This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Eva Keller, a former Disneyland and Disney World employee who’s now a travel blogger. It has been edited for length and clarity.
I worked at the Disney parks for several years — it had always been my life plan. I didn’t know exactly what kind of job I wanted to have at Disney, but I’d known since I was 12 years old that I wanted to work there.
I started at Disney World in the fall of 2014 as part of the Disney College Program, where I worked in attractions at Epcot. Then, in the summer of 2015, I worked in attractions at Animal Kingdom. That December I graduated, so I applied for the Disneyland college program and got to check out the other coast.
I did that from January to August 2016. When that internship ended, I didn’t have any plans to stay in California, so I went back to Florida and did the Disney College Program once again while I started graduate school, since if you do the college program they providehousing. As an attractions cast member, I would rotate through different positions throughout the day and do tasks such as greet guests, check guest heights, unload riders, and answer general guest questions.
Magic Kingdom was the only place where I saw crazy things happen.
None of my other park experiences were like Magic Kingdom
I think it’s because Magic Kingdom is the main park. I remember someone told me once that most people at Magic Kingdom on any given day are there for the first time, and for many people, it will be their only visit ever. So you have a lot of people who don’t really know what’s going on — it’s chaos for them, but they also want to make the most of their visit. The mentality of the guests at Magic Kingdom is a lot more high-stress.
What’s even weirder is that all the negative experiences I encountered at work in Fantasyland, one of the themed areas of Magic Kingdom, during that Disney College Program experience were entirely caused by adults. It was not the children, at all.
I would have parents who refused to get on the rides with other groups, much to the embarrassment of their kids. Requests like those could screw up the lines and the pace of the ride.
One time, I was working at the teacups ride and this man placed his backpack on the side of the ride. This happens all the time: At Disney, on almost every single ride, you’re going to keep your bags with you, but other theme parks always make you put your bag to the side, so we don’t think anything of it when someone does that.
But a woman for some reason decided that he was planting a bomb and ran over to one of the other Disney team members and was hysterical, so then we weren’t able to start the ride for about half an hour. Management and security had to get involved to get a statement from her as well as the gentleman. She ended up having to leave because she caused such a scene, and obviously there was no bomb in the backpack.
Aside from issues like that, we’d have a lot of people come up to the FastPass line begging to come into the line. They’d always have a sob story, such as, “We’re going to the airport, and this was the one ride our kids wanted to do.” With those situations, it’s really up to the discretion of the cast member, but I rarely allowed it when I was at popular rides because of the low capacity of the attraction.
My favorite rides to operate were rides that went in cycles, like Mission: Space, the teacups, and TriceraTop Spin at Animal Kingdom. Something about that way of operation just flows better for me. I was not a fan of the attractions that operated continuously, like the “Winnie the Pooh” ride.
However, sometimes we’d get fun requests
When I was working at one of the “Cars” rides, Mater’s at California Adventure, sometime around the holidays, a group of choir kids about high-school age came up to me and asked if they sang me a Christmas carol if they could go through the Fastpass line — which at this ride was really just the line for guests with disabilities or VIP guests being accompanied by guest relations. Because there was never really a line, I had no problem making magic for them and letting them on the ride through the alternate entrance. I also said yes because I appreciated the enthusiasm and that they had the guts to even ask. A lot of other guests stopped to watch them sing, too.
Overall, I had a great experience working at Disney, and after my time at Magic Kingdom, I decided to move back to California, continued the position I had during my college program part-time, and went on to work in attractions for the next couple years.