Guests - you have got to love them, really you have. They love the Mouse, they happily spend money and Disney then pays our wages from that money. As I said you have to love them. 99% of those Guests come and go merrily and we as Cast Members look after them without really having to think too hard about it - it comes naturally.
It is the other one percent I really love though.
Guests come in all shapes and sizes, different creeds, colours, religions and ages - what do they all have in common - apart from an inane urge to ask about the timing of the three o’clock parade - is they all want to believe in the magic, to suspend their disbelief in reality and buy into the Disney dream.
They want to meet Mickey Mouse, watch the parade and ride the E-ticket attraction. Thanks to the reality distortion field Walt spread over his empire - even to the stores long after his death - we as Cast Members were privileged to play our rolls in the dream. Weather as a Cowboy in Frontierland, a merchandise host in a Disney Store, or the Housekeeper Cast Members keeping it all spic ‘n’ span. We create the magic!
There is only one thing though, that is Guests don’t really even see us. We merge into the scenery, into the story; we are a part of the show. We simply fit in to the experience.
Unless there is a shift in the reality field perhaps that’s just what Cast Members should be. Okay so Security Cast Members and a couple of select other groups are exceptions to this rule. but for the most part Cast Members should be just that, a player in the Disney Show. What is more that is exactly what Guests want.
But as Cast Members we see the Guests. We look after them, and feed in to their Disney vacation dreams which is why I think Guest interaction is one of the finest parts of being a Cast Member.
As I said in the preface to this post 99% of Guests are happy campers. They know what they want and they know how and where to get it. They wait happily in lines, they get to their goals and they share the Disney smile. One percent have needs and goals that Disney cannot fulfil with an off the shelf solution. This is where we as Disney Cast Members stop being a part of the Guests dream and start to create real magic. Creating what is called in the trade a “Pixie dust moment”.
If you have a read of the forum post started by my good friend Paul Torres on just this subject you’ll no doubt see these moments of magic are important to many of us. For me it made working for the Mouse one of the most special times of my life.
In my time at Disneyland Resort Paris I must have met and greeted millions of Guests. Most I have forgotten some though stay with me to this day. I have written up some of these experiences in the forums, others though, perhaps not so dramatic still raise a stay with me.
One story started on a wet and quiet morning when I was behind the counter in City Hall. A young girl of about 12 years old came in to ask where the wheelchair rental was? Easy, across Town Square, under the Train Station. Job done, another happy customer!
What is called in the trade a “Pixie dust moment”.
The girl ran out stopping only to say something to two women slowly making their way towards City Hall. When they finally arrived one of the women sat down, and the other woman was fussing over her. Looking at the seated woman I was worried about her, she didn’t look at all well so I went over to say hi and check that all was okay. Then I spotted the pin on the second woman’s coat it said simply MacMillan Nurse.
We chatted for a while and it turned out this was meant to be a really special trip. This was the family’s first and last chance to fulfil a gravely ill mothers wish for her daughter to come to Disney, meet Mickey and have the holiday every child wants.
The real beauty of working for Disney is that it is magical and as a Cast Member you have the power to make magic!
I made a couple of calls, simple as that. I organised a simple meet and greet, explaining to the character lead that one of the Guests was in a fragile condition due to her advanced cancer. As we neared our rendezvous out side the Kodak shop the Pixie Dust looked like a sand storm. Mickey came over… followed by Minnie, Chip, dale, Donald, Goofy… the whole VIP cast turned out, they wanted to make a little magic that cold wet morning. Even over a decade later sitting in central London, miles away from the Mouse and writing this, the simple memory of that families joy still makes me emotional. Okay call me cheesy or overly emotional but I am proud of that mornings work and I think I always will be.
What we did that morning cost Disney nothing, zero, bupkiss – what though was it worth to that family? At the risk of sounding like a Master-card advert – Priceless.
There are of course Guests who are not happy, they go to City Hall or write to Guest Communications. Some, a small minority do try to play the system, to game it for what they can get out of it – false or exaggerated claims of attraction downtimes, broken promises, and a multitude of other sins. The Grumps or as a friend calls them weasles are, as I said, in a small minority.
Most people who contact Disney with an issue are genuine in there concerns and the company replies to those concerns. Having worked in both areas I still believe that Guests don’t want to beat the system, mostly they just want to have it work and I respect them for telling us. After all you can’t fix something if you don’t know its broken – right?
The more I have reread this post as I have written it I have come to a conclusion that had never occurred to me before. I think that it is a little simplistic to say that Walt Disney created the Magic and Cast Members are the ones who keep the magic alive, what good is magic if nobody wants to believe in it?
There is the Disney magic that Guests make. They let us do something exceptional! They let us be Disney Cast Members.
There is a part of this story that affected me both at the time and just now in rereading it. The story of the mother and daughter touched me deeply and has stayed with me as one of my happiest memories of working for the mouse.