For six magical months I was a Cast Member of Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. For six magical months I got to live the dream of so many Disney fans. For six magical months I made memories that I will cherish for a lifetime.
Four years ago, I was a participant in the Disney College Program – Fall 2011. I worked on Main Street USA at the Magic Kingdom, and now, a little piece of my heart will always live there; tucked between all the hats at The Chapeau, and hiding behind every bag and bauble at Uptown Jewelers. When my program came to an end, I chose not to apply for an extension, and instead, returned home to finish my degree and enter “real life” adulthood.
Now, when I am at my desk job, dealing with deadlines piling up around me, e-mails binging to life every couple of minutes, and rushing to and from meetings with clients, I often dream of packing my bags, donning my Mickey ears and heading back to Disney World. I would love to escape into Fantasyland to fly with Dumbo, or join Captain Jack Sparrow in Adventureland. But, for now, dreaming of my next Disney vacation is what gets me by. Here are my top reasons why I want to be a Cast Member again.
The Perks: Let’s be honest, being a Cast Member (or CM, if you’re in the know) has some major perks. The biggest perk being free entry into all the parks, all the time. I miss the days of finishing up a shift making candy cotton, trading my chef’s hat for some sparkly Minnie ears, and hitting the park for the rest of the day with some friends. As a CM, you are also given a number of passes to get your non-CM friends and family in for free. While I was on my program, I was visited by an amazing family that I’m close to, and I was able to get them into many parks for free during their trip. Not only do you get free admission to the parks, but you also get discounts on merchandise and food!
Behind the Scenes Magic: Have you ever wondered what the Magic Kingdom looks like after every last guest has left for the night? Well, I’ve seen it, and it’s wonderful – especially around the holidays. The lights on Cinderella Castle stay on all night overlooking an empty Main Street, where CMs work hard into the night to get the park ready for rope drop the next morning. Some of my favorite memories are standing on a deserted Main Street with my fellow CPs (College Program) and just staring at the castle. As a CM you also have the chance to see all the parades, shows, and fireworks pretty much every single day. I was actually paid to watch Wishes fireworks each night!
The Guests: Cast Members are known for making magical memories for guests, but honestly, I think guests made them for me more often! Seeing a shy little boy come to life when you greet him with an “Aye Aye Captain!” or the joy that washes over a girl’s face when you curtsey and whisper “hello, Princess” as she passes by you – these moments made the long hours and Florida heat worth it. I also had the chance to witness quite a few Make a Wish trips. These families, their stories, and their strengths always gave me that extra push to make sure I was living up to what a Disney CM should be.
The Costumes: Okay, not really the costumes, but in a strange way, I do get nostalgic for my Main Street neckerchief! Yes, the costumes are hot and made with polyester. No, they do not breath – at all – and yes, one time I got an infected sweat gland because of this (gross, I know, the truth hurts). Yes, the sizes are awkward and no matter how hard you try, your butt will always look like a pancake in your pants. But it really was a costume – and once I put it on, I was ready to play my part! And hey, I never had to decide what to wear in the morning.
The Disney Point (and Other Oddities): At Disney, you are not allowed to point with one finger. You must always point with two or four fingers when giving directions to a guest. To this day, I cannot point with one finger – my body just won’t do it. I want to be back at a place where this isn’t considered weird. People in my “real life” also look at me strangely when I employ the Disney Scoop to pick up trash on the streets of Ann Arbor. This is another CM quirk, and quite tricky to master if I do say so myself. The Disney Scoop involves a continuous walking motion where you seamlessly crouch and scoop up a piece of trash, without stopping the flow of guest traffic. I’m a master at this and I would like to be back a place where this skill is appreciated. Also, people at the grocery store look at your really weird when you call their tutu wearing daughter a Princess. Apparently it’s just not socially acceptable outside of Disney.
Complete Job Training: When you first become a CM, you will go through a couple days of brainwashing, I mean, Disney Traditions. This is a class where you are taught the history of the company, the basis for the Disney approach to everything, and where you begin your training. Disney has a great training program, and you really learn everything you need to know while “earning your ears.” My trainer, Matt, taught me everything I know about being a truly great CM, and I still keep in contact with him to this day (Hi Matt! Here’s your shout out!). Even after you earn your ears and really start to feel like you belong, there is always a network of people supporting you and helping you out. My fellow CMs and CPs made every day so much fun.
The Friendships: I’m not just being cheesy when I say that the friendships I made at Disney were the absolute, hands down, best part of being a CM. When you work with someone until 3am, 4 nights a week, you tend to develop a bond. As a College Program participant, these are the same people that you not only work with, but live with, and hang out with too. You form friendships fast in that kind of atmosphere! I lived in a 3 bedroom apartment with 5 other girls, and shockingly, we all got along! Not everyone is so lucky, but I miss these girls every day. Now, living in my spacious two bedroom apartment with my boyfriend and my cat, I can’t imagine sharing that kind of space again, but at Disney, it just makes sense, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
I have booked a Disney vacation for the fall when I will be able to spend a little over a week at my true home. I can’t wait to visit all my favorite spots, visit my old work locations, and yes, be more than a little jealous of the Cast Members who are there, making magic.
Have you ever thought of trading it all in and moving to Disney? Does the idea of smiling for an 8 hour shift make you a little queasy? Tell me why you want (or don’t want) to be a Cast Member in the comments!