Everyone at some point of their life wanted to be a Disney princess, a cartoon character, or a talking topless rodent. I mean, who wouldn’t? Waking up in the morning and going to the happiest place in the world has to be infinitely easier than going to the most corporate place in the world, right? Well, I hate to break it to you, princess (see what I did there?), but the reality of being a Disney employee/costume character isn’t all fairy dust and dancing pink elephants. This is what it’s really like to work as a Disney character at one of the company’s theme parks.
They Said What?
One man interviewed his wife who wanted to work for Disney – actually, hell-bent is probably more appropriate – regarding her experience auditioning to be a Disney Princess and, apparently, you won’t get hired if you are fat, old or of a different race than the character you are auditioning for.
If you’re playing from home, it’s highly illegal to scrutinize candidates on any of those characteristics, under most other circumstances. But it’s OK for Disney because that’s where adult dreams are crushed! Auditions (according to the Disney princess hopeful) are an inhuman six-hour long affair where you are judged on your physical appearance and not given any feedback whatsoever. Just to add to your potential horror, the reason the casting directors stopped giving feedback is because – get this – women that were rejected… would get freaking plastic surgery and re-audition!
Politics, Politics, Politics
Look, every workplace has politics; it’s unavoidable when you have a group of people with different personalities, personal experiences, and work ethics. Disney though is a peculiar workplace. The people that work there have an almost religious devotion to the company and its products (which are dreams! Cue harp). That cult-like devotion creates anything but employee hegemony which goes like this: Princess (of Face Characters), costumed characters, and then all the other (scoff) employees. And the princesses are tighter than the Cosa Nostra (that’s the Sicilian Mafia, by the way).
Although the Princesses are hired to be polite, kind, pleasant, and pretty, they clique together like a prison gang at the first opportunity. They will gossip about coworkers, talk subversively, and even rat or snitch people out to administration. So, the princesses are a group to avoid for sure…
Now the costumed characters probably have it worse of them all, but we’ll get to that in the next section. Then you have the ruffians, the people that work in the food courts, shops, and who clean the park… but they’re so lowly we won’t even bother mentioning them in this article.
Of all the jobs at the Happiest Place in the World, being a costumed character has to be the most hellish job there. The costumes are so hot that costumed characters are only allowed to work 20 minutes at a time. With every rotation, they are allowed to cool off for 40 minutes and drink some water as heatstroke and dehydration are just as much of an occupational hazard as is getting punched in the gut by an “energetic” (see: asshole) five-year-old. Although most non-stunt performers get paid minimum wage, the people employed through the Disney’s College Program get amenities such as free internet, cable TV, transportation, and access to the parks, gyms, and pools. But again, you have to be able to live on the meager pay to be able to take advantage of all the free stuff.
Personal Appearance - Part Deux
Like I mentioned in the very first entry, both costumed characters and those that don’t wear costumes are initially judged by their looks. They have to fit their cartoon counterpart’s size, weight, and attractiveness. For costumed characters, the only thing they actually look for is height, Mickey and Minnie Mouse being the shortest characters. Beyond that, though, even the characters that are completely obscured from head-to-toe have to adhere to a strict dress code which includes dying hair only in natural tones (forget your mermaid hair), women can only have their ears pierced and nothing else (and yes, that includes… um… nonvisible piercings), and while tattoos are not prohibited, they are definitely frowned upon if not covered. Oh, and the training manual uses the term “All-American” heavily… you take what you want from that…
You might think that Disney-esque might allude to an organization’s love of magic and fairy dust, but it actually means treating your employees like a post-apocalyptic totalitarian government. All of the park’s employees are put through a rigorous 3 to 5-day training program, where there are moments it may seem like they were directly lifted from boot camp training. One former Disney employee recalled how the trainer had everyone stand up at the welcoming presentation and then have half of them sit back down, to which he added: “This amount of people will not complete the program”
The trainer then proceeded to enumerate the many reasons people would quit or be terminated (see: shit-canned) – remember: this is all during the (Un)Welcome Presentation. That’s some (super NSFW, including some racial slurs) Full Metal Jacket shit!
According to the same article, the reason Disney has all of these extremely stringent rules in place is partially because they can’t afford all the people they hire. So they have the rules in place to give them a de facto reason to fire someone and avoid paying any type of compensation because the employee was terminated on grounds of misconduct or it can go as far as a breach of contact… It just warms the cockles of your heart, doesn’t it?
So, people participating in the internship program must mandatorily live in an apartment complex on the park… sweet deal, right? Not really, especially considering you have to pay exorbitant rent to the Disney Corporation even though they are forcing you to live there – wait, is that even legal?
Excuse me, guys… there are two guys in black suits and mickey ear hats knocking at my front door, I’ll be right back… OK, they just threatened me with a magical defamation suit and possible banning from everywhere in the park except Epcot… I’m OK with that since that’s the only Disney theme park you can drink in.
Oh, speaking of drinking… Because Disney has a multimillion-dollar deal with a water and sports drink company, employees can only consume those drinks, which is fine because they’re free! HA! Have you still not figured out that Disney is a money-making machine? Of course employees pay for the two available types of drinks in the park. But that’s not even the worst part though…
They are not allowed to use money while in costume, which is extremely hot, so obviously they must bring their drinks with them but at the same time, if they put them on a parapet or a surface close to them, it will be considered garbage and thrown away. So they encourage actors to store them in the garbage can closest to them, in the hatch that opens in the back. Which, completely coincidentally, is used to remove the trash… but you can store drinks in the sticky, hellish soup of decomposition that sits at the bottom of it!
Do you work for Disney, or have you done so in the past? What was your experience like? Let us know in the comments section below!