On 3 October 2014, after a month of interviews, tests and training courses, Sonia Demay and Romina Grochow were named 2015/2016 Disneyland® Paris Ambassadors. This was to be the first step in an adventure which officially began this 1st January. Combining tradition, heritage and modernity, Sonia and Romina, who now represent all Disneyland Paris Cast Members, prepared for this unique program that goes back to Walt Disney himself.
The first steps
Romina will never forget 3 October 2014. “When I heard my name I had trouble understanding what was actually happening to me. Even though I had been prepared, it is a true festival of emotions. You are immediately picked up in a swirl with the first interviews, an official photograph in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle, a pre-parade in front of thousands of guests in the park.” On that day, 17 Ambassadors who contributed to the history of Disneyland Paris were present for the 50th Anniversary of the programme. “We all had lunch together after meeting with Tom Wolber, our President. The exchange was very enriching. At that moment we felt the responsibility we had taken upon our shoulders. To be Ambassador for a Disney destination for the next two years is a unique opportunity” Sonia confides.
For nearly a month she and Romina went back to their former jobs: Sonia in charge of Products at the Merchandise division, and Romina as Receptionist and Concierge at the Castle Club of the Disneyland Hotel. On 1st November they began their “shadow” period, two months during which they would train next to the Ambassadors at the time, Jonathan Rabeute and Antonella Giallombardo. That period was determining to settle in and understand the diversity of their missions at a daily level before the final transfer at the end of the year.
The initiating trip to the U.S.A.
The traditional discovery trip to the American Disney parks remains one of the key moments. Sonia and Romina joined the other new Ambassadors and spent ten days with them at Disneyland Resort in California, then Walt Disney World in Florida, for a programme enriched with encounters, training courses and discoveries. One does not improvise the part of an Ambassador. They took courses to learn to talk in public, to meet journalists, write speeches, as well as in-depth courses on the Disney history and its heritage. Each day offered an opportunity to interact with the teams in the parks and backstage, which helped assess the whole organisation and the roles each one represents. The stay also included a visit to the Disney Studios in Burbank, and the headquarters of Walt Disney Imagineering in Glendale. Their fondest memory is the discovery of the future projects for the parks throughout the world, only to be topped by the moving visit of Walt Disney’s private apartment in Disneyland, which to date has remained furnished and decorated as it was.
“I truly felt the ‘Disney family’ spirit during this trip. We came from all walks of life and yet we became very close during those ten days. It’s incredible”, Romina remembers. “One can’t imagine all that goes on at Disney, elsewhere: whether it’s in Hawaii, Tokyo, and now even in Shanghai. But during that period we discovered all those colleagues who, like us, dreamt of being an Ambassador”, Sonia adds before adding, “We also saw all those guests who come from the world over, who are touched by Disney and who recognised us in the park while we had only been named a few weeks earlier. That’s when we understood the strength of this company.”
Preparing the role
As soon as they returned to France, Romina and Sonia were plunged into the daily role of an Ambassador. They are everywhere, whether conducting a ceremony in honour of Cast Member seniority, inaugurating a new boutique on Place de Rémy or a break-room backstage, participating in training courses on the art of service and entertainment, visiting a hospital with the Disney VoluntEARS, looking in on Cast Members on New year’s Day or welcoming underprivileged children for a day of solidarity at Christmas time. They were present everywhere and have progressively gained autonomy as Jonathan and Antonella soon let them on their own.
“They stood by us to the end, over the telephone, by email and in spite of their own new activities. We know they will be by our side if we need them. The Ambassadors are a united family. We sincerely wish to thank them. Now we must live up to what is expected of our role”, Romina insists, smiling. She remembers January 1 perfectly, when she and Sonia officially became the new Disneyland Paris Ambassadors. “As I changed the profile and cover photographs of our official Facebook page on that holiday, it really hit me. It was our turn. The ball was in our court.”
The Ambassadors can suggest and carry projects all along their mandate, and they all wish above all to leave their footprint in this historical tradition. The notion of a family impressed them, and Sonia and Romina already have ideas to draw in their colleagues from the world over to engage them and have them work in synergy on various projects. They also want to continue meeting guests, fans, and of course the Cast Members. “They are the heart of this company. We want to continue putting them forward, working with them and show the added value they are to the company.”
Good luck to Sonia and Romina in these new roles!