Disneyland is known as the happiest place on earth. From the moment you walk into the park and look straight ahead to sleeping beauty’s castle, one cannot help but feel a smile appear on ones face. Every time you walk through those gates there is always this up lifting atmosphere. Part of this is due to the very upbeat and happy employees, which are known as cast members. They are always so genuine and nice. Always open to answering questions, and so open you want to just walk up and talk to them. Even when an outrageous parent is yelling at them they still remain so upbeat and happy. One day as I was strolling through the park, I couldn’t help but ask myself, is working for Disneyland the best job ever? Does it ruin Disneyland for you? I believe it takes a certain kind of person to work for such a company.
Many people say that working for Disneyland is just like it’s saying “The happiest place on earth”. However, Articles have been written that say otherwise. Disneyland, as stated by dailymail.co.uk, is ranked 41st for the best place to work for, under the Army. People have complained that it is all about profit, profit and more profit. Workers with Muslim religion background have had issues in the past because they weren’t allowed to wear their headpieces because it wasn’t a part of the costume.
Courtney Madincea said when asked if she could help me find someone who works for Disneyland and doesn’t like it told me: “That will be impossible to find. No one would ever dare voice it if they didn’t like it because if Disney found out they would be done for good.”
According to micechat.com, a website where cast members join and share about their experiences, people say they love working for it but once you work for it some of the magic is lost and it’s not the same. They say they love making people smile but Disneyland has changed forever for them. They notice the flaws and the commute from the employee parking lot to Disneyland is just a horrible trek.
I speculated whether this is true. I mean the workers are always so happy in cheerful. I wanted to get the inside scoop of working for Disney and see the prospective of someone who loves it.
I decided to conduct an interview of Courtney. She has worked for Disney since the beginning of the summer, and absolutely loves it. As she gained the job at Disneyland, Small World became her second home. This was the ride they assigned her when she first got hired, which is complelty random, and where she spends most of her time when she works in Disneyland. She also works all of the Fantasyland attractions as well. I sat down with Courtney in front of Small World on Thursday the 14th of November at about noon. It was on her day off, and she just looked at Small World like it was her baby.
Winkler: So tell me how did your interview process go?
Madincea: I got started by I responded to a listing on disneycareers.com and I had been watching it for awhile because I and been looking for an internship or an actual job, and this was the only real job I applied for. The others were just internships. It was over spring brea and I responded to a listen for costuming. Basically how it was described online was you are going to dress princesses everyday and make everything beautiful. I got a call back. You then go through an interview survey online to see if they want you and then either a phone interview or in person interview. I did an in person interview. So when I interviewed I got in there it was a very casual interview, and good conversation. He had this huge binder in front of him, and he closed it and said so what else would you like to interview for. I said attractions. See an attractions listing came up but you can’t apply for two Disney jobs at once. When you commit to apply to something you better commit to that particular job because otherwise you aren’t aloud to apply for another Disney job for another six months. So the guy asked me, and I told him attractions came up while I was applying and he said okay. He then grabs another big binder behind his desk and puts it in front of him. I didn’t realize it at the time but he was interviewing me for attractions. He then just kept talking about the next steps and I was thinking, wow he is really dangling this in front of my face, and then just at the end he said oh yea and welcome to the Walt Disney Company. I just like freaked out. I had a really fast process, I got hired in the span of a month, I heard people not hear back for over a year. Luckily, I had a great interview process.
Winkler: What made you apply for Disneyland in the first place vs. other jobs in the area of Orange?
Madienca: Retail really doesn’t apply to me. I honestly didn’t think customer service applied to me either but I didn’t realize how much of that I would be dealing with when I worked in Disneyland. I mean it is Disney. The thing that is my life. I just love Disney so much that I was like I need to absolutely do that. To be honest, my hero John Lasseter, who works for pixar, I saw a documentary on him and he worked for Disneyland when he was younger, so I was like I need to that, and I always had that in the back in my mind. So when I moved to Orange, I was like I need to that. It was always on my life’s checklist to get one of those white cast member badges.
Winkler: If you don’t mind me asking, what is the pay for Disney? Was it the pay as to why you chose disney or something else?
Madincea: I am not going to directly say, but it is a little over minimum wage but by no means did I choose this job because of the pay. It was purely because I love disney and it has always been my dream to work for disneyland. To be honest with you, I didn’t even know what I was going to get paid until I got the job. I just wanted job there.
Winkler: What was the feeling like, your first day as you stepped on the job?
Madincea: I was so terrified. Working for attractions you are in charge of this big piece of machinery. On my first day, I thought I was going to explode it and ruin everyones day and everyone was going to get mad at me. It was such a mass volume of people, and I was just so scared to talk to anyone. Just because I wanted to please everyone but I also just wanted to work efficiently. I quite didn’t get the balance that I know now between operating the ride and pleasing the guest. That day I was watching myself so carefully and I was terrified. I was doing things wrong left, right and center, and my trainer was there saying you know better and I was just like I know I am sorry. It took me two weeks to fully get comfortable and get fully into it. It was scary and terrifying. It was a big task. I didn’t realize how big it was going to be.
Winkler: What have you found to be the most rewarding aspect working for Disneyland?
Madincea: Not to sound cliche but making someone happy. We call it making magic. I mean, I walked a lady from It’s a small world to Pirates of the Caribbean the other day. I also helped a women, who was distraught and trying to find her husband. Other cast members had told her the wrong directions and she didn’t know what she was doing. She also had a stroller with a sleeping baby in it. So I said, alright follow me. This was admits the fireworks chaos, that’s why she was lost. I made sure she was right next to her husband. I was not going to leave her alone. Just walking away I had six people come up to me saying I did a great job, from cast members, as well as, guests. You know, I didn’t think anything of it, of course I will walk you over there. I mean just the most rewarding thing is making people happy. It’s the weirdest high you will ever get just because it’s such an adrenaline rush when you see you have satisfied someone and really gone out of your way to help them. It’s very addicting to make magic for people. I always try to make magic at least once a shift, just to make sure everyone is happy and everyone is okay. I never want anyone walking away from Disneyland having the worst day of their life. It’s unfair for cast members to come to Disneyland and have a bad morning or reflect their personal life on their work, and then reflect that on the guest. I would never want a guest to see that and get annoyed or sadden by the state of the cast member. I don’t want that to reflect Disneyland as a whole.
Winkler: Are there any things that happen at work that negatively impact the magical aspect in regard to customer encounters of Disneyland?
Madincea: Oh yea, the other night I got told I ruined christmas twice. It was early November and I was like are you kidding me. The weird thing is though, it just shows you the magic of Disneyland. This lady took the time out of her day to cuss me out and tell me I ruined Christmas because obviously I am in charge of fireworks and closing the attraction. I am not. I was just standing outside It’s a Small World, telling people we were closing down for fireworks and she just hated me for it. I didn’t even have any keys on me or anything but she blamed me solely me for not getting on the ride. It’s really hard to keep that poker face during that situation because I mean she is blaming me for things out of my control. So I put her in the standby line, and told her you may get in you may not, I just made sure she knew how conditional that stand by line was. So she did get in. She was the last boat out, and so I unlinked the fence to let her back out and I just said in passing, I am so glad you guy got on have a great night, just like I would for anybody. Then she stopped. I was like I am going to get punched but she came up to me and was like god bless you. You saved the night and christmas, and we are so thankful. She said this as if it was me all along. She took another five minutes to praise me, and just in the at magical 10 minutes of Small World, it melted her completely and she came back to thank me. It was just the weirdest thing. I was so thankful it happened. It was the magic of Disneyland, how in 15 minutes she took a complete 180. It was crazy. But we call those unlucky unhappy people the 1%. We have this thing where you can go make magic, you just walk about from the scene and make someone else happy, therefor you feel karma is back to normal and you are in a better mood.
Winkler: Of management?
Madincea: Working at Disneyland people are always trying to catch you out, whether it’s coworkers or management. They always want to know you are doing it 100% safe because 30 years ago people were aloud to walk all over the turn tables. They were aloud to go in the water, it wasn’t go safety crazy as it is nowadays. Everyone is making sure you are being safe as possible. That does get, not annoying, but I mean a little stressful. You always got that in the back of your mind, as well as everything else you need for the attraction. So as much as evacuating guests might be nice and you are doing a very good job and you’re doing what you should, if you do it incorrectly you will get scolded for saving peoples lives. Management is very tight wound, for being Disneyland it is very formal. Very cooperate, always in suits and looking their finest and checking in about you and making sure your performance is up to par, which is stressful because you always feel you are being watched. When you see management walk around, each cast member defiantly puts on as if they were just trained rather than the more relaxed state if they weren’t around.
Winkler: Is it different stepping into Disneyland for leisure vs. when you step on for work? What is the feeling?
Madincea: The feeling is very different. I kind of like it because it allows me to separate work and pleasure. Because I work so far back in fantasyland, I actually come through the back entrance through Toon-Town. For me it is nice, because since the beginning it separate work and pleasure. For coming into work it is definitely a defined line, I see Disneyland differently but nothing will compare walking through the gates as a guest. It is nice I have been able to separate that by the way I enter the park.
Winkler: Do you feel working there that the magic is exposed?
Madincea: It is exposed, it is recognized but it hasn’t tainted it for me. There has been some things where I have been so fascinated by how something works, that’s probably 90% of my experience at Disneyland. It hasn’t ruined the magic but yet enhanced it and make me appreciate it a lot more for how things work. I really love finding out the mechanics of everything and how anything works so it has been great. There has been really nothing that I have been like oh my god it ruined the magic forever. I know people say that all the time but I have never really had that moment. If anything, it has enhanced it.
Winkler: Since you just mentioned how some stuff is enhanced, can you give me an example?
Madincea: Yes, like the Peter Pan ride. It is very simple, when all the lights are on. It’s basically, it is just so simply done but it is so enchanting. I mean like the Star room, everyone knows thats fiber-optics but when the lights are turned on it is just a bunch of metal. It is just so interesting how something can look so amazing and different with the lights off. Or like the London scene, the clouds are just trash bags! It really is just magical the mechanics behind the rides.
Winkler: What keeps the employees motivated and happy all the time?
Madincea: Probably each other, we are a funny bunch. We will try and pull pranks on stage and off stage. I wish I had a microphone on the break room at all times because there is some people just talking about Doctor who, and there is the people talking about the bitching guest they both encountered, or eating pizza talking about their life. They are human beings as much as people think they are robots. But no, even on stage we have fun with each other. We will pull alarms, that won’t hurt anything but just freak the cast member out, which is what happened to me the other day. We do this thing 10 minutes to closing, where each minute that goes by you press this button that beeps how many minutes till closing. Just ways to motivate each other. I mean when you are closing from an eight hour shift, and you had a bad rotation. It is really nice to motivate each other, even if it is just by saying or just having fun but we are always safe. Don’t worry.
Winkler: You kind of touched on this in the last question but what is the atmosphere like once all the cast members hit backstage?
Madincea: Ya, I mean it’s not like we are gargoyles. All saying my life suck, I hate my life. There are just some ridiculous happy people, and I am like can you stop being so happy. They even hit backstage and they are just so full of life. It’s great. I am always like how. I mean we swap stories about good and bad guest. We talk about making magic. We either talk about our lives completely or not at all. We talk about our Disney life a lot. Backstage overall is just a great place to sit back and detach your self from the park for 15 minutes. To just be selfish, since on stage you have to be selfless.
Winkler: Is there a hierarchy regarding jobs (attractions vs. Look-a-likes)?
Madincea: Ya, I mean the princesses are princesses in real life. Just because they are untouchable and won’t talk to you. I remember I nearly ran directly into Flynn Rider (Tangled), and I just was so star stuck. I was like Oh my god it’s Flynn! but then wait, no it is not we are backstage in the basement. Custodial just because what they do they are lower but it’s not a crazy hierarchy. It is just the way things are scene.
Winkler: What about attractions?
Madincea: Attraction people are like the jocks but the majority of the people. Oh and foods just keep to themselves but I do hear there is lot of drama that goes on in foods, but that may just be a rumor. But going back to attractions, there is a lot of hierarchy within attractions with seniority and how long you have been there. Really how long you have been there is everything to Disney, that’s how they judge whether to give you time off or no. I remember I was so scared to ask for time off until I was four months into the job.
Winkler: How do they keep coworkers relationships close?
Madincea: The keep everyone close, the station of jobs, like custodial and attractions and foods don’t really mingle with each other but within our lands we are very tight. We have social events. Like we had ho-down in the beginning of September to thank us for the people count for summer, like we hit all of our numbers. So to thank us for that, management set up this ho-down for us, where we had free food and a great DJ but even smaller within that, like the other night, we had a little Small World pow-wow where we had a pre-season party to get ready for holiday season because holiday is nuts for Small World but in a good way. We had a international themed night where we had free food and we got to see the Christmas parade practice and see the lights before anyone else come up on Small World.
Winkler: Overall, do you feel it is the happiest place to work?
Madincea: It is. Happiness is contagious and very drug like. To make someone happy you get this sudden lift from that and then you just wanna better yourself, and you really want to repeat that. And you strive to make another family happy or the same family happy again.
Winkler: Well thank you so much, much appreciated and a new perspective gained.
Madincea: Anytime, ‘Till next time! Come visit me in Small World!