306: Cast Member for Life

Cast Member for Life

Disneyland isn't just The Happiest Place on Earth, it's also the place that once upon a time offered The Best Summer Job Ever.

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You know what I find best about this story? The fact that you just did it. You were in a certain situation wanted a 180 degree turn-around, and you just freakin' did it. That honestly is an incredibly powerful, daring and, well, crazy thing you did there.

Most importantly, it's a very inspiring thing. Take chances, go for the things you really want, and if you do your best it'll pay off. Thanks, that was a really cool story.

Such a sweetly nostalgic story. Thanks for sharing that, Mike.

Very well-done article. I was a cast member for a very short time and it does indeed stick with you. I still have stories that I love to tell from that time. My favorite was finding a hotel room AND breakfast with Cinderella for a family of eight two weeks before the turn of the millennium and hearing the father tell his kids that they were going. Hearing a proud Dad tell his kids that they're going to WDW and the screaming 'omg omg omg really?!' was awesome to hear. Gave me chills then and still reminds me that whenever you help someone you never know how far down the line your help will go.

There is a lot of talk about the Disney Magic when at cast member meetings or even just in the park. It's true- there really is a magic there. I was saddened after 9/11 because going to the park felt different. Everyone was different and it crept into everything. We are planning to go back to WDW next year- I hope it's healed enough by now that the magic isn't tarnished too badly.

My family has a long history of Cast Members. I had an Uncle that started as a stilt walker in Epcot in the early 90s to an executive of the Walt Disney Franchise, which then got him a job with the State Department. Since then every nephew as would up at Disney in some form or another doing everything from the Jungle Cruise to Animating at Pixar.

So now that my biases are out the way, Disney is still by far the best place I've ever worked and it breaks my heart to see a lack of enthusiasm about it in my little sister's generation. I see the Mouse as one of my fondest memories and a symbol of all the fun I've had at Disney, but to her it's just some old cartoon character.

I would highly recommend working at Disney World to anyone, and the 9/11 crack down is a lot better than it used to be. If you see a flock of Goofy's in dark suits and ear pieces though... you may want to duck.

I remember reading "Cast Member Confidential" at the library where I work, and I begin to wonder if any of the stories about working in Disney are true. But when I was a teen back in the 80's, I had a pen pal who worked on the Pirates of the Caribbean Ride/Attraction.

I went to CSU Sacramento and wish I'd done the Disney College Program. Oh... the road not taken...

Wow, this experience sounds so much better than working at Butlins.

What an awesome story -- thanks for sharing it!

Awesome Story...knew the Secret Tunnels weren't just made up

I'm actually posting this from the car on my way back from Universal in Florida, and your article just reiterated what I told my girlfriend while there; I can imagine working at a large theme park to be an incredible experience. They're basically small cities and employ a huge amount of people, and just walking around listening to all the different languages and accents you get a great feeling that humanity may have a chance after all. Thanks for the article!

Worked at WDW as a Cast Member for 5 years. Can't say I miss it, but you met some interesting people. Thanks for sharing.

I will have to look for this Playboy bunny the next time I go to Disneyland. If I worked at Disneyland, I'd want to be one of those people that performs on the lake every night. That would be fun, although I'm sure they probably had other jobs too. I don't know if I'd be able to handle some of the people in the high traffic areas. People can be mean, and it seems like it's gotten worse over the years.

Did you really meet Hugh? I wonder what parents would think of that if they saw him, and his girlfriends, walking around Disneyland? There's a story I think.

Man, that's a great read. Love the Hugh Hefner story! Awesome stuff, and thanks for sharing it.

I worked in a theme park over the recent Australian summer and while it is not as big I still had a lot of fun making people smile and helping them have an enjoyable day.

I would love to work at Disneyland as it has that magic and theme behind it that helps when getting into character because that's all ride operating is, it's basically acting.

I have at least 5 different friends that work at Disneyland right now. The college program is back and thriving, and the park is a joy as it always was. Thank you for writing this article, I could feel the love for the experience and the nostalgia that just thinking about it induces.

I did the Disney College Program just last summer in Florida, and this story definitely spoke my language.

When I first signed up, I was told I would be in Quick-Service Food and Beverage (read: fast food). I expected as much--during the phone interview, the lady mostly wanted to talk about the year and a half I worked at McDonalds. I was accepted in November 2009, but I was never told my real position or even the park I'd work in until I got there in late January 2010. After reading over the paperwork, I figured as long as I got any QSFB except the outdoor food stands I would be able to tolerate it. I hate the heat.

On January 28th 2010, I was told I'd be working in Outdoor Foods in the Magic Kingdom. Great, I thought. Not only did I not get Epcot (which the park I was hoping for most), but I also got the job I was most hoping not to get. And not only that, it was quite literally the least desirable job of all. Whenever I went to other parks and told cast members I worked in MK ODF, their first reply would always be, "Oh, I'm so sorry."

After a while, though, I came to love it. The other people who worked in ODF were all just a bit crazy, which you really have to be in order to work under those conditions. The work was hard, the hours were long, and the conditions were frequently downright miserable, but still we had to keep our smiles on and give every guest a magical experience. I quickly became very good at greeting people, and learned all the ins and outs of the park.

One of my favorite guest experiences was with a little boy, named Nick. See, adults often got on my nerves with their tendencies toward general stupidity, but kids never bothered me. They were just kids, they didn't know any better--and more importantly, they weren't mine. Anyhow, one night after the fireworks Nick's mom came up to my stand to get some food. I asked her, "How are you tonight, ma'am?" She said she was alright, but her son wasn't doing so good. Naturally, I asked her why.

She explained that he was 2 years old, and he had convinced himself that you could go up into the castle and explore all the rooms up in there--which obviously isn't the case. I mean, I don't even know if Phil Holmes himself (the VP of the Magic Kingdom) could have arranged something like that at the time. So I said I was sorry to hear that, and finished up the transaction.

Later, she brings Nick to me. She says to him, "Here, Nick, this lady works here. She can tell you what you can do in the castle." Oh God, I thought. All of this boy's hopes and dreams now resided on my shoulders. His eyes were locked onto me as I explained how you could walk through the middle and look at all of the neat mosaics in there, and then go on through to Fantasyland and ride the carousel. But as I explained, his expression changed into the most distraught look I have ever seen on a child. It was as though his world had just shattered in front of him.

So I stopped talking, and asked him "Hey Nick, do you like ice creams?" Ne nodded. Then I asked him, "Do you like Mickey Mouse ice creams?" He nods again, and his face brightened just a bit. "Would you like a Mickey Mouse Ice cream?" He nodded again, his expression changing this time to one of excitement. At that point, his older sister next to him pipes "I want one too!"

So the family left, happily clapping and cheering for the ice cream they'd received, paid for on Mickey's dime, just for them.

I guess that's why I liked it so much. I was allowed to give things out for free when I saw fit, which is very close to my nature. I love food, and I'm very aware that food is something that can comfort in ways that words just can't even come close to. ODF's "Magical Moment" policy is just about the simplest of all the food and beverage divisions, making placating angry guests a relatively easy process.

The eight months I spent there in Florida were some of the best I've ever had. Granted, some of the worst days I've ever had also took place there (that was a roommate problem, had nothing to do with the parks), but I don't regret a moment of it and hope I can go back someday. On a daily basis, I danced along with parades, waved to characters, laughed with guests and cast members, and generally made people happy. I had a front row seat to the fireworks and electrical parades almost every night I worked. One day I gave Donald Duck an ice cream sandwich, and another day Buzz Lightyear came by and got two strawberry bars.

So, needless to say, I highly recommend the Disney College Program to anyone who has the opportunity. It's hard work, you deal with a lot of irate people in the most undesirable of circumstances, and sometimes things can get downright terrifying. But then, you have one of those magical moments, and none of that really matters anymore. You have infinite access to all the parks and discounts for just about everything on Disney Property--not the cast member exclusive stores.

And if you do it and happen to land in MK ODF, tell Barbara that Caitlin says Hi, and that I still have the forks.

I'm sitting here, bored out of my mind in an IT office. Granted, I'm making more than I could have ever dreamed of at 19, but it doesn't make it any less boring. You people are making this stuff sound amazing.

Also, you met Hugh Hefner? And didn't realize it? How not? That must have been one of those "duuuuuudee. I can't believe I missed that" moments.


Also, you met Hugh Hefner? And didn't realize it? How not? That must have been one of those "duuuuuudee. I can't believe I missed that" moments.

Ten years ago, I had only a vague idea of what the man looked like. And, yeah, that was pretty much my reaction.

I lifeguarded through college and always wanted to apply for a lifeguarding position in their program; I love guarding, and even now, themepark guarding remains in my mind as the most hardcore kind save for the beach. But after my first summer at a YMCA, I was promoted to head guard and the summer after that to assistant manager and trainer. So I never got to do the college program at Disney, but I have plenty of my own stories too. Reading your article reminded me of that. So thanks!

I look forward to being a Disney's engineer one day. I'll be sure to make the best damn ride that you've ever seen.
And it'll come equipped with a special ejector seat to make sure even the biggest person alive would be bounced off easily.

The article was good, but disappointingly short. I would have liked to hear some more wacky stories.

Still, great article.

Very positive and moving story. I'm glad I found this.


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