The unexpected benifits of being a Disney Cast Member
Pixie Dust Moments, the magic of being a Cast Member.
Every Christmas throughout my childhood I head one refrain over and over again - "it is better to give than to receive" well for Disney Cast Members when it comes to spreading a little pixie dust it seems like it might just be.
Even before self help guru Frank Risen published an article in Social Work - back in the mid sixties where he expressed an opinion that giving really was the better part of the deal - he called it his 'helper therapy' - we as Disney Cast Members knew it was true.
This article is really written for all of the young Cast Members I have met recently who have just gone to work for the Mouse this summer either for the first time or returning with the college programs. It looks like as well as earning a few bucks and getting to put Disney on your resume you'll be doing yourself some good.
The other day whilst doing a little research into this idea, I learned of psychological research which seems to prove Risen's premise that contributing to good causes and doing good deeds does in fact stimulate the same parts of the brain as receiving large sums of money - only more so!
The researchers, at America's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, scanned people's brains while they played a computer game. The game gave them opportunities to win cash prizes or make donations to charity. Sometimes the giving was at their personal expense, sometimes not. All these procedures lit up regions of the brain associated with the release of the "pleasure chemical" dopamine - but giving large sums at a cost to oneself gave the biggest dopamine hit. It also triggered the production of oxytocin, the "hugs hormone", which is associated with forming strong attachments.
Give that Disney experience to Guests, to in the parlance "Make the Magic".
I cannot suggest giving a sum of cash to each Guest is the way to a Cast Members well being, but the sorts of everyday giving done by those who wear the name tag with pride certainly take you down that road towards a whiff of the dopamine. If you read the forum posts about Pixie Dust you'll quickly realise that as Disney employees we have opportunities every day to interact and in little ways give that Disney experience to Guests, to in the parlance "make that magic".
I am not suggesting for a second that wearing a name tag makes you a Mother Teresa wannabe quite the opposite in fact, I think this suggests that we are all somewhat egotistic; we are giving to get something back and in return feeling like a lottery winner. But is feeling like a winner not a very good reason to give a little?
I spent twelve rewarding years working for Disney in Paris. The returns I got from doing the simple everyday Guest interaction, helping families get the most from their precious short vacation days in the resort, getting queue lines moving a little quicker, finding lost adults (Bing! Brain washing alert!) were very rewarding.
My experiences are all over this site, I have had more than my share of special moments and I think this is the time and place to turn the spotlight on other people and there stories. I heartily recommend reading the forum posts on this, the very fact that these moments stay with the Cast Members for years later and that they want to share the community speaks volumes.
One or perhaps two moments of simple sharing have had such an effect on me that they still have an emotional effect on me a decade later. This story was told in the forums but I shall share it again here to serve as an example.
One wet quiet morning I was behind the counter in City Hall when a young girl of about 12 years old came in to ask where the stroller rental was, easy, across Town Square, under the Train Station. Job done, another happy Guest! The girl ran out stopping only to say something to two women slowly making their way towards me. They stopped, looked over to strollers, then back at City Hall and handing the girl some money continued in my direction.
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 fulfill a gravely ill mothers wish for her daughter to come to Disney, meet Mickey and have the holiday every parent wants their child to have.
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 phone call, backstage away from inquisitive ears, simple as that. I called "Character Six" on the radio and made a few plans. Ten minutes later I was smiling to myself as I pushed the hired wheelchair across Town Square. I'd asked "Six" to help me put the family in a position to meet Mickey, just a simple meet and greet. As we neared our rendezvous out side the Kodak shop Mickey came over... followed by Minnie, Chip, dale, Donald... the whole cast turned out, they wanted to make a little magic that cold wet morning.
And with a smile and a sniffle I am proud to say we made real, tangible Disney magic That morning. It stays with me, to this day it is one of my happiest Disney moments! It took nothing to arrange, little time, no money only a minute of guarded radio chatter and some trust and good will.
The lasting effects though were more powerful. The family wrote to City Hall a week or two later, thanking us for our efforts. For once the over used cliché of a "holiday of a lifetime" was not overused. All that happened in 1998. to this day it is still one of my fondest memories, I genuinely feel good about what with minimal fuss we achieved that morning. To know we made that family's dreams come true is fantastic. I wouldn't sell that memory for a big fat cheque.
After some of the other recent posts on the site which are filled with doom and gloom, dead Cast Members, the ghost of Disney past haunting today's Guest Service I wanted to address a positive post to the new Cast Members out there, be selfish, go the extra mile, make a Guest's day and you could be doing yourself a whole heap of good too.