Over the last few months, we've interviewed a series of current and former Cast Members at Walt Disney World. During the course of those interviews, we've learned about the good and the bad aspects of working at the world's most popular theme park resort.
There are hassles. The heat can be oppressive. Guests can be demanding - sometimes unreasonably so. And the roles can be repetitive. Very, very repetitive. We'll take a look at some of these downsides in a future article.
Still, almost all of the Cast Members we've spoken to loved their jobs. Some of the reasons for this are obvious - for example, getting the chance to drive a real, working steam train or to take visitors on a tour of a mock African savanna, admiring lions and giraffes.
However, when we asked the Cast Members for their favorite memories of working at Walt Disney World, we rarely received an "obvious" answer. Here are 6 examples of the hidden benefits of being employed by the Mouse.
6. You can be a performer
Let's face it: theme park employees don't always have the best reputation. In shows such as The Simpsons, they are almost always portrayed as spotty teenagers, bored out of their wits as they endlessly repeat the same, monotonous actions.
At Disney, though, things are a little different. Attractions Cast Members often play a vital role in bringing a storyline to life...playing a gangster on the Great Movie Ride, or getting into character as a sinister bellhop on the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Even the hosts and hostesses at the resort's restaurants get in on the action - chiding guests for resting their elbows on the table at the 50s Prime Time Cafe, for example.
Amy used to work on the Haunted Mansion at the Magic Kingdom, and recalls: "I always enjoyed the performance aspect of it. Because of the heritage of the attraction, people expected me to act a certain way. I enjoyed being able to glare at people for a laugh and if I was having a bad day I liked being able to look unhappy when at other attractions I had to plaster a smile on my face."
5. The little touches make a difference
In most hotels, working as a housekeeper wouldn't be considered the most glamorous of jobs. At Walt Disney World, though, even the act of cleaning a room can add to the guests' enjoyment.
One former Housekeeping Cast Member recalls: "We were encouraged to leave special touches for guests when we were cleaning occupied rooms. Many housekeepers learned how to create a variety of towel animals. Some even brought in their own pipe cleaners and eye stickers to dress up the animals that they would leave. We would also do things like set up stuffed animals to look like they were watching television, with the remote in the animal’s hand, or sit them around in a circle reading a book together. Leaving these surprises for the kids was a lot of fun and the absolute best part was when you were lucky enough to walk by as they were coming back into their room so you could hear the kids’ reactions as they saw the little surprises."
4. You can give kids wings
We've all heard stories of children with serious illnesses breaking into a smile for the first time in months as they meet Mickey Mouse. But it's not just the characters at Disney's theme parks that can help brighten up the visit of such a child and their family.
A former Cast Member who manned The Magic Carpets of Aladdin at the Magic Kingdom remembers: "At the Magic Carpets there was a special ADA vehicle that was designed to have wheelchairs strapped into it. It was always wonderful to see young children that happened to be wheelchair bound and may not have had a lot of other options due to various health issues be able to ride our ride and literally fly into the air. Faced with more restrictions than anyone should ever have to experience, these kids could fly with the wind hitting them in the face, soaring high above Agrabah and Adventureland without a care in the world. The smiles on the children always made me a little emotional."