Friday, November 16, 2012

Flashback: I was a Disney Cast member - Part 2

For my first weekend at the Studios, I had to work with a Disney trainer. I mentioned that my zone was by the Backlot Tour. However, my training site was the Hollywood Boulevard zone. The costume was awful!! High neck, long sleeved white blouse with black bowtie AND a long, black (and HOT) skirt. I had to wear a ribbon attached to my nametag that said "Earning my ears".

Truth be told, it was a fun weekend to start at Disney! LGBT couples and families abound. There were definitely families who were not aware that it was Pride weekend. Opps! I remember the amazing after parties that were held in the park after it closed to the public.

Finally, I started in my zone. I started OUTSIDE at the nametag kiosk and was eventually "promoted" to the air conditioned AFI store. Luckily, the costume for the back of the Studios consisted of shorts and a polo shirt.

Sidebar: At the time, the Studios was the only park where you could wear your costume outside of your assigned zone. It was considered a "working studio" at the time so it was permitted. Ever notice that you don't see cast members dressed outside of their "land" at the Magic Kingdom? You can't be in your Adventureland costume in Fantasyland. Instead, MK cast members have to navigate the vast MK Underground and take the properly assigned stairs to "magically appear" at their land. I toured the Underground and it is quite the site! I peeked in the employee cafeteria to see Haunted House employees dining with a headless Minnie Mouse. AMAZING.

Here was a typical day. A security guard would check your Castmember ID and you would clock in. At that time, Cast members could clock in before their official start time as we were paid for our costume change and walk time. Usually, you were not supposed to wear your costume outside of the park. However, I knew many people who did not change if they closed that night.

I would go to the Costume window and let the costume mistress know where I was working and what size I needed. She would make sure you had your nametag. If you forgot, there was a bin of miscellaneous nametags. I would usually pick a random boys nametag if I forgot.

Once at my location, it was show time. We were encouraged to interact with the guests as much as possible.  We were helping people find their way (the infamous Disney Point) or entertaining the kids. I used to draw a hopscotch "board" with sidewalk chalk and get kids to play. If you haven't figured out already, we were called cast members because we were "on stage" while working. Always smiling. ALWAYS. Assertively friendly behavior was required.

We were empowered to do almost anything to turn a guest experience around. Immediate guest recovery was expected. If you want to read more on Disney Service Basics, this post is a good resource.

Guests were mostly nice. Usually overheated and stressed around their kids, so you felt for them. Guests were also pretty naughty! Cast member friends told me stories of guests getting busted for having sex on the Planet Earth ride at EPCOT or the Haunted House at MK.

You figure with all the smiling and "acting", Cast members have to blow off steam. Cast member nights at Pleasure Island were nuts, but so much fun! College Program cast members all lived at Vista Way, which we likened to Club Med. Lots of parties. Lots of hooking up. I was not a CP cast member :)

I left Disney when the fall semester got a little too busy. It was a GREAT experience! Sometimes people ask if working there makes the magic disappear. Maybe for some, but I really appreciate the attention to detail that Disney takes to make the experience magical.

And in case you are wondering, my favorite park is EPCOT. My favorite non park area is the Boardwalk, where you can watch EPCOT's Illuminations for free (parking is even free!).

Any questions???


  1. Loved reading your Disney posts!!!!! :)

  2. EPCOT is my favorite too! I loved reading these posts!! Thank you for sharing :)

  3. Very interesting. I love your namebadge!

  4. I loved reading both posts. I am fascinated by Disney behind the scenes!