Here at Theme Park Tourist, we're conducting a series of interviews with current and former Cast Members at Walt Disney World. These will offer an insight into Cast Members' day-to-day roles, the training that they undergo and the aspects of their jobs that they find the most rewarding. We might even uncover a funny story or two. They are a prelude to a new book: Creating the Magic: Life as a Disney Cast Member - if you're interested in being notified when this is released, sign up for our special e-mail newsletter. As we've conducted the interviews, one thing has become clear: training for a Cast Member role at Walt Disney World is not like training for most other jobs. While there are common guidelines and rules for every role (such as the famous "Disney Point", adhering to the Disney Look and picking up trash on sight), there are also some role-specific training elements that are a little unorthodox. We're likely to uncover many more of these as we conduct further interviews, but for now here are three unusual things that some Cast Members must learn to master.
3. Making towel animals
If you've stayed at one of Disney's hotels, then you'll likely have come across a variety of "towel animals" left in your room by Housekeeping Cast Members. Learning how to create such animals is part of the training for the role, as former hostess Amy Ziese recalls: "A few towel animals were standard and taught to everyone, like making a Mickey Head (three circles with one big towel and two hand towels)."
Some Cast Members, though, took things further - turning the creation of towel animals into an art form: "Most of the animals were things that individual housekeepers would come up with and share among themselves. My trainer taught me a few, and I would seek out other housekeepers who were good at it to learn what they were working on. Butterflies, ducks, and dogs were pretty easy for anyone. Some housekeepers got very elaborate though and would make things that required a lot of rubber bands and pipe cleaners. If you walk around resorts like the All Star that have outside windows, you can often see towel animals sitting in the windowsill that housekeepers have made for the guests." Towel animals aren't the only special touches left by Housekeeping when a room is cleaned: "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."
2. Avoiding running down giraffes
Working as an Attractions Cast Member on Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney's Animal Kingdom is one of the most unusual and unique roles at a Disney theme park. One of the responsibilities is driving the safari trucks that take guests on a tour of an area that is larger than the Magic Kingdom, pointing out all manner of exotic creatures on the way. The safari trucks on the ride are very real, and do not run on a track. The reason is very simple, as Amy (who also worked on the ride) recalls: "The animals are free roaming. Drivers will often need to swerve to one side of the road or another to scoot past a stubborn giraffe. While they can’t leave the road entirely, there’s enough wiggle room to help them navigate the savannah safely." Training for the ride focuses on maintaining the safety of guests and the animals: "Obviously driving the truck is one of the most challenging positions. While you’re trying to spot all the animals and point them out to guests, you’re also maintaining the appropriate distance between yourself and the next truck, keeping an eye on guests to make sure they stay seated, slowing down just enough for guests to try and get some great pictures, and keeping an ear on the radio in case there are any special situations (like animals in the road that will slow you down and keep you stuck in one area for awhile)."