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Disney Cast Member Secrets

32 Fun Disney Facts From a Former Cast Member

Despite the fact that the Disney company employs thousands of people, there really aren't that many who can say they worked at one of its amazing theme parks. And if you're lucky enough to be one of those people, you know how closely guarded Disney's secrets are and how little you are actually allowed to share. I was fortunate enough (yes, I say fortunate because I loved working for the intense company that is Disney) to work at Walt Disney World for a few years while I lived in Florida, and I'm here to share just a few of the things I learned about the company, the parks, and being a cast member, but I have to do it quietly so the mouse doesn't track me down.

1. The music never shuts off.

From the moment you step on stage until the moment you step off, you will hear the music that plays in your area on loop. I worked in the backlot area at Hollywood Studios, so one of my stores was Tatooine Traders at the end of the Star Tours attraction. I heard Star Wars music all day for several days at a time. I had dreams about Star Wars. I could quote every line from every song that played in the Muppets store after working there for several days.

But the best part is when you work a closing shift and you're cleaning up your store or cart after the park is completely empty and the music just continues on as if nothing has changed.

Image Source: Flickr user Anna Fox

2. Walt Disney's plane is backstage at Hollywood Studios.

When the Backlot Tour still existed at Disney Hollywood Studios, the tram went past this plane, and guests learned that this plane was actually used by Walt when he was scouting the Central Florida area for his second park, as well as for many other trips. As a cast member, you could drive and walk by it at any time, because it is just there on display backstage.

3. Animal Kingdom is built in a bowl.

During Traditions (aka orientation), we were told that the park is sunken into the ground to create a climate suitable for all the animals in the park. This is also why the temperature inside the park is much warmer than outside. However, I haven't been able to find confirmation elsewhere on the Internet, so I'm only going by what we were told. I do know, though, that the animals are why this park generally closes first of the four at the Walt Disney World Resort.

4. If you are on the clock, you have to follow the Disney Look.

During training at Disney University and any other location, you are required to follow the Disney Look. I had two training sessions at Disney University as well as a noncostume training day at my park, and each of those days I was required to wear business-casual clothes, including closed-toed shoes. It doesn't matter that guests don't see you — you are still a cast member and must follow the look. One other cast member doing on-site training with me in the park showed up in a skirt that didn't meet regulations and had to change into costume pants. Trust me, you don't want to wear costume pants any longer than you have to.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Anna Monette Roberts

5. Disney costumes run tiny.

During my first trip to the costume room, my supervisor warned me that I should check out a costume two sizes bigger than I'd normally wear, and he was right. Talk about a blow to your ego. He said it was something like the sizing of the costumes followed the sizing of when the park first opened in the '70s, which is smaller than how current sizing works. As a part-time cast member, I was also only allowed to check out three costumes at a time, and every piece of each costume was required as long as I was on stage — including a horrible hat and bow tie.

Image Source: Flickr user Anna Fox

6. Photos backstage are a no-no.

While I was working at Disney, it didn't seem to be a huge problem because social media wasn't as prevalent as it is now, but I know some cast members who have actually been let go for not following this rule. Disney is very, very protective of its brand and the magic.

Image Source: Flickr user Anna Fox

7. Pin trading is much more popular at Walt Disney World than Disneyland.

On a recent trip to Disneyland, I was sad to find out that cast members aren't required to wear a lanyard for pin trading. At Disney World, it was considered part of our costume and was to be worn, fully stocked with 12 pins, at all times. Good luck finding cast members with lanyards at Disneyland.

8. Disney police love to pull over cast members for speeding.

So, that's not totally true, but statistically, the resort police do pull over more cast members than guests. I was warned of that at my first orientation session when I was hired. Apparently a lot of cast members tend to be running late for work, so they speed through the property . . .

9. You can get your in-park purchases delivered.

If you're staying at a Disney resort, you can have your purchases from the parks delivered to your hotel so you don't have to carry them around. Another option is to have them delivered to the front of the park for you to pick up on the way out. You can even have your packages shipped home for you. Most people know about this, but what you may not know is that there are time limits on this. Package pickup stops running through the parks based on the gift shop's location. Because the parks close from back to front, package pickup also stops from back to front. But if you ask a cast member nicely, they might be willing to run a package to the front of the park for you to pick up later. I did this for more than one guest who purchased a huge stuffed animal at the Muppets store and didn't want to carry it to Fantasmic! As is Disney policy, cast members will go out of their way to make sure your visit is practically perfect (in every way).

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Anna Monette Roberts

10. Disney says you can't have your last paycheck until your costumes are all turned in . . .

But I can tell you that's false. To this day, five years later, I still have a pair of costume pants, and Disney has never kept any money from me. I turned in a bathing suit for one of my friends three years after she quit working as a lifeguard. It's a scare tactic. (Not that I recommend keeping any costume pieces.)

11. Any time you're on the clock and inside a park, you're on stage.

Inside the parks is considered on stage, outside the park is backstage, employees are cast members in costumes, customers are guests. All of this contributes to the Disney magic. Once you set foot on stage, you have to follow all the Disney rules and live up to the Disney image. This is also part of why there are tunnels under the Magic Kingdom — cast members shouldn't be seen outside their area because it hinders the experience. It doesn't make sense to see someone in a Frontierland costume walking across the park to Tomorrowland to meet up with a friend. Thus, the tunnels. But I promise, it's not as stressful as it may sound.

12. Guests will never see two of the same character at once.

And I mean ever. That's because there's only one of each character. Cast members carry a guide every day that gives them all the necessary information for their park that day, including park hours, attraction times, character showings, and all necessary phone numbers. Want to know where Cinderella will be at 3 p.m.? Ask a cast member. If she isn't in that particular park, the cast member will be able to tell you where to find her.

13. Cast members are supposed to use guests' names whenever possible.

As a cast member, I got evaluated by a manager often. Definitely more often than at any other job I've held, mostly because Disney's guidelines are so thorough and rigid. There was a checklist that I was supposed to run through with each and every guest interaction. One of those things was to use a guest's name whenever possible. Have you ever been surprised by a cast member who uses your name? It's either because you have a pin on with your name on it, or when you paid with your room key or credit card, we took a quick glance at it to get your name. That way, when we hand you your bag of stuffed animals, we can thank you by name and tell you to have a magical day.

14. You pretty much can't see Disney property from the highway.

Walt Disney World is set pretty far in from Interstate 4 in Central Florida, and if it weren't for the exit signs, you probably wouldn't even know you were there. The Disney company owns a ton of land. Like, thousands of acres, a lot of which isn't even in use.

15. Saying "I don't know" is never acceptable.

If a guest asks you a question, you always have to have an answer, no exceptions. If you don't know it, find out, but don't say you don't know. If it's a silly question, make up a silly answer. If a child asks you what Tinker Bell eats before her flight across the Magic Kingdom during the fireworks, you better come up with an answer quickly. (Answer: very tiny apples.)

16. There's a very obvious cell tower at Animal Kingdom.

If you're pulling into the Animal Kingdom parking lot and see a really tall, really skinny tree inside the park, guess what? It's not actually a tree; it's a cell tower. It's really obvious. It's also not in this photo because no one wants to take a photo of a really ugly and poorly disguised cell tower.

17. The perks are pretty grand.

Here's a Disney secret for you: ordinary cast members in the parks make very little money. Oh wait, that's no secret, because it's standard for retail and food service jobs. However, Disney rewards cast members with some pretty fantastic perks, including but not limited to: discounts on all merchandise, free entry to your parks any time, many free tickets and entries for friends and family, food discounts, discounted entries to Disney-owned locations, hotel discounts, cruise discounts, access to special events, and so much more. Whenever Disney opens a new attraction at the parks, they always have a soft opening for cast members only. While I was working at MGM Studios, I went to the cast preview night of The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, where we even got treats and hot chocolate.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Anna Monette Roberts

18. Children are never lost at Disney.

Adults are. If a child gets separated from his/her parents, cast members will always treat the situation as a lost adult, never a lost child. How could a child be lost at Disney? It's the happiest place on earth!

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Anna Monette Roberts

19. Cast members cannot acknowledge a celebrity as such.

Celebrities are the same as every other park guest if you're on stage. Asking a celebrity for a photo or autograph is grounds for immediate release from your job. I never encountered any celebrities while working at Hollywood Studios, which was Disney-MGM Studios while I was there, so it wasn't an issue for me. (No, I'm definitely not bummed by that. Nope.)

20. Walt Disney bought the land in Florida under several names to keep it a secret.

He mostly did it so no one would know that he, specifically, was buying such a large amount of land. It was also so he could avoid any kind of price hikes once real-estate agents knew that Disney was buying land. Fun fact: a lot of those fake names and companies he used are on the windows of Main Street USA.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Rebecca Gruber

21. The Florida property is just massive.

The few times I went to the cast parking lot for the Magic Kingdom, I realized just how much land Disney owns. I went what felt like miles out of my way, through housing areas (college program housing) and empty land (to be developed later), before reaching Magic Kingdom's backstage area. (Before having to get on a bus to take me to the tunnel. Magic Kingdom is exhausting!) Just when you think you're off Disney property, you see another subtle sign letting you know that nope, the mouse owns this, too.

22. Working during the Summer at Disney World is rough.

Obviously Central Florida gets especially hot during the Summer, but working outdoors in a full costume can be brutal. I was also required to wear all-black shoes, and one day, because it was so ridiculously hot, the soles of my shoes melted to the ground. That was fun.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Anna Monette Roberts

23. Just about everything is scripted.

Everything said by attractions hosts? Scripted. Everything said by performers on the streets in the parks? Scripted. Many things said by retail hosts? Scripted. We're given every last piece of information about our attraction so that we can always stay on script.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Rebecca Gruber

24. It stinks pretty bad backstage.

But you will pretty much never smell it while in the parks because more pleasant smells are pumped in. Think about how much garbage is generated in those parks every day. Janitorial cast members are constantly shuttling it backstage, so between the large amounts of trash and lack of fancy smells, it gets pretty ripe back there.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Rebecca Gruber

25. Speaking of stink . . .

The tunnels under the Magic Kingdom also smell pretty foul. I was only in them one time, and that was enough. I also learned that the tunnels are actually ground level, and the park was built over them. This was because the land was originally all swampland. (It is Central Florida, after all.) So Walt built the tunnels through some of it and built the park on top of it.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Rebecca Gruber

26. Hollywood Studios has provided bikes backstage for cast.

Because Hollywood Studios is small and doesn't have underground tunnels, Disney provided a slew of bicycles to be used by cast members backstage. While I was working there, the bike program wasn't in place. I was told they stopped it because people were abusing the privilege of having the bikes (vandalizing, stealing), but it looks like they may be back now.

27. Disney has a ton of security.

That part is obvious, because security is everywhere. What is not so obvious is that there are even more security officers than you think. Disney employs a ton of plainclothes officers who are in the parks at all times. The only identifying thing about them is the earpiece they wear.

28. Always employ the Disney point.

Didn't your mom ever teach you it's rude to point? Walt Disney feels the same, because all cast members have to point with two fingers so it's not interpreted as being rude. Other things Disney wants cast members to do? Scoop up trash without stopping to bend down — bend as you walk by and scoop it up. Also avoid gum, because you can't even buy it in the park. Disney didn't want to see it on the ground, so he refused to even sell it.

29. Cast members sometimes get to take part in really cool events.

I worked at Disney World during the Year of a Million Dreams (the first year of a few), and we did a special on Good Morning America that I got to take part in. We got to pick from a select few costumes (I picked High School Musical, naturally), and we had to be inside the Magic Kingdom at like 3 a.m. to go over staging. We filmed it at something like 5 a.m., and it ended up being close to a full eight-hour shift . . . all in the rain. It was a lot of back and forth and standing around, but how many people can say they were on Good Morning America as a Disney cast member? And I got a free lunch!

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Rebecca Gruber

30. The Mickey just inside Hollywood Studios has a secret.

There's a Mickey Mouse on top of Crossroads of the World right inside the entrance to Hollywood Studios that waves to all who enter and exit, but that Mickey also serves another purpose. He's a lightning rod. One of his ears is made of copper to attract the lightning. The building is also a replica of the Crossroads of the World in Hollywood.

31. Did I mention the cast-exclusive sales?

Cast members have access to discontinued merchandise, damaged merchandise, and items left in lost and found. There's a store behind Magic Kingdom that sells items pulled from the park shelves at discounted prices for cast members. Then there's a trailer next door that sells damaged merchandise and lost-and-found items. I bought a Pirates of the Caribbean shirt that retailed for $40 for $4 because it had a hole in the seam. It took maybe five minutes to sew it up.

If that isn't enough for you, there is also a huge sale twice a year for cast members that's basically a cleanout of the merchandise. It's held in huge tents and only open to cast members and their guests. My favorite thing about those were the supercheap trading pins. I got grab bags of 10 pins with a lanyard for $10. Now that is a great deal.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Anna Monette Roberts

32. Disney loves to give guests a kiss goodnight.

If you stick around the Magic Kingdom in Florida until closing, Disney will give you what it calls a kiss goodnight. Cinderella's castle will light up brilliantly, and there will be an announcement to music thanking you for coming and sharing Walt's vision for his park. Cast members lucky enough to work there get to see it often, and it never gets old.

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