Home » 5 Things Disney Cast Members Do When a Ride Closes for the Day

    5 Things Disney Cast Members Do When a Ride Closes for the Day

    Finding Nemo Queue

    Closing a ride for the day is not as easy as simply shutting down the power. From queue lines to ride vehicles and such show elements as lighting and fog effects, all parts of the attraction have specific requirements that must be followed. In addition, closing staff are responsible for communicating all relevant information up their chain of command.

    I used to work at both Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando, both of which have similar daily shut-down processes. Here’s an insider look at what happens at the end of the day.

    1. Close the queue

    Finding Nemo Queue

    At the end of an operational day, crowds begin to thin. Except on very popular brand-new attractions, a queue that swelled to 60 minutes at noon is typically down to 10 minutes or less by the end of the day. Queues are designed with a complex system of ropes, chains, and gates that allow ride staff to configure them in different ways according to operational needs.

    In the last hour or so, closing staff begin shutting down large sections of the queue, and redirecting guests along a more direct route to the attraction. Someone is generally also assigned to sweep out the queue and pick up trash, to ensure it is ready for the next day. Guests are allowed to enter the queue until the park is officially closed, and staff will reopen sections of the queue if needed, but most of the time guests experience close to a “walk-on” in the final minutes.

    2. Begin taking vehicles offline

    Kilimanjaro Safaris Truck

    Ride vehicles are stored in different locations depending on the attraction’s layout and daily maintenance needs. For example, Kilimanjaro Safaris trucks are parked in a lot along the perimeter road that runs behind the attraction. Taking a truck offline involves driving through a hidden gate in the ride path and along the perimeter road to the lot. The driver must fill up the gas tank and then park canopy-to-canopy with other trucks, with the help of several spotters.

    As operations slow down for the evening, staff members begin taking vehicles offline. At Kilimanjaro Safaris, this means literally taking trucks to the parking lot. At Kongfrontation, unless a tram was in the maintenance bay, all trams had to continue moving until the ride was completely shut down. Drivers competed to see who would be authorized a “fly-by” at the end of the night. Approved by the control tower, a fly-by meant that no guests were loaded on the tram. The driver could take a break from spieling while enjoying the show.

    3. Give the remaining guests a great show

    Jungle Cruise

    No matter what time a major theme park closes, guests are permitted to enter the queue until the precise moment that the park is officially closed. Sometimes this results in a short queue at closing time (or a long queue, if you happen to be working a new, popular attraction). One of the cardinal rules for attractions employees is that every single guest deserves a full show.

    While many closing staff members are dispatched to perform closing tasks such as sweeping the queue or taking vehicles offline, a full complement of ride staff remains at their posts until the last guest has passed by. You never have to worry about your vehicle doors not being closed or your spiel being subpar just because you arrived at the end of the day.

    4. Close down the building

    The Simpsons Ride

    When the last guest has departed, the closing staff finishes closing down the attraction. The remaining ride vehicles are placed in their designated positions for the evening, which could be different than you would imagine. For example, at Kongfrontation, some trams were parked along the loading platform. For others, the tram driver would switch into manual tram operation and carefully lower the vehicle to the building floor, right in the middle of a show scene. It was always great fun to climb out of a tram and stare up at one of the 30-foot tall animatronic monkeys from ground level!

    Other duties typically involve calling the control tower with the guest count for the last hour, gathering supplies such as headsets and manuals and returning them to their designated storage spots, turning off special effects, and cleaning various areas of the attraction as needed. Depending on the attraction, these duties can be quite fluid, and they are frequently assigned to the next person who happens to walk past a team leader.

    5. Perform any additional duties as assigned and clock out on time

    Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular

    At the end of each day, someone has to take all found items to the park’s central Lost and Found. On a semi-regular basis, which can vary widely by attraction, deep cleaning is scheduled for part or all of each attraction. Sometimes a guest has an issue arise right at closing, such as needing an escort to First Aid or trying to find a lost child.

    These and other duties are not part of the average ride operator’s daily routine, but can be assigned by a supervisor or team leader on an as-needed basis. To ensure that anything that might arise can be properly handled, the closing team usually leaves together rather than one at a time. Exceptions sometimes arise for minors, whose work hours are strictly controlled by law, but those over age 18, as well as minors who are not bumping against an hour limit, are usually expected to leave as part of the group.

    Clocking out on time is an essential task, as employees can get in trouble for not doing so. Yet it is hard to predict exactly how long closing procedures will take. In general, employees are expected to be aware of their work hours each week, and to alert a team leader if they are at risk for going into overtime. Otherwise, supervisors and team leaders generally work together to make sure no one is in trouble for doing what needs to be done at night. In return, employees are expected to clock out as soon as possible after their last tasks are complete.