The magical world of Disney isn’t all pixie dust and pretty characters. To keep the magic alive and work as a real-life Disney princess, you need to abide by some pretty strict rules, from secret code words to always staying in character – even if you’re in a critical condition!
We’ve dug deep and unravelled some interesting secrets about the guidelines and procedures at Disneyland and what it’s truly like to work as an employee (better known as a cast member) at one of the company’s parks and resorts.
So, if you really want to find out what it’s like backstage (which is code for not being out of guests’ sight) and get an idea on the company culture at the Happiest Place on Earth, read on. Here are 13 insider secrets about working for Disney.
1. Cast members need to have the Disney look
To work at Disney, you need to have a certain look, no matter what your role is. The policy isn’t taken lightly, either, with an in-depth look book to guide both staff and cast members on their personal appearance. A few rules include: hair must be a natural colour, women can only wear small earrings and men must keep facial hair to a maximum of one quarter of an inch in length.
And if you were hoping to land a job as a costumed Disney character, you won’t be in luck if you don’t meet the certain skin tone and height requirements.
2. There’s a secret Disney lingo
To keep operations running smoothly, Disney staff have a secret lingo they use to discreetly report an emergency or ask for assistance. Let’s say a child who has just come off a ride and barfed everywhere, cast members will be a little more subtle and say that there’s been a ‘Code V’. Likewise, if someone urinated somewhere, they’ll report a ‘Code P’ or ‘Code U’. This way they avoid grossing out other guests.
As mentioned previously, Disney employees are never referred to as employees, but rather as cast members. Similarly, park visitors are referred to as guests. Also, a uniform is known as a costume, while being on stage means being at work and being off stage means having a break. Finally, cast members never play a character; instead, they hang out with them or are pals with them. Not that hard to grasp, right?
3. Staff work hard and play hard
Cast members literally live and breathe the Magical Kingdom and focus on keeping the illusion alive. They need to be available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and they also compete to work overtime at around 20 hours a day so that they receive double pay.
But this also means that they build a tight bond with their colleagues and they become a family rather than simply work buddies – even if you’re only completing an internship. When they’re not on the clock, they spend their free time partying and socialising together. They usually end up living in the same apartment complex, so they essentially spend all their waking hours together.
4. There’s a secret underground world
The reason why everything runs so smoothly, and everyone is always where they need to be when they need to be is because there’s a secret underground world, known as Utilidors. This allows cast members to move around the park without being seen and it gives them a place to take their heavy costume off for a quick break.
It’s been reported that the secret underground smells really bad, thanks to the lingering smell of rubbish which is passed through the tubes located there.
5. Rubbish is disposed discreetly
Talking of rubbish, you’ll never see cleaners emptying bins around Disneyland, and that’s because the parks are installed with a state-of-the-art automated vacuum system which sucks rubbish from underneath the bins – everything is then disposed in the main dump behind Splash Mountain. This essentially keeps guests from seeing or smelling the rubbish, while bins are located every 30 steps throughout the park to avoid overflowing.
On the topic of cleanliness, if cast members see litter on the ground, they must pick up discreetly. This is done with a graceful swoop-and-scoop motion which, apparently, is quite hard to master.
6. The parks have special smells
Talking of smells, Disney uses devices to pump smells around parks and cruise ships. And it’s not just any old smell; they’re carefully selected, depending on the area you’re in. For example, if you’re near Cinderella’s castle, you’re likely to smell freshly baked cookies. Sounds delicious to me!
7. Lost property doesn’t go to waste
According to the Telegraph, 6,000 mobile phones and 18,000 hats are lost every year – with about 200 pairs of sunglasses amongst other personal items turning up in Lost and Found on a daily basis. After a certain period of time, unclaimed items are sold to Disney employees and the proceeds are then donated to charity.
8. Name tags are essential, even if you use a fake name
If you turn up without your name badge, you’ll be given a new name for the day – or forever if you don’t find your old one. You’ll also only be addressed on a first-name basis, so if you really want to, you could be known as Chris from Ohio to all of the resort’s guests.
Meanwhile, let’s say you were hired and there’s already an employee with your name – you’ll have to select a new name to go by. So, if you dreamt of having your own stage name, now is your chance to make that dream come true.
9. There’s a special Disney ooint
If a guest asks you for directions, you can’t point with one finger. This is because Walt Disney discovered that pointing with one finger is rude in some cultures. Instead, you have to point with two fingers or use your entire hand as a signal.
10. Social media and sharing backstage information is prohibited
In order to keep the Disney magic alive, there are strict rules on any pictures taken backstage or any social media posts about the character that you ‘play’. If you are caught doing either, you’ll immediately get fired – and let’s face it: you’ll probably get a bad reference, too!
11. You’ll never see the same character at the same place
Although there are a ton of Mickeys running around at the same time, you’ll never see two in the same place. This is because of Disney’s meticulous planning and organisation. If cast members are questioned on it, they will say that all characters are real and there is only one of each of them.
12. There’s secret security everywhere
Even the magical world needs tight security, and this is why so many of them are undercover – posing as geeky tourists that are visiting the park for the first time. The only way you can identify the undercover security is the earpiece that they wear.
13. There’s a secret suite in Cinderella’s castle
There’s a breath-taking boudoir located in Cinderella’s castle which is decorated with gold tiles and lavish bedding, and even bodes a magic mirror that turns into a TV. Sadly, though, this room isn’t up for hire. Guests are only selected at random from a promotional prize, so start counting on your lucky starts to get a night in this special suite!
There’s definitely more than meets the eye when it comes to Disney’s magic, and without these small secrets it wouldn’t be the Happiest Place on Earth.
Do you know any other insider secrets about working for Disney? Perhaps you worked as a cast member and have some insight you’d like to share, or maybe you’d like to tell us what you learned during your time there? Join the conversation in the comments section below!