Disney Cast Interview – @disneykatie1305

☆Disney Cast Interview – @disneykatie1305 ☆

We are so excited for this interview, it comes from a wonderful woman who has worked for Disney under the college programme, positioned in Disney Springs. This conversation is filled with inspirational stories, tidbits from behind the scenes at Disney and more. It’s a really really good read. Please like, comment, share. A lot of people are going to want to read this! Let’s get to it…

COME: Katie, thankyou for your time, we can’t wait to get stuck in, so please tell us when did you start working for Disney?

KATIE: I worked at Walt Disney World between June and August of 2017, so I spent my whole summer there from the UK. I arrived mid June, had a week of induction and then started work from mid-late June right through to the end of August. 

COME: That’s a long way from home, how did you find out about the DCP? 

KATIE: Much like most Disney fans, I had dreamed about working at a Disney park. During Easter of 2016, I visited Disneyland Paris with my family, and I remember sitting on the pavement of Main Street USA just before the parade and being determined that once I got home, I was going to research how to work at Disney. I started on the Disney Careers website, and that was where I learnt about the Disney Cultural Exchange Program (CEP) – this is basically the international version of Disney College Programme (DCP). In fact, whilst I was working at Disney, I was referred to as an ICP more than a CEP! 

CEPs are recruited via agencies in their own countries first, so for the UK, I was redirected to the @yummyjobs website. This was where I learnt more about the programme dates, costs, application process etc. 

COME: What was the application process like? 

KATIE: LONG! The process was split up into three stages in the UK: Application Form, Group Interview, Final Interview. I think application windows/periods vary across the world, but for the UK the applications opened over the Summer, and closed in July/August 2016. So I applied in July, and had to wait until late August/Early September to hear the outcome of my application. Thankfully, I was invited to the next stage – the Group Interview! 
….
The Group Interview was held with the recruitment agency, @yummyjobs, in their office down in Essex towards the end of September 2016. This was where you really see how competitive the process is – for two weeks, these recruiters see 50(ish) applicants in the morning, and the same number in the afternoon, Mon-Fri. Arriving at the door and seeing so many other people definitely made the nerves real, but even just getting to that stage made my happy. We received a presentation from the recruiters about the programme, and had to complete a role-preference form where we listed the roles we’d be happy to take. I think I ticked every box except Costuming and Housekeeping, simply because they weren’t guest-facing! After this presentation, we were split into groups for the interviews. There was probably about 7 people in each group, and we were interviewed as a group about skills, situations, experience, etc. I then had to wait until the middle of October to find out if I’d reached the next stage, which was nerve-wracking because that was when the most people were cut. But I made it, and the next and final stage was the Final Interview with DisneyInternationalRecruitment. 

The Final Interview took place in early November, and I travelled down to London for the interview because it was held at Disney HQ in London – this in itself was an incredible experience, so I was thrilled just to have made it to this stage. This interview is an individual interview, and whilst the recruiters from YummyJobs are there to welcome you, the actual interviews are held by recruiters from Disney Parks who have travelled from America to interview you, so it’s pretty intense. This interview was much shorter than the group one, so it was probably about 15-30 minutes.  

Then was another wait! I had to wait over a month to hear whether I had been successful, but finally, in the middle of December 2017, I received emails from both @Disney and @YummyJobs confirming I had been accepted onto the programme. I was on my own in my house so just jumped up and down and tried to call everyone! After this came visa appointments, fees, flights, etc. – and then eventually I flew to Florida on June 18th 2017. So overall, I started my application in July 2016, and eventually started in June 2017, so it took 5 months to be accepted, and a year to actually start. 

COME: That’s crazy! But we totally get it, Disney want the best and that takes time. You must have dazzled them throughout. So after 17 months of waiting where were you assigned? 

KATIE: In the month before I flew out to Florida, I received a packet from @YummyJobs with lots of important information – and I was told I was assigned to WestSide – I had NO idea what this meant, as at this point I was 20, and I hadn’t been to Disney World since I was 3. After some research, I realised this was part of Disney Springs. Once I arrived in Florida, I discovered that I was going to work in the Disney Merchandise Shops in Disney Spring’s West Side – this included Star Wars Galactic Outpost, Marvel’s Super Hero Headquarters, Disney’s Candy Cauldron, the Glow Carts, Disney Quest (just before it closed) and sometimes D-Living (which is now a jewelry shop called Ever After).  If I’m honest, I was a bit gutted initially – I had never seen a Star Wars movie, and had only seen a handful of Marvel movies, and my real knowledge lay in Disney classics and animation so I’d really wanted a park, preferably Magic Kingdom. However, I met the most amazing people in these shops and it inspired me to watch eventually watch Star Wars too! 

COME: We love that area of Disney, for our readers, most head to Marketplace in Disney Springs for cool merch, Westside has a ton of cool stuff we always buy stuff from the SW and Marvel stores…also spend way too much time in Candy Cauldron, you’ve seen Xmas stores all year round, this is Halloween! So sorry, we digress, reminiscing. Katie, what kind of training did you go through for the role? 

KATIE: I had a full week’s worth of training before I was let loose in the shops! Because I was spread across several stores, my training consisted of different days in different stores, learning about products, experiences, stock, rotas, pin trading, meeting management etc. with my allocated trainer (shout out to @beanarella for teaching me the ropes!). This was really great because you got a chance to witness other cast members in action, and to really learn about the stores and the people before we got started. The BEST day of training though had to be Day One – all Disney Cast Members have to take training at Disney University (yes it exists!) called Traditions. This was a full day learning about the history of Disney Parks, how to provide outstanding guest service and so much more. We even got a special delivery from the boss himself, Mickey Mouse, as he delivered our name tags. This was also when we received our iconic Disney Blue ID and park entrance pass which equalled free park entry! We also got a field trip during the day too, right into Magic Kingdom, to look out for stand out guest service! This was incredibly magical because before this, we couldn’t access the parks unless we paid (and we were too busy to do that anyway!) – this day really made you feel like you were part of something huge.

COME: We’ve heard a lot about Disney Uni, place seems awesome. And what a start with Mickey bringing your tags! Always great to meet the boss. Once you were placed did you stay in one place or were you able to work in other resorts?

KATIE: One of the best parts of working in Merchandise is that you can pick up shifts in other resorts and parks, and I definitely took advantage of this. During my time in WDW, I worked predominantly in my home location of West Side, but I also worked in: The Tower of Terror Gift Shop (where the break room is right next to the elevator shaft so it shakes and you can hear the screaming!); Agrabah in Adventureland (although that was accidental and I’ll mention more about that later!); Main Street Theatre Gift Shop; Magic Kingdom Entrance Carts, Magic Kingdom’s The Chapeau (Hat shop) and Box Office Gifts in Magic Kingdom (this is the Photo Printing Place which was CRAZY!). I was supposed to work in the Christmas Shop in Liberty Square, but was too ill to do my shift which was really upsetting. I would have loved to work in the Pirates Gift Shop, and any of the Fantasyland shops (as a Winnie the Pooh fan, Hundred Acre Goods was GOALS)! 

COME: What a line up! That line about the Tower of Terror break room cracks us up! This is why we do these things, we are crazy for all these backstage details. What were the best parts of the role? 

KATIE: Talking to guests was always the highlight of my day – I used to love listening to guests talking about their Disney holiday, past Disney holidays, their favourite rides and show. And so many guests showed a lot of interest in me and my journey to the job, so that was really lovely too. When guests complimented you, that really made the best moments. 

The second best part of the role was definitely making a little extra magic – it might have been stickers, or button/badges. As we weren’t based in a park, there wasn’t a lot of magic moments linked to products, but one of my real highlights was when I was working in Candy Cauldron, and I served a PhotoPass photographer who had taken my picture on Main Street the week before. We had a great chat, and she told me she was getting sugar for her daughter who was giving blood, so I snuck her an extra piece of fudge for her daughter’s bravery, and she gave me such a big hug. It’s the only time I gave anything away for free, as we weren’t supposed to, but this woman was so kind, lovely and passionate about her job. Finally, as cheesy as this sounds, the people were the real highlight of my job. We worked so many long days together, and that created a bond that I don’t think will ever break.

COME: That’s really cool, them little touches are what Disney is know for…and trust us you’re not the only one who gives freebies by far! Also I can vouch for the stickers our little boy lives for collecting as many different ones as he can. With the good inevitably comes bad what were the worst parts of the role? 

KATIE: As with every job, not everything is perfect! The hours as a CP or ICP aren’t great – you’re given the closing shifts, and because I worked in Disney Springs, this often meant shifts until midnight or 1am. On the flip side, this meant that I got lots of hours so my pay packet was brilliant each week. However, because Springs gets busy when the parks close, it meant that most shifts were evening and that when your friends in the parks were finishing, you were just getting really busy. 

My costume was HOT – for 4/5 of my shops I had to wear trousers, and one of those trousers were heavy Dad jeans. The costumes were also pretty boring (apart from Candy Cauldron where I sported a sexy hat, aha!) for Disney costumes, and were more designed for men in my opinion with shirts and jeans. 

COME: Just jumping in to say we have seen shorts being worn by cast members now, must be a very new upgrade to the uniform. Please, continue.

KATIE: Finally, some of the guests weren’t necessarily filled with magic. I don’t know if it was because you didn’t have to pay to get into Springs, or if it was because shopping stresses people out, but I had some interactions that just seemed to forget I was human. For example, Galactic Outpost was open from 10am-11pm Sun-Mon, and 10am-Midnight Fri-Sat. That is A LONG TIME to be open. However, one night we were closing up (as we worked an hour after closing to prep the shop for the next day) and this family started banging on the door about half past midnight asking to come in. I politely told them that unfortunately the store was closed and were locked up, and the tills had been taken out so they couldn’t enter. They continued banging and started shouting how they’d flown all the way from Washington just to come to this store and they were leaving tomorrow, so I’d ruined their vacation. I don’t know about you, but if there was one shop I wanted to visit I wouldn’t leave it until 12:30am the day I was leaving…

COME: Hey, it’s their loss, our biggest tip is always plan your trips and if you want to do something, get it done, don’t wait. Something often stops you from going back. How a bout a switch to funny stories during your time there? 

KATIE: As I mentioned earlier, I loved working across the parks – so I was thrilled to pick up a bubble cart shift around Adventureland. On your cast member hub, you can find the different costumes for each area – there wasn’t one available for the cart, so I assumed it was just the same as the Adventureland costume – I was so wrong. I arrived in the utilidoors wearing the colourful stripy jumpsuit of Agrabah, really excited, and then I arrive at the cart cage to see everyone wearing all white costumes, including white knee high socks, white caps, and white trainers, so I looked a little out of place. I also got lost so was a little late – it was stressful. Honestly, it was the most embarrassing moment – I felt like such an idiot. The leader assured me it happened lots and the costume website needed an update – thankfully, they needed someone on the tills for Agrabah Bazaar. The leader said, “Well you’re dressed for it, so off you go!”, and that was how I ended up working right next to Aladdin and Jasmine – everything happens for a reason!

COME: That’s amazing! Got to respect the team leader’s composure to have a solution, sound like a very well-oiled team. On to the two questions we love to ask, first, what kind of perks do Cast Members get? 

KATIE: SO MANY! Obviously the best one is free park entry – and this is worldwide too. This was the best perk because the amount that I visited the parks would have cost me a fortune, plus I could pop in just for the fireworks or just an hour in the morning etc. I also got 15% discount on merchandise, and as your service length increased, so did your discount. I think some of the most senior cast members could reach up to 40% discount on merch – it was a great excuse to buy more. We also got great discounts on Disney Dining – this varied a lot, but for certain restaurants at certain times, we got 40% off, and this often included character dining too. Those were the two main big perks – park entry and discounts – but there was also options for ride/attraction tours such as Space Mountain with the lights on, or Fantastic backstage tour, but I never managed to do these because they filled up incredibly fast. 

COME: Wow, we knew about the free park entry, had no idea it was world wide? Right, lets get into our ultimate favourite question…What backstage tidbits can you tell us?

KATIE: I won’t share lots because the Disney Cast Member in me struggles to break any of the magic, and because I want to work at Disney in the future so need to preserve the magic! Lots of you may have heard of the utilidoors underneath Magic Kingdom, which are the underground tunnels that cast members use to travel between locations. The walls within these tunnels are painted different colours to indicate which land you’re in – so Fantasyland is pink, but once you pass into Tomorrowland the walls become blue. 

These tunnels also feature a cast member canteen called The Mouseketeria where I witnessed Gaston looking very lost with a slice of pizza. This was bizarre because you saw Tinkerbell with her hair and makeup all ready to meet guests, but without her iconic green dress. You can also walk past the Princess Dressing Room where all the princesses get ready to meet guests together. 

COME: The Princesses have their own dressing room! How fascinating, we had no idea. When we did a backstage tour we saw a guy carrying Woody’s head! So we can imagine out of costume time is very common. 

KATIE: A final one to finish for you – when people tip their ashes over a ride, the codename that cast members use on the radio to request a cleaning is Code Grandma. I’ll leave it there!

COME: Yikes, guess Disney aren’t fans of cleaning up Grandma! What was your weirdest request from a guest? 

KATIE: At Star Wars Galactic Outpost, we had a station where you could build your own lightsaber. We had a guest come in, inform us that he’d bought one two years ago but his son sat on it yesterday and broke it so he wanted a free one. 

This was rivalled by two guests during a thunderstorm – the weather was so bad that the guests couldn’t leave the shop, and the drains outside the shop doors had started to push water back up and this flowed into the shop. We had trails of water running through the shop whilst our leaders tried to fix the grid outside with an umbrella. As I was straddling different pools of water, lifting t-shirts from the water and positioning water signs, one guest came and asked if I had a shirt in a medium – interesting priorities. Then guest number two told me they thought Disney would have control over the weather…

COME: For sure Disney can’t control that weather. They also can’t control merch hunters lol!

If you could have worked elsewhere at Disney, where would you choose? 

KATIE: I would have loved to have been friends with Rapunzel, or Pooh Bear – sadly I wasn’t there long enough to be friends with Rapunzel, and most of Pooh Bear’s friends are a little taller than me. I would have loved to work in the Princess Pavilion as a character attendant, because so many magical memories were made in those rooms. Since then, I’ve gotten more into photography so would love to work as a PhotoPass Photographer to create magical memories!

COME: We just did an interview with a Disney Photographer @kelliefromthekingdom, there was a lot of great insight, we would love to do this role too.

What were management like? 

KATIE: Just like with all jobs, managers vary. Management was made up of Co-Ordinators, who were a bit like team leaders, and Leaders who were the more traditional managers.  Overall I was impressed with the management, and they were generally very present across all the stores, but again this varied on the manager and certain shops were busier than others so required more manager attention. I definitely had my favourite leader, and he was the leader who gave me the best advice about a career in Disney, and made an effort to create a relationships with the cast members. He was always really cheery and professional and was never too busy for a question from me. The only down side to most of the managers was the sales focus – I know that sounds a bit stupid given I worked in a shop, but because Springs wasn’t a part of WDW you have to pay to enter, sometimes the focus was more on sales and targets than the magic. Again, this depended on the manager, but it was something I didn’t notice when I worked in the parks. 

COME: We can believe that, Disney is a business at the end of the day. We always figured sales wouldn’t be an issue because merch flies off the shelves. Is there anything Disney could improve for cast members? 

KATIE: The one thing that always hung over me was sick days – we had a limit of how many days we could ‘call out’ sick each month, which is totally understandable, but it meant that quite often you were scared to call in sick in case you needed those days later in the month, so went to work when you were ill. So either making it less scary to take off days when you’re actually ill, or upping the limit a little bit – obviously this is difficult because some people would take advantage of this (and I know lots of people did!), but for cast members like me and my friends who worked incredibly hard, it would’ve been appreciated. I also don’t know if this was emphasised more for ICPs because of VISAs etc. I also want to point out that I was really happy with my pay – I was paid £2 more an hour (including conversion rate) at this job than I was at my UK part time job, so for UK ICPs I’d say the pay is really fair. The rent for Disney housing, however, could definitely be lower. The facilities are amazing and definitely worth a higher price for the complex, but when you have to share a room, over $100 a week in rent wasn’t great! 

COME: For sure, we always enjoy talking about the magic of working at Disney but of course, living costs and conditions will take a toll. Now this will be a tough question but what will you remember most from your time at Disney?

KATIE: The biggest thing I remember is just being happy – I think that also had a lot to do with the Floridian lifestyle too, because obviously the weather creates longer days and more opportunities for pool days. There were down days too, but I just felt so happy whilst I was there. And that was also mainly to do with the people – my flatmates and work pals made the best magical moments a girl could ask for. I also loved how I always felt like I was part of something bigger – I was always really proud to be a cast member.

COME: I’m genuinely sad this is coming to a close, it has been so insightful and enjoyable. We are so grateful for your time. One final question before you leave us. As we always want to help inspire future cast members, folks who want to pursue their Disney dream…What advice would you give to others in pursuing a DCP?

KATIE: Once you’re there, I’d say the experience is what you choose to make of it – it is possible to have a really miserable DCP if you hate your job and say no to opportunities, so my advice is see the whole trip as one big opportunity. Even if your job isn’t the greatest, (shout out to all the Quick Service Food and Beverage DCPs), find joy in the guest interaction and smile, and then come home and have the best time in the parks and with your friends. If you don’t like your flat mates, find new friends at work, or on Facebook groups! Do all the things you’ve wanted to do, ask that work pal if they’re free for a park day tomorrow, buy that ice cream! And finally, don’t be afraid to do things on your own – one of the downsides of the DCP is that your friends are often working when you’re free, so don’t waste those days! Don’t waste a single day, because you’ll miss it so much when it’s over. 

COME: Absolutely, and what a message to end with. You will for sure miss it when it’s gone. But to miss it, you’ve got to apply. For ANYONE out there who wants to get to Disney right now sure they aren’t taking college applicants, doesn’t mean you can’t start doing your research getting in touch with companies like @yummyjobs and get the ball rolling. Thank you so much once again to Katie we hope you all enjoyed this read.

Katie also has a podcast @asprinkleofdisneypodcast with her co host @sprinkleofpixiedust101. Go check it out!

And here’s a sneak peak at an upcoming interview.

Coming Soon…We interview Youtube Mega stars. They are a music duo that is SMASHING it producing their own Disney medley’s/mashups. Production value is high, talent is off the charts, they recently punched a 10Mil video! They are the real deal, and they will be sitting down with us REAL SOON. You don’t want to miss it.

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