In yesterday’s blog, I talked about what to expect if you move to Orlando. I realize that for many of you, this is only half of the dream. The other half is getting a job at Walt Disney World. This is fantastic! Many thousands of retirees have already done this and they couldn’t be happier. But before you sign on with the Mouse, you need to understand what you’re getting into – good and bad. You need to have realistic expectations. That’s what today’s blog is all about.
One of the first things to remember is, “You work while others play.” This means you will be scheduled nights, weekends, and holidays. So if you have fantasies of your grandkids visiting you in Orlando over Christmas vacation, think again. You will be working.
Can you stand on your feet for eight hours at a time? How do you feel about working outdoors in the heat, sun, cold, and rain? Can you put on a happy, “Disney” face when you’re feeling down? Can you deal with the occasional rude guest? These are questions you need to ask yourself.
Another thing to consider, “Do you want to see the backstage areas of Walt Disney World?” Some people don’t want to know how the magician accomplishes his tricks. Are you okay with seeing how the illusions of the Haunted Mansion are created? Or would this ruin the “magic” for you?
Are you okay with a job that is entirely backstage? Many people dream of interacting with guests and bringing a smile to a child’s face. If you are assigned to a backstage job, you will have little to no contact with the public.
Here is a picture of me working in at Disneyland's Blue Bayou kitchen. The only contact I ever had with guests while working as a fry cook was when I walked through the park on my way to and from the job.
Disney has a strict grooming policy. Although it has loosened up considerably since I worked at Disneyland in the 1970’s, there are still rules and regulations that must be adhered to.
Working at Disney is a real job with real challenges. Cast members work hard to make people feel the magic. Working at Disneyland for nine years was a fantastic chapter in my life. I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. I had a lot of fun. But I also worked very hard.
One of the next questions you need to ask yourself is, do you want a full or part time job. A fulltime cast member (CM) will be scheduled 32 hours or more per week. A fulltime position entitles you to medical benefits. A part time CM will be scheduled less than 32 hours per week and will not be offered medical.
In an effort to cut costs, Disney greatly reduced its fulltime workforce over the last several years. The main reason for doing so is to eliminate the cost of medical insurance. Fulltime jobs still exist, but the chance of being hired off the street into one of these positions isn’t something you should count on unless you want to join housekeeping and clean rooms. This is a very difficult position to fill. Chances are good that you’ll be offered a part time position.
A third category of employment is the “seasonal” position. A seasonal CM must be willing to work 150 hours per year. Many seasonal CMs will work the Flower & Garden or Food & Wine festivals at Epcot each year. But there are many other possibilities.
When you apply for a job, you can stipulate that you are not available on certain days of the week. For instance, if you have a standing doctor’s appointment on Wednesdays, you can request not to be scheduled on Wednesdays. But if you stipulate you aren’t available on Saturday and/or Sunday, you can pretty much kiss your chances of a job at Walt Disney World goodbye. The more availability you can give them, the better chance you have of becoming a CM.
Although some people might be hired off the street to pilot the monorail, this is the exception. Most people will need to start in a less glamorous job. I know you’re saying to yourself, “But I’m an expert on all things Disney. The company would be grateful to have someone as knowledgeable as myself.” I’m sorry to inform you, you’re a dime a dozen. Everyone who enters Casting tells the interviewer that they are the ultimate Disney fan. You are not unique and you will not be hired to be a tour guide because you “know everything.” If you want to work at Disney, have realistic expectations. But there is good news. Most entry level jobs only require you to stay in that position for six months. After you’ve completed your mandatory service, you can apply for other, more exciting jobs.
For the most part, wages are low. Don’t expect to get rich working at Walt Disney World. For most retirees, a job here provides some great vacation money so you can get away from Orlando and go someplace exciting. LOL
Getting a job at Walt Disney World is not guaranteed just because you have full availability, know everything there is to know about Disney, and you have a spotless work record from your last job. Just like the rest of the world, the economy is slow in Orlando. Disney is not hiring as many cast members as they once did. And many of those who are hired are part of the College Program which brings young adults from all over the country to work here for 6 to 9 months.
So far, my comments have been a bit negative, but I want to make sure you know what you’re getting into before you move here and apply for a job. Most people only see Orlando through the eyes of a tourist. This can blind you to the realities of daily life here.
So now it’s time to be a little more positive… Here are some of the perks you get from working at Walt Disney World.
You get to tell all of your friends and family you’re a Disney CM. Now here in Orlando, this doesn’t carry a lot of “wow” factor. Walt Disney World employs 65,000 people. But back home in Kansas or Illinois, people will be impressed with your new job.
As a CM, your ID card grants you access to the four theme parks year round. You will also be given a Blue Main Entrance Pass. Although there are far too many details to go into here, the Blue Main Entrance Pass allows you to get a designated number of friends and family into the parks 6 to 18 times a year. Once you’ve worked for Disney 15 years (full or part time), you are given a Silver Main Entrance Pass. This allows you to get friends and family into the parks every day. (Blockout dates and other restrictions apply to both passes.)
Your Main Entrance Pass is also good at Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, and Hong Kong Disneyland for admission and discounts. It is not good at Tokyo Disneyland since this park is owned by Oriental Land Company.
Depending on the season, you receive discounted admission to Typhoon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach, and Disney Quest.
As a CM, you are given a 20% discount on most merchandise for the first three years of service. After that, you are given a 35% discount.
CM’s are given a 20% discount at most full service restaurants and at the counter service restaurants at the Animal Kingdom.
You can receive Disney hotel discounts of up to 60% depending on the time of year and availability. The Disney Cruise Line also offers a range of CM discounts.
More cast discounts can be found at the Company D and Cast Connection stores. Company D sells cast exclusive merchandise like clothing and pins along with other gift type items. Cast Connection sells discontinued clothing, toys, and other items originally sold in the parks. Discounts here can range from between 25% to 75%.
Many non-Disney businesses offer discounts to CMs.
Disney publishes the “Eyes & Ears” every other Thursday. This company news magazine offers information and pictures on a wide array of Disney topics. If you like Disney trivia, this is a good periodical to read.
You will meet a lot of really nice CMs. Most of the people who work here are just like you; they love Disney and want to be part of the magic.
You will meet a lot of really nice guests – who will think you’re really special just because you’re a CM. LOL
If you want to work at Disney World, the first thing to do is check out their webpage by clicking here. This will get you started. As I said earlier, the more flexible you are with your availability and job preference, the better chance you have of being hired. Good luck!
This concludes my three part look at Orlando. I hope you’ve enjoyed my walk through time and the information I’ve provided will help you make better decisions if Central Florida and Walt Disney World are your dream.
The previous post in this blog was Moving to Orlando (Part 2 of 3).
The next post in this blog is Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House - Part One.