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Islander takes starring role at Disneyland

Gordon Free takes ghost dog Fifi out for a walk at Disneyland. Walking the dogs was just one of his jobs during his Disney Dream Jobs stay in California. - Photo courtesy of Disneyland Resort Public Relations
Gordon Free takes ghost dog Fifi out for a walk at Disneyland. Walking the dogs was just one of his jobs during his Disney Dream Jobs stay in California.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Disneyland Resort Public Relations

It was a busy four days for Gordon Free walking the dogs, keeping up the house and catering to guests.

But it wasn’t a severe case of spring cleaning at the Free household. Instead, the Freeland man found himself working hard as a butler at the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland last week.

With a little help from his friends, Gordon Free got to play a starring role at the amusement park.

Earlier this year, Free wrote, produced, directed and starred in his own scary movie along with his friends and family in a contest to win a “dream job” at Disneyland. Free was picked from hundreds of applicants to be a butler at the amusement park’s famed Haunted Mansion for a few days.

The software engineer reported for duty June 9.

After a couple of days of job training and a behind-the-scenes look at the park, Free slipped into his butler outfit and greeted park guests at the mansion and walked ghost dogs on the premises.

“The best parts were the things that sounded kind of lame when they told us about it, like walking the ghost dogs,” Free said. “But that was actually a lot of fun.”

Free interacted with children visiting Disneyland and told them stories about Fifi and Buddy, his two invisible canine friends.

“They came up and wanted to pet Fifi and Buddy. I would say stuff like, ‘Don’t tell Fifi, but Buddy is my favorite,’ and the kids would laugh,” he said.

He would also act as if he was making the dogs do tricks, much to the young park visitors’ delight.

In January, Disney Parks and CareerBuilder.com kicked off the nationwide Disney dream job search by inviting people to submit a video entry explaining why they should be chosen for a Disney dream job in one of five categories: honorary Jungle Cruise skipper, honorary pirate, honorary Haunted Mansion butler or maid, honorary princess-in-waiting or honorary parade performer.

Nearly 1 million votes were cast on Careerbuilder.com, and five winners in each job category were picked nationwide and given the chance to live their dream for one weekend.

Gordon had been especially interested in the special effects and the behind-the-scenes magic at Disney parks.

“It was great. We got to see the park before the park opened with the lights on,” he said.

The honorary cast members enjoyed a once-in-a-lifetime weekend at Disneyland Resort, complete with costume fittings, hair styling and make-up to help them look the part. They also got a class in “Disney Traditions,” attended rehearsals, and participated in interviews with media from around the country.

After two days of training, Free got to live out his dream, filling in as one of the Haunted Mansion butlers. It took only about 35 minutes to turn the Whidbey Islander into a butler with costuming and make-up.

“We had it pretty easy, but the pirates and the princesses spent a lot of time getting ready,” Free said.

Some cast members acted as mentors for the newcomers.

“It shouldn’t be surprising, but all the cast members were really, really friendly,” Free said. “They showed us all around.”

The trip was a big hit, and not just for Free.

“It was so much fun,” he said, adding that his family got to come along and spend the days at the park while he was at work.

“They had a great time, but I only got to see them at night,” Free said. “They kept us really busy.”

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