Today, we’re taking you on a very special behind-the-scenes journey!
We’re going to find out what life at Disney World is like from a non-guest’s perspective. That’s right — we’re diving into the deep secret lives of Disney’s Cast Members!
Ever wonder why Disney refers to its employees as “Cast Members” and not associates or workers? It’s because Walt Disney believed his theme parks were a stage and the Cast Members are its performers!
And just like some large theater companies, Disney Cast Members aren’t without their fair share of myths, superstitions, and urban legends! Let’s explore a few of these kooky Cast Member customs we’ve found out about over the years!
Good Morning, George
Pirates of the Caribbean wasn’t one of Disney World’s original attractions — it opened two years later in 1973. As the tale goes, a welder named George died under mysterious circumstances while working on the ride as it was being built. Ever since that day, Cast Members have to greet George to keep him from messing with the attraction!
This might seem like a really strange story, but believe it or not, Cast Members swear it keeps the ride running smoothly! George also likes to be told good night otherwise things can get a little wonky!
Disney really likes to hide little Easter eggs in its rides and Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is an especially target-rich environment!
Let’s take a look at a couple of the interesting traditions over in the Hollywood Tower Hotel.
The Devil’s in the Details!
You’ll notice the elevator inspection certificate is actually dated the night of the “incident” and the state I.D. number is 10.2.59 — the day the first episode of the Twilight Zone aired on TV!
There’s a ton of props and other visual references to the famous spooky show including the demonic ventriloquist dummy from the episode called, “Caesar and Me”. Look for it next time you’re exiting the elevators!
Just like our old pal George in Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland, Caesar is known to make mischief if the Cast Members aren’t nice to him! That’s why they regularly say hello to him so that the ride doesn’t break down! Many Cast Members take their bad juju feelings one step further, believing the Tower of Terror ride itself is actually haunted, but no proof exists to this day!
You wouldn’t believe how steeped in tradition some Disney World attractions can be! For instance, Tower of Terror holds another sacred Cast Member tradition — bellhop letters!
Look for these mail slots next time your waiting in line! Those folded up pieces of paper at the bellhop’s services desk are actual notes written by former Cast Members. Trainers show the letters to new Cast Members that were left by the original Tower of Terror Cast Members. Then each group of Cast Members that pass through writes a new note to the next group, and so on and so on!
Some Other Places Where Cast Members Have Left Their Mark!
Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is another spot where you’ll see Cast Members leaving behind a piece of themselves! Cast Members often sign their names inside the attraction on the walls inside the garages across from the loading queue.
We’re told some Cast Members get to write on the dry-erase whiteboard to your left at the beginning of the ride Dinosaur at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, while Cast Members at Disneyland get to sign the walls inside Matterhorn which aren’t visible to guests. In fact, there’s also a basketball hoop for Cast Members to live out their hoop dreams inside the iconic mountain! You can learn more about this tradition on The Imagineering Story.
As you can probably imagine, Haunted Mansion Cast Members are also quite superstitious and have many unusual customs of their own! Female Cast Members wear a Haunted Mansion maid costume, complete with a headband topped with a bat! But did you know every bat has a name?
It’s customary for every Cast Member to name their bat — and some have even created elaborate backstories for their beloved pet bats along with some interesting personalities to boot! Next time you ride Haunted Mansion, make sure you ask a Cast Member about their bat!
The First Step to Becoming a Disney Cast Member is Taking A Class Called Traditions!
No wonder Cast Members practice so many unique traditions — it’s a part of their job orientation! On each Cast Member’s first day, they’re given a crash course on the history of the Walt Disney Company.
New Cast Members are also given a Mickey Ear Hat as part of the course, thus where the expression “earning my ears” comes from! Once the class is over, new employees receive their trademark oval name tag and even get their photo taken with Mickey Mouse!
Welcoming the New Class
But that’s not all — Disney offers many cultural programs and college internships, many of which last for up to 6 months!
To get Cast Members familiar with the parks (as well as have to opportunity to make some new friends) each class is welcomed in with an epic Disney World scavenger hunt followed by fireworks and a special surprise party! What a warm welcome! Okay, we think we’re ready to sign up!
Getting Your “D” Pin
You might think earning your ears and getting your oval name tag is as good as it gets, but there’s another important step for Cast Members on the Guest Relations team — getting their gold D pin which is worn on the OTHER side of their vest.
This means you’ve successfully passed your assessment and there’s even a special ceremony to celebrate your achievement!
Tour Guides Have a Rite of Passage, Too!
It gets even better if your a Disney World tour guide Cast Member. You’ve probably seen these guys around before — they’re the extra fancy-looking folks wearing plaid vests (thus earning their nickname: Plaids).
To be a fully graduated “Plaid”, ladies need to earn their riding crop and gents earn their swagger stick.
They use these to point out stuff to tour groups, but they won’t get one until AFTER they give their first successful tour!
We hope you’ve enjoyed learning about a few of the more-unusual traditions Cast Members share in Disney World! Next time you’re in Disney World and you meet a friendly Cast Member, be sure to ask them some of THEIR favorite Cast traditions. You might learn something new and surprising!
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Do you know of any secret Cast Member traditions at the parks? Tell us which ones you’ve found out about in the comments below!