When I was younger, I used to work for Crown Books (this was before the rise of Barnes & Noble, Borders and Amazon.com, when most books stores were quaint and much smaller). I remember that whenever I told someone that I worked in a book store, people usually thought I was a lucky guy, but working in a book store was no different from any type of retail job. Which is to say it was mostly a well disguised slice of Hell.
I see Disney employees all the time. Some of them even recognize me now, and they are always smiling and always happy, so one may think “Wow it must be great to work at Disneyland!” But since I labored under that same species of misconception from my days as a book store clerk, I know it can’t all be smiles. I have put together some interesting little factoids from Disney Employees around the Net that I have gathered:
Employees and former employees refer to the Magical World of Disney as “Mousechwitz”. That would be clue number one that it’s not all happy thoughts and fairy dust. Oh, and this goes for Disney jobs in all of its different forms. If your paycheck comes from Mickey, congratulations, you are in Mouseschwitz.
All Disney employees are referred to as “Cast Members”. If you ever hear Daniel and other podcasters use the initials “C.M.” when talking about a Disneyland et al., this is what they mean. Though you may see “Employees Only” signs throughout the park(s), this so there isn’t any confusion for visitors, and according to HiddenMickeys.org, “Film crews are called employees because of the confusion it would cause to call members of the film or TV show’s cast Cast Members AND the crew Cast Members as well.”
So, with that being the only apparent exception, all Disney theme park employees are Cast Members, including janitors, ride operators, maintenance people, etc. Others are: Firefighters, police, telecom (Orlando has their own bona fide departments), security, Disney Secret Service or “the DSS” (These guys are the suits with trench coats and sunglasses wearing an ear piece – for presidents and other important people.), and Medical Staff (Orlando even has a qualified surgeon at their medical center).
Cast Members must either point with two fingers or an open palm. Disney believes that pointing with one finger is considered “rude”, and it therefore is not permitted anywhere in Disney property. “Well,” says Chris Callac of HiddenMickeys.org, “if you’ve ever been in American Adventure’s washrooms you know this isn’t entirely true. There are 3 or 4 signs with a hand pointing (with one finger) to the washrooms.”
No Disney Cast member at the Disney reservation center has the same name. If there are more than one with the same then they are given a different name.
Seniority Sucks! Unless you’re senior. Joesph Guisti of DisneyFans.com says, “I have never seen a company more steeped in seniority pride. It doesn’t matter if you’re a supervisor or a platform loader, if you’ve done more time, you’re better.”
The Disney Parks back this up with award pins that goes on the Cast Member’s name tag, showing all others how long they’ve been with the company. 1, 5, 10, 15 etc. year tags are made, each distinct.
One Year: Steamboat Willie (Mickey Mouse at a boat wheel) Or if its an old, old pin: The “World with Ears” logo; Five years: Donald Duck; Ten Years: Cinderella Castle; etc.
Knowledge is job security. At Disney Parks, no Cast Member is allowed to say “I don’t know.” If you were to ask a Cast Member or other employee (including a maintenance person) any question about Disney or the theme park, they are required to give you an answer. If he or she does not know, they must say go to a “Disney Phone” and call a “Special Disney Phone Number” where people with computers are standing by with answers, and then report the answer back to you. One exception would be Cast Members such as outdoor vendors who have to stay at their post. Those guys will direct the guest to another Cast Member who will field your question and hunt down the answers you need.
“Smile when they’re surly. Smile when they’re stupid.” Disney Cast Members must never react to stupid questions in any way other than with politeness. Former Cast Member, Grace Parker, says to react to dumb questions in any other way besides courteous and helpful is the same as asking to be fired.
“If someone asks you‘what time does the 3:00 parade start’”, she says, “you can’t laugh. They may be serious! Actually they are most of the time! You have to say ‘3:00′ with a smile that doesn’t suggest to them that you think they are a big stupid and should go learn something.”
Too bad the Post Office doesn’t have that policy.
What’s in a name? When you look at a Disney Cast Member’s name tag, it says their first name and where they are from, but get this, when you look at that cute girl with the perky smile (or guy’s) and you want to know her name and where she’s from… That might not be her name or where she’s from. Rachel Nacion from DisneyFans.com says, “What happens a lot is that workers forget their name tags so Disneyland has a bunch of unused ones for back up. Even if they don’t have your name you still have to wear one.”
No shave, no haircut, no job! Back in the 60s, long hair and facial hair was considered to be the trademark of hippies, which the Disney empire could not afford to be associated with. Hence a policy was born requiring all male employees to have short hair and no facial hair at the theme parks. It took until 2000 for the theme parks to renege on the policy. Now male employees are allowed to have neatly trimmed mustaches.
So, next time you visit any of the Disney Theme parks, I challenge you to find a Cast Member with facial hair, a visible tattoo, too much makeup, or too much jewelry. “In fact”, according to Michael Littell of HiddenMickeys.org, “the only jewelry you’ll find on men, is a wedding ring. On women: one set of earrings max (single ordinary gold posts), 1 conservative gold necklace max, a wedding or engagement ring. Costumes don’t count.”
And about costumes…
Disney Princesses are all Union Actors. However, according to my sources, this is only true of the characters at Orlando and Tokyo. I can’t vouch for the truth of this, but I am told that the characters at Disneyland Park in Anaheim are paid almost the same as any other cast member and do not always have an escort (though I personally have never seen a Princess without one). “Unfortunately”, a Cast Member on DisneyFans.com calling herself Princess said, ”the injury rate is higher [for Princesses and other Face Characters] than any other employed group at Disneyland, often because guests take advantage… so play nice and be fair.”
Disney signature tradition. Disney characters (face and mask) are given strict guidelines for autograph signing that they must practice and master. Each autograph must resemble the same autograph put down by their predecessor(s) months, perhaps years before. Actors come in all shapes and sizes, but a name is a name, and while some variation is inevitable, when Princess Tiana signs your six-year-old daughter’s autograph book it should, ideally, resemble the autograph in her six-year-old’s book decades later.
I have a friend I’ve known since Jr. High School who saw “Shogun” and decided that Japanese girls were for him. He learned Japanese (perfectly) studied their culture, fully immersed himself in all things “Japan” and moved to Tokyo. He married a blonde English teacher from Montana that he met there. My point? If you want to work for Disneyland thinking you’ll score a princess, read on…
Don’t Date Disney. Cast Members are expressly prohibited from dating each other. An actor playing Jack Sparrow let this cat out of the bag when he tattled to “LA Magazine” about his time in Mousechwitz. Someone took a photo of him and his then girlfriend, Ariel.
A pirate dating a mermaid? Actually that kind of makes sense.
Anyway, the “photographer” showed it to a “higher up” who was displeased. However, it was going to the premiere of “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,” doing an interview in costume, giving his full name, and the interview being posted online that got his Ears yanked.
“Don’t sex up the guests”, Princess from DisneyFans.com says. “Most male guests are gentlemen, but there are always a few who know they can get away with anything, except groping. When we are signing and posing, someone is always watching. You don’t see them, but they see you, and they will drag you out of Disneyland, take you to your car in the parking complex and make you leave the grounds if you grab at a Princess. I don’t know about the other girl Cast Members. I bet they can tell you stories about some nonsense men do at the park too, but I haven’t heard anything.”
Princess also says that all Cast Members are discouraged from trying to “excite” members of the opposite sex and to ignore any flirtation from guests, but this goes double for the Princesses. “I was pretty harshly lectured for winking at a male guest once. It was scary, so I won’t ever do that again.”
That actually makes me feel better. Explains why, for almost ten years straight, I’ve failed to get Jasmine’s phone number. Speaking of which, this awesome photo of Jafar-Slave Jasmine… not from Disneyland or any Disney Park. Sorry guys. I just really, really like it.
That’s about all the fun facts I have about working for “The Mouse” so far and I have only scratched the surface here. If you’re a Disney Cast Member and you have more interesting litte tid-bits you want to share, or you want to add to or correct something I said, you can reply here and give a fake name (to protect your identity from the Mouse) or e-mail me at email@example.com.
All the info I put together here (including some of the photos) I found online at HiddenMickeys.org, DisneyFans.com, TopTenz.net, and various Disney Message Boards from DiscussionKingdom.com. So thank you to them for all of these interesting factiods.
~Paul J. Hale