Over the last few months, we've carried out a series of interviews with current and former Cast Members at Walt Disney World. We asked them about their day-to-day duties, the rules they have to follow and the hidden secrets that guests may not know about. We asked them about the upsides - with surprising results. And, naturally, we asked them about the downsides. Those of us who haven't been employed by Disney carry many romantic notions about working for the Mouse, creating "magic" all day, every day. But, of course, the reality of operating a resort that handles tens of thousands of visitors every single day isn't all pixie dust. The Cast Members we spoke to were quite open about the negative sides of their jobs, and we feel it's our duty to share them with you...in the hope that you'll appreciate the role they play in making your vacation a great one even more. Note:We know that some Disney fans hate to see the company criticised, and it'll pain them to read about the downsides of working at Walt Disney World. But stick around to the end of the article, and you may just be rewarded with a glowing feeling.
6. It's hot. Really hot
Particularly during the summer, temperatures and humidity in Central Florida soar to uncomfortable levels. If you're a guest at Walt Disney World, you're probably sweating...and you're wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Imagine braving those same temperatures dressed like this:
Perhaps the worst park to work on a sweltering day is Disney's Animal Kingdom, which is notorious for its lack of shade and air conditioning. Amy, a former Cast Member on Kilimanjaro Safaris, remembers: "Animal Kingdom is probably the hottest park on property. It tends to feel much warmer there than it will in other parks because of all the lush foliage. There’s a lot of humidity down there among the dense plant life and you can really feel it. Working through a sweltering day was probably one of the least enjoyable parts of being at Kilimanjaro Safaris, particularly because the attraction doesn’t have any indoor positions." Of course, it rains a lot in Central Florida, too. Paul, who sold snacks at the resort, recalls: "I remember being caught in a large rainstorm out on the popcorn stand and sitting on the cart to TRY to stay dry."
5. You do the same thing over and over...and over
Many Cast Members have pointed out that in order to run a resort on the scale of Walt Disney World, it's necessary to implement very strict systems. That means repetition - and a lot of it. Here are a few examples:
- On a typical day, Walt Disney World's PhotoPass photographers will take between 100,000 and 200,000 pictures of guests at the resort. That's a lot of captured memories - and, of course, a lot of potential sales of PhotoBooks and mugs.
- Every day, Walt Disney World's Laundry Cast Members average a total of 285,000 pounds of laundry. On top of that, between 30,000 and 32,000 garments are dry cleaned every day.
- Cast Members serve up 10 million hamburgers, 1.6 million turkey drumsticks, 6 million hotdogs, 9 million pounds of french french fries and 300,000 pounds of popcorn every year.
Even the coveted Attractions positions involve plenty of repetition. Jungle Cruise Skippers, for example, deliver the same spiel over and over again, as former Skipper Amy recalls: "The official Jungle Cruise spiel was designed and written to entertain every possible type of guest with absolutely no chance of offending anyone. There are plenty of Skippers that deliver the spiel exactly as it is written. Those Skippers who venture off script do so at their own risk."
4. You're being watched
Disney is very fussy when it comes to ensuring that Cast Members do things exactly as they are told - and with good reason. Guests at Walt Disney World expect a certain experience, and Disney wants them to get it. "There are people who work at the theme parks whose entire job consists of experiencing attractions in street clothes and watching the Cast Members only to report what they see and hear to upper management," recalls Amy. "A Jungle Cruise Skipper never knows if one of these people is on their boat, so doing an offensive joke is not recommended." Even the words that Cast Members use are carefully controlled, as former Animal Kingdom Lodge concierge Mary Deacon explains: "When checking people in we had to greet guests with ‘Dumela! Welcome home! My name is Mary, how can I assist you today?’ Also, we could never say 'help' - it was 'assist', and 'no problems/worries' is always 'my pleasure'. Sounds silly however these little things Disney think of make all the difference. As Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is based on Africa we had lots of themed language we had to use but it makes all the difference I think!" That's not to say that all spontaneity is stamped out. "Every day even just checking people in [to the hotel] was great," recalls Mary. "People were very excited to be there and it was great to share in their happiness and add to it. I loved how as Cast Members we were empowered to make decisions such as giving guests extra things just to make their stay more magical."