Contrary to popular belief, I actually WORKED during my time at Disney World. (I know, it doesn’t seem like it, does it?) Look! Here’s proof and probably the ONLY picture I have doing actual work, which I found while on Instagram under the “Crystal Palace” location:
I personally feel like I hit the job jackpot with my assignment at the Crystal Palace. Overall, this was hands-down the best experience I’ve ever had, but it wasn’t all smiles and pixie dust all the time. Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly of working at Disney.
**To balance the somewhat negativity of this post, I’ll be inserting pictures with Winnie the Pooh and his friends, because let’s be honest, Pooh Bear makes everything better.**
- My location. First of all, I was in my home of happiness: the Magic Kingdom. If I had to guess, I would probably have to say I’ve been to MK over 30 times in the 21 years of my life before the DCP, so I knew it pretty well. And yet, I’ve never been to the Crystal Palace—when I got my assignment on move-in day, I literally couldn’t even picture it in my head. (It was a very shameful moment for me.) Regardless, I am so thankful that I got to make brand new memories in a new place during my time working for the mouse. Plus, it doesn’t hurt when the view from your porch is Cinderella’s Castle. That literally never got old.
- The actual work. I’ve worked in four different restaurants now, which was very clear during my phone interview, so I wasn’t surprised when I was offered a FSFB (full-service food and beverage) role. While I wish I had been able to get out of the food industry and learn new things, I was incredibly comfortable in my role after only a few hours. I already knew what it took to host and serve, so I was able to start interacting with guests and creating magical moments on my very first day, instead of stressing out about learning how to operate heavy machinery (operation role) or being lectured on all the safety hazards (again, operations—which means the rides) that come with the territory or even learning how a restaurant operates.
- The amount of CPs. At first, I was the only CP at my location for about a week and a half before another round showed up. After that, there was about two-three new people every week until the middle of February, so there ended up being about 20 of us, which was a perfect amount. We all got to know each other really well and our leaders all said they had never seen a group of CPs that bonded so well. Since there was so few of us, we were able to get to know each other well and go to the parks with whoever got off work with you. We carpooled, park-hopped, and went out together after work and I’m so thankful for my fellow Crystal Palace seaters #youcantseatwithus.
- THE CHARACTERS. Oh. My. God. My first choice (besides character performer) was character attendant, because where else are you allowed to hang out with Mickey or the princesses all day? I basically got the next best thing: a seater in a restaurant where I got to interact with the characters on a daily basis. If you didn’t know, the Crystal Palace is the home of Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, and Eeyore (I mean, besides the Hundred Acre Wood). Eeyore has always been one of my favorite Disney characters and he ended up being my coworker! Do you know how much a hug from Pooh, a kiss from Piglet, a nudge from Eeyore, or a bounce with Tigger can brighten your day? Some of my favorite memories from my program are dancing with our characters during Wishes, laughing with them, translating for them, riding in the elevators with them, and just acting like a child in general. If I’m being honest, I don’t know who had more fun in the restaurant on a daily basis: the five-year-olds pulling Tigger’s tail or me. (Just kidding, I totally had fun than the kids…I would literally hang out next to them just to get a high-five sometimes. I am ridiculous and I admit it.)
- The pay. I can’t count how many times I said, “I’m not going to Disney for the pay, I’m going for the experience.” I’m really glad I went to Disney with that mentality because I definitely didn’t make any money on this program. I covered a lot of this in my “Money for the Mouse” post, so I won’t go into detail here, but just know it’s not really a living wage.
- Spring Break. The people, the humidity, the hours, the rain…What’s not to love? My advice if you work over Christmas/New Year’s, the summer, or spring break is to invest in a great coffee maker, wine, and Netflix, because you’re going to need them to keep yourself going and therapy for being around what seems like millions of
angrypeople for sometimes 60+ hours each week. You’ll get through it, though, I promise.
- The Hub. This is the Disney intranet, where cast members get all their information, request off/on, and get their schedule. In most jobs, if you have something come up, your boss will most likely try to work with you so you don’t have to work, because you know them and they know you on a personal level. At Disney, your leaders have no control over your schedule and all your requests are sent in through the Hub and electronically processed by someone who doesn’t know you or the reasons you need to request off. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason as to what was approved off and what was denied, because I was denied the day off for the Star Wars half marathon and the weekend I was a maid of honor in Ohio even though those seemed like pretty reasonable and legitimate requests off a part-time job.
- The guests. Sometimes people are just determined to be unhappy in the happiest place on Earth. Complaints are going to hit you in any role you’re in (actually, in any customer service job EVER, not just limited to Disney) and you just have to smile through it. One time a grumpy old man yelled at me because it was too hot outside, even though it was April in Orlando, Florida. I’m not even kidding. To work at Disney, sometimes you just need self-control so you don’t snap at people because they’re stupid. So instead of replying sarcastically to this old man, I just had to smile and say sorry and let him know that Elsa was on vacation, but we’re going to try and see if she’ll cool it down soon. I could literally go on and on and on about all the complaints and whining I heard from guests, but they were practically unbearable to listen to the first time, let alone rehash them and publicize them for everyone else a second time. But there was one time when a guest was yelling at me for some other thing completely out of my control and Piglet just walked right up to me and gave me a big hug and kiss to make me feel better. Thank you, Piglet.
- “You ruined my vacation.” This, for some reason, is the most popular complaint a guest can come up with. Yes, I completely ruined your weeklong vacation because you waited an extra 20 minutes for your table. I put this in the “ugly” category because, for some people, this was the most heartbreaking thing to hear. As a cast member, especially a college intern who is probably only there because they want to make magic for people, you don’t want to hear those words. While I didn’t ever want to hear those words, I personally didn’t care that much if they were said to me. I know the person was just upset and dramatic in the moment and there’s no way I personally could ruin an entire vacation, so it took more for me not to roll my eyes, instead of bursting into tears, like some cast members (with hearts) might.
Despite some of the grueling hours and not-so-magical people I encountered, working with Disney was the absolute best experience of my life! As much of a cliché as this is, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
I will cherish every memory I have in this costume, from my first day in it to my last day. Who knew you could grow to love a thick polyester three-piece so much?
My time in the Crystal
Prison Palace was unforgettable and I am anxiously awaiting the day I can once again say my boss is a mouse and I make magic.