So, you want to be a Disney Cast Member…
Every Disney Cast Member learns the basics of doing the ‘Disney Point’, navigating the Parks, and interacting with guests during their training. However, there are many other skills that Cast Members tend to pick up on the job. Things you might not consider to be terribly useful in everyday life often turn out to be very handy when you’re dealing with thousands of theme park guests on a daily basis.
Here’s a list of some of our talents that we learned after just a few days in our role:
1. Speaking in Acronyms
Cast Members love acronyms, particularly those with three letters. Many popular acronyms assume the word “ride” is tacked on to the end of an attraction to get the right number of letters. Disney’s Animal Kingdom is “DAK” (pronounced like it rhymes with “pack”). Kilimanjaro Safaris is KSR, Dinosaur is DTR (adding “The” as well as “Ride”), and The Great Movie Ride is GMR. Since these don’t make pronounceable words, you just say the letters.
If you work in the rotation that includes Aladdin, the Enchanted Tiki Room, and the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse, you’re at ATT. String enough of these together and it’s almost incomprehensible to someone who’s not a Cast Member.
2. Counting the Number of People in a Group in Seconds
Sure, you always ask “how many,” but you also go into the grouper position knowing that a lot of people will get the answer wrong. Guests also like to answer with math problems like: “two here, and three behind me, and then a kid”, instead of just saying “5”.
Needless to say, it’s handy to have a good eye for figuring out which groups are together and determining how many are really with the guest in question.
3. Judging Children’s Heights at a Glance
Any Cast Member who has worked at an attraction with a height restriction is sure to have a special talent for identifying children who fall under that height. Cast Members typically figure out where the height restriction falls on their own body. That way you know any child who comes past your waist is good to go, while those who are mid-thigh definitely need to be measured. This skill is handy on the job, but is awkward when you unconsciously eye up the kids in line with you when you’re riding attractions in your off time.
4. Sensing Nausea from Great Distances
Cast Members who work on attractions with motion sickness warnings tend to hone this skill particularly well, but the ever-present heat and humidity in Florida can make guests green at the gills just about anywhere.
After just a few weeks on the job, Cast Members can spot that glassy-eyed look from a distance. You always hope you can get to the guest before he has a hand over his mouth, so there’s at least a small chance of getting him to a restroom in time. (That rarely happens!)
5. Determining Any Nationality in Under a Minute
Cast Members get to meet guests from all over the world. After you’ve had some experience chatting up international visitors, you’ll notice some commonalities in dress and mannerisms. This skill has nothing to do with determining someone’s heritage, so skin color and facial features don’t really apply.
You can usually tell from someone’s choice of clothing or footwear where they’re from. If you can’t guess before talking to them, you’re sure to figure it out after you’ve heard their accent. Non-English speakers also seem to know certain English words that change depending on where they’re from.
6. Spotting Brazilian Tour Groups
7. Scooping Up Trash Without Missing a Step
Picking up stray pieces of trash on the ground is an essential Cast Member skill that goes all the way back to Walt himself. The ‘man behind the mouse’ was known to pick up litter in the streets of Disneyland to keep up the flawless appearance of his beloved Park.
Naturally, Cast Members are expected to follow suit. This skill is really handy anywhere, but it does get you some strange looks from your friends when you keep falling behind at the mall because you’re reflexively picking up every crumpled napkin you see.
8. Pointing with Two Fingers
All pointing is always done with two fingers whether giving directions, leading the way, or answering guest’s questions.
9. Figuring the Time Based on the Sound of Fireworks in the Distance
Walt Disney World has at least three fireworks shows every night of the year. In certain spots on WDW property, you can even hear more than one. For example, Cast Members can often determine the time at night by figuring that if the wind is carrying the sound of Illuminations fireworks over from Epcot, it must be 9:15pm.
10. Guessing What a Guest Will Ask Before They Get the Question Out
In certain positions, a Cast Member’s whole role is to answer questions. Cast Members in guest relations, the greeter position of an attraction, front desk areas in the hotels, or stocking shelves in a gift shop all tend to get lots and lots of the same questions throughout the day.
After a while you pick up on what the guest is asking long before the question makes its way out. This is especially useful in cases where the guest himself doesn’t actually know what he’s asking. The literal answer to “When is the 3 o’clock parade?” is “3 o’clock”, but without the eye rolling.
Adapted from Theme Park Tourist: http://www.themeparktourist.com/features/20130917/14414/9-strange-things-cast-members-learn-do
We worked at WDW for a year in the Disney College Program (Fall 2013/Spring 2014) and have written a book about what it’s like to be a cast member working for Disney.
We included advice on how to successfully get into the DCP program, including some of the actual phone interview questions, how to have a successful internship, and how not self-term before your program ends. Our book is filled with lots of behind-the-scene stories of the magic of Disney.
Available now at Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle formats. Published by Theme Park Press.