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Cast Member Corner: Are Cast Members born, bred, or made?

Cast Member Corner: Are Cast Members born, bred, or made?

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Let me start by saying that I in no way, shape, or form consider myself the ideal Cast Member. Far from it. If I was, I'd still be there instead of vainly trying to relive my past by writing these articles and designing CM alumni websites. But I do consider myself to be a fair judge of people, and one cognizant during my WDW tenure of the various ways Cast Members view their positions.

As far as I can see, there are three main types of Cast Members: The Die Hards, The Died-Hard, and the McJobbers. Some people we know have been all three, and there are qualities of each that we adore and qualities of each we despise. Many of those in one group desperately want to be in one of the other groups. Sometimes it happens. More often than not, it doesn't.

As I begin to describe these, you will certainly think of people you know who fit these descriptions. And as always, there are exceptions: Frank Kubicki (Sorry, Frank-o. If I spelled that wrong, It's been a long time since I turned in an op-sheet) has all the makings of a McJobber, yet he's out lasted many, many Died-Hards and Die Hards in the WDW Jungle. And he still holds the record for making more money as an operator than many Supervisors. Go figure.

Now come the categories. First up are the Die-Hards: These are also known as the Pixie Dust People. They are Disney-maniacs to the Nth degree, and always will be. They outfit their houses and apartments in Disney posters, statuettes, and PVC's. They own more than 75% of all the videos Disney's ever put out, are members of the Credit Union, and wear character merchandise most of the time. They spend an incredible amount of time on property even when they're not working, are excellent at Disney Trivia, and will get into fist-fights if they have to in order to defend against anyone who says Universal is better than Disney-MGM Studios.

But here's the important stuff: 1) They most likely are not Orlando or Anaheim natives, and most have traveled a great distance from their homes for the privilege to work for Disney. 2) They have figured out the secret to living on a truly pitiful allowance and would work for Disney for two dollars a day if they had to, even if Universal was offering four. 3) They love working for Disney so much, they are really good at it.

These folks will work for Disney well past retirement age, some will make it into management, a very scant few will ever come close to being wealthy, but none of them will care as long as they can walk past the Castle at sun-up before park opening when Main Street is still damp from pressure washing, the bakery is just starting to pump out the scent of cookies, and they can really feel 'The Spirit of Disney' (an award many of them have won). They can't walk past a piece of trash anywhere on property without picking it up, on-duty or off.

The Company, of course, loves these Cast Members. Mainly because of items number two and three above. Unfortunately, these folks are very, very rare. Not nearly enough of them exist to quell the high turnover rate in the parks.

Then there are the Died-Hards (my group). These people desperately wanted to be Die-Hards, and have many of the same pixie dust qualities. They are also not often native. They are also Disney-maniacs and also usually good at being Cast Members. What they lack is the financial independence to survive on the aforementioned pitiful allowance. They try to make it work, they go into debt, they get discouraged and wonder why The Company doesn't want to pay them what they're obviously worth. They may last as long as five or six years or as little as one or two, but most likely somewhere in the middle. Some will leave too early, regret it later, go back and try again, and have the cycle repeat itself.

Many of the Died Hards came for college program or just summer work and decided to stay when they met the Die-Hards. They will occasionally ignore a piece of trash in a backstage area or if they've had a really stressful day. They admire the Die-Hards and wonder how they do it. They abhor the McJobbers but secretly wish they could be so nonchalant. And so are prone to mood swings and the occasional outburst of disgust when someone nearby utters, "It's just a job" or -- worse yet -- "Man, I hate working here." Most of these folks will go on to be successful in other careers, but will always wish they had succeeded at Disney.

The McJobbers: These people are almost always from nearby the Parks, and go to work for Disney because their friends do, or because they need a job, or because a parent/brother/uncle said they should. They do not well up at the first three bars of "When you wish Upon a star," they can walk right past the castle and not think twice about not noticing it, and many have never seen at least one or two of the post-Little Mermaid animated features. They never went to 'The Walt Disney Story' (which I think should be required of every new-hire as part of Traditions, but I digress) even when it was open, and they wonder if the Die-Hards and Died-Hards are absolutely nuts (answer: Yes) and resent them for 'taking this all too seriously.' They will leave Disney when it is time, with little fanfare and no remorse, particularly if they get a job at the mall. They may go CR or CT to keep their Park Privileges, but will rarely use them afterwards.

Obviously there is a good deal of stereotyping going on here, and as I mentioned there are exceptions. But the vast majority of Cast Members (and ex-Cast Members) fit into one of these three, and probably want to be in another. My point is this: I think that if The Company was willing to offer a little more pay scale, particularly in spieling attractions, then quite a few of the Died-Hards could stay on, and turnover would be reduced.

The Jungle or Kilimanjaro spiels, for example, are quite a bit longer than the 'Superstar Television' host spiel at Disney-MGM ever was, but that guy/gal was in 'entertainment' and so was paid a slightly better wage. Of course, it would cost quite a bit to pay every Skipper as much as those Superstar guys/gals, but think about how much better the Jungle would be - hell, think about how much better the park would be. Morale would increase, more serious people would apply and be hired, and guest experience (which is, we too often forget, the point of all this) would be greatly enhanced. In a perfect (Disney) World, it would be enhanced enough that more guests would show up, bringing in more money, to pay for the higher wage, etc.

Alas, we do not live in a perfect (Disney) World, and the marketing strategists (if they've even thought about it) have decided that the benefit would not outweigh the expense. So for now (and for the foreseeable future) the turnover will remain relatively high (except for the few die-hards who will work for peanuts), the wages will remain relatively low, and the Fantasyland Cafe will continue to see a bit of bickering between the 'Pixie dust' haves and have-nots.

At least meals are cheap there.

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  • In general I agree with the three categories and its characteristics. Only one thing bothers me... I do like to think of myself as a Die-Hard (although I've only been working with Disney for three months, working there was still my biggest dream in the last good couple of years. And I also had to defeat the odds that I'm a foregiener in the UK applying for a job that 95% of the times goes to natives.)

    So my only problem is the use of "Mc" in McJobbers. Since at the moment I have to work two jobs (one being Disney, the other is McDonalds), I feel the Mc just somehow meant to be a degrading addition altough noone I know at Maccys is a loser, a slacker, a freak or a lazy person. Most of us are really hard working, educated, polite people trying to make ends meet by juggling with college, day and night time jobs.

    So much as I agree with the three category you've set, just because I do experienced already these three categories inside Disney, I do have to painfully disagree with the use of "Mc" word. Maybe in America it means something bad, but in England, we're just trying to get along...

    Thank you for reading... I like your writings by the way. :)

  • Happy to be here. I read lots of blogs about the writing services but honestly speaking I found your blog very interesting and informative.

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