If you have never worked for a theme park, you might imagine that any job at one, even cleaning toilets or scooping ice cream, would be amazing. It is exactly this kind of thinking that draws people to Disney’s College Program, entices kids growing up all over Central Florida to apply at the parks for their first job, and convinces retirees to “live the dream.”
While theme park work definitely has its perks, such as free admission and awesome discounts, many are shocked to find out that it’s still hot, backbreaking, difficult work for low wages. Even with all that in mind, however, some theme park jobs just seem like they would be incredibly cool. Yet surprisingly, some of the ones that seem the best are actually among the worst. Here are 5 Disney and Universal jobs that aren’t really all they’re cracked up to be.
1. Character performer
We all know that the characters are real, right? But several times per year, large groups of people compete to become “friends” with them. What better way to share the magic than to help little kids and adults live out their dreams of meeting their favorite pirate or princess? People often imagine idyllic scenes of smiling families and perfect poses.
The reality just can’t match the fantasy. Even those who are selected to be friends with face characters, such as the Disney princesses, also have to do time in fur. And those costumes are heavy, in some cases weighing upwards of 40 pounds, and often unbalanced, with most of the weight in the head. They are also extremely hot. Try wrapping yourself up in a mattress covered with fur and then stepping out into an August Florida afternoon.
It isn’t all fun and games with the crowd, either. Crying children, physically violent teens, and adult men with grabby hands are just a few of the things that character performers have to contend with on a daily basis. Even those in full-on gore as scare actors for Halloween Horror Nights are not immune. Getting slapped or punched, or having things thrown at you, is all part of the job.
2. Non-spieling ride attendant
What’s your favorite ride? How many times have you ridden it in a row? How long has the music been stuck in your head? While spielers have their own challenges with keeping their material fresh while going around and around in circles all day, at least they are performing for a crowd, which can be an energy boost like no other.
But those who aren’t spieling? They play an absolutely vital role, taking responsibility for guest safety through all parts of the attraction, but the highly repetitive work can induce brain fog. Checking safety restraints, pushing buttons, and loading wheelchairs can be confusing during training, but quickly become second nature—leaving plenty of time to contemplate what in the world you’re doing with your life…or at least to be thankful you’re not spending the next two hours walking the moving platform at the ride exit.