Why you should work for the mouse at least once.
When I started working for the company over thirty years ago (wow!), I had no idea the difference it would make in my life. What started as a really cool high school summer job turned into much more. It was the beginning of a lifelong relationship with the mouse that has made a significant difference in my life. I still remember going to Disney University and spending an entire day learning about “The Disney Way.” They told us you could make more money somewhere else, but having “Disney” on your resume will open doors other jobs can’t… and they were right.
Even after all these years, I remember John, my first trainer, who took us around from location to location while I worked as a Custodial Bussing Host, learning the different stations at each location. The veteran cast members called us “ducks” because we looked like baby ducks following a mother duck while in training. I remember getting my first name tag and putting it on with a sense of pride and wonder. I remember Mike Tuttle teaching me how to do hat writing (back when it was a craft done by hand). So many fond memories. While I love what I’m doing now, there are definitely things I miss about being a cast member in the Happiest Place on Earth.
- Working Grad Nites – Believe it or not, I miss those 10pm to 6am shifts. I don’t think I could handle it now, but for an 18 year-old, it was great. The camaraderie of a group of young adults all pulling together to make it through the night and brave the throngs of kids weaving their way through the park was a shared experience we could celebrate together and often did. I remember those early morning runs to Denny’s or Norm’s after a Grad Nite shift. I remember one time in particular this group of boys was hitting on my friend Anne. She was working alone in the candy shop in Frontierland and they kept bugging her. She was trying to be polite, but they were persistent. I was working stock that night and noticed so I went in there, brought her some supplies and said, “Honey, I have my lunch in an hour. Want to go together?” Without blinking, Anne caught on right away and said, “Sure, I’d love to.” The boys turned to her as I was leaving and said, “Is that your boyfriend?” And she responded, “Uh-huh.” And they left. She thanked me later, but I have to admit, it was a lot of fun! Working those late shifts built camaraderie in a way that few things do.
- Disney Family Christmas Party – I looked forward to this every year. They don’t do this anymore and I don’t know when it stopped, but when I was a Cast Member they would have a private party where YOU were the guest and the leads and executives from all over the company would be the workforce. We would work one night to help out man the registers and keep things going, but on our night off, we would play! Michael Eisner, who was CEO at the time, would even come and work on Main Street for a shift. There were free photo ops, free ornaments, and free admission for you and your family. This was on top of the two free tickets we received each year at Christmas AND the free Christmas pin for working on either Christmas or Christmas Eve. It really made you feel appreciated. I remember hearing that Eisner believed that the leaders and top brass of the company needed to be grounded in what the everyday Cast Member was going through and to be reminded that we have a commitment to not only serve our guests, but one another as well. I don’t know for sure if that’s why they did it, but it gave me a lot of respect for the company.
- Cast Member Sports – One of the cool things about working for the Mouse was the intrapark sports program. Year-round they had different leagues you could participate in – Softball, Volleyball, and Canoe Races – and I did them all. I even was captain of our softball team the last year I did it. My buddy Mark named the team “Everybody Cool,” my girlfriend Annette was on the team, and all my Disney buddies played on it with me. We had a blast. We may not have won often, but we had a lot of fun. Canoes were a disaster! Two years doing it, we only got on the water once. The start time is pre-dawn, the water is cold, and it’s hard to field a good co-ed team. We almost never had enough girls make it to get in the water and had to forfeit our time trials except once – where we didn’t do well. Despite that, I still loved it.
- Being Part of the Magic – One of the coolest parts of being a Cast Member is simply being a part of the Magic! Getting the chance to put a smile on someone’s face is such an amazing feeling and to know you are part of many people’s dreams is both an awesome responsibility and an honor. How many times can you say that you helped to make someone’s dream come true?
- Life-Long Friendships – The best part of being a Cast Member are the people you meet. Disney brings together a certain type of person and we just seemed to gravitate to one another. Most of my best friends have been Cast Members – some I grew up with and some I met at the park. Mark, Crystal, Jen, Kim, Lance, Andrea, John, Dallas, Alle, David, Gene and Rick just to name a few. The funny thing is I have many friends who ended up being Disney couples, too. It’s crazy how this place brings people together. We did a LOT. Not just Disney Sports, but going to plays together, movie openings, dinners at Lawry’s, Minnie’s Moonlit Madness, trips to Vegas, and so much more. I treasure each and every one of these people.
You might have noticed I have a genuine love of Disney and part of that is because of how being part of the Magic has changed my life. If you are a Disney Nerd and have thought about working for the Mouse, I think you’ll find it a rewarding experience no matter how long you stay.