As a Walt Disney World Cast Member, you learn many of the ins and out of one of the greatest companies in the world. Disney has built an empire thanks to their strict rules and passion for entertaining, and as a Cast Member you must live up to all of their expectations. There are many secrets of being a Disney World Cast Member that are not shared with the public, and I am sharing some of them here.
As you may all know by now, I was a part of Walt Disney World’s Cultural Representative Program before moving to Oslo, and the experience was just as incredible as you could imagine. Many people wonder what it’s really like to be a Cast Member, and I know I did, too, before joining the Cast myself.
I spent weeks googling and searching, looking for first-person accounts of the secrets behind being a Disney World Cast Member. I read loads of blogs dedicated to Disney (one of my favourites is Becky’s Disney in Your Day), and spent hours browsing Facebook groups and forums.
It wasn’t the easiest task in the world to find information on being a Cast Member, as it is such a secretive business. That is why I’ve decided to publish this post on the subject myself. If you’re a hopeful applicant to any of Disney’s programs, or just curious about what goes on behind the scenes, keep reading.
Bear in mind; I’m not writing this post to ruin the magic for anyone. This is not a take down or a dirty piece on how the Disney Company treats Cast Members. If you’re here for mean-spirited rumours and negativity; look elsewhere. I love Disney and absolutely adored my time working there, even when it was tough and work was killing me. I would go back and join the Cast again in a heartbeat.
Just a quick briefing on why I was there. Disney has several programs and opportunities for young adults to join their forces for a specified amount of time. They have the US College Program, Culinary Programs and Cultural Representative Programs. I participated in the latter, and spent a year representing Norway in the Norwegian Pavillion in Epcot.
Now, let’s get to the good part.
What it’s like to be a Disney World Cast Member
I’ve split this up in different topics, as there are so many areas that makes working as a Cast Member special!
During our first days of training we must complete a day known as ‘Traditions’. This happens at Disney University (yes, it’s a real place) in the backstage area near Magic Kingdom, and we are shown videos and given speeches on the history, aims and traditions of the Disney World Company. Some call it brainwashing, some call it magical. I know I cried during parts of it, so I guess for me it was a little bit of both.
During Traditions we are taught the important language of Disney’s Cast Members, and told not to stray from it. You’ve surely noticed already that not once have I referred to myself or anyone else as an ‘employee’? That’s part of it right there. When you start working in a Disney Park, or for the Disney Company in general, you are not an employee; you are a Cast Member. This goes for anyone in the company and it doesn’t matter if you’re a waitress, backstage working in costuming, or friends with a princess. Cast members, not employees. We wore costumes, not uniforms. All the visitors were guests, not customers. And when we were working in areas where guests could see us; we were on-stage. As opposed to the break rooms; which were back-stage. We were all part of a show of keeping the magic alive, and the language we used was an important part of keeping this up.
Ah, the costume. As a Cast Member in the Norwegian pavilion, my costume consisted of a tailored version of the Norwegian ‘bunad’ – our national costume. I have a ‘bunad’ at home in Norway, and absolutely love wearing it, so I was quite excited to get to wear one every day. The Disney version is slightly different from the ones we wear at home, especially with regards to how people took care of it. Getting a costume without a tear or a button missing was incredibly hard, and most of us kept our belts and dresses for the entire year, as it was so hard to come by one that wasn’t broken in any way. We would pick up and hand in our costumes from a back-stage ‘costuming’ area, who would also clean and hang them up again.
Here’s what my actual National Costume looks like – beautiful, right?
Everyone hated their own costume, and was jealous of everyone else’s. I know I really wanted to wear the white dress from the UK Pavillion, but my friend who worked there herself was not a fan. Many of the costumes were itchy, and in the Florida heat they could be intolerable, especially when working outside. Imagine having 40 degree air flowing around your legs wearing a long, black skirt. Not ideal.
This series comes in 3 parts, so follow these links to read more of the Cast Member secrets!
In Part 2 I talk about the show, the job itself, and the insane rules of working as a Cast Member!
In Part 3 we cover the characters (what you’ve been waiting for, right?) and the dreaded Disney Housing. Read it here!
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