Being a Cast Member VS. Being a Guest

Since I have not become a Cast Member (yet), I have asked my good friend, Janet, to give me the 411 on how the two differ once you have “crossed over” into Mickey employment territory. We all have dreamed it, just like living near the Mouse himself, but is the grass truly greener on the other side? Read on and find out!

Janet, when did you decide to apply for a Cast Member position and when did you officially have the job?

I have wanted to work for Walt Disney World since I was a little girl. My family would head down every year. When I was 3, I met Mickey for the first time. This was long before there were meet and greets, character dinings and places you were guaranteed to see your favorite character. I gave him a big hug and told my mom that one day I wanted to come and work for Mickey. That was 1973. My first day as a cast member was March 19, 2010.

Did you get the job you wanted, or did you need to work your way into the Company to get to the position of your choice?

I did not get the job I wanted. Having a huge background in photography, including owning my own business in California, I wanted to be a PhotoPass Photographer. I applied online, but never heard anything. Then one day, I was talking to my next door neighbor. He worked in the research department (who even knew Disney had that?) and his wife worked in merchandise. He told me to email him my resume and he would forward it to his manager. She called within a few days and set up an interview. After working in the parks for a while, I learned that beig a PhotoPass Photographer would not have been a good fit for me. I don’t think I could take the same photo 2400 times a day.

So visiting the Parks- did you enjoy it as much, way more, or not as much anymore after becoming a Cast Member? In other words, where was the level of magic at after you now worked there?

Initially, the magic was still there. After spending 40+ hours a week in the park, you learn to “tune out” the music, and you focus in on the job you have to do. After a few months, the magic was gone. I didn’t even visit the parks on evenings or weekends. When I went to part time, it was better, but still not what it once was. After leaving Walt Disney World on medical leave the magic came back. I could sing along to the parades again. I was a guest in the parks and I felt like one. I went back to living my dream.

I am always scared that seeing the “Behind-the-Scenes” stuff may ruin the aura of it all. Did it indeed happen that way for you?

Seeing the “behind the scenes” things didn’t really ruin anything for me. I thought it might, but it’s two completely different worlds, no pun intended. Backstage you see boxes, costumes, golf carts, etc. On stage you see Disney. I saw all of things you can imagine I would see, but once you walked through the doors, even now, as I walk through the turnstiles, it is Walt Disney World and a Main Street filled with magic and pixie dust.

What was your favorite moment/memory as a Cast Member?

There are a lot of fabulous memories I have, but one boy stands out in particular. He was about 20 or so and had some physical and mental limitations. I stopped to chat with him near the Buzz Lightyear ride. He explained to me how Buzz and Woody are his favorites, but he cannot go on the ride (it does not accomodate his wheelchair). He was waiting in the shade for other family members to exit the ride. He asked if I really knew Buzz and what he was like to work with. I think I talked with him for about 25 minutes, the whole while he held my hand. I wanted to see if I could do something special for this guy and creat a “magical moment”. I got in touch with the manager of a merchandise cart and we got a Buzz Lightyear/Toy Story beach towel for him. When I gave it to him, I told him that Buzz had wanted him to have it. He hugged the towel as if it had the value of gold. When his family came back, he introduced them to me. When his family heard about the towel they were all crying. I had to part ways but knew I’d remember him always. Later in the evening, as they all left the park, his parents walked up to me and told me how amazing their day was and how their son hadn’t stopped holding his towel and talking about his new friend. That was pretty special to me.

Do you feel, that if you are truly passionate about Disney, you should go for a job there, or leave your playground, your playground?

I think for each person there is a different answer. There are positions within Walt Disney World that are not in the parks. For me, I need to keep my work and my magic separate. If I ever do return to Walt Disney World, it will be “on the other side of the fence”.

After now leaving for medical reasons, do you see Disney World again as you once did, or is it hard to turn off the “job” part of it?

The magic came back within weeks of my medical leave. There are still things I see or hear that I know shouldn’t be. Occassionally I will whisper to the cast member something to let them know I know, or for an action that warrants it, I may go to guest relations. I don’t see the parks and think of work. I see the parks and think of the possibilities.

Would you work at Disney World again in the future?

Again, that would depend on the position and where I am in life. Right now, I would say no.

What is your best advice for those looking to work there?

If you are sure you want to work there, talk to someone who does the job you think you want. If you still want to do that job, you need to make sure your resume lines up with the job description. Make sure the key words in the job description are in your resume. Disney doesn’t look at resumes. Computers do. They look for key words and pull the resume out. If you have friends who work for Disney already, ask to use them as references.

Please feel free to add anything you wish!

Working at Walt Disney World allowed me to meet two of my very best friends, and countless other people I am building friendships with. I have not one regret about working for the Mouse. With 55,000+ cast members and employees, you are bound to make lasting friendships. You will seldom find better friends, than “Disney Friends”. If you are hesitant about working for Walt Disney World, don’t let that keep you from deciding to move here. I live a few miles behind Cinderella Castle. I hear the fireworks every night, and if I walk to the corner, I can see them. We hear the boat horns, the train whistles and, if the wind is right, we can hear the Main Street Electrical Parade. You don’t have to work there to be surrounded by the magic. You just have to be here.

Thank you, Janet, for giving us all a look into what it would be like to be a Cast Member. God bless you and thanks for bringing the Disney magic to so many during your time there.

7 thoughts on “Being a Cast Member VS. Being a Guest

  • I loved every moment working on the College program in 2001 at Muppetvision. I would love to work there again in marketing or guest relations. I loved seeing the Behind the scenes. It just enriched the experience.

  • I work hospitality lodging currently and thought about working for Disney when we move. However, Hilton employees(which I am now) have more widespread travel benifits. Once I’m living near the mouse I hope that my vacations will spread out to other ends of the country! Given the choice now, I always choose Disney!

    Great interview! Thanks.

  • I’ve worked with disney for 6yrs and I absolutley love it sometime you see things that make you wonder why? but for the most part I feel the magic all the time. I’ve learned to separte work and play. But I love what I do very much.

  • I was just browsing through your blog and I noticed this interview. Thanks for the info! I just had an interview at the casting center. I feel like it went really well, and I am now “wait-listed” for a job in merchandising as my first choice and attractions as my second choice. Doing tons of research and reading about other cast members experiences. I am really really excited to work for Disney. Hoping that a job opens up for me really soon! Thanks again for sharing this article.