• Walt Disney World employees are all referred to as “cast members.”
• This includes everyone from the costumed character performers to the ride operators to the people working in retail.
• The park also reflects a show business-like environment by requiring cast members to stay “in character” while in the presence of guests.
Walt Disney World has a rep for being the “most magical place on Earth.”
But what’s it really like to be one of the people responsible for making the magic happen?
Walt Disney World employs 70,000 “cast members” — the term the company uses to refer to all employees. They all help to run a world-famous park that attracted a record 68 million visitors to Orlando in 2016, according to The Orlando Sentinel.
It’s fair to say that these thousands of cast members come to learn a number of secrets about the park that the rest of us tourists might miss.
Business Insider spoke with a number of former Walt Disney World cast members, as well as authors who’ve written extensively about the park.
Here’s what they had to say about the secrets of working at Walt Disney World:
You learn quickly that it’s all about the guests
The guest experience is everything at Disney. That’s drilled into you from day one.
Former Disney College Cast program attendee and “Devin Earns Her Ears: My Secret Walt Disney World Cast Member Diary” author Devin Melendy told Business Insider that, even though her job consisted of working in retail in Frontierland, she was encouraged not to stand behind the register whenever possible.
Instead, cast members are directed to spread some magic by passing out stickers, fast passes, birthday pins, and free bags and shirts.
Mike Fox, author of “The Hidden Secrets & Stories of Walt Disney World,” “Disneyland Details: The Magical Hidden Secrets & Story Elements of Disneyland,” and “Disneyland In-Depth” and founder of the site Disney-Secrets.com, told Business Insider that a “deep commitment to the guest experience” is “instilled within the company.
“So it always impresses me, especially at the cast member level, the training that goes into helping these folks to provide that superior experience and to see it out on stage and see it executed,” he said.
Name tags are an absolute must — even if you’re using an alias
Melendy said it’s considered “bad show” for a cast members to not wear a name tag. But if you lose your tag, no worries. There’s a whole stockpile of gender neutral names like Chris, Sam, and Pat to choose from.
“I lost my first name tag, so I was Chris from New York for two weeks while I waited for my new one,” Melendy told Business Insider.
“It’s a major deal if you don’t have one,” Chantelle Judd, a former cast member who worked in Frontierland, told Business Insider. “If this happens — it’s easy to forget sometimes — you have to make sure you can borrow one — costuming has spares.”
If you want to play a Disney character, you’d better be good at charades
Melendy said she auditioned to become a costumed character but ultimately didn’t make the cut. She said that these performers must go through loads of auditions and costume fittings in order to land the role.
People who are good at improvising have a leg up. During the process, you’re asked to pantomime activities, like making a sandwich and washing a dog.
“You were supposed to make these gestures big and dramatic, because if you’re in a costume you have to parlay what you’re saying without saying anything,” she said.
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