Once upon a time (as recently as last year) I was a performer at a certain popular theme park in central Florida. And yes (magic spoiler alert) I was one of THOSE performers, wink wink (I’m forgoing the “nudge nudge, say no more” so it doesn’t sound like an innuendo. If you thought it was an innuendo, shame on you). Did I enjoy my job? Yes. Do I miss it terribly and sometimes tear up watching Disney travel commercials or even Mickey Mouse Club House? Embarrassingly, yes. In the end however it was a job. A complain about your managers, count down the hours till quitting time job.
The Disney World Entertainment department is vast and complicated. Spanning all four theme parks, two water parks, special events, resorts, parades, shows and probably more things I’m forgetting. When I started there I had just moved to Florida and didn’t know anyone besides my boyfriend (now husband) who I’d moved there with. It’s hard to make good friends in Disney entertainment since a performer could find themselves in a completely different area everyday. If you’re full-time you’re allowed to “bid” a location for the season. This helps but even if you are scheduled your bid location everyday (there’s no guarantee you will be) it’s still only temporary. I found myself making friends in each new bid only to end up at a different location then all of my new-found friends for the next bid season. So for the first several years I worked there I didn’t make any really close friends.
Then something changed, something I had mixed feeling about. Since I first got the job I’d wanted to get trained in a show or parade. I finally got scheduled parade training, unfortunately it was in a parade and role I really didn’t want to learn. I was going to learn a role that had a reputation for being very physically taxing in the Magic Kingdom daily parade as well as general training in the night parade (which I wasn’t as worried about). Now you need to realize I was one of those kids who barely finished the mile run in gym and always brought up the rear. (I’m not sure how I ever survived my job, really). I somehow completed the training then wasn’t scheduled to perform my new role for months.
When I finally did it for the first time….I hated it. Not only was it physically exhausting but I found I actually preferred having one on one interactions with the guests (Disney speak for theme park customers). Many performers prefer parades and shows because they love dancing or they like performing for a larger crowd but mostly because they don’t like the one on one guest interaction. That sounds terrible but I don’t blame them. This might burst your bubble but guests can be annoying, obnoxious and flat-out rude. Let me get something straight it’s NEVER okay to pull, poke, grab, push, hit, grope or physically or verbally abuse ANYONE no matter what they are wearing or what job they are doing. Also not okay to encourage you’re children to do those things, for that matter. Yes, sadly, it’s totally common for performers to be mistreated besides the standards annoyances. Can you really blame people for not wanting to deal with that? Not that I was perfectly patient or impervious to rude guests. For me the magic just outweighed the bad. The moments of playing peekaboo with babies, making a little kid’s day just with a high five or the middle aged women with autograph books exclaiming as excitedly as any child “it’s our first time at Disney World!” All these little magical moments were worth the prodding and obnoxious questions (not to mention the dripping sweat and sore muscles).