Is Disney really all it's cracked up to be? Believe it or not, you'll be hard-pressed to find many former or current employees who don't have good things to say — for the most part. Either there's something in the water, or the company truly is great at what it does (we'll go with the latter). A former Walt Disney World employee did an AMA on Reddit that answered some pretty interesting questions — from people having sex in the parks to what really goes on behind the scenes. Spoiler alert: Disney World might actually be the Most Magical Place on Earth.
1. How many people approximately does Disney employ in Florida?
"On average, 75,000."
2. How seriously do they take costume and characters staying on?
"As a character performer, you could get fired for breaking character on stage."
3. Do those who are in the Mickey Mouse costumes and etc learn how to write their autographs as identical as possible?
"Yes, that's a requirement."
4. You get free tickets?
"I had a 'Self Admission Pass' that could get me into the parks for free whenever I wanted. I also earned three guest passes for every 150 hours I worked."
5. How do the character actors cope in the big suits when it is completely normal for the temperature to be pushing 100 degrees?
"If they're outside, They run on a 30 minutes on/30 minutes off schedule. If it's higher than 90 degrees outside, they're only in the costume for 20 minutes at a time."
6. I've had sex at Disneyland as a guest, and expect it would be easier for an employee. As a cast member, how many escapades were you able to get away with?
"The attractions all have cameras on them, so I assure you, some cast member saw everything you did. I actually never had sex in the parks, but I've heard some hilarious stories."
7. Do you miss working there? What's one of your more memorable moments (good or bad)?
"I miss it very much. I had a lot of memorable moments, but if I could pick a favourite, it would be a few nights before I left. I went to see Illuminations with all of my (attractions) coworkers from EPCOT. Our leader let us up onto one of the balconies in Italy to watch, which is a spot that not even guests get to go. I had become really close friends with these people."
8. Is Vista Way still called Vista Lay?
9. How aggressively do they update rides/walkways? Like from large scale rides to small details inside the park.
"It depends on what you mean by 'update'. The attractions have repairs/renovations done to them at least once a year. Every attraction has an opening checklist to be completed every morning, and a closing checklist to be completed every night. The items on any checklist usually relate to safety and show (everything should look the way it's supposed to). If even one of the items on the opening checklist doesn't pass, the attraction won't open until it's fixed."
10. Are there any stereotypes of people that play certain roles?
"I've met a lot of really sweet Rapunzels. Elsa is stuck up. Anna is also a sweetheart. Ariel is a mix. Tinker Bell is also really sweet. Oh and Tiana is always sarcastic and the very few Elena's that I met were such sweethearts and very friendly."
11. If you had a season pass and were forced to spend a year there, how would you plan out your stay as a guest/prisoner at Disney World?
"This would be the coolest thing ever because that means I could spend an entire year in Disney World and do whatever I want without consequences. I'd mess with people so much. Like I'd switch all the dolls in Small World around to all the wrong countries. I'd try to trick character performers into wearing mismatched costumes. I'd figure out how the interactive attractions work (Turtle Talk with Crush, Monsters Inc Laugh Floor) and use those to prank people. Stuff like that. As far as where I live, I'd probably figure out how to set up a permanent camp somewhere in Disney's Animal Kingdom, since that's the most I would be able to afford."
12. How accurate is Swoozie's diaries of an ex-Disney employee stories on YouTube?
"Mostly accurate. Keep in mind, he's a storyteller, so a lot of what he says is exaggerated since it makes for a better story."
13. Have you ever seen someone do anything terrible to the food that worked there?
"I never did, actually. Disney is very strict about food safety. Coordinators/leaders are watching the kitchen at all times, and there are cameras everywhere. I once got in trouble for eating a single french fry in front of people."
14. Did you serve alcohol there? Follow up, any funny stories of drunk parents and their embarrassed kids?
"Duh. Actually, I worked in EPCOT, which most Disney cast members have nicknamed 'the drunk park'. EPCOT houses the world showcase (alcohol from every corner of the world, pretty much), and hosts the annual International Food & Wine Festival. I had to deal with drunk guests on a daily basis, and I have two pretty funny stories pertaining to drunk guests:
1. I worked at a restaurant called the Electric Umbrella in EPCOT. One day, I was working at the counter, and a middle-aged man came up and bought a can of Bud Light. I opened one and handed it too him, and he chugged the entire thing in front of me, then handed it back and asked me to throw it out. A few minutes later, he came back and did the same thing. This happened two more times, then about 30 minutes later, I looked across the restaurant and saw his wife (I assume) yelling at him in front of their kids.
2. An extremely inebriated guest was trying to find Test Track. I spent 15 minutes (I counted) trying to explain to him that the ride he was looking for was right behind him."
15. What was the work culture there like? Any difference between lower-level and higher-level employees in attitude?
"I'm speaking from my own personal experience here, since every role is going to have a different feel to it. Most of the people that I worked with were super into their job. Disney trains us to treat everything as if it were one big show, so we just tried to make it fun. Everyone seemed to genuinely enjoy being at work.
There were a ton of strictly enforced rules and guidelines we had to follow, concerning everything from how you dress to how you have to act when you're 'on stage' (on stage means anywhere that you can be seen by guests). The leaders and coordinators usually had more of a stick up their rear end about these kinds of things, but I never had many problems with them. Part-time and full-time employees have a tendency to look down on/be condescending towards interns, but that doesn't always happen."
16. My sister worked for the Mouse and was treated horribly, especially when it came to housing where she was living with four people in a two-bedroom apartment, how was your experience?
"I had an amazing experience. Everyone seems to have a different experience when they come to work for Disney. It all depends on your perspective I guess. My experience with housing was pretty great, and I'm actually still friends with most of my roommates. I lived in two different apartment during my time there: the first was a one-bedroom three-person in Chatham Square, the next was also a one-bedroom three-person in Patterson Court."
17. Did you save any money while working at Disney? I've heard that they don't let you eat outside food, make you live in certain places, etc. so that in the end you don't really make any money.
"Those rumours are pretty exaggerated. Disney does offer housing to their interns, but they give you the option to live off-site. You can eat wherever you want. The last part is true though. By the end of my internship I broke even with my money."
18. If a person in a costume suffers a heart attack, stroke, etc. in the park, are they just dragged off somewhere?
"Disney has plans in place for situations like that. I'm not allowed to say what they are, but they do have policies in place."
19. So you aren't an ex-employee, then? Barring a lifetime NDA, pretty sure you're allowed to talk about them now that you've left.
"I am, but I don't want to jeopardise my chance of working for them again in the future. Disney keeps tabs on people that used to work for them, almost like a creepy ex-boyfriend/girlfriend."
20. Have you ever seen/interacted with someone famous or prestigious at the park?
"Neil Patrick Harris and Chris Evans. I found out that I'm a few inches taller than Chris, which made me feel really good. Like, I can tell people I'm taller than Captain America."
21. Do they really have underground tunnels for employees?
"Yes, but only at Magic Kingdom and EPCOT. They're called the 'Utilidor' because Disney loves making new words for things."
22. Did your dreams come true?
"Yes, all of them. Even the weird ones."
23. Was it the happiest place on earth?