Interview: Cast Member, James Salvage

Disney Dreams! is one of the major attractions at Disneyland Paris. For our latest Cast Member interview we spoke to James Salvage who reveals a little bit about life behind the scenes of this night-time spectacular.

What was your job/role at Disneyland Paris (DLP)?
Regisseur Assistant (Assistant Stage Manager, Entertainment Park 1)

How long did you work at DLP?
8 Months From September 2012 – April 2013

How did you get your job at DLP?
I found out about the Job through a contact, however I had to apply through the Casting Website.

Describe a “typical” day for you as a Cast Member at DLP
I was lucky because most days were different, however on a day where I was working on ‘Dreams!’ (when it is a 23:00 show):

I would start at either 16:00 or 17:00, depending on the role and go straight to the office within Disneyland Park to check emails and read previous Show Reports and begin to make preparations for the evening’s performance. This includes working with the Stage Manager to make sure that all technicians are present and are completing their checks.

Once this is completed the sequence for the fountain ‘shows’ (tests) begins. They are ‘topped’ (que’d) usually three times but sometimes more are necessary.
Dinner (I always enjoyed the canteen next to Main Street above Main Street Motors.)

Duty team meeting/briefing with operation team member, Firework contractor, Park duty manager, production manager (or his deputy), Stage Manager and Fire dept. to go through weather conditions and to discuss the previous performance and if anything needs to be improved including messages from Disney HQ (California).

10pm All operators go to their positions and do final checks of all systems in the show and ensure that the booth has full control.

22:00 All pyrotechnics is ‘signed off’ from a H&S point of view.

22:50 Que 10 Min Announcement

We then test the ‘Time Code’ which is a MIDI signal sent from the Sound Desk to the other control systems to keep them in sync.

Que 5 Min Announcement

22:58 ‘Pre-roll’ sequence begins which is effectively a state of ‘Stand by’ including the announcements in the various languages.

23:00pm ‘and now Disney Dreams!’ Topping (Que’ing) of show.

23:23 at end of show thank all teams and stand down pyrotechnic operators and the fire brigade.

23:45 team debrief after which the show report will be written. This is a report that will be written after EVERY piece of entertainment in a Disney Park which is a report on the show indicating anything that went wrong or that was abnormal. This is then read by many people including Coordinators and managers in the Disney Parks around the world and Disney HQ California.

Finally, go home and have a well deserved beer.

What is your favourite attraction at DLP and why?
That’s Unfair! However, if I have to choose it has to be one of the Classics so I’m going to say Pirates of the Caribbean.

What was the best part about your job?
Having the ability to change people’s lives for the better and create memories that will truly last a lifetime. I know that sounds incredibly cheesy, however it is always in the back of your mind that with every show/parade/performance/’happening’/spectacular there are hundreds or thousands of people watching so it is up to the whole team to ensure that every guest leaves having experienced the true Disney Magic. (Which can sometimes be difficult with the cuts that were taking place while I was there)

When you were not working did you spend time in the Disneyland Parks? If not what did you like to do to relax in your spare time?
I did and the novelty didn’t die. I personally found that knowing the secrets made it more magical. If I arrived early for my shift I would sometimes sit on one of the benches between Main Street USA and Central Plaza and just take in the atmosphere. I lived in Val D’Europe so I was always close to the magic.

What is your favourite Disney film?
Hercules, a rare one I know!

What is the best tip you could give us when visiting DLP?
I always had three major tips:

1. Be savvy with money (i.e Stay offsite and get an Annual Pass)
2. Pace yourself (always really take in the park and spend as much time there as you can)
3. Let yourself go (this can often be most tough for ‘fans’ because of how well they know the park but lose any thoughts and opinions on the park and enter as if its your first time).

What was your favourite moment as a Cast Member? And why?
I once had a lovely experience of a terminally ill girl came to visit the park who was a huge fan of Donald Duck. City Hall heard about this and put the call out to see if we could help at all. We then got together as a team to call Donald and got him to meet this girl in an exclusive Meet and Greet. A few weeks later we received a letter from her parents letting us know that she had sadly passed but she kept talking about how much she loved Donald and absolutely loved meeting him. That has stuck with me.

Do you have any special memorabilia related to DLP?
I have a very special mug from opening day that I was given as a present while I was a CM.

Do you have any secrets/rare info you are able to share about DLP?
I have loads but my favourite to tell is that Le Chateux has its own weather station hidden within that is constantly monitoring the weather around the area and is feeding the information back to the Dreams Control. This allowed the Stage Manager to adjust Dreams! As the performance progresses. For example if the wind suddenly changes direction then the fire may be cut for the finale scene to protect the castle or the water screens may be cut mid show if they are simply not working with the wind. There’s a similar system in place on the Stunt Show.

The other is that in the event of the parade being cancelled while ‘on stage’ (known as a 106*) then the Stage Manager would have to clear the path and barrier off the Lion King float so the puppeteers can get out without ruining the magic.

* When something is cancelled while on stage e.g. if Animagique was to be postponed half way through a performance then it would be classed as a 106.

Did you ever dream of working as a cast member at DLP when you were younger?
YES! I went on a School trip to DLP in Year 8 and ever since then I dreamed on the day that I would become a Cast Member.

Do you think you will ever work at DLP again in the future?
I really hope so. When I left I needed some time away to just be a guest and enjoy but I hope to go back for the 25th. It’s going to be a good year!!

Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions!

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