In the days leading up to my departure for Florida, thoughts were flooding my mind about what was going to happen during my Disney College Program. I have dreamt of working for this company for quite some time and my mind was racing! Now these thoughts weren’t from a place of fear, but from a place of excitement! At that point, everything I had ever read online about this program could only be described as “unforgettable” and “life changing”. To think that I was going to play a functioning part in a world I practically grew up in was unbelievable and I couldn’t wait another second; I was overflowing with anticipation. I arrived with a big smile and an open heart, ready to utilize my passion for Disney to levels I had never truly imagined. As I had experienced the ‘Disney magic’ before, I was beyond ready to give every guest that same magical experience. What I wasn’t ready for was the extreme gratification that creating this magic would give me and the life changing memories that would shape me for years to come… and let’s not forget the sheer amount of Disney Jr. songs I never expected I would memorize! But let’s be honest; neither is a bad thing.
While on my Disney College Program, my role was a Character Attendant at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (DHS). In this position, my primary duty was to work with the characters during meet and greets, providing a safe and efficient experience for both the character and the guests. Additional duties I had included preparing guests’ cameras, autograph books, setting aside miscellaneous items for guests, aiding in area and situational needs for guests, aiding my character in storytelling of the highest degree, and supplying lots and lots of stickers to every guest that came my way. As my role was universal, I could work at any of the four parks including Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and my ‘home’ park Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Though I worked and enjoyed my time at each park, I found myself spending most of my time in Studios due to my love for the character’s I could work with! Some of my wonderful co-workers included Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Goofy, Pluto, Chip, and Dale. Others included the likes of Sheriff Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Olaf, Princess Sofia, Jake the Pirate, Doc McStuffins, Handy Manny, Cruz Ramirez, Star Lord, Baby Groot, Captain Phasma, and even some fearless Stormtroopers. These characters and their stories became my life for over half a year and I truly enjoyed every moment of it. Also, I don’t mean to brag, but spending all that time with those characters can really create a lifelong bond; not many people can say their best friends include the likes of Donald Duck, Jake the Pirate, and Buzz Lightyear!
Training for my role was extremely through given Disney’s high standards of character integrity. We were trained to know everything about the characters for storytelling and safety reasons. Even more importantly, I was a cast members on the front lines of guest interaction, so I was trained to assist with any and all guest questions and problems. Whether College Program students realize it or not before signing up, we gain an additional job to our regularly assigned one; a representative of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts and in-turn the Walt Disney Company. The way we interacted with our guests would reflect the company, so we always had to be showcasing the exemplary service Disney parks are known for. The Walt Disney Company is a well-oiled machine which is why almost every cast member ends up having the company values ingrained in their minds before they are even done with training.
In training, I was taught the ‘Four Keys Basics’ to live by during my day to day operations. These Four Keys included Safety, Efficiency, Courtesy, and Show. As a Character Attendant, my duties completely encompassed the ‘Four Keys’ and making them present in my day to day operations was always top priority. As an avid Disney park-goer since I was young, meeting the characters was a huge part of my experience; I knew how important meeting a character can be to visiting guests. I brought my 100% effort with me to work every day, no matter what, so I could give a better experience than even I had to every guest I would encounter. People come to Disney World to have fun and to make magical memories with their family. Nobody visiting wants to be in a bad mood. Even the most frustrated individual just wanted to enjoy themselves and would rather be happy than sad. When I was able to fix a problem, and make a guest’s day go from bad to good, it felt unstoppable. I wore my name tag and blue shirt like a badge of honor. I grew up admiring every cast member, so what finally being one meant to me was truly indescribable. This job wasn’t hard, but it presented me with a daily challenge that I would gladly accept and accomplish. I got to play, not work. I was able, and encouraged to, have fun every moment of my work day. Playing with the characters and the guests, I had the ability to just have fun! Even through long work days with some frustrating moments, rarely did I have a bad day because the moments I spent having fun outshined anything negative. Every day was a new joke, a funny moment, I memory made not only for the guests . . . but for me as well. At the end of every day, I was always satisfied with my hard work. I have always loved Disney and their characters, and playing a part in their stories was a wonderful privilege that I couldn’t have enjoyed more.
It’s extremely cliché to say this, but I literally got to make magic every day of my life. One of the greatest things about being a cast member was our ability to create magical moments for guests. A magical moment is an opportunity cast members have to give families a special memory they will never forget. So, I made daily attempts and create these moments for at least one family or guest, if not more. Things I could do for a magical moment included making the character interaction extra special by learning more about a child to help create a more special memory for them when meeting the character. Sometimes, I would get a family free Mickey Ice Cream Bars on a hot day, getting an exclusive pin for the aspiring pin collector in the family, or grabbing some FastPasses for a ride they’ve all been dying to ride are some examples of the great things I could do for those special families. I was able to play a part in memories that were made in the parks, whether or not the guests realized it. I cannot overstate that creating these moments were some of the most satisfying moments I have ever experienced in my entire life. To watch the reaction of their faces as I did something special, knowing the impact it would make on their Disney vacation was an experience unlike no other. I didn’t need any recognition for doing these things, just knowing I could leave the same impact on vacations cast members left for me and my family growing up was more than enough. Creating these moments brought immense joy to my heart, and I would give anything to create more magic. Though working with the characters and being a part of the magic was truly something I will never forget, there was one more thing that made me fall further in love with the company and this line of work. It was the loving people I worked with that brought these feelings to life.
When I first started my program, I couldn’t help but feel like a small fish in a big sea. The overwhelming amount of people I worked with was intimidating. My Hollywood Studios and Disney College Program family however, is what made Disney feel like a place I could call home. When walking into work, I would see so many kind faces and smiles that I couldn’t help but smile myself. Passion radiated off of these people; their love for Disney and the wonderful memories we were all creating kept me inspired to work even harder than I even thought was possible. We were a team, we all brought something special to the table, and we were the hard workers that made that ‘Disney Magic’ come alive. I laughed, cried, shared a some of the best moments, and created friendships that will last a lifetime. Though I spent every single day of my life with these people, I guess I wasn’t expecting the profound impact they would each have on my life going forward. A work and living environment like this is something I will never forget and one of the core reasons The Walt Disney Company is where I hope to continue my career path. Thank you to each and every one of you that changed my life over those wonderful six months. I could not have been luckier to have made magic with such incredible individuals. I truly cannot wait to create more memories with you all in the future.
This experience was everything I could’ve imagined and more, but there was one final variable that played into making my time even more amazing; my brother, Spencer. Spencer and I are two years apart and shared the same room growing up, so when I left for college and he started his college program in August of 2016, it was really weird not seeing him every day. But when I got accepted and knew I’d be living with him in DISNEY WORLD for a couple of months, it felt like a dream come true. Not only were we getting to live our childhood dream of working in Disney World together, but we lived TWO buildings away from each other! There were four housing complexes with over 20 buildings in each, so the fact that I was not only placed in the same complex as him, but also lived across the courtyard was truly unbelievable. Though we sometimes had conflicting work schedules and didn’t get to hang out all the time, the moments I was able to share with him are some I will never forget. Spencer, thank you for being not only the person who really got me hooked on Disney in the first place, but for being the greatest older brother a person could ever ask for. You are so supportive in everything I do and I wouldn’t be where I am today without you. I can’t wait to see where you go on your Disney career and I can’t wait to be by your side while you do it.
I truly cannot express my profound love and appreciation for this experience. My life has truly been changed and will never be the same. I always knew I wanted to work for the Walt Disney Company in some capacity, and after spending the past six months making magic, I can assure you that my time working for the mouse is nowhere near done. The Disney College Program gave me a wonderful glimpse into a future full of happiness and I cannot wait to see where it takes me. Though I may be extremely sad to leave Disney, I’m ready to kick butt at school. My next step in my path has been placed before me, and my drive to achieve my goals is bursting through the roof. In conclusion, I bid a “see ya real soon” to all my fellow cast members, friends, characters, and Hollywood Studios. Thank you for being a huge part of my start at this amazing company. Here’s to many more years of keeping that wonderful Disney magic alive.