Last summer I spent my university break working at Walt Disney World, Orlando as part of an International College Program. Before, during and after the program, I was inundated with questions about what it’s “really” like to work for Mickey Mouse. Many of these were out of genuine curiosity, but some of them were just repeating widely circulated myths that everyone who works there is tired of hearing. Time to debunk some of the most common ones…
There’s a secret Disney language
There are certain company-specific words cast members (employees) learn when they complete Traditions (training) but it’s far from secret and can easily be found online. It’s mainly to do with maintaining the “show” of Disney, so any space you can see as a guest is “onstage” and private areas are “backstage”.
Cast Members are not allowed to say no or “I don’t know”
In Traditions, you learn about Disney’s high level of guest service, but they don’t explicitly tell you that you can’t say the word “no”. However if someone asked you a question and you responded like that, it wouldn’t be very good guest service anyway. Cast members go above and beyond to make sure every guest is happy and so will search out the answer if they don’t know it themselves.
There’s a secret underground world
Magic Kingdom, which is Disney World’s main park, does have a network of tunnels beneath it known as the ‘utilidoors’. These are used so cast members can get around the park from one area to the next without having to walk through a land where their costume doesn’t belong. However these aren’t underground but built on the ground level, with the park itself a level up! This is also only at this one park, and the rest just have a network of routes snaking around the perimeter.
Cast Members can’t mention the “competition”
In Orlando, the Universal parks are just a short drive away from Disney. However Disney really aren’t concerned with these parks, and actively encourage cast members to ask guests about their vacation and provide tips. If that includes recommending the best way to enjoy Butterbeer in Hogsmeade, then go for it!
It’s super cliquey
There are always rumours that the princesses don’t dare talk to the lowly custodians, or that certain cast members feel they are better than others – such as full timers versus college program kids. However it’s more the fact that you hang around with people similar to you, much like at school. You wouldn’t go sit with a random person from a random class in the same way you wouldn’t sit with a random person from a random area.
You stick with your coworkers because they’re your friends, and some of the full timers in my area were the nicest people I’d ever met! However all that didn’t stop me having a chat with Darth Vader on the way into work or high-fiving stormtroopers backstage…
Cast members get free admission to the parks and all their family and friends
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong! As a cast member, you get a Main Entrance Pass which lets you into all the parks for free, but there may be certain blockout dates around popular events and new openings.
They also only get a limited number of passes to give to family and friends based on how many hours have been worked in a year, so they’re not going to use them on their cousin’s friend’s aunty’s kids just because they ask them on Facebook.
Images – writer’s own