What it’s really like to work at the happiest place on earth
Disney is known as the ‘happiest place on earth,’ but is it the happiest workplace on earth? Today, we relay secrets from Disney employees who expose what it really takes to create such a magical environment.
1. Disney employees, including concession staff, vendors, and those who dress up as characters are never allowed to say “I don’t know” – even when silly questions are asked.
“If a guest asks you a question, you always have to have an answer, no exceptions,” says an anonymous former staffer.
“If you don’t know it, find out, but don’t say you don’t know. If it’s a silly question, make up a silly answer. If a child asks you what Tinker Bell eats before her flight across the Magic Kingdom during the fireworks, you better come up with an answer quickly. (Answer: very tiny apples.)”
2. As a character performer, you could get fired for breaking character on stage.
3. It is a requirement for all characters to be able to mimic original signatures.
4. Characters in big suits are required to stay in them at all times – even at high temperatures which, you can imagine in Florida, get pretty high. They stay in the suit for 30 minutes, then break for 30 minutes, but when it’s higher than 32°C, they only have to be in the costume for 20 minutes at a time.
5. All attractions have cameras, and any guests who have tried to ‘get it on’ in any of the parks have been closely monitored by cast members.
6. Every attraction is closely checked for safety and appearance every morning and at closing each night. If something doesn't pass muster, the attraction won't open.
7. Cast members often end up taking on the characteristics of their character.
“I've met a lot of really sweet Rapunzels. Elsa is stuck up. Anna is also a sweetheart. Ariel is a mix. Tinker Bell is also really sweet. Oh, and Tiana is always sarcastic and the very few Elenas that I met were such sweethearts and very friendly,” said a Disney worker.
8. When asked what this staffer would do if they were forced to spend an entire year locked at Disney World, the employee responded: “This would be the coolest thing ever because that means I could spend an entire year in Disney World and do whatever I want without consequences. I'd mess with people so much. Like, I'd switch all the dolls in Small World around to all the wrong countries. I'd try to trick character performers into wearing mismatched costumes. I'd figure out how the interactive attractions work (Turtle Talk with Crush, Monsters Inc Laugh Floor) and use those to prank people. Stuff like that. As far as where I’d live, I'd probably figure out how to set up a permanent camp somewhere in Disney's Animal Kingdom, since that's the most I would be able to afford.”
9. As with the rides and attractions, Disney is very strict about food safety. Kitchens are closely monitored at all times, and not even a single French fry can be eaten in front of guests.
10. When asked about work culture: "I'm speaking from my own personal experience here, since every role is going to have a different feel to it. Most of the people that I worked with were super into their job. Disney trains us to treat everything as if it were one big show, so we just tried to make it fun. Everyone seemed to genuinely enjoy being at work.
“There were a ton of strictly enforced rules and guidelines we had to follow, concerning everything from how you dress to how you have to act when you're on stage (‘on stage’ means anywhere that you can be seen by guests). The leaders and coordinators usually had more of a stick up their rear end about these kinds of things, but I never had many problems with them. Part-time and full-time employees have a tendency to look down on or be condescending towards interns, but that doesn't always happen.”
11. Disney keeps tabs on all ex-employees.
12. Disney has underground tunnels for staff called 'Utilidors' (because Disney loves making new words for things).
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