Walt Disney World Cast Member Stories: Making the MagicBy Amy Ziese, Monday, July 15, 2013 09:00
Making magic as a Disney Cast Member isn't always what you might expect, but it's something truly special just the same.
When people find out that you've worked as a Cast Member at Walt Disney World, the most common question is simply “what’s it like?” The truth is that being a Cast Member is an experience that’s so unique it’s difficult to compare to the on-the-job experiences most people have. While not everyone buys into Walt’s ideals completely, this park is still governed by the guest service concepts that he so valued in his lifetime. When you step into one of the Walt Disney World parks, you’re supposed to feel as though you’re entering a completely different world, and Cast Members do what they can to keep the illusion alive.
Cast Members have a lot of tools at their disposal to make a little extra magic for the guests. One of the most exciting things about a Disney vacation is that you never know what might happen next. Jasmine may pull you out of line to ride a magic carpet with her. Darth Vader and his Stormtroopers could join you for an intergalactic adventure. Special stickers, buttons, and certificates are available at a number of different attractions for the random families that are selected from time to time to do something a little special.
As a Cast Member, you see both the best and the worst of theme park vacations. Watching thousands of guests filter through an attraction provides a lot of insights into what will really make or break a vacation. It’s inevitable that things will go wrong from time to time. Rides break down. Thunderstorms happen. Lines get long. The guests in line behind you may be the most annoying individuals you’ve ever encountered. One thing that nearly all Cast Members recognize is that the guests who have the most magical vacations are the ones who are willing to see the magic in just about any situation.
What many guests fail to realize is that simply taking the highs and lows of your vacation in stride and keeping a positive attitude about it all is the single best thing you can do to make sure you have a good vacation. Keep this mindset about you, and you’ll find that the Cast Members you encounter have nearly unlimited ways to make your vacation a little better. They really do want to make some magic in your day, but it’s always easier to do when you see a family that’s struggling to make the most of a bad situation as opposed to one that seems to view every situation as a staggering disappointment.
One of the trickiest aspects of working in attractions is dealing with height signs when they’re present. It’s not always easy to sprinkle pixie dust on someone’s day when you have to tell them that they can’t ride a particular attraction. Some guests become staggeringly upset when they realize that a child is too short to ride something.
Making magic doesn’t extend to bending the rules so a small rider can experience something in a potentially dangerous situation. For the families that are willing to work with the situation, however, Cast Members can offer rider switch passes that allow the party to split up so someone can wait with the younger child while the others ride. After the first group rides, a different family member stays with the child and the rest of the party can go through FastPass. As long as at least one person stays with the child, everyone else in the group can actually ride twice.
Dealing with a rider switch might seem frustrating at first, but if you just ask, the Cast Members at almost any location will be able to offer some great suggestions for things that the waiting party members can do in the meantime. You don’t have to wander around aimlessly. Just ask where the best bench, water fountain, restroom, gift shop, or kid-friendly attraction is in the area. Use your free time to talk up some Cast Members and find out about the area. There are always neat little details that they can point out to you. In your rush to see and do it all, you might miss these. Slow down and you’ll find there are lots of things you can enjoy in any situation, whether you’re stuck behind a parade when you want to cross the street, or the rest of your family is waiting in a 60-minute line for an attraction you want nothing to do with. Just ask!
Working as a Cast Member isn’t all about magic and pixie dust and having a giant mouse as your boss. Sometimes it’s just hot, sweaty, and tiring with long hours, big crowds, and six day work weeks. When an opportunity comes up for Cast Members to do something special, it makes their days as much as it does yours. Seeing just one child light up when his favorite character comes by in the parade makes it worthwhile that you spent the last 20 minutes trying to convince the crowds that it’s not safe to cross the street between gigantic floats and dancing characters. Hearing kids squeal with delight when they find your towel animals in their hotel room makes you feel a little better about the next six toilets you have to scrub.
The best thing about Disney magic is that it often works both ways. Like nearly any kind of giving, the gift of a little magic is as good for the giver as it is for the recipient. Very few people would deny that working in the theme parks can get tiring, monotonous, and even frustrating after a while. However, the one distinguishing factor that keeps dedicated Cast Members in the parks year after year is that Disney is a place where you can feel like you’re really part of it all. So, what is it like working at Disney? I guess it feels a little like stepping into one of their classic animated pictures. Your costume is a bit ridiculous, some of the characters around you are just over the top, and you might spend the day skipping through an enchanted forest or running from a manic villain. But at the end of it all, it’s a little bit magical.