EXPERIENCE THE THEMED CORPORATE EVENT IN THE DISNEY YEARS CHAPTER THREE – Part 1


Before continuing, it should also be noted that the Stage Managers for the shows came out of the Entertainment Division and technically supported by the Technical Services Department. It wasn’t uncommon for different divisions and departments to overlap like this, and perhaps it just goes to show what the staffing situation was really like in those days, but to some degree, it created complications and additional stress. Not that we as workers could do much about it, of course. Orders came down from the top and we followed them to the best of our abilities.

Despite the staffing problems we had initially faced, we ultimately managed to get all the positions we needed for the grand opening filled. We were even lucky enough to attract a few very qualified stagehands who just wanted to experience the themed corporate event and were eager to work with us to bring the grand opening to life. Journeyman stagehands were important to the department because many of the live shows we had planned were quite complicated and required precise and professional sound and lighting cues, the execution of which really only comes with experience and can’t easily be taught. This was especially true for the Top of the World Restaurant, which featured well-known celebrity talent in the Contemporary Hotel, The Hoop de Due Show at the Campgrounds Pavilion, and the nightly luau in the hotel as well as the outside nightly luau on the beach (it should be noted that Disney no longer produces a luau at the Polynesian Hotel today). If not for the technical know-how those journeyman stagehands brought to the table, we would have been scrambling even more than we were to get everything up to the expectations set.

Things were going well for us, or at least we thought we were on schedule until United States Steel made the earth-shattering announcement to Disney that they would not be able to complete construction of the Contemporary Hotel and the Polynesian Hotel by the deadline of October 1, 1971. This came as a total shock and created a truly frustrating challenge for everyone. Roy Disney, who was Walt’s brother, called an emergency meeting with the people from United States Steel in an attempt to pressure them to live up to their end of the agreement. This wasn’t unreasonable on Roy’s part, and it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to United States Steel. The deal Walt Disney entered into with United States Steel required them to have the buildings finished and opened by the October date. Perhaps they had fallen behind schedule, or maybe they underestimated the amount of work it would take, but that certainly wasn’t our fault even though we’d be the only ones suffering from it. Sadly, that’s not an uncommon consequence in the world of business.

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