The Truth about being a Disney World Cast Member

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.

This series comes in 3 parts, if you want to skip right to part 2 you can find it here, and part 3 is here

Secrets of a Disney World Cast Member

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!

The Lingo

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.

Epcot disney world secrets the truth about being a cast member

The Costume

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!

ALSO, please don’t forget to subscribe to the mailing list below to get updates on my next Disney post!

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  • Wow, what an amazing opportunity. Can’t wait to see more.

    • It sure was! I’m glad to hear that 🙂

  • Ahhh so interesting! The costume photo made me laugh! ;P

    • I’m glad! It’s from this year’s Norway Day celebration, so much fun! 🙂

  • Tam AKA DIY Mum

    Sounds fun, and challenging, which is part of the fun. I look forward to more.

    • Exactly, Tam! 🙂 I’m happy to hear that! 🙂

  • This is amazing! Love the behind-the-scenes info here! I actually read a book called “Be Our Guest” that discusses a lot of this stuff, in terms of how Disney runs such a tight ship and the ways they create such a magical experience for guest of all ages. It’s interesting stuff!

    Love your Norwegian costume! I have family members in Arendal and it’s just gorgeous there 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    • Thank you, Charlotte! That book sounds interesting, I’ll have to give it a read 🙂 Being a part of the magic was such a great experience, and the strictness truly is worth it for the guest experience! 🙂

      Yes, Arendal is gorgeous! 🙂

  • This was so interesting to read, I always love reading posts that are behind the scenes, especially of super glamorous things like being a Disney cast member! Can’t wait for the rest of your post series 🙂

    paige • eyeliner wings & pretty things

    • I’m exactly the same, Paige – which is why I was so excited to publish this! 🙂 Make sure to check back next week!

  • Ahh this is so fun! I had a classmate in college who was a cast member for a semester and she loved it. I really enjoyed hearing about her time at Disney, and I can’t wait to read more about yours. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • I bet she did, Rebecca! I met loads of American students participating in the College Program during my time there, and we all had so much fun together! 🙂 Thanks for reading!

  • Allison Gallagher

    I have a friend that is a character at Disneyland right now! Sounds incredible.

    http://www.girlnextscore.com

    • That’s great, Allison 🙂

  • One of my friends actually used to work as a cast member there a few times! He did it through uni one year, then the next was the cultural representitive thing for the UK in Epcot. I think he worked in the restaurant there! I can’t wait to hear more!
    xo April | April Everyday

    • That’s so cool! One of my closest friends in the program worked in the UK Pavillion! 🙂 It was such an amazing experience, I’m not surprised he went back! 🙂

  • Bethany Magnie

    I always have wanted to be Disney’s Cinderella so badly. I’d love to work for Disney though I love the points you brought up. No job is perfect!!

    • I’m not sure what you are referring to, only Cinderella can be Cinderella 😉 That’s so true, all jobs have their perks and downers. Everything about Disney was worth it in my eyes, though.

  • This was so fascinating! I am a massive Disney fan and while I have never been able to visit the parks it is on the top of my bucket list!

    • I hope you get to go one day soon, Courtney! It’s an experience unlike any other, and so magical <3

  • Wow! It’s nice to have a peek into that world! I personally love the cast members not employees thing!

    XoXo,

    Tamara – LoveofMode.com

    • Me too! And the fact that no one is a ‘customer’, but a guest! 🙂 Thanks for commenting, Tamara!

  • This is so interesting! I’ve had people comment on my blog before saying they want to learn more “cast member secrets,” but of course since I’ve never been a CM I couldn’t really help out – I’ll now be able to direct them to your post! And thank you for the mention! 🙂

    • I know a lot of people are curious about what goes on backstage, and it’s completely understandable! Feel free to share it with anyone who asks 🙂 I’m really glad you liked it, Becky!