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.
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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!"
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