BACKSTORY: If behind-the-scenes photos ruin the magic for you, please do not scroll down. These photos were taken in 2002 and show this beloved attraction after hours. Enjoy! Many thanks to former cast member Ryan for sharing these rare images. Here is his story:
It was accidental that we had a camera those couple of days. Just myself and a couple of work buddies stomping around after hours. At the time we were working at the French Market (wearing those sweet blue vests you can see in a few pics)...
We would get off work an hour after most, so we decided to go exploring. We met a really nice security guard who was just as interested in climbing all over the place as we were. He was much more concerned about having his picture taken, so instead, he ended up taking a couple of the shots for us (most notably the one with Jason and I behind the captain on the ship). We found boxes of sword props and fought. We chased the ladies. I won the redhead. It was a very memorable night.
They had just begun to get serious about lockout procedures and emergency evacuation plans about the time the pictures were taken. It was only a couple of months later that I would start work at Club 33 and Jason would move on to work on his masters. I really loved that job, and remember it vividly.
I felt more comfortable finding my way around The Haunted Mansion, having worked there previous to moving into food service. Pirates is a maze as well, only the maze has much higher drops!
I was very fortunate the way I got my chance to work at Club 33. I started off as a busser/front of house host for the French Market and Cafe Orleans. From there I followed the natural progression of the area. I trained into cashier, and worked the Mint Julep bar mostly. I enjoyed being alone, or being able to goof off with Jason. We made fountains out of cups and a broken water tube. I also worked at Cafe Orleans and the Veranda.
Later I went into Back of House as a Stock Runner for Cafe Orleans, French Market, and Veranda. Then a fry cook at the French Market. Around this time I did some cross training into being a Prep Cook for the New Orleans Main Kitchen. Here was where I busted myself as a runner or a prep cook, day in and day out. I was proud that I was the best at what I did. They made me a trainer for the Front of House positions, but always turned down Lead (just wasn't my cup of tea). All the hard work didn't go unnoticed, though. Next thing I knew, I was working at Club 33.
I filled the role as one of the Sous Chefs and would assist in/or create any pastry or dessert that did not come from the main kitchen. Working at the Club is an experience all its own. When you're up there, you aren't subject to the tedious rules and scrutiny that you are in normal operations. You feel much more free.
Memorable guests...there are quite a few. When the first Pirates movie came out, the A-List ate upstairs, and everybody in Hollywood has a sweet tooth (even if they only eat two bites). It was a great deal of fun to rub elbows with the Hollywood Elite and talk about what they found interesting in life, even what they were watching on TV as of recently. I recall having a conversation with Johnny Depp about gun control, which was a completely bizarre topic for the evening as it led into flintlock muzzle loaders. When he left, he found me and slipped me a hundred bucks without a word.
The one that sticks out the most in my mind, was when Harrison Ford came in. I only shook his hand, but damn if that wasn't the coolest moment of my life. Shaking Han Solo's hand. I went straight to the back and called my fiancee to tell her!
I had a chance to meet Donald Nixon, Richard Nixon's nephew. We talked about how, as a boy, he came with his dad while they were still building the park. It was pretty fascinating to hear about his interactions with the Disney legends that helped design the park. There were just so many small moments like that that you have working there, that make it a unique experience.
I eventually left Disney and the Club to finish up my degree. The pay isn't that great for what it is you do. This may sound quite the opposite of what it should, but I was really bummed out when I got my 5 year pin. I felt that I should be making more somewhere else. The hours that you work at Disney are insane. There are quite a few people there that manage to work and go to school. For me, I could never balance going to work and doing my homework. Working in the kitchen is a long day, sometimes a bit over 16 hour days. I always ended up going with whatever made me money. I felt that it was time for a change. I needed to do something that would not only make me more money for less time invested, but also something that would allow me the time to go to college and finish my degree. Disney is a great job, but I feel that unless you want to put in more than 15 years and do it in a managerial/VP role, it's nothing more than a transitory job. Strange where life will lead us, as I'm now in the Army. Go figure.