Home » 6 Reasons Why Disney Cast Members and Universal Team Members Love Working Special Events

    6 Reasons Why Disney Cast Members and Universal Team Members Love Working Special Events

    DHS at Night

    While separately-priced after-hours theme park parties like Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights and Walt Disney World’s Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party are sometimes referred to as special events, I prefer to think of them as hard-ticketed public events. They are often fun to work, but carry many of the same concerns and challenges as regular daytime operations, such as stressed-out guests trying to fit it all in and stressed-out team leaders trying to hit hourly counts.

    When I think of working a special event, I think about the private parties. An individual or a corporation rents out part or all of a theme park for an invitation-only celebration, creating a unique opportunity for both guests and employees to experience the park in a whole new way.

    Here are six reasons why I loved these events as a Disney Cast Member and as a Universal Team Member.

    1. Party atmosphere

    DHS at Night

    Private special events often feature catering stations and temporary bars set up along the walkways. If the rest of the park is still open to the public, the event area is roped off and guests must show some form of ID such as a wristband to be allowed inside. These touches create a sense of exclusivity and heightened excitement that is truly infectious. Being inside the ropes, smelling the food, and watching the bartenders create special concoctions is exciting, even if you are there for work and not for fun.

    2. Fun-loving guests

    Image Works

    While most guests that employees encounter throughout the day are having fun, many of them are also slightly on edge. The theme parks are huge and tough to cover in a day, and Central Florida weather is often hot, rainy, or both. During daytime operations, everyone seems like they are distracted and in a hurry.

    Many private events are held at night, when the rain is usually over and the temperature is somewhat cooler. In addition, they are typically limited in scope, consisting only of a handful of attractions across a themed land or two. The guest list is generally small when compared to the number of people who fill that area during a typical day of operations. For these reasons, event guests know they have no reason to hurry or to stress out about getting everything done. They are with friends or family members, treated like VIPs, and generally in the mood to party. Their excitement sets a fun tone for the event that is easy for employees to mirror.

    3. Relaxed coworkers

    Imagination Cast Members

    Working at a theme park is often tough, no matter how much you love your job. Conflicting priorities, cranky guests, ride breakdowns, and other unexpected challenges can make it hard for even the best employees to keep smiling. Special events, however, generally utilize more staff than is strictly necessary in order to provide the best possible show. Employees often work in teams, bouncing off each other to keep their energy up and flowing. With fewer challenges and more assistance with anything that does go wrong, the entire team is generally happy and relaxed.

    4. Low hourly counts

    Empty Thunder Mountain Cars

    The hourly count is the number of guests who experience an attraction during a given hour. Counts are taken very seriously at the theme parks, and employees are under constant pressure to meet certain targets. This can make them feel frazzled, especially when something goes wrong that could affect the count.

    At a private special event, hourly count goals largely go out the window. There is generally plenty of time during the event for all guests to experience all of the available attractions, and ride vehicles are routinely half-filled or less. With no lines building, there is no need to set efficiency targets, so employees are able to relax and take their time with the loading process.

    5. Personalized guest interactions

    Streetmosphere Cameraman

    Theme park workers are always encouraged to have meaningful exchanges with guests, but the realities of busy operational days make it tough. Without hourly count concerns on the employee’s end, or the fear of not accomplishing everything at the guest’s end, interactions between employees and guests become more personal during a special event. Sometimes a guest just wants to stand around and talk about something that is meaningful to him, such as a hobby or personal interest. Some guests ask for insider information or trivia about the parks. Some get drawn into a game of catch or a similar activity initiated by an employee. Whatever the guest’s interests might be, a special event provides plenty of time for personalized interactions.

    6. Going off script

    Jungle Cruise

    Spieling employees are generally expected to precisely follow their written script. Some attractions provide a few different approved alternatives, as is the case with certain Jungle Cruise jokes, but attractions employees are not supposed to improvise or significantly deviate from the approved material. In general, this also holds true during special events. However, a special event gives spielers the opportunity to read their audience and deliver a show that works for them. For example, you might get a vehicle full of super-fans of your ride. Rather than having you deliver a standard show, they could request that you spend the journey giving them fun facts about the ride. At a special event, you have the opportunity to give them what they want without worrying about ruining the show for others.

    I worked a special event at Kongfrontation on the night of Bill Clinton’s election. There were TVs in the windows of some of the apartments in our New York set, and someone had tuned them all to election coverage. The election was the hot topic of conversation that night, with guest after guest trying to find out if we had heard who won. My tram was about half full when we passed by one of the televisions. I looked over in time to see the words “Clinton Wins” pop up on the screen. I broke character to make the announcement to my guests, who promptly broke into raucous applause. I then slipped back into character and continued the ride. I believe it was the right choice for that particular group of guests at that specific event, but it was something I never would have done during a normal operational day.