Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The rising tide of Disney approaching Hawaii

Today was a big day in the world of Disney. Over on the East Coast the Disney Dream was being christened and headed out for its inaugural cruise. Hopefully one day it will come to visit Hawaii. All over there is buzz of the plans announced last night about the Fantasyland expansion at the Magic Kingdom which includes the removal of Snow White's Scary Adventure and the opening to the Seven Dwarfs Mine ride. Meanwhile Honolulu is all atwitter about the jobs that are coming to Oahu courtesy of The Walt Disney Company via Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa.

Several times a year there are these big job fairs at the Neal Blaisdell Center. I've been attending them for the past couple of years looking at what is happening in the market. I was totally shocked at what I saw when I got there. To get into the event you needed to purchase a $3 ticket. The line from the ticket booth extended all the way to the parking structure (see the picture). I have not seen a line this long to purchase tickets for this type of event. The staff worked hard to keep the line organized and moving which they did.

With my ticket in hand I headed to the main entrance for the hall. Within just a few feet of the turnstiles inside there was another line of people. It was about 30ft in length and lead to the Aulani booth. This line was going in the frontside. There was a second line about equally or slightly longer going in from the right side. The booth was staffed by about a dozen cast members wearing a mauve colored shirt with the Aulani logo and accented with their Aulani name badge. On the KITV 4 local news I had to chuckle at myself. They were showing the booth being set up the day before the show. The anchor said the booth was constructed at and shipped from Disneyland in Florida. As any good DF knows, Disneyland is in California; Walt Disney World is in Florida.

Nearby was a room set up for presenting Aulani to prospective cast members. In the program that people received when they entered Job Quest, Disney had a page informing people of the presentation times on the half hour mark while the show was open which was 10am to 3pm. The room had two large projection screens attached to a computer. There were about 80 seats set up. In the session I attended there were about 125 -150 people total in the room. Just moments before, these people were standing outside the presentation room. The talk was again given by Lianne Maeda and Katie Mock who I had seen last year at Leeward Community College. To start the conversation Lianne joked around about people standing in lines just like they would do if they were at Disneyland.

This session was not as detailed as the one that I saw at LCC. Katie and Lianne talked about the concept a little while. A couple of new points that emerged is that Elliot Mills is the Managing Director at the resort. The beach bar name mentioned was Off the Hook. Then Lianne made a big prediction. Since the last presentation that I saw, Disney hired Patrick Callarec as Executive Chef for the resort. This has peaked the interest of the foodies here locally. She didn't state Patrick's name, but predicted that 'Ama'ama will not only be THE restaurant at Aulani, but for Oahu as well. That's one exciting prediction!

The remainder of the presentation talked about the positions in general and the process that will be used. This is where a little confusion entered my mind. The news has been reporting 1100 jobs that will need to be filled. During the presentation the number 800 was given. In either case the web site was plugged and explanation of the process followed. Disney was not accepting resumes at Job Quest. People will need to go online to submit their resume and to make sure that they outline their passions in it. If the applicants makes the first screening, they will get an on-line interview. If the individual is selected to go further in the process, they will then, in the third step, talk with a live individual. Pay scales or benefits were not brought up during the approximately 25 minutes used. Everyone who entered the room was given a flyer as shown on this page.

Afterwards I did have a chance to touch base with both Katie and Lianne. Both remember me and Katie was excited in that she googled her own name and came across my previous posting. I asked them about parking. Cast members will have onsite parking but if they would be charged was not determined. For The Bus (the name of Oahu's bus system) going into the resort that was still not clear at this point in time. I had gotten that far when Todd Apo, Aulani's Director of Public Affairs needed to pull the ladies aside. I asked another CM some questions. The issue of unions has not been determined. When I asked about Disney Grooming Standards for Aulani, I was also told that was under review at this point in time. With more of a cultural representation at the resort, people with longer hair or tattoos would be in alignment with the focus of the resort. With that, I accepted a pen topped by being bent into a Mickey Mouse shaped logo on it and went off to other show booths.

This job fair was different than others that I had been to recently. The first was the numbers. There just seemed to be more people in attendance at this one. For the numbers, I don't know if it had to do with Disney and Aulani or that many people are now completely out of unemployment benefits and really have to buckle down to get a job. I also noticed that there were more people dressed professionally. By that I mean there didn't seem to be as many people in slippahs (Mainland translation, flip flops), shorts and t-shirts. More people seemed dressed up. Guys with ties, aloha shirts, long pants and shoes and ladies with dresses or pant suits. In talking to one staffing agency, the person behind the desk thought that both the numbers and the dress were due to Disney.

I tweeted and posted pictures while I was there. I had several people ask me via Twitter and Facebook if I was looking to get hired by Disney. I want to start my own business and be my own boss, but at the same point, I would love to be part of the start up. Following Disney the way that I have and being a former CM, I understand the company and the philosophies they practice. My other skills lie in that I have been with other mainland start ups into the Hawaiian marketplace and understand that although you may have been hired to do X, during a start up you may be required to go above and beyond. In my past experiences I'm not afraid to get out and do what is necessary including working on temporary furniture or handing out flyers or moving a room of computer equipment. Heck, I've been a manager with budget and hiring/firing responsibilities and yet going out once a month to pick up trash and clean streets as part a neighborhood community effort. Disney is going to have a huge and long lasting impact on the market here. I would like to see them come in and be spectacularly successful from opening day because it will be good for both them and the people of Hawaii.

Pictures from Job Quest featuring Disney's Aulani