Working at Walt Disney World is certainly an experience unlike any other. Before delving into the dirty parts of the job, it’s worth noting that there’s plenty of magic to experience when you’re pointing a child toward Cinderella, or seeing a guest light up at the sight of a Stormtrooper. I worked there in a variety of roles, and I couldn't recommend it more.
However, Disney isn’t all magical, and putting in those hours as a Cast Member has some distinctive down sides that guests probably don’t think about, and definitely don’t see. Let's take a light-hearted look at some of the lesser-known downsides of working at the world's most popular theme park resort.
1. The backstage areas no tour will see
So you’ve been on a backstage tour of Disney, and think you’ve seen all the super-secret sights? Did you encounter gigantic bins of garbage, greasy drains, and a hot rotting food smell that stuck at the back of your throat? No? Then you may have missed a little of the authentic Cast Member experience. No matter how well-managed food services and custodial are, a certain amount of waste is unavoidable. And at Walt Disney World it just so happens that that amount of waste is gargantuan.
Disney reports that over 1.8 million pounds of turkey drumsticks are consumed in its four theme parks every year. That gives you an average of 1,233 pounds of turkey per park, per day. Even if guests picked the bones clean (and they don’t), think about the sheer number of hot greasy drumstick bones that leaves behind. Food waste accumulates all over the park, but the detritus is particularly bad behind the restaurants, and worst behind those that serve up greasy favorites like burgers. Add Florida’s hot, humid weather to the mix and you have the recipe for a very special smell.
If you’re lucky, you’ll work in a location that’s accessible without trekking past the smelliest parts of the park, but it’s far more likely for a Cast Member to have to at least pass through some of these gag-worthy spots, if they’re not working with them directly. And no, these special backstage areas aren’t included on any tour.
2. The “Break Room”
After a couple hours roasting in the sunlight or standing in the same spot behind a cash register, most Cast Members are thankful to get to any area where they’re allowed to sit down for a moment. Perhaps that’s what the designers were counting on when they set up backstage breakrooms, because the offerings in most locations are minimal if they exist at all. Many Cast Members don’t have access to any dedicated break room, though you can usually find something if you’re willing to spend a certain amount of your precious 15 minutes trekking through the tunnels.
Other locations do give you a few hard chairs and tables to sit at (Dinosaur), or some outdoor picnic tables to escape the sun (Jungle Cruise). But if you’re picturing hot sweaty Cast Members reclining in relative comfort when they prance off with a little white slip in hand, you’re probably off base.
3. The cafeteria no one can get to
Disney has some great cafeterias for Cast Members. You’ll find big salad bars, hot meals, and even a Subway in most locations. The problem is that only a select few can really get to it. The parks are enormous to begin with, and most backstage areas are only accessible by taking a hugely circuitous route to get to them.
“But what about the handy tunnels under the Magic Kingdom?” you say. Unfortunately, even with the handy Utilidors, most Cast Members are a long walk from a really good dining spot like the Mouseketeria. If you’re lucky enough to work somewhere nearby, you still have to tackle the challenge of getting to the cafeteria, waiting in line, grabbing a table, eating, cleaning up, and getting back to work in the course of 30 minutes. Suffice it to say that unless you’re training or in entertainment, you’ll probably end up brown bagging it and hoping that you have access to a refrigerator or a microwave.