All is not well in the Magic Kingdom

A cast member trying to look unhappy.
Is the rot setting in with Disney's Magic Kingdom's Cast Members?

As many of you know I am a keen user of twitter the social network and “pulse of the Planet” A while ago I asked a cross section of Disney fans and former Cast Members on twitter to tell me what they thought was important at Disney. To my surprise this answer represents a large percentage of the replies.

A rather dated screenshot from the twitter of yesteryearWe may argue the point, the quality may or may not be slipping, but that is not the issue, don’t get me wrong it is important to the continued success of the company but what is more important is the perception of quality. If Guests do not believe in the Disney dream, like  Tinker Bell it will simply fade away. Sadly I think a lot of the public’s perception is down to the attitude of Cast Members.

Undoubtedly there are many thousands of good and devoted Cast Members making Magic every day in Disney locations around the world. But there are many who just don’t seem to get it. Take for example the Guest who corrected the Cast Member about Universal studios.

A few years ago now Jim Hill published an excellent article on the different species of Disney Cast Members, they put forward the groups as;

When times are tough, you invest in yourself…
  • The Die-Hards: These are also known as the Pixie Dust People. They are Disney-maniacs to the Nth degree, and always will be!
  • The Died-Hards: These people desperately wanted to be Die-Hards, and have many of the same pixie dust qualities!
  • The McJobbers: These people are almost always from nearby the Parks, and go to work for Disney because their friends do, or because they need a job, or because a parent/brother/uncle said they should.
  • The impression I now get is that there are more and more young people coming to work for Disney who do not share the corporate ethos that I have extolled in many thousands of words here. There have never been enough Die-Hards but there has always been an ample supply of McJobbers to fill the gaps.


The Walt Disney Company’s budgets are tight, staffing is down to the bones, show maintenance issues are becoming more visible and the number of Guests is falling – there is a tightening in everyone’s wallets and you have to work with the people you have. I am not sure I think it is all down to the Casting though. To quote one successful businessman Jason Calacanis. When being interviewed recently he said When times are tough, you invest in yourself…, a lesson perhaps Disney could profit from.

Taking the time to re-enthuse Cast Members with the Pixie Dust might pay dividends for the ailing giant of the entertainment industry. Reading the tweets of newly hired Cast Members the enthusiasm shines out. The magic enfused into new recruits during their deep dipping in the Disney lore at Traditions oozes out of every pore and they rejoice in the glow. It is later, much later that the different strata of Cast Member level out. Those who are not blessed to have been Die Hards, born to be the ultimate Disney employee might be reborn with a little time invested.

Taken from the turnstile, attraction or dust pail and shown a week in the life of the Guest Relations host, or take the time to read some of the letters and email received at Guest Communications. Perhaps look over the shoulder of a chef in a fine dining establishment, to see another side of the business. Shown another side of the Kingdom, perhaps something to aspire to, or to appreciate the work done backstage.

It Works:
In the bleakest days of Disneyland Paris, in the mid nineteen nineties the then manager of Park Operations P.Y. Gerbeau and his team faced a similar problem. Specifically Attractions hosts motivation and moral was ebbing, attendance figures were low, the news media was talking about financial meltdown for the company and the Cast representatives within the French unions were demanding a pay rise at under the threat of strike action. The plan that emerged to set up what became known as the ‘Parcour’.

Now the name Parcour is the name of a fast-growing urban sport as seen in the opening scenes of the Bond film Casino Royale, in the Disneyland Paris of 1995 it was a motivational project on the completion of which you got a pay rise. You would spend a little over a year working a minimum of two months each on two roller coasters, two dark rides (e.g. Snow White), and two walk thrus. You could also then opt to work with the parking or ticketing teams.

The solution was simple, cheap, and very effective. Disney got multi-skilled, cross-trained staff, who had had a year of rapid training and advancement. With the spirit of competition, we tried to finish the Parcour as fast as we reasonably could, we felt we were more valued and as a bonus, we became better Cast Members. After a year we knew more about the parks and about the business as a whole.

Cast Members are the living breathing personification of the Disney Magic. I cannot imagine a Cast Member at Walt Disney World who would still be confused about Universal Studios after such a training period would be rare indeed.

Whilst financial belts are tight, I think investing in your best assets is possible the best investment you can make. Disneys best assests are by far and away it’s people. Fellow Cast Members, Disney management please take notice. People are to talk, sorry – did I say people – I meant Guests!

Looking Back

This was a comment added at the time from 'Sharron'

I have seen firsthand lately how the magic has dissipated.
In the past 6 months, I have been to Walt Disney World about 7-8 times. I am also a former Cast Member and I was SO disappointed with what I saw.

Where do I start? Parks not as clean. CMs not sure where to direct me or what time something was and didn't know how to address my questions. Visibly unhappy CMs. CMs in speaking roles that I can't understand because of broken English. Sloppy dress. Leaning on attractions. Nowhere to be seen when a question is burning. Audibly and visibly bothered CMs when I approach them.

The magic had faded and several of my other friends and former CM friends have mentioned this. Is this the fault of the CM in question...not so much. Is this a recruiting problem? Yes. Is this a training and orientation issue? MOST DEFINITELY

I do know that Traditions has been cut to just one day. Which is a big mistake. You have to invest in your talent and Traditions is SUCH a big part of the training process. In fact, I'm sure most former CMs would state that Traditions is indeed a TRADITION and we loved it. It's part of the magic!

I love the pixie dust. But seeing so little of it lately has REALLY killed a bit of the magic I had for Disney. It's just simply not the same.

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