My favorite Disney souvenir ever.

UPDATES:

  • 2019-04-07: Added more details from a newsgroup post I made back in 1996.
Photo by Allen Huffman of DisneyFans.com

Okay, this article is not really about my favorite Disney souvenir. I think my all-time favorite amusement/theme park souvenir would be the park map posters everyone used to sell. I previously mentioned that I still have my original 1983 EPCOT Center poster (though this is not a photo of mine).

I had park maps from my first theme park, Astroworld in Houston, Texas. I believe I also had one from the original Six Flags Over Texas near Ft. Worth. I may have picked up a few others over the years, but my EPCOT Center one is the only one I know I still have.

But there was one particular items that was incredibly unique and lots of fun. If you’ve ever been to a Disney park, you certainly have noticed the cast member name tags. Traditionally, Walt Disney World cast members would wear ones that had their origin city and state/country. Disneyland’s usually did not (since so many of them would just say Anaheim, California), though for the 50th anniversary in 2005, cast members in California had the year they started working in the park there. I was impressed with how many I ran into that had 1960s and 1970s dates!

But I digress.

The traditional CM name tag just had a first name, city and state (or city and country, like Paris, France). Around 1996, a little wagon appeared on one of the side streets at Magic Kingdom (there were two side streets back then) that would make you a custom Disney name tag that looked exactly like the cast members, except it was red:

Custom Disney name tags at Magic Kingdom on August 27, 1996.

If you didn’t want one of the generic pre-made ones, they had a machine that would engrave a custom one:

Custom Disney name tag engraver on August 27, 1996.

The fun part about these name tags was that, at the time, this was the only place you could get them. Cast members working elsewhere in Magic Kingdom or in other parks were unaware of them. This led to some interesting things.

First, they all seemed to assume I worked for Disney. This surprised me since I had long hair and facial hair. At the time, cast members where required to have the “Disney look” and be clean shaven. I also looked as much like a tourist as one could (though I guess I sometimes had unusual equipment with me that most tourists did not). They mostly seemed to think I worked for Imagineering or Animation or some other “home office” type position.

I even had a bartender at the Catwalk Bar at Disney/MGM Studios initially refuse to serve me alcohol because he thought he would get in trouble.

When I wore the name tag to Disneyland, which hadn’t begun selling them yet, the reaction was similar.

For the sake of public record, I am going to say that I always explained to them it was just a souvenir that anyone could buy at Magic Kingdom.

Maybe one day I will say something different ūüėČ

Eventually, they changed the name tags so they looked different from cast member tags, and eventually made them all say “Guest of Honor” on them.

Disneyland Guest of Honor name tags from 2002. The ones shown here were gifts I made for the members of a stage comedy act I was involved with.

It’s almost as if they had an issue with selling guests name tags that looked exactly like cast member name tags…

UPDATE: I ran into a post I made to the rec.arts.disney.parks newsgroup on 11/27/1996 about these tags. Here is what I had to say back then:

The red name tags lasted about a week.  I was there the second day they sold them, and at that time they would engrave your name and home town on them.  THey looked just like Cast Member tags except they were red and had stars to the left and right of Micky.  By the end of the week, they were no longer putting the home town on them, just 1996 VIP GUEST instead.  I bought bundles for friends of mine on Genie (whom I still have to send out, in case they catch this post :).

There were “security problems” with them. ¬†Uninformed cast members kept asking if I was some kind of supervisor (digital camera, wandering around looking at details, asking alot of questions, I can see it . . .).

I have a picture of the cart they sold it from as well as the engraving
machine and name tag display I can add to my website if anyone was curious to the operation.  Also, if you get the VR image of Disney World Main Street from the WDW Explorer CD or from the WDW website, you will see the little red cart sitting in a side isle.  This is where they sold the tags.

My 11/27/1996 post to rec.arts.disney.parks

Until next time…