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Mickey Mouse

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:

Image: Disney

 

Or this... Bellhop

Image © Disney

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

PhotoPass

Image © Disney

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

Jungle Cruise

Image © Disney

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."

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Comments

I'm a former cast member and it was one of my favorite jobs I ever had and I used to have my own business and I would still take working for the Mouse over any job I ever had. I worked in merchandise on Main Street at Magic Kingdom and I loved it and all of my coworkers and managers were the best. If I ever had a bad day it never showed in front of guests. And I had some really bad days while working all of my family was in Mo. And while I worked there I lost two of my Aunts back home and got the news when I was working I went back stage and lost it but my coworkers and managers were wonderful they let me get my self back together and back to work I went. It's the greatest place in the world to work and I highly recommend it for everyone. I loved making the guests happy and seeing all the children smiling!

We visited WDW Magic Kingdom and loved it. We had sat down at an outside table for a refreshing drink to cool us in the heat of July. It was very hot that day but I was so impressed how members of the cast walked the streets and interacted with all the patrons and all had smiles on their faces, were very talkative, and made the experiences for adults and children one to remember! I don't remember now where we were exactly but a woman and man dressed as a type of princess and knight walked up to our table and started talking in their wonderful accents to our girls and interacted with them for several minutes. All while in their impressive and I'm sure very hot costumes! Our girls had smiles from ear to ear and I know that they felt so special at that moment to have been singled out and approached by "Disney characters" that in their minds were so real! Those two special employees made all of our's day!And I want to say, that we experienced such friendliness throughout our whole day from all the employees we encountered during our visit except for one very unhappy worker for which I just smiled and wished her a good day! There's no need for anyone to be rude back bcuz we never know what others may be going through even when they are at work. We all have days like that and the only thing to do is be nice and continue on with our own day! Never, never, be rude back bcuz the very next day may happen to be one of our unhappy days which may also be during our workday as well. Treat others how you would want to be treated even when we may not be at our best. It's Disney World, where Magic happens, and with being nice even though that employee was unhappy at that moment, I may have lifted her spirits just by being nice to her!!! So while we all may have pros and cons about our day at Disney, whether it be as an employee or visitor, its a Magical experience for all!!!

It's the only workplace in the past 20 years (out of 6) that I always looked forward to going to. Even at the end of a long, hot day, I looked forward to coming back again. I always felt proud on my way to work, or when visiting on my time off and being some unknown guy sharing my knowledge and experience with guests. I miss it just about every day (and I'm a local with an annual pass who visits at least twice a week).

Former CM here. I can attest to most of these. I worked in Tomorrowland on the college program, at the jungle cruise and at a store in DTD. I will say I never had a "plainclothes" rider (that I know of) on any of my boats, but they would send managers and coordinators through randomly. I am still of the opinion that the best skippers add their own flavor! Jungle was similar to safari though in that none of our positions were indoors. Even our break room was outside! I will say the last is true though. I met my husband at disneyworld, and some lifelong friends. It's a crazy job, but being able to create lasting memories for families is just not something a lot of people get to experience.

A job that I take my hat off a salute those that do this with great success!! I've sttod in line and listened to the cruise director as the cruise started and then ended as they made their approach for my turn to ride the attraction came. These employees endure all types of weather and still give their tour with a smile and uniqueness that makes each experience one to remember. I have not seen anyone on our recent trip to Disney act as though they were tired of the repeating of their roles. They go out of their way to make each and every passenger have the best experience and as we were able to witness, they incorporated the weather issues right into their presentations which only showed how well suited for the position they were!

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