Walt Disney World has the nickname “The Happiest Place on Earth,” and indeed, when you’re in the theme park, it seems like it truly lives up to the name. Disney has been thrilling guests young and old at the Florida theme park since 1971, and doesn’t show any signs of stopping. Millions of people have passed through the gates, as have millions of Disney workers, also known as “cast members.”
Cast members see Disney from a different perspective, because they see how the “magic is made.” Many cast members have shared their experiences online to give guests an idea of the behind-the-scenes of Disney World. Seeing what it takes to create the magic day in, day out will change the way you see Disney World forever! Plenty of these apply to Disneyland too!
Benefits to Working at Disney World
Of course, there’s benefits to working at the magical theme park. Not only do you get free admission, but you also get discounts on food, beverages, merchandise, and more. If you’re a Disney fan, you can probably really appreciate the big savings your job can give you. Even your friends and family have some cheaper access to the magic, as you can get discount tickets, hotel rooms and even reduced Disney cruise fares. With all of these benefits, who wouldn’t want to work at “The World”?
Once you’ve started working at Disney World, you’re expected to follow a set of appearance guidelines. Disney calls this the “Disney image of excellence.” You must have clean fingernails, and if you wear polish, it must be a neutral color. You may not have visible tattoos, an unkempt appearance, or shaved hair. You are permitted to put hair that is longer than shoulder-length back if it falls in your face while working, and you must only color your hair in natural-looking shades, not extreme colors.
We all know that Walt Disney himself had a moustache, but he was very against his workers having facial hair because he didn’t want them to look “seedy” like carnival workers. Since 2000, however, Disney has relented on the facial hair rule…sorta. Cast members who have mustaches upon hiring may keep them, as can cast members who grow them while on vacation — Disney just doesn’t want to see stubble!
Never Break Character
Speaking of appearances, being a Disney character or cast member is a full-time job when you’re in the park. Unless you’re backstage away from guest eyes, you’re “in characer.” If you’re in front of guests, even if you feel sick, you need to remain in character until you’re gone from the view of guests. Disney does this to maintain the magic of the resort, and takes it very seriously. If you want to play a costumed character, such as Mickey, you will not only need to learn how to walk and act like Mickey, you’ll also have to practice your Mickey handwriting for autographs.
Guests will sometimes try to have fun with Disney characters, and ask them questions. The character will always have a Disney answer. For example, try calling Aladdin a “street rat” or ask Belle to recommend a book. However, remember, some Disney employees will play multiple characters, and they won’t reveal these to guest, so don’t ask!
Stay in the Disney Universe
Celebrities, other theme parks, and non-Disney items aren’t in the Disney vocabulary. You can’t ask Belle if she’s read Harry Potter for example, or ask Tigger about how to travel over to Universal Studios. Characters need to stay within the “Disney universe,” and that means pretending that everything is Disney.
Walt Disney was very big on keeping a certain appearance in Disneyland, and that tradition continues today in Disney World. He didn’t like it when people used one finger to point, so he insisted that the cast members use two fingers to point. There’s two more reasons why this is the rule: Using one finger is rude in some cultures, and two fingers are also easier to see. Next time you ask a cast member where an attraction is, watch how they point!
Dumb Disney Questions
Working with tourists can bring out some strange questions. Many Disney cast members rank “What time is the 3 o’clock parade” and “Why is it raining?” at the dumbest questions asked by guests.
If you do ask a question and the cast member doesn’t know the answer, they’re not allowed to say “I don’t know.” They’re required to find out an answer or get a manager. That’s just more of that Disney magic!
The Lingo of Disney Cast Members
The world of Disney cast members is a whole new world of language and terminology. For instance, when a guest happens somewhere that’s off-limits, they’re said to be going “off-stage.” “Code v” is used for vomit (you are in a theme park, afterall), while “101” is used for an attraction that isn’t working or functioning. Much of the Disney lingo or language is also just abbreviations, such as CM for cast member, Tower for Tower of Terror, Castle for Cinderella Castle, etc.
Want some details on the costumed characters at Walt Disney World? Here’s one secret you didn’t expect: Disney character workers share underwear. Many of the costumes require special Disney-issued jockstraps or tights, etc, and since multiple people might play a character, they need to share the clothing. Until 2001, cast members would just wear the clothing right after someone else, but a court battle ended that, so now cast members can wash the clothing then bring it back clean and fresh. Before that, some cast members had picked up scabies or lice — ew!
Another tidbit about Disney costumes is the size requirements. You need to be a certain size and height for many of the characters. Face characters, the term for characters lke Princesses, etc, will need to be a certain height. For example, Rapunzel’s cast member must be between 5’3 and 5’7, while Mulan must be 5’2 to 5’6. A costumed character like Mickey Mouse needs to be 4’8 to 5’2.
Keeping the Illusion of One Character
Disney wants you to believe that there is only “one” Mickey Mouse or Belle. It’s against company policy to have two of the same character out in the same place. You’ll never see it, and if you do, Disney’s going to be really ticked off!
Don’t Get Social or Selfie-ish
Disney frowns upon cast members sharing selfies taken backstage, and the same goes for sharing details of their job on social media. You’re not allowed to disclose anything about your job, and you’re especially not allowed to share anything about the behind-the-scenes aspects. If Disney catches you doing so, and can identify you, they can fire you. In 2016, after a child was sadly eaten by an alligator at Disney’s Grand Floridian Hotel, an intern named Shannon Smith shared a picture of an employee-only sign about the situation. She was disturbed by the sign which said ““If a guest asks if we have gators in the water around Tom Sawyer’s island (or any other bodies of water), the correct and appropriate response is, ‘Not that we know of, but if we see one, we will call Pest Management to have it removed.’” However, the sign wasn’t company-sanctioned, and the Magic Kingdom VP personally offered her back her job. This just goes to show they do watch what cast members post!
The Magic in Smell and Sound
Disney keeps the magic going and going for your senses. First, the music you hear in queues and throughout the park doesn’t really stop even after the guests are gone. Second, the company pumps delicious smells in certain parks of the park, in a process known as the “Smellitizer.” You’ll find a popcorn smell in Main Street plus the smell of cookies. The smells are emited from vents strategically located in the area. The smells don’t stop on attractions either: on Epcot’s Soarin, you can even smell oranges when you “fly” over an orange grove, while the Pirates of Carribean has a smell of wet wood.
Disney Cast Members Have a Code of Decorum
In addition to following a dress and appearance code, character cast members must also display proper decorum when in front of guests. Unless their role calls for it, cast members are not permitted to slouch, be outright emotional, or even eat when in costume. Even if not in costume but on the clock, cast members are expected to keep up that Disney friendliness. Now you have a better appreciation for everything they do to make sure you have the most magical experience, don’t you?
A Less Magical Task: Disney Trash
Disney has placed trash cans every 25 feet throughout their parks, and the cast members are required to pick up trash when they see it. The rule is everyone picks up trash, even princesses, and non-custodial workers. You may not bend down to pick it up, but are instead encouraged to do it gracefully with a “swoop.” Next time you’re at Disney World, be sure you throw your trash away and make the cast members’ job a little easier!
Unfortunately, at Disney World, children can get lost, especially in a big crowd. When this happens, Disney cast members follow a strict protocol. First, they radio in to an office to notify authorities.Parents that lose their children will be asked what the child is wearing, and the Disney employees will radio a description, then lock down the gates while the child is missing so that no one can exit the park.
Children that aren’t immediately reunited with their parents are taken to a Baby Care Center, where cast members will entertain children with toys, movies, etc while Disney tries to locate the parents. A Baby Care center is located in each of the four parks, and if your child is lost in another part of the resort, then the cast member will take them to an appropriate place. The best part of recent Disney technology are the magic bands, which have children’s information and can be scanned by the company to track down relatives.
Disney Has Flair
Flair, a universal term for pins and buttons, is on Disney cast members’ clothing and lanyards. Since the 1990’s, when Disney started pin trading, DIsney cast members are required to wear pins to swap with guests. Supposedly cast members need to have 12 pins on their lanyard at all times so that guests can swap pins with them. If you love collecting Disney pins, it can be quite fun to swap cast members for their pins, especially if they have exclusive pins you can’t get from any store.
Go Away Green
Disney doesn’t want you to notice certain parks of the park, and it uses a clever trick to “disguise” those areas from you. How? Paint. By using a blue-gree color Disney calls “Go Away Green,” they make it less likely that you’ll notice those things. Unless you’re looking for it, your eye won’t notice items painted in the color. These can include doors, fences, and admin buildings — all things that aren’t really part of the magic.