Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Flashback: I was a Disney Cast member - Part 1

I worked for Walt Disney World in the summer of 1997. I never really planned on working there. It just happened! Here's my part 1 of my story.

My friend heard that Disney was casting for the season as well as year-round employees cast members. They were hosting a day long job fair. I tagged along out of boredom really. I already had a summer job working at my college's Bio lab, assisting my professor with her botany project. I spent the days in the darkroom, developing pictures of this plant that tracked the sun. Anywoo, exciting stuff.

Back to Disney, we arrived at the job site (a large tented area) where Mickey Mouse greeted us, dressed in his safari outfit. Get it? Because people were "job hunting"! Oh, that Mickey. I saw that you could work just once a week and still get the park benefits (I'll cover those later). We completed applications and got called for on the spot interviews. They asked us what areas we were interested in as well as reviewed our previous experience. I indicated I wanted retail (it's what I had experience in). In retrospect, I could have been a character as I was the right height to place Minnie, Chip and Dale, etc.

I passed the first interview (so did my friend). Because I was interested in retail, I had to take a math test. The testing took place at the Casting office (visible from I-4). I passed that test and then waited. And waited. Then I got called back to a recruiter's office and got my offer! I was hired for weekends and was assigned to the Studios in retail. At that time, you were hired for a zone. My zone was near the Backlot tour. My retail spots included the American Film Institute store, souvenir nametag kiosk, Ellen's Bookstore (from Ellen's sitcom!), and a photography stand. You got assigned to whichever area needed you the most.

Before I could start at the Studios, I had to go through Orientation Orientation was called Disney Traditions. In 1997, Traditions was a two-day class. In researching for this post, it looks like Traditions is only 1 day now. Traditions was a crash course in all things Disney. We covered all the different parts of Disney (ESPN, Touchstone, etc etc). We were required to dress professionally--suits! You may have heard of the Disney Look Book. We received a pocket sized book that included hairstyle recommendations (!!!), jewelry requirements etc. Of course, all of this information is on their website now! My favorite part of Traditions was the scavenger hunt. In our business dress, we had to run around Fantasyland to find examples of attention to detail as well as hidden Mickeys. My group also visited the Polynesian Resort.

My class had all different cast members in it. Retail, Parking, Characters etc. There is definitely a pecking order. The hardest positions to fill are the "face" characters like all the Princesses, Prince Charming, etc. Costumed Character cast members usually played a couple of different characters. All characters had to also take an autograph class! You can definitely appreciate the need for Mickey's signature to look EXACTLY the same whether you are at EPCOT or the Magic Kingdom etc.

Before I forget, Disney benefits included free park admission at any time, quarterly free tickets to give to your friends and family, retail discounts, and Cast Member nights at Pleasure Island (RIP). I did not qualify for medical etc, so I cannot speak to those.

After Traditions, I had to attend a 2 day Retail class where we learned how to count back change "The Disney Way". Disney required that we count back change up to the original tendered amount. For example, your total is $17.25. You pay with a $20 bill. I would say, "Your change is 25, 50, 75. 18. 19. 20"  The change amount was NEVER displayed on the register. I'm sure we learned other things, but that's the big thing I remember. I also remember that we rode Tower of Terror before the park opened. You know, to help wake us up for class!

Next post: My first weekend...which happened to be during Pride weekend ;)


  1. That is so cool you got to work there. My college work experience was Banana Republic & that's it. :(

  2. This is the best blog post! Can't wait for more Inside Disney!

  3. I love this post!!I can't wait to hear more.

    It cracks me up that you had to ride the Tower of Terror!

  4. I love their attention to detail and wish more businesses did the "change countback" thing. I'm so old, my family stayed at the Polynesian the first year they opened!

  5. I love their attention to detail and wish more businesses did the "change countback" thing. I'm so old, my family stayed at the Polynesian the first year they opened!