OFFBEAT TRAINING LLC: Our subject today is Disney,
Walt Disney World (WDW) that is.
Since 1999, Lenn Millbower lead a double life.
At the same time he was writing and speaking for national
training conferences, he was still employed by WDW.
Although having developed a national reputation,
Lenn kept his outside activities quiet while working hi
Lenn, why did you stay so long?
LENN MILLBOWER: I was having too much fun to leave.
OFFBEAT: You were there how long?
LENN: 25 years! It was a very long time that went by very quickly.
OFFBEAT: How did you come start at WDW?
LENN: I was a member of the music-magic group show group called Murphy’s Law and performing on The Emerald Seas cruise ship out of Miami.
LENN: It was a wonderful experience, but got old after a while. After a year on the seas, I was ready to stop traveling, and of the 40 US states I had seen, I liked Florida the best. I especially was a fan of Epcot. On some time off from the cruise ship, I went to Epcot and came away with two emotions: (1) inspiration about the future that Epcot showcased and (2) a strong desire to be a part of that story. When our cruise ship contract ended, Murphy’s Law mutually agreed to dissolve. I decided to live my Epcot dream.
OFFBEAT: Where did you start?
LENN: On the Listen to the Land Boat Ride as a tour guide host. I quickly became a trainer and in the process of successfully training 26 people. I began rewriting the training materials, and eventually the spiel itself, which I then had to everyone on.
OFFBEAT: Was the boat ride all you did?
OFFBEAT: What happened next?
LENN: Leadership sent me to the Disney-MGM Studios where I was a character lead (those who escort the Disney characters), and a Character stage manager for Here Come the Muppets, The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Aladdin’s Royal Caravan parade, and the Voyage of the Little Mermaid. And of course, because training was in my blood, I created a highly successful a lead development program.
OFFBEAT: Didn’t you fall victim to cutbacks.
LENN: Yes. In 1994, I think, I lost the management spot and was transferred back to Epcot, only this time in Entertainment. It was the very first year of the Epcot Flower & Garden Festival and Epcot management had decided to, in a first, add Face Role Characters. I was tapped to create the training for, and then train, Epcot’s very first Aladdin, Jasmine, Belle, Cinderella, and Snow White. I was also placed in charge of all Epcot Entertainment Training where I wrote the orientation, the character training, and the leadership training. It was a wonderful time and I would have stayed forever, but Disney’s Animal Kingdom (DAK) would soon be open.
OFFBEAT: So, I understand that you were on the DAK opening team.
LENN: Yes, it was an amazing time. I worked six months straight, seven days a week, 10-12 hours a day. I saw the place go from mud to lush tropical greenery. I also was tasked, again, with writing and/or establishing all the DAK Entertainment training for managers, characters, and technicians. It was truly a wonderful experience to see a Park come to life in front of my eyes.
OFFBEAT: What was next?
LENN: Once DAK was up and running, I was sent to the Disney University (DU), the internal instructional design arm of WDW, as a technical writer to write the global character training program: another amazing project. When that project was complete, I stayed with the DU instructional design team where I wrote, among many other programs, the custodial, housekeeping, food & beverage, asbestos awareness, and career development programs. I also had a hand in the College Program curriculum (for college students participating in a work-study semester at WDW) and Traditions (initial new employee orientation) programs.
OFFBEAT: And next?
LENN: From there it was to the Disney Institute (DI). Where the DU writes internal training, DI’s instructional design team writes training for external business audiences. The programs I was proud to be the designer of were The Disney Approach to Loyalty, The Disney Approach to Quality Service, and Quality Service for Healthcare Professionals. I loved them all, but especially to healthcare assignment. Ultimately, I was helping making life better for kids in beds. What, except for actual cures, could be better?
OFFBEAT: What caused the DI job to end?
LENN: 9-11-2001. Business slowed down so drastically that DI decided to cut its design team. I was transferred to Walt Disney Entertainment in a position created especially for me, Entertainment Instructional Design Training Manager. While there, I got to write training for the Fireworks crew, stage managers, producers, production managers, business fundamentals, orientation programs, and workshop training for new character roles. It was an amazing time. I could be discussing gerbs and other fireworks tools in the morning and chivalry with Snow White trainers in the afternoon. Where else in the world could you do all that?
OFFBEAT: So, we’re coming to the end of your Disney career.
LENN: Yes. I made an incredible difference in Entertainment, but could only accomplish so much as a one-person shop. I wanted to extend my reach through a team. The opportunity came up to be one of the leaders of Learning Solutions (LS). LS was a department of Operations Learning & Development (OL&D). OL&D worked for Operations, including all the roles a guest would likely come into contact with: attractions, entertainment, food & beverage, guest relations, housekeeping, merchandise, and transportation to name a few. The team I helped lead wrote all the operating guides, many of the training programs, and anything else connected with internal training that needed to be done. It was an incredible opportunity to make a difference for thousands of employees and I enjoyed it immensely.
OFFBEAT: But I guess it too ended?
LENN: Yes. There were a number of factors. OL&D was under going a downsizing. I was able to retire. And after 25 years, in all these different roles, and with all these different experiences, I was finding that my outside work as The Learnertainment® Trainer was starting to take too much time. I was not able to give fully to both and Offbeat Training LLC is my future. I will always be extremely proud of WDW, the joy we delivered to millions of people, and my own small role in creating that magic.
OFFBEAT: So what was next?
LENN: Applying everything I have learned through my Offbeat consulting, coaching and training and meeting design services. Also by delivering Like a Mouse℠ Walt Disney inspired keynotes and workshops. The reaction has been so favorable that clients have started calling me "The Mouse Man." And for trainings, speakers and teachers, my Learnertainment® Infused keynotes, workshops, multi-day programs and presentation skills coaching.
Please let me know if I can help any of you reading this. I have seen the prxue-dust up close and boy does it work. Give it a shake and POOF ... watch that magic take!
Lenn Talks About His Disney Career
Lenn Talks About His DIsney Career
Lenn was instrumental in the opening training aspects of not only
the entertainment division, but the unique fun training created
for all lines of business for Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Mark Potter, Training Director, Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Lifetime Achievement Winner
Lenn was honored by the Walt Disney Company with the prestigious Partner’s In Excellence lifetime achievement award. This internal employee award was granted in recognition of Lenn’s training and leadership accomplishments as a member of the opening training team for Disney’s Animal Kingdom.