Company: we were preparing to celebrate the Tenth Anniversary of Disneyland; Mary Poppins was in theaters; we had created four attractions for the 1964 New York World's Fair; and we were busy planning "Project X" - which later became the Walt Disney World Resort. During this time, Walt received many requests for media interviews and to attend numerous events. Considering Disneyland's Tenth Anniversary was close at hand, he wanted to do something special to help celebrate. Recognizing the talented Cast of Disneyland, the Ambassador Program was born.
Walt wanted to have a Disneyland Cast Member assist him with the many requests he received. The Ambassador's duties would include making public appearances and speeches, escorting dignitaries and other V.I.P.'s visiting Disneyland Park, and traveling the country and the world promoting the Disney ideals. In 1964, Walt selected Julie Reihm as the first Disney Ambassador.