As I write this, I’m on lunch break inside the Magic Kingdom Utilidors, also known as “the underground” or “the tunnels.” I still can’t believe I work here.
Sometimes while performing at Magic Kingdom, I’ll turn around and remember I’m in front of Cinderella’s castle. I’ll stand there in awe and wonder how I ended up working at Walt Disney World. I only saw this happening in my wildest dreams, but I’m so grateful it became a reality.
Three months ago, before starting my job as a character performer, I wrote a blog post titled, “A Whole New World.” In it, I described the audition and application process. I discovered a few days ago that my scores from that audition are high enough so that I qualify to perform in top parades and shows such as Festival of Fantasy and Fantasmic!, as well as special events: weddings, conferences, etc. This was extremely exciting news for me. I was thrilled to know how much there was left to learn, but unfortunately, I will not be here at Disney long enough to be trained for or perform any of the roles.
Within two months, I have learned a lot from fellow performers as well as several trainers, captains, and managers. When I first started, I was lost and confused pretty much all the time, and I couldn’t put together a costume without someone else’s help. Now I can (for the most part) find my way around backstage in the four major Disney parks and have mastered the art of putting on an entire Disney costume in less than two minutes. Since I’ve been at Disney, I’ve realized that this “whole new world” I was once very clueless about is spectacular – just as I imagined it. It is also at times chaotic, fast-paced, and well, smelly. I want to share a bit of what a day is like as a performer at Walt Disney World (without ruining any magic!!) So here it goes:
I perform at all of the Walt Disney World parks, as well as multiple Disney resorts and restaurants. I hang out with many different characters, although 90% of the time I’m with Mickey and Minnie. Every performer here (including princesses, princes, etc.) has to perform mask or “fur” characters. Fortunately for me, the two adorable mice are ALWAYS inside with air-conditioning, away from the intense Florida heat (with the exception of training, parades, and outdoor dance parties). As weird as it sounds, I’m usually freezing. I move around a lot while performing indoors to warm up, and I wear sweatpants and sweatshirts on breaks.
As a member of the Disney Entertainment team, each day is very different from the next. Some days I’m putting together a costume at 5:30am. Other times I’m driving to work at 3pm and leaving the Entertainment base as fireworks are shooting off at 10pm. It just depends on the character I’m hanging out with that day and the work location.
Today was my onboarding appointment for Walt Disney World. I’ve always wanted to peek inside the Casting Center across the street from Downtown Disney, and today I finally had the opportunity to explore!
I arrived 10 minutes early for my 1pm appointment. The interior of the Casting Center lobby was absolutely beautiful, and I felt like I was inside the castle of the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland. I found Suite 140 and walked down a long, narrow hallway with picture canvases of different Disney characters and attractions hanging on both walls.
I opened a set of doors with the sign “Onboarding” and walked into a large gray room filled with cubicles and desks. Although it looked like a corporate office, it felt more like a waiting room at a health clinic. There were about 10 other people there (in many different shapes and sizes) waiting to complete their onboarding appointment to be a Cast Member for Disney. Some of the Cast Member roles include guest services, retail sales clerk, costuming, vacation planner, custodian… the list goes on forever.
I walked to the front desk. The receptionist asked for my forms of identification. Make sure you have these!! This includes social security card, passport, birth certificate, driver’s license, etc. If you do not have the identification about they WILL turn you away and make you reschedule. I gave her my forms, and she said someone would be with me shortly.
And we’re off! Headed to “the happiest place on earth” (although I still believe home will always be the happiest place on earth). But whatevs.
On Tuesday, May 6th, I said goodbye to my Brentwood home and took the 10 hour road trip with my mom to Orlando. When we finally arrived at our apartment around 8pm, we dropped our luggage off and immediately headed to Downtown Disney to enjoy the evening. As we walked around Downtown Disney, I started to cry. I was anxious about the new job, excited about being at Disney World, and sad about being far from home, my siblings, Wes, and friends. Within 20 minutes of watching joyful children with their families and talking to current Cast Members, I felt calm and hopeful.
I spent the next day with my mom unpacking, organizing and cleaning the apartment, and (of course) Disney dining and shopping. My mom and I had a blast driving around our new neighborhood (a mile away from the theme parks!!) and running errands. During a delicious dinner in Downtown Disney, my mom told me that we could go to a park of my choice for the next day: I picked Animal Kingdom.
I love Animal Kingdom. A lot of people tend to overlook it, but even when I was a young child, I enjoyed every minute of the park. Of course we went on all the typical rides (Expedition Everest, Kali River Rapids, etc.) but I also took the time to observe the different characters. I visited Mickey, Minnie, Pooh, Tigger, Baloo, Pocahontas, and King Louie and watched how they interacted with families and stayed true to their characters. My mom even surprised me with a Disney autograph book. (My goal is to get every every character’s autograph by the end of the summer.) We also attended Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade and Finding Nemo: the Musical. It was truly a magical first day being at a Disney park. I still can’t believe that I’m going to be able to go to any park for free during the summer! What a dream come true.
As I write this, I am laying in bed in my swanky new bedroom. It is a purple room with big-screen TV, a queen-size bed, and window seat. It feels like paradise. The apartment has a pool as well. I haven’t been able to enjoy it yet, but I’m excited to spend an entire afternoon in the water (it’s very warm here in Orlando…obviously).
Tomorrow at 1pm, I will attend my Disney on-boarding appointment. There, I will get my picture taken for my Disney ID and will fill out a few forms before I start my training at Disney University on Tuesday.
I want to thank my family members, friends, and even professors who have continued to support and encourage me. It has meant a great deal to me. Those who know me well have probably recognized that I’m an extreme homebody. This move has definitely been a tremendous change for me, as well as an exciting adventure. I’m looking forward to what’s ahead, and I can’t wait for my siblings, my dad, Wes, and my bestest friend “Shug” to come visit! I’ll be writing soon about my appointment tomorrow! Cheers!