Greeting, my fellow WOE Friends,
I believe you'll enjoy today's interview with Rachael. One of the main reasons the WOE is so successful is the people who work there. You cannot apply to work at the WOE. You must be "found" by an Employee Scout. Entertainment Scouts found many entertainers.
Why? Rachael will tell the answer in the below interview I had with her on our family's working vacation. This interview will give you another look into the World of Entopia.
Last week's blog interview with Roger (2/20) gave you an understanding of their Systems Engineering Department and the quality and maintenance of their rides and attractions. Next week, I will provide you with a look into how the entertainers are treated and how they live on the property when I interview Mark.
These interviews are from the World of Entopia - The Story. Rachael's Interview is in Chapter 13 and next weeks will be Mark in Chapter 14.
I hope you enjoy!
After such a full and enjoyable day on Friday, Sally and Jennifer slept in on Saturday, while I headed out for an interview with Rachel, the Human Resources Director.
I arrived at the World Stage around 10:30 a.m. and started watching the upbeat entertainment of the World Stage. Close to 11:00 a.m., I walked to the area she had set-up for our meeting. Right on time, a professionally dressed woman asked me if I was Peter.
I answered, “Yes, I am. Are you Rachel?”
“Yes, hi Peter. It’s nice to meet you. Let’s walk around and talk if you’d like?”
As we started walking around, she asked me how my vacation was going and if I had a chance to interview any of the employees. I told her I had and was amazed by what I have had heard. I also told her I interviewed Steven C.
“What did you think of Steven C.?” She asked.
“Very humble and inspirational,” I said. “I can see why everyone respects him so much.”
“Steven C. is crucial to everything we do here. He provides so much insight into shows, attractions, the Complex, the hotels, just everything. But the most important thing he does, in my opinion, is bring compassion for others to our whole
organization, to the whole property. The caring for one another, the ability to see something in everyone and the foresight to see the potential of so many. A CEO mainly cares about the operation and the profit a company makes. Our President is hardly heard from because we don't have shareholders and we are a private company. He simply makes sure we have the money to operate and watches out for us if we may fall financially short somewhere. He represents us in the business world. Steven C. represents all the good we do within,” Rachel explained.
“Rachel, how did employees start living here and what is the deciding factor of who lives here and who doesn't?”
“Well, Peter, the living community was here from the beginning. We started with 400 apartments for the employees and 200 for the entertainers. The employees’ apartments were built two years before the Complex was even open. They housed architects, engineers, cooks, skilled laborers, and others who helped plan and build the Complex. Once the Complex was three-fourths done, the entertainers’ apartments were built. On opening day, there were already entertainers living on the property. The employees’ apartments expanded to 800, then 1,200 by the second year.”
“Now we have over 2,500 apartments, condos, and houses for over 5,000 employees and 1,200 apartments for the entertainers. We have our own school which starts at Pre-K and goes through college, including earning a Ph.D. or M.D. We have our own medical facility. We even have a mini-mall for the employees with a movie theater, restaurants, assorted stores and a grocery store.”
“Do the employees pay rent? How do they get chosen?” I asked.
“Many of our short-term apartments are for employees or entertainers in their first 90 days or those entertainers visiting for a brief time. For those staying longer, a larger apartment is provided for up to two years. After that, at least for the employees, a small house with a yard and front porch are provided, mostly for families. You did mention that you were meeting Mark tomorrow, therefore, I’ll let him tell you about the Entertainers’ Village. The employees are given a place to stay based on need. Many of the original employees hired were local and had their own place to live already. But since then, many have been ‘found’ by our Employee Scouts around the world and offered a place to live on the property. The 90 days is a sort of probationary period. Maybe they may not like it here, or maybe they want to be here until they get on their feet, then they move on.”
“How often does that happen, where they move out within 90 days?” I questioned.
“Believe it or not, very rerely,” Rachel said. “There is no rent to pay, and the food and utilities are included. We have doctors, teachers, engineers, mechanics, housekeepers, waitresses, servers; you name it, all living on the property. Each employee gets an ‘allowance’ to spend on clothes, games, eating out, and to have ‘fun money.’ The rest of their paycheck goes to their future housing, savings account, and retirement. In many cases, a husband and wife both work; so, they each get an allowance, savings account and can combine for a lovely retirement home, all provided.
“How much is this allowance?”
“It averages around $150 each a week. All the other expenses are paid for; medical, education, vacations, transportation, housing, and food. They have no bills and no stress. Depending on their age, if they work for 20 to 30 years, they can get from $150,000 to $200,000 to buy a home anywhere they want. Two people will get double that. A married couple can retire with $400,000; plus, everyone receives a retirement check on top of that. If they leave after ten years, they still get a percentage of cash and retirement to take with them. For those who live off property, they can also get a special package made for them, which can help with their housing and retirement. All the houses on property come with free maintenance. They will replace a roof, air conditioner, even the carpet every so many years, all at no charge.
“No matter where you live, no one pays a dollar for health insurance or their education. And the health insurance covers everything, including glasses, hearing aids, surgeries, dental, and all necessary treatments. WOE covers all your expenses while you’re working here, so you can concentrate on your job, family, and most importantly, yourself. That’s why every employee only works 30 hours at the Complex and 10 hours in the classroom and/or in training. They also get a one-week vacation every three months and bonus days off for their birthday, anniversary and other special days.”
“What about cosmetic surgery?”
“Only if it’s necessary. We won't pay for breast augmentations or tummy tucks. But we will cover dental implants and items that are necessary and reasonable.”
“I’ve heard no one has a car in their driveway in the Residence Village. Why is that?” I asked.
“Right, just like at the Hotel Visitor Parking Garage, the Residents and employees park in the Employee and Resident Parking Garage and have an Employee Resident Hub (ERH) they must pass through, just like the hotel guests and daily visitors. Employees take a shuttle to the Complex, and the Residents use golf carts to travel to and from the ERH and around the Residential Community. If they want to go off the property, they can use their own car or borrow a car and use it to travel on a road trip or to visit surrounding places in the community. They can borrow a boat, jet ski or even a camper to go camping. They don’t have to pay for gas, insurance, and repairs. There are no vehicles, boats, campers, or jet skis stored in any driveway or someone’s front lawn. Golf carts are the only vehicle used on the property, and they are stored in their garages or covered parking if they’re living in an apartment.
“What is the pay like? I hear it’s pretty good.”
“We only have three levels of pay and compensation: Semi-skilled, skilled and professional. The semi-skilled covers anyone with at least a high school diploma. The skilled covers anyone with a college degree up to a bachelors, and the professional includes anyone with a master’s degree or higher. There is no one making less than $20 an hour and no one, even the CEO, is making more than $100,000 a year. All the doctors are happy and content, especially as they are not worried about heavy patient loads, malpractice insurance, lawsuits and insurance companies telling them how to treat patients. They do what they love; helping heal others. Even the semi-skilled workers, when you add in all their benefits, can be making excellent money; well over $60,000 a year.” But the salary is only paid in full if you do not want help with housing and expenses. If you live on property, then you get the weekly allowance and money to buy a future home. The WOE basically helps you save now and for the future. If you live off property and pay everything yourself, then you’ll get the salary. You’ll still be entitled to free healthcare, education, vacation time and retirement, but no money to buy a future home and you have to pay all your housing expenses yourself."
“What about mental health treatment?” I asked.
“We take mental health very seriously here. Many employee’s and some entertainers have come from harsh environments or situations and need our ongoing support to acclimate them to the WOE and get them back on their feet mentally. We have psychiatrists, psychologists and counselors on the property and they are available 24-hours a day. All employees are mandated to meet with the ‘mental health team’ several times a year, usually during their physicals, which they get every six months. The meeting may be for only 15 – 30 minutes, but they are looking for employees or entertainers who are very stressed or depressed but don’t want to admit it. If they find you could use someone to talk with, they can assign you a therapist and set-up appointment times for you to meet.”
"We also have a tip line for employees to use if they see someone else in danger or that may need help. The caller can remain anonymous. The same goes for drug use.”
Rachel then made two statements that really stood out to me: “Mental illness is just like any other illness, it can be treated, and, Mental Illness is only scary if you don’t understand it.”
“Steven C. briefly talked about the Employee Scouts. Can you tell me more?” I asked.
“I’d be happy to. The WOE believes that to find and keep great employees, we must find and meet their needs and provide them with a great quality of life. If you simply choose from applicants that have applied, you are only getting those with a desire to work here. But what is their desire? Is it just to have a place to live? Get free medical care? Make good on getting a future home or do they really want to work at the WOE and help others? Of course, they’ll tell you the latter, but most are really interested in the benefits. We find people who are the best at what they do and feel they would fit in with our current employees. We also look for those who can really use the opportunity to help themselves. People tend to be more grateful when given something they really need, rather than something they really want.”
“That makes sense,” I said. “So, the Employee Scouts look for these people?”
“Yes, they travel around the world looking for those that could use a place to call home. Those who may be chosen for their ability may not necessarily need or want to stay on property. A doctor or engineer, for example, may want to stay in their own home or condo off the property. Some may need a place until they can get on their feet. Then they go out and get their own place. But most employees prefer to live on the property, including most of the doctors, engineers, and executives. One of the main reason is; safety.”
“As you know, there are no weapons of any kind on property. If one ever did get past our top-notch security and was discovered; the person or family could be immediately expelled from the community and their employment terminated. There is also little tolerance for most crime. Residents feel safe walking the neighborhood at 10 p.m. or jogging at 6 a.m. To date, we haven’t had any assaults or burglaries on the property.”
“Our semi-skilled workers are all very well taken care of and have the opportunity to move up to skilled and professional with the free college offered. But even the professionals don't have mansions or expensive furniture or riches. Everyone, no matter who you are, lives modestly and enjoys the quality of life provided. These professionals don't have their own pools, so they swim with everyone else in the community pools, where they can have cook-outs and play games like horseshoes and volleyball. If an average-sized home is 1,400 square feet, the professionals may be only 1,800 to 2,000. No expensive cars in the driveway, because there are no cars in the neighborhood. They are all parked (if they even have them) in the Employee and Resident Parking Garage. They do get a little more allowance and a little more in retirement, and the house they could earn will be a little bigger. But it’s not much of a difference.”
“Then what is the incentive for going to college and studying so much harder, if you’re not going to make much more money?” I asked Rachel.
“Because they ‘want’ to do a particular job. They want to be an engineer or doctor or a designer or electrician. Maybe they are tired of cleaning rooms or serving tables,” Replied Rachel.
Then I asked, “What if they graduate as a doctor and you have no vacancies?”
“Most graduates intern for six years. If after that, there are no openings, they can ‘wait’ for one to open and ‘assist’ in some way until one becomes available. If nothing opens within three years, then they can choose to work outside the Complex until one does open.”
“Aren't you afraid employees will take advantage of that?”
“Most employees want to live and/or work here because they enjoy it. The others appreciate the opportunity to help us while being helped themselves. We see it as a symbiotic relationship. They would have probably worked for us for at least ten years to reach that goal of graduating because they are attending school part-time. Then another three waiting. If all that does occur, then we will be grateful for their service and they would be thankful for ours. That open slot would then provide an opportunity for someone else in need of a good job, and possibly a place to live.”
“What about the cost of education?” I replied.
“Our professors all work for us, and most of them live on the property. We are not spending unnecessary money like other colleges or universities. No extra money for sports or athletes, large salaries for administration and no wasted money on employees that work at half speed.”
“What about unions? Do you have any?”
“No, there’s no need. Our employees have everything they could ever want. Most unions promote greed and laziness. They always want more and want to be protected for doing less. ‘Unions and pay scales foster mediocrity.’ We genuinely believe that if an employee feels they need more than everything they are getting, we would have to really question their intentions. Do they want to help the guests at the WOE or just themselves?”
“We have an employee appeals process that hears any complaints in front of a committee made up of other employees. We’ve only had the committee meet a few times, and each time they sided with the employee’s supervisor because they felt the decision to reprimand was fair.”
“Have I answered most of your questions, Peter?” Rachel asked.
Yes, you have. Thank you for all the information, Rachael. Sorry I’ve had to stop so often to take notes.”
“That’s quite okay. I understand,” Rachel replied. “I’m glad we got to walk around. I sit so often at home that I enjoy walking around at work, getting some exercise. I love walking with the employees as well. If they have a need to talk, I find sharing some cotton candy or going on a ride takes the tension off, and they feel more relaxed.”
“Do you mind if I ask how you got here?”
“Sure Peter. I was working as an HR Director in a large Boston company. I somehow met Steven C. at an employment convention I was working; where prospective employees are looking to make contacts with companies looking to hire. He convinced my family and me to have lunch with him and his family. And then he convinced my family and me to move here. I’ve been here since the very beginning. My husband works for Systems Engineering, and my kids go to school. They are both taking college courses full time here.
“How did he talk you and your husband into working here?” I asked.
“He convinced us that what we would be doing would be so innovative, unique and necessary, all to the benefit of mankind. Well, that was far more productive then what we were doing at the time. Turns out, he was right. We are truly enjoying our work and making a difference to so many. I wouldn't trade any of this for the world.”
Thanks for reading! Until next time,
Good morning, fellow WOE Friends,
I hope most of you had a great weekend. I, like I’m sure a lot of you, worked some part of it. But it comes with the job. The entertainment industry isn’t open just 9–5 Monday – Friday.
I do meet guests on the weekend, as some of them can’t make it during the week to the WOE Complex. Speaking of the Complex, The Hologram Theater has released the date of its newest show, Composers in Light, which will start on May 1.
This show will feature the music of some of the best modern day, movie soundtrack composers, combined with a stunning hologram and video production. You’ll see the music like never before! Composers in Light will run three shows a day until April 30, 2021.
As far as the WOE expansion goes, think of water. Lots and lots of water. That’s all I’ll say for now.
I hope you enjoyed reading the conclusion of Welcome to the Neighborhood, which was added on Friday. If you’re curious about how it ended, I’ll just say there may be more to come in the future.
I have released a new WOE Short Story, called; The Old Man, A wealthy businessman, learns a valuable lesson from an unexpected person.
This is a two-part story. The second part will be released on Friday.
These stories are from our WOE Employees’ and guests. They are either actual events that took place with our Employee’s or are dreams our guests have had while visiting the WOE.
Thanks for reading! Until next time,
Hello, my WOE Friends!
I am thrilled to announce that the eight-part WOE Short Story Series, Welcome to the Neighborhood, is now complete!
The ending is riveting! Is this the end of Freedom Street as we know it? Or is there more to come? You'll have to read it to find out! Click on the picture below to take you to the story or find it on this website under WOE Short Stories.
Monday will be the start of a new, two-part Short Story.
Several new shows are coming to the WOE Complex, starting in May. I will tell you more about them on Monday, as well as give you more information on the WOE expansion.
WOE HR released a new picture on Thursday. I have included it on the blog.
I do hope you all have a great weekend. Be sure to spend some time taking a few minutes to yourself, especially if you're one that is always helping others.
Thanks for reading! Until next time,
Hello, my fellow WOE Friends!
I hope you're doing well and enjoying the WOE Short Story; Welcome to the Neighborhood. The conclusion is this Friday!
I have included a new picture released by the WOE HR Department on Tuesday.
I also added the Universal Studios and IOA pictures I took on January 19, to the web page; Peter's Pic's. I may be adding more from my neighborhood walks I take in a neighborhood next to the WOE Property. I enjoy seeing other neighborhoods and will often take a golf cart to nearby neighborhoods to get my morning walks.
Tell me what your favorite picture is from the State Fair or Universal.
This weeks interview is with Roger, the Director of Systems Engineering at the WOE. I interviewed him last year, on my vacation there. The Systems Engineering Department is the equivalent to Disney's Imagineering or Universal's Creative Departments. They are world renowned for their quality and over the top attractions and rides. It tells a narrative of how theme and amusement parks should be run. It is found in Chapter 15, of the World of Entopia - The Story.
A quick side note; You may be wondering why I am pulling these interviews from the Story. Well, I know the story is long and it was my first. So, it may not be my best. However, it is a great story because it explains what happened to Jennifer and how I got to this position. So before I get to more exciting interviews with guests and other employees, I thought it would be great to give you a nice overview beforehand, on what the World of Entopia is all about. Then, if you choose not to read the Story, you will still know all the good this place does and how special it is.
Anyone can tell a short story, but these stories are from a special place and most often happen for a special reason; It has changed the lives of many, many people! Keep reading, my Friends!
I hope you enjoy my interview with Roger.
I just finished up my interview with Mark, when I ran into Roger.
“Hi, Peter. It’s nice to meet you. How are the interviews going?” asked Roger.
“Great, I’m learning so much about how the WOE works,” I said.
“Well, that’s great! If you’d like, I can show you our department and what we do in engineering,” he offered.
“Roger is the Director of Systems Engineering. This is the engineering behind all the rides, attractions and shows.” Mark told me.
“I’d love that!” I replied.
“Okay, then follow me, and I’ll tell you what we do here.”
I thanked Mark for all his time and information and walked away with Roger. Systems Engineering is world–renowned for their designs, creativity, and top of the line maintenance. The attractions they’ve created are “masterpieces,” and I’ve never heard of a ride breaking down and stranding guests. Their reputation is stellar, and they are considered to be the bell weather of the entertainment industry.
Luckily, Roger was going to lunch. So, I was going to get a bite to eat now as well. We walked mid-way through the State Fair, went in-between these two rides and came to a 40’ high dividing wall behind the rides. After gaining access, we walked through and into a large “alley” of sorts, that was between the other row of rides on the other side.
“Wow, this is really clever,” I said to Roger, “I never knew this was here.”
“We have two of these maintenance alleys. Each one is the length of the midway and 30 feet wide. Each one also has two freight elevators that allow us to bring equipment form our work area below to the main floor.”
“You have another level?” I asked.
“Yes, almost a complete level under us. There is about 80% as much space as what you see here, underneath us. The other 20% is for support. Each section has a percentage of work and storage space underneath, but this is the largest. We also have several tunnels that lead to the outside of the Complex that allows us to bring in supplies and equipment. The tunnels lead to the two warehouses, about 1,200 feet away. The warehouses thoroughly check everything that comes into them, before they can be delivered to the main Complex, hotels or the Villages.”
“I assume that’s for security reasons.”
“Yes, sir. Everything gets sniffed by our dogs, searched, and scanned by our proprietary systems. There isn’t an item that gets in here or the hotels without being examined. We have two separate warehouses, in case one must be taken offline for security reasons. Also, every delivery truck that enters our secured area must be pre-approved, and each driver is registered and needs to be finger scanned before coming in. We also have some of our top security agents who follow the flow of goods from manufacturing to delivery here. We know the origin and source of every item that is delivered here and follow its chain of progress very carefully.”
“Do you think a bomb could ever be brought in with the food or that the food could ever be poisoned?”
“Anything is possible nowadays. If a product was brought right to the restaurant and exploded… WOW! That could be devastating. We take every precaution we can. We 'spot examine' everything and have proprietary tests to check for almost anything.”
We took the stairs to go below the maintenance alley and into the storage and work area. This area is called the “underground.” There was a vast area of free space, surrounded by racks and racks of parts, supplies, and electronics. Forklifts roamed around moving items from one place to another. As we walked along, Roger pointed out different office areas that are used to support their department.
“We have everything here Peter: Research, design, manufacturing, machine shops, labs, studios; you name it. We have over 300 people in our department. Everything from: Electrical, mechanical, computer, software engineers, architects, electricians, and sound engineers; just to name a few. We do everything in-house, from designing: Concert lighting, shows, thrill rides, attractions, and Zipvators. We provide full production, installation, and maintenance. This keeps our costs down and allows us to move much more quickly. It also allows us to have better quality control, as we know how everything is built and constructed,” Roger explained.
We entered one of the employee breakrooms, and Roger offered me a sandwich from the oversized, clear refrigerator that was full of them as well as fruit, yogurts, and other items. All of it free. I grabbed a sandwich, an apple, and a drink and we sat down.
“You all have a reputation for never having a ride break down. How do you accomplish that?” I asked.
“Preventative maintenance, that’s how. We don't fix things, we replace them before they need to be fixed. We have a backup motor for every ride here. As soon as any part or piece or motor reaches a ‘half-life,’ it is replaced,” Roger told me.
“So, you replace a motor before it gets past half it’s expected life?”
“Yes, we have a meticulous log of every ride and attraction. Each has a maintenance history of every part of the ride or attraction. As the date approaches for replacement, a new part is manufactured, or a motor is already waiting to replace it. Almost all our parts are made here in our shops, and once a motor is taken out of a ride or attraction, it is completely rebuilt, or a new one is made. We inspect every ride and attraction visually twice a day and use our proprietary computer software for hourly inspections, made every hour, of every day. Our Pulse Computers are continuously monitoring millions of sensors throughout the Complex. Any slight indication of an anomaly and a technician will receive a call to look into the diagnostics. Long before anything was to reach a failure point, we have been on it for some time and can continue to monitor or intervein. Guests come from all over the world to be here and they look forward to riding the rides and attractions. They don't want to come and have a ride or attraction break down while they’re on it or have it down for maintenance."
"There have been some big headlines lately about roller coasters and other rides stranding guests for hours or rides breaking and injuring or killing guests,” I told him.
“That, all of that, is completely unacceptable and avoidable. Many of these instances are due to a lack of routine and proper maintenance. Either they can't afford it or are cutting back to pad their bottom line. You don't expect a new car to break down on you, but if you don't properly maintain it as it gets older, you will have breakdowns; and they’ll happen more and more as the motor and car get older. If a car’s life expectancy is a good 100,000 miles before problems start, we would have already replaced the engine, air conditioning, transmission, power steering and all the other mechanical parts at 50,000 miles. It would be like having a new car. All the seats in the car and the accessories would also have been replaced.”
“Another reason is many theme parks or amusement parks have their rides built by outside companies. When one gets stopped or breaks, they only know a few techniques to get it up and running again. In many cases, the software freezes up, and they must ‘reboot’ it.”
“I’ve seen people stranded and the park doesn't even communicate to guests about what’s going on,” I added.
“Right. That’s just not having any real plan in place and/or a lack of well-trained personnel to handle a situation like that. Any ride or attraction that you have, you should have the ability to get those guests off within minutes, not hours. If you can't, then you shouldn’t be running it. Our most intense ride/attraction is Galactic War, in the Dark Room. It reaches speeds of almost 200 miles per hour and a height of almost 200 feet. We have a technician stationed at the top of the track, on a platform, just in case something were to happen. He or she continually monitors and can speak directly to the vehicle if need be. Almost all our rides and attractions have emergency buttons on them in case a guest senses a mechanical problem or experiences a medical situation. The alarm goes to the ride operator and the Ride Command Center. That’s where we are heading next.”
As Roger said this, we went to an elevator which took us up to the top of the building where Steven C. and the rest of them work. We went through a secured area and boom! There is this room which looked like a TV control booth. Monitors and computers were everywhere. The room was circular, with viewing windows overlooking the State Fair on one side and the Dark Room on the other.
As we walked into the middle of the room, the Command Operators, as he called them, were all watching the monitors and computers against the windows and consoles. A glass partition in the middle of the room separated us from them so we could talk without disturbing them.
“This is the nerve center. We call this the Ride Command Center. We receive all information here, just as the ride operators do. And we can control every ride and attraction here as well. If an operator were to go down or a malfunction was to occur, we can take over from here. We have a Rapid Response Team or RAT that can respond within minutes of any trouble. We also have EMT’s and paramedics throughout the Complex in case there’s ever an emergency.”
“What if a fire were to break out?” I asked.
We have water sprinklers that cover every inch of human occupancy on the property. We have two-hundred fire hose compartments throughout the property that can reach anywhere, and we have a full-time fire and hazmat team trained and ready 24/7, right here on property. Many of the firemen are also EMT’s and Paramedics, so they are working the clinics.”
“What is a fire breaks out in Metamorphoses, would you still douse it with water from the sprinkler heads? I asked.
“Absolutely! We will drench everything if need be. Equipment can be fixed and repaired. A person lost cannot. We know our priority lies with our guests and employees first, property second.”
“You guys have thought of everything,” I said.
“We try. But the maintenance performed should prevent anything from breaking or catching fire. If it does, there would be a lot of explaining to do.”
“What about doing major upgrades or refurbishments on attractions?”
“All of this is done at night or, in the case of the larger attractions, during the day, while the attraction is still operating. We build in ‘extra’ parts of our attractions that are integrated into the attractions’ show. We can take an entire section of an attraction offline, while the guests travel through the other part, not even noticing it.” Roger said.
“Isn't that more expensive? I mean, you’re building more than you need, right?” I questioned.
“Yes, it is more expensive. In some cases, we are building another half of an attraction. But we don't have to take the attraction down for ‘refurbishment,’ and that makes our guests very happy. If we don’t have an ‘extra section’ the attraction can use, then we must do the work at night or a little at a time during the day. Our department is open 24 hours a day."
“Please tell me about your Sight and Sound Division.”
“Sure, let’s go back to the Underground and take a ride to the Hologram Theater.”
As we headed back down to the Underground; the floor under the main floor, Roger told me about the division called Sight and Sound. They are part of the Systems Engineering Department.
“We have over 60 people that design our lights and special effects, as well as program and operate them. We design and build our own lighting, speakers, and lasers, in-house. We hold over 300 patents on special effect lighting and lasers, particularly holograms. All video lighting, sound, and effects come through this division. Our Pyro team takes care of all the flash pots, flames, fireworks, and explosions. You’ll see them with the bright, iridescent polo shirts with ‘PYRO’ on the back of them.”
As we took an electric cart and drove through the underground to where the Hologram Theater is, we passed a warehouse section called, ‘The Holiday House.’ Mark said to me that that’s where they store all the Halloween and Christmas Props. “To many of our employees and guests, that warehouse holds a lot of fond memories and fun,” Mark said.
“Is that where you store the Halloween props for Evening in Terror? I asked.
“Yes, it is. The Halloween props are brought up to the State Fair alleys, and when the State Fair closes, we bring the props out onto the floor. It takes us about thirty minutes to set everything up. When the guest comes back for the event, the lights are mostly all out, except for the ambient lighting to make everything look eerie.”
“I believe you also have someone playing spooky music on the organ, complete with fog and fire effects? I asked.
“Yes, your right. The organist is playing about fifty feet above the ground. We use dry ice to cover the floor with a white fog and haze generators to make the lighting stand out."
Halloween and Christmas are top-rated events at the WOE. At Christmas, a giant Christmas tree is erected in the front of the State Fair and is illuminated in thousands of colors and changes lighting patterns throughout the day and night. During the evening, there is a magical Christmas show that takes place. After, the lights on the midway all change to Red and Green.
As we arrived at The Hologram Theater, we came to a staff only door and went inside.
“This is the belly of the Hologram Theater,” Mark told me.
All I could see was a mechanical web of steel arms and platforms with lights and screens on them. A show was going on at this time. We stood and watched for a few minutes. You could see different arms of lights move up and lower down below the main floor of the Theater. We then went back out and upstairs to the control room of the Hologram Theater.
“This is where the ‘brains’ of the Hologram Theater are Peter.”
We walked along this hallway, and I watched several employees watching computer screens and control boards through the windows. It looked like a mini NASA Control Room.
“The Hologram Theater is run by twenty-five separate computers and has a full backup system for all of them. In the worst case that both show systems go down, we can perform the show from this control room manually. That’s why these employees are here. This show will go on, just like every other show, no matter what."
This is the playroom for the Sight and Sound Division. New lighting, video, and effects are all tested here, before being installed in Metamorphoses or the Harmony Theater,” Roger explained.
We then headed back to the information desk, next to the World Stage. I could tell that Roger was almost done with his tour. As I thanked him, he told me how much pride he has in the work they do here.
“Many of the engineers and skilled workers get solicitations from other theme and amusement parks and ride manufacturers all the time. They know the talent we have here, and they want to hire them away,” said Roger.
“Are they successful?”
“No, they’re not. I think we have lost two employees for about a month each. Then they came back because they missed being here and love what they do here. We are constantly creating new shows, upgrading our attractions and have a desire to continue to, ‘blow our guest’s minds’ with what we can do. We strive to always deliver the best entertainment in the world and never let our guests down. In most cases, if we can dream it, we can build it. We are not limited by budgetary constraints. Our people know they are the best in the industry and absolutely love what they do and where they do it at.”
Thanks for reading! Until next time,
Marvelous Monday Blog - Welcome to the Neighborhood - Part 7. now Online! & Pictures from Florida State Fair and Universal!
Good morning, fellow WOE Friends,
It's Monday, for many the start of another work week and a chance to create something new or improve on something you've been working on. For me, it's this website. In fact, I added a new subsection yesterday, called; Peter's Pic's. It has many of the pictures I took on my visits to the Florida State Fair and Universal and Islands of Adventure.
Some of the pics are not what you would typically see, because they are intended that way. To give you a different view of the parks or an area not seen by many. I also included a few pictures with prices, as well as added some comments. I hope you like them. Let me know what you think.
You can find Peter's Pick's on the website, under Peter's Blog. I also included a link at the bottom of this blog and on the side of the blog page if you're on your desktop, or the very bottom if you're using your phone.
Welcome to the Neighborhood - Part 7 is now online! This is it. The climax is building, and the suspense is riveting (Like the hype?). The conclusion is this Friday.
Hope you enjoy your day.
Thanks for reading! Until next time,
Hello, Fellow WOE Friends,
We made it to Friday! Jennifer and I are back in Orlando to check out the Florida State Fair and Universal Studios. I'll have some pictures and comments for you on Monday.
Welcome to the Neighborhood - Part 6. is now online. The series is about to climax to the max, with Part 7. coming Monday, and the conclusion next Friday!
The WOE Special Event Love in the Air runs through Sunday. Jennifer and I took part in it on Valentine's Day. It was so lovely to lay on the artificial grass with our blanket and stare up at all the stars. The music was wonderful. She is allergic to Strawberries, but they had other fruit and chocolate galore, so she was happy! Everything was so well done.
I hope you enjoy the weekend!
Thanks for reading! Until next time,
Good morning, my fellow WOE Friends,
Tomorrow is Valentines Day, or the Feast of St. Valentine if you're looking to be less commercial. The other day, I thought to myself how many religious holidays have become commercialized with big business; Christmas, Easter, and Valentines Day. Whatever it takes to make extra money, I guess.
Jennifer and I celebrated early and ate out this past Sunday, to avoid the restaurant rush. Instead of flowers and gifts, we will exchange a homemade card we each make. We'll spend our money on more useful things, like the food at the Florida State Fair. Yes, we're back in Orlando this weekend and we'll be hitting Universal as well. I'll include some pics from both on Monday.
Today's interview is with the creator and mastermind behind the World of Entopia, Steven C. If you haven't read the World of Entopia - The Story, let me give you some background.
I was invited to go on a two-week family/working vacation to the World of Entopia last year, to write about their ten year anniversary. It was the first time my family and I stayed on property. I went behind the scenes and interviewed several of their employee's (six), which I have been posting here.
You have read Craig's interview, as well as Julie's. This interview is with Steven C., the person responsible for all of what takes place here. I don't want to give too much away of what happens on our two-week adventure, because that would spoil the story for you. This interview is from Chapter 7.
I hope you enjoy reading it!
I head out to finally meet the man who everyone says is responsible for all of this. I followed his directions, and just as he said, there was a set of doors to the left of the concession stand in the Dark Room. There wasn’t a sign indicating what was behind those doors, but it did say “Authorized Access Only” on the doors. I went through the doors and straight ahead was a desk with a staff member and a security guard stationed nearby. She greeted me, and I told her who I was and that I had an appointment to see Steven C. for an interview at 11 a.m. She verified the appointment and asked me to verify my identity with a finger scan. After I was confirmed, she told me to take the elevator to the 8th floor. I took the elevator as directed and then the elevator doors opened to a vast and busy room with an array of desks and small offices on the sides. People were busily working on their computers, talking with each other and on the phones. Floor to ceiling windows surrounded the office space so you could see the Dark Room on one side and the State Fair on the other.
I went to the check-in desk and told the young lady that I was there to see Steven C. Before she could answer, I heard a voice from the sitting area next to the elevator I just exited, say; “Peter, it’s nice to see you.” I turned around to my right and a gentleman, slightly overweight and wearing glasses, approached me and shook my hand.
I said, “Steven C?”
“Yes,” he said, “How are you doing Peter?”
“Great, how are you?”
“I’m wonderful. Come, follow me.”
We walked down the center aisle of the office area, past all the desks and what appeared to be hard-working employees. We reached near the end of the room and went into a modest office, with the same type of windows overlooking the Complex as the rest of the room I just went through. He invited me in and closed the door. He asked if I wanted coffee, as he had his own Keurig. I asked for decaf. As the coffee was brewing, he asked me how everything was going and how my working vacation was so far.
“It’s going wonderfully. I enjoy this place so much, and now that we’re staying on property, it’s even better.”
“I’m thrilled to hear that,” he said as he handed me my coffee and sat across from me in his lounge area. “So, have you interviewed any of the employees yet?”
“Yes, Julie the waitress and Jack Minselli, the Illusionist.”
“How were they?”
“I was incredibly touched by their stories and moved by what this place did for them.”
“They are good people. Much like everyone here,” Steven C. said.
“Does everyone have a story like theirs? I asked.
“Not everyone. Some employees are here because they were selected in the opening of the WOE and pursued by us for their talents. We went after many top engineers in the world and spent good money to get them here. Mechanical, electrical, computer and software engineers. Many worked for ride manufacturers and other theme parks before coming here.”
“I said to him, “I bet some of the companies weren’t so happy that you took their people.”
“No, they weren’t, but we offered their people a new world in which to explore all their talents and never have to tamper down their dreams or imagination due to profit. In twelve plus years, since the planning stages of the WOE, we’ve not lost one employee because they wanted to go back to their old job,” he said, “But many other employees needed a helping hand, and we were there to help. They, in turn, help us.”
I said to him, “I hear you have Employee Scouts and Talent Scouts that look for people and talent to add to the WOE.”
“Yes, we do. Sometimes we hear of an act or an employee who might really be very good at something: Remembering names, creativity, detail oriented, very personable, etc. We send a scout to consider them. If they feel they may be a good fit, we’ll sometimes bring in others to meet and interview them. If we like what we see and hear, we’ll give them an offer to try working here and then we see how things go. Usually for 90 days.”
I told him, “the two people I interviewed so far were at their end when the Scouts came along.”
“Coincidence,” Steven C. said. “Tell me about yourself and family.” I talked for about twenty minutes, explaining all that I’ve done. I told him about my failed business, my supervisor days, Sally and Jennifer and her cancer.
“That’s remarkable Peter. You’ve worn a few hats in your time and gambled,” he said.
“Yes, I did. Unfortunately, I lost,” I added.
“You did what you thought was right at the time. Unfortunately, running your own business maybe wasn’t the right fit for you, and I’m sure the timing of the recession wasn’t good either.”
I explained, “With my eyes not being too good, I can’t really do very much.” So, Jennifer brings home most of the money. I wish I could earn more. I also wish I could be working for a theme park, instead of just writing about them. I would love to help design attractions, especially at Halloween. We used to have our own yard haunt for a few years. What a blast.”
“Peter, if you and Jennifer were to switch places, would you blame her for trying to do something better for your family? No, of course not,” he said. “It wasn’t like you went to a casino and gambled all your money away or burned it up doing drugs.”
“No, you’re right. I just feel bad that we can't make more money and with Jennifer being sick now, I wonder what will happen if she gets worse.”
“Peter, don't worry. I’m sure things will work out,” Steven C. said. “Now, I’m sure you’d like to hear a little about me. Well, there’s not much to say. I’m lucky to be where I’m at, and I count each day here as a blessing.”
“How did you get started? How did all this happen?”
“Well, I’m the same age as you, and I’m also married to a beautiful wife and have a wonderful daughter. My wife’s name is Lisa, and she’s my assistant. My daughter's name is Laura, and she is a music teacher here at the WOE. She’s 23, married, but no kids yet.”
“I’ve always loved going to theme parks, concerts and family vacations, much like you, Peter. But for some reason, I didn't enjoy many of those places or events the same as everyone else. Instead of me just watching a band play on stage, I would be watching the lights or the crowd. I would think how much better the concert could be with better sound, lighting, seating and lower costs. I would cringe going to the bathroom and seeing urine all over the floor by the urinals and toilets, the stall doors that wouldn’t lock, the sinks that wouldn't work, and the smell. The women always have it worse because there are never enough stalls.”
“I know what you’re saying. I’ve written about all these same issues in my blogs,” I said.
“I know you have. You feel the same as I do when it comes to these issues. We have standards that are higher than what’s out there today. Whether it be for concerts, attractions, rides, shows, hotels, food, and costs. Everything we do here is set to a much higher standard than any place else in the world.”
“How do you do it? And how did it get started?” I asked him.
“Well, I worked at several places before working here, but that isn’t really important. How this got started was simple. I met an individual over thirteen years ago, who has a lot of money and wants to remain anonymous. I gave him all my ideas for a new theme park/entertainment complex, and he loved them. I spoke of how we could help so many people and help keep shareholders and investors from controlling our decisions by always putting profit before people. We would need to keep WOE private. This individual offered to pay for the entire project.”
“Do you mind if I ask how much that was?” I asked.
“Let’s just say more than two billion and less than ten. They never wanted to be paid back. But they always have free access privileges to come and go whenever they want.”
“Does anyone know who they are?”
“Only a few,” he said. “We have a few residents that are here, whose main job is quality control. They are always observing and taking in guest reactions. They report on employee courtesy, efficiency, quality of the food and friendliness of the service. Then, they report back to me. I do much of the same thing; I watch, listen, observe, study and then suggest innovative approaches or solutions. I help them create new shows, rides, and attractions. That’s how we improve and get better. It’s also worth going outside of the WOE and looking at how everyone else is doing things, and why and how they are doing them.”
“Sometimes, you can see an act or a show or a band and think, ‘Man, what they could use in this show is this,’ or ‘how you could add a few elements to this act to make it really ‘POP!’ That’s why we are always looking for the best entertainment and employees in the world. We want to find people we can help, and they can help us get better in return.”
“What about the national acts you bring in? The big-name singers, bands, and entertainers? Do you find them, or do they solicit you?” I asked.
“Both,” said Steven C. “Some request an audition to perform, and sometimes we approach them.”
“They must audition? Even if they are a national or internationally famous act or singer?” I asked.
“Yes, everyone that requests to perform at the WOE or the Harmony Theater must first audition. Even if they’ve been around for 30 years, they must do an audition before being accepted or declined.”
“Why? If they’ve been playing for so many years? Who else does that?” I asked.
“Because many bands, singers, and entertainers, surprisingly, don't practice like they should. They don't rehearse and try to get better. Many just come back to the stage for money reasons. They may not even put on a good show, but they used their name recognition and made their money. Too much partying time and playing around and not taking their craft seriously. If they don't pass our audition, they are encouraged to keep practicing until we feel they can perform at a very high level and add to our top-notch entertainment. Some may never play here, and that’s unfortunate. But, if a guest is going to spend money to see an act, show or concert, then you better believe it will be the best entertainment with the best seating, lights, sound, and environment possible.”
“We have higher standards. Our attractions and rides hardly ever break down because the maintenance is above and beyond ordinary. Our employees are the best there is, and our atmosphere is made to entertain and relax you when you desire it. We are a mix of the best in entertainment and everything you love about vacations, to create a Utopia – the best in everything, all combined.”
“We also focus our attention on providing a very family-oriented environment. There is never extreme foul language used even in the comedy or concert venues. The drinking is limited to certain areas of the Complex and very closely monitored. We don't want anyone drunk and disorderly or starting problems with others.”
“We are a theme park,” he continued, “an entertainment complex, hotel, employee/family haven. We are a theme park 3.0. We have taken the theme park experience up a few more levels. And we do it with a commitment to investing first in our employee’s and our Complex. Always improving, striving to do more and to reach new heights. NO restrictions on where our imaginations can take us and no limits on caring for our most precious asset, our people. This philosophy is what makes The World of Entopia the best place for entertainment and vacations, and the best place to work, anywhere in the world.”
I said, “Everything you just said is remarkable. I wish everyone had this philosophy.”
“They could if they wanted to,” Steven C said. “But they choose profit over everything else. No matter how big they dream or how big of an idea to make something great, their accounting office always cuts it down to something smaller and less than what it should’ve been. There are many good companies out there with good intentions, but none of them provide what we do, especially at this scale and magnitude, especially in the entertainment industry! ‘Human selfishness causes many to not be treated fairly.’ Most in our industry don't mind socking you for parking, concessions, ticket prices, an unclean environment or broken rides or attractions being down because they’re not well maintained or are being ‘refurbished.’ It comes down to greed, and as long as guests keep paying and going to their parks, concerts, and hotels; then why should they change?”
“What do you think about Walt Disney?” I asked.
"Walt Disney had great intentions and was a visionary. Unfortunately, those leading the Mouse empire since then have made it hard for many families of modest means to really enjoy a vacation there. Disney now tends to cater to the higher income guests and many longtime Disney park visitors who cannot afford the prices are being turned away. I’m not sure that’s what Disney himself wanted."
"The Disney Company has a great engineering department and still creates some of the best attractions, parades, and fireworks show anywhere. But the ride maintenance is always lacking, and frequent breakdowns are commonplace. For some guests, a trip to Walt Disney World or Disneyland is a once in a lifetime experience. How disappointing it must be to have your favorite rides break down or be closed due to ‘refurbishment’ on a once in a lifetime visit, not to mention long lines for many attractions, in the outdoors."
"But, for many, the lure of the Mouse and princesses is what they’ve come for and just being there can be worth the time and money. Disney has shareholders, and they expect dividends and the stock price to rise. If you don’t produce, then you’re out of the leadership position. We don’t have that burden here. Our profits go back into our own company and our community. I still love going to Disney, because it’s a place I grew up with, and our daughter grew up with. But it doesn’t take me long on a visit to get frustrated by the enormous crowds, strollers, long lines and unreasonable prices."
“We’re not just here to entertain vacationing guests or provide great concerts, we’re also here to help those who work for us and our community. It’s part of taking care of good people and being a good steward of our profit."
With that, Steven C. thanked me for coming and doing the interview. He said he had other things to attend to but would be happy to meet with me for lunch down the road and talk with me some more. I thanked him, and he walked me back to the elevator and then invited me to bring Jennifer and Sally the next time, maybe for lunch. As he shook my hand, he looked me in the eyes and said, “it was really nice meeting you, Peter. I look forward to seeing you again soon. Enjoy your stay here at the WOE.”
I felt so grateful for this opportunity.
As I went back downstairs in the elevator and headed back to my suite, I just knew for sure how and why the WOE is the way it is, and I just interviewed the man responsible for it all. How genuine, caring and humble he is. A man who is not put on a pedestal and worshiped but is well regarded as someone who continues to help so many. I feel like the entertainment aspect of the WOE is merely a way to draw guests in, to help the guests and to earn money to help many of those who work and entertain here. This isn’t ordinary by any means, but maybe it should be.
Thanks for reading! Until next time,
Hello, Fellow WOE Friends,
I'm sure you're thinking what is so marvelous about Monday? Well, I now have some big news to tell you about the WOE!
First, Welcome to the Neighborhood - Part 5. is now online! If you enjoyed Craig's Interview from the 1.30.19 Blog Post, then you should start to really enjoy Welcome to the Neighborhood now. I won't say any more, but if you haven't started reading, you may want to check it out. I'll put the picture link on the bottom of this post.
I have completely revised the World of Entopia - The Story web page. Gone is the downloadable PDF and Word document and the Scribd. I have made some minor revisions to the story and loaded it into a normal text file. This should make reading on your phone screen much easier. If pulling the older format left you in a lurch, please let me know via e-mail. Hopefully, you'll enjoy the new format!
So, here is the news. If you did read the World of Entopia Story, you'll know I am not only the WOE Resident Author, but I'm also helping Steven C with new attractions, events, and expansion. It was always my dream to be part of a theme park and to help create new shows and attractions.
I was not allowed to say anything before, especially during my story, but now, I can start to tell you about some big things coming to the WOE. WE ARE EXPANDING!!! That's right, the WOE will be getting MUCH larger in January of 2020. And when I say larger, I mean way larger! This will enable the WOE to hire (and help) more employee's and bring in more guests.
The construction has been moving for some time and out of sight of most guests. But now, I have been given the Green light to start revealing details as we go along. So, this will be a great year of anticipation and I will keep you intrigued as go along.
I really appreciate all your interest and support!
Thanks for reading! Until next time,
Good morning, Fellow WOE Friends,
We've reached the weekend! The WOE is hosting a special event starting this Sunday, called Love in the Air. It will run for seven days. The serving of Campaign and chocolate covered strawberries for two only cost $10. You can also pick up a complimentary blanket to lay on.
The State Fair closes at 10 p.m. and the event starts at 11 p.m. Some of the artists performing will be Air Supply, Enya, and several opera singers, as well as a few of the bands from the Magnificent Twelve. The entire dome ceiling of the State Fair will light up with millions of stars and the ambient lighting in the whole Section will be beautiful.
There is no additional charge for the event if you have a daily Complex Pass or are staying overnight on property. Otherwise, if you are a WOE Member and are seeing an evening concert at the Harmony Theater, you can purchase a ticket for $10 each.
Part 4. of Welcome to the Neighborhood is now online. Part 5. will be available on Monday!
I hope you are enjoying the WOE Short Stories. When they have multiple parts, they are being written "live", one week at a time. This is because I am sometimes meeting with the guest or employee over several weeks to get their story.
Hope you all have a great weekend!
Thanks for reading! Until next time,