6 Things Nobody Tells You About Working at Disney World

#3. People Pretend to Be Disabled to Skip in Line

Orlando Informer Blog, fatchoi/iStock/Getty Images

Like death and taxes, waiting for rides at Disney parks is inevitable. But there are always people who try to cheat their way around that. The most common is by trying to get an assistance pass -- you know, the ones that are supposed to help those folks who have a legitimate disability. There are whole websites out there that will tell you how to scam Disney by faking a disability (last fall, the park started seriously restricting these passes, with mixed success).

xyno/iStock/Getty Images
Kicking visitors to catch "fake cripples" proved controversial.

When I was there, we couldn't really question people: If they claimed to be allergic to the sun but were wearing a tank top and shorts, we still gave them the special pass. Sun allergy was a really common lie, and actually one of the least offensive ways people gamed the system. One dad actually lied about his daughters having been raped so he could get to his precious rides a little faster. It was obvious he'd picked that lie because no one could question it without feeling like a monster.

And somehow, that wasn't the worst. We know who the Make-a-Wish kids are, but the buttons that mark them as such can be bought (people even sell them outside the park). So parents will come in and pretend they have terminally ill kids to try and trick us into a dream tour.

Francesca Rizzo/iStock/Getty Images
They even tell the kid she has cancer so she won't blow their cover.

Really, Disney World is not a place to get a clinic on good parenting ...

#2. Parents Straight Up Abandon Kids

Joe Raedle/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Parents want to have fun at Disney just as much as anyone else. Since they can drink at three out of the four parks, that sometimes means ditching the kids as soon as possible. Or perhaps you're a local, but have an autistic child who loves the parks. So you buy them an annual pass and ditch them at the gates so you can have the day free, knowing that the kind and concerned cast members will have your child well in hand by the time you return at the end of the day.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Yup, you heard right. There's an annual pass.

While every location has its own not-so-fun quirks, no one likes the areas where you're just corralling people. Parents don't want to be told to watch their kids from a cast member -- somehow, just the fact that they're spending a shitload of money convinces people that there can't possibly be rules. For all of these reasons, the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids playground was the bane of my existence. The whole place was an open air garden of injuries waiting to happen.

Once, a little girl face-planted off the giant fly and wound up bleeding. She'd been hopping off to get to her mom faster, because the parade was about to start and gravity itself wasn't going to stop that girl from seeing Mickey. As soon as we saw blood, four cast members, including myself, descended upon the wounded girl and brought her a wheelchair. The blood and the pain didn't seem to faze her much, but the thought of missing the parade set her crying up a storm.

Martin Novak/iStock/Getty Images
This story ends either happily or with some kind of Firestarter situation.

That kind of dedication deserved a reward, so I told her to stay right there at the first aid station until I got back. I hauled my way down to the character base where folks were just hanging out waiting for the parade to be over, and I got these nice personally autographed pictures of every character. Then I ran back and said, "I told Mickey you had to miss the parade and he was so upset that he and his friends all signed these pictures for you."

And like magic, the tears dried up and smiles were on faces again. Even on mine ... until I got back to the goddamn playground again to watch the next unattended minor earn a head wound.

If that all makes me sound really dedicated, well ...

#1. Despite Everything, the Employees Are True Believers

Joe Raedle/Getty Images News/Getty Images

To outsiders, this seems like the kind of minimum wage summer job anybody can get. When you see some guy sweating his balls away in a huge furry mascot costume, you don't imagine his job interview was much more intensive than "Are you currently breathing and not a child molester?" But this is actually a very difficult job to get, and a lot of people want it.

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His Pluto audition was dog shit.

The interview includes a rigorous dance competition. If you make it through, you get a color code based on your skill level. Then you're graded on what they call "animation" -- that's your ability to physically act like a convincing animated character. You have to pretend to wash dishes, or decorate a Christmas tree ... a bunch of different tasks all performed with the mannerisms of a Disney character. And you'll be doing this as part of a group of five to eight people, all of you auditioning in front of a panel of suits who are judging you on how well you pull off Goofy. For the "face" characters (princesses and such), you have to be able to do the voices and accents right.

Oh, and everyone has to be able to do their character's autograph flawlessly. If someone came 20 years ago to get Mickey's autograph and they come back today, it should look the same. And you should be able to sign it with both hands, because who knows what you might be doing at the time.

Hudson Valley Ceremonies
Some autographs even require three hands.

Cast members find out quickly if they're able to hack it. There's a Disney "look book" that shows you exactly how you can look -- you can't wear necklaces, bracelets, or large earrings. No visible tattoos are allowed. The ones who stubbornly insist on wearing blue eye shadow or bracelets despite being disciplined for it are not going to last. Those who remain are the ones who are truly into it -- many have known all their lives that this was where they wanted to work. They grew up not wanting to be an astronaut or a cowboy, just wanting to work at Disney.

There's also a strong cult of personality around Walt. He's absolutely revered and venerated around the park, with cast members frequently saying things like "Well, Walt would have wanted it X way" or "That isn't what Walt would have done." We even have "What would Walt do?" bracelets and pins. Going to the Disney Family Museum or Disneyland is like a pilgrimage for many. Cast members will sob when walking through the Disneyland castle, knowing that they're walking in Walt's footsteps by being there.

General Photographic Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty 
We can neither confirm nor deny rumors that he lives there to this day.

So the people put up with all of the things on this list because they love it (the pay isn't bad, but no one will ever get rich working at the Disney parks). It sounds cheesy, but your whole day is creating these wonderful family moments for people. And while it is a company and of course they want to make piles of money, there is a surprising amount of leeway given to cast members in order to keep the guests happy.

Once, there was this little wheelchair-bound girl whom I helped to the front of a line for Mickey's magic show. Once the show started, I went over to the merchandise cart and grabbed a Mickey plush, saying I needed it for "guest recovery." While the little girl's dad was holding her up to watch the show, I quickly stuck the Mickey sorcerer plush into her tiny little wheelchair.

When he sat her back down, Mickey was waiting right there in the chair for her.

The little girl saw it, then turned around to her dad and said, "See! I told you he was magic!"


Robert Evans runs Cracked's Personal Experience Article team, and you can contact him here to blow a whistle or tell a tale. His friends need donations to defend their farm from bandits and he'd appreciate any help you can give them.

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