So, You Want to Work at Disneyland?

by Ken Pellman

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How to Get the Job

This advice is for people who are looking for the (mostly on-stage) jobs you work at while going to school, retired, teaching, acting, or to supplement income. I'm referring to positions like working in the restaurants, shops, food stands, attractions, and custodial positions. These hourly jobs all pay about the same, and you WILL join a union if you get the job, as California is not a "right to work" state and never will be if the unions can help it. This means that you will be paying initiation fees, monthly dues, and financially supporting political candidates for political office, and paying for political advertising, regardless of your personal convictions.

Why do I feel qualified to offer this advice? I worked at Disneyland Park for fifteen years – most of that in a part-time capacity. I was a Foreman ("Lead") for nine years. I saw a lot of cast members come and go (and come and go again!) and I maintain some friendships with current cast members. (I'll mention yet again that this is NOT a Disney-endorsed message.)

The Disneyland Resort looks for people who are reliable, outgoing, friendly, and smile a lot. Basically, they want people who will attract their guests, smile at their guests, and engage them in conversation. So, smile and talk a lot in the interviews. Also, Disneyland management likes people who have reliable transportation (in other words, people who'll show up to work). As long as you have that, are willing to conform to strict appearance guidelines, and make yourself available just about anytime (including holidays), you stand a good chance of getting hired. It also helps to be open to anything from flipping burgers to wiping off toilets. If there is something you really don't want to do, let them know, but the more restrictions you give them the less likely it is that you'll be hired. (If you are reading this during a time of low unemployment rates, don't be too nervous during the interviews - the turnover rate is very high and it takes a lot of people to keep the Resort running, so the chances are good that you'll get hired. The standards have been lowered a lot over the years – which is how I got hired at age 17 to begin with! If you are reading this during a time of high unemployment, then you are likely competing with thousands of other applicants.)

It is a good to NOT come across as a Disney nut. The people interviewing you may have never even visited the theme parks themselves, and they don't care how many pins you have or if you were the first guest to ride Splash Mountain (actually, that was me and my friends). You are interviewing for a job, not to find a friend to join you to shop at the Disney Gallery. Be able to provide specific examples of good "customer service" you have provided or witnessed – even if you have to make it up. Do NOT lie on your application (about a criminal record, for example, or about not having the Ebola virus).

Contact the Disneyland Resort Jobline at 1-800-766-0888. The Casting Center (hiring office) is located just north of the Disneyland theme park, on the south side of Ball Road (700 W. Ball) between Disneyland Drive and Harbor Blvd. It is in that building along the freeway that looks blue and green from the freeway and a very loud yellow on the other side.

A Word or Two or Three of Warning

Working at Disneyland can be a unique and rewarding experience. On the other hand, it can create sort of a trap from which it is hard to get out… kinda like the mafia… not that I would know anything about organized crime… which, of course, doesn't exist. Anyway… Sounds dramatic, right? Keep reading to see what I mean about this Mouse Trap.

First, I offer the following warnings if you or one of your children wants to work at the Disneyland Resort:

Disneyland cast life can be too fun at times. It can be like a giant frat party. A great many of the people who work in on-stage positions at the Resort are high school and college age, or act like it. There is lots of partying, and there's a lot of gossip. The life of a cast member can be like a soap opera on steroids and crack.

Being a cast member can also be very challenging at times. Cast members deal with tens of thousands of people of many differing backgrounds every day. Some of these people can be very hostile, though cast members try to treat everyone with respect. The frustration can be very intense, and cast members are often not respected by outsiders, who think what they're doing isn't real work (in most cases, it IS real work that requires honed interpersonal skills to perform well). The pay is not very good, but the hours often demanded can make it tough to spend time with family, friends, and schoolwork. Cast members may never have a "normal" schedule, and must have quite a bit of seniority before they can expect to regularly spend holidays at home with family and friends.

If you've heard from acquaintances who were cast members many years ago about how much fun it is, please know that while there are still fun parts about it, things have changed a lot in recent years for cast members and are still changing.

There's another potential problem. Many people go to work there as a college job and never get out, and not because they are content there. Some people try to work as many hours as possible to make ends meet, and thereby neglect schoolwork, and don't spend enough time developing skills and looking for work in their intended careers. They end up never leaving. This is especially true for young women who become single mothers and stay with the job because of the health insurance coverage.

If you ever screw up, you are strapped to the floor in "It's a Small World" for two hours with the music blaring. Just kidding. Maybe.

The bottom line: If a person is not morally grounded, mentally/emotionally stable and healthy, and highly motivated, the Disneyland Resort wouldn't be a very good place to work. But, if you're looking for temporary part-time work, it can be fun, rewarding, and educational.

Although the books are not flawlessly accurate nor necessarily well-rounded, Mouse Tales and More Mouse Tales by David Koenig can give you more information about the culture and the kind of experiences you may face as a Disneyland cast member. You should know, however, that Koenig has never worked for Disney, some things have changed since the books were written, and that the books are in no way endorsed or approved by The Walt Disney Company, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, or The Disneyland Resort.

Also, if you are looking to move into a professional position at the Resort, note that layoffs have been known to happen on a cyclical basis, even when the company is making big profits, and "office" experience elsewhere seems to be preferred over gaining experience in the trenches at the Resort, dealing with the guests one-on-one. (If anyone from Pro Staffing is reading this, prove me wrong… please!)

If you decide to pursue a position as a cast member, I wish you all of the best. Like I said, it can be a lot of a fun and it can be rewarding. You will be part of a wonderful legacy.

If you land a position, I offer these nuggets: Whatever you do, hide your annoying habits, ghastly personality flaws, utter ignorance, chronic laziness, and incurable psychoses from your coworkers until after you have been there a while. Word travels fast on new people who cause problems and the reputation is very hard to shake. Show up fairly regularly. Don't steal anything. Smile. And... have a Disney day. | kpellman[AT]flash[DOT]net | Disneyland Jobs | ©1998-2002, 2004, 2006, 2011 Ken Pellman, all rights reserved | Updated 6/7/2011