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Mouse Tales
A “behind–the–ears” look at Disneyland
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David Koenig
Cast Member's Revenge
Not long ago, Disneyland would terminate hourly cast members for the slightest infraction. "We're as replaceable as Dixie cups," one old-timer lamented.

Nowadays, the sheer number of low-wage jobs at the expanded Disneyland Resort and a tight job market have made Disneyland more gun shy about firing hourly employees. The labor squeeze has let a few bad apples slip through the cracks (see "Sacre Bleu, It's Deja Vu"). But it also means that, occasionally, a cast member can listen to his conscience rather than the rules, and still have a job.

Soarin' at California Adventure

So there were no terminations and no suspensions a few days ago when a host at Soarin' over California reportedly stood up to a trouble-making guest—to the delight of co-workers across the Resort. Apparently, the ride operator had spotted a teenager sticking a huge glob of gum on one of the ride vehicle's seats and then spending the entire flight picking at and stretching it around the undercarriage. The cast member informed his lead, who could have stopped the film in mid-flight, turned on the work lights and lowered the carriages. Instead, since it wasn't an emergency situation, she waited until the flight was over, so she wouldn't ruin the show for the theater full of guests.

Soarin' seating
The seating configuration for Soarin'

After the flight concluded, the exit lights went on, the carriages were lowered and the seatbelts were released, the ride operator approached the teen. He questioned the guest about the gum and then forced him to use "Graffiti-Off cleaner" and some paper towels to clean the ride carriage. The cast member refused to give the go-ahead for the next flight until the teenager had cleaned up his mess. When the guest finally finished, cast members put several layers of paper towels on the still-damp seats so the guests on the next few flights wouldn't get wet.

"The flight took an extra five minutes to experience," said one worker, "but it was great to see the teen cleaning up his vandalism in front of a theater full of people waiting for him to finish and some waiting for their seats to be cleaned. Cheers again to that cast member, and to the lead in charge at that time. Good job!"

Added another employee: "Just a year ago, this cast member would have been severely disciplined, if not terminated, for interfering with the ability of the guest to 'enhance' their experience!"

Salaried employees don't have as much job security. By the end of next week, cast members should be finding out if their Voluntary Separation Program application was accepted —or if they're being involuntarily separated.

A Facilities cast member wrote (last week):

The winds of change are blowing ill lately. The first of the "voluntary" departures will begin next week, and the number of people taking the package grows daily. Their replacements are more of these know-nothing military types who bark orders without any feedback from those who do know things.

The number of contractors coming in to do craft work increases by the week, and even some of the newer assistant managers are losing faith that there's any real hope of improvement. Many of the most experienced and knowledgeable engineers will be gone by the end of the month.

Office staff is being hard hit as well. We wonder if the intent is to bring in temps instead, as "anyone can do that job!"

Reader Steve wrote:

I have been reading the letters about the voluntary program to leave Disney. One thing that most people seem to be missing in this is that I believe, and several people confirm, that the voluntary layoffs will be accompanied with actual layoffs. And in many ways this is a very sly way of getting rid of people you don't want. Why?

(1) If you accept the package it does not mean that you will be allowed to leave, meaning that Disney can pick and choose from those who accept who they want to leave and who they want to stay. A very interesting way to weed out people.

(2) I believe (and the Orlando Sentinel has reported) that Disney will announce they did not receive enough people accepting the packages. This then gives them the freedom to lay off people (and at a cheaper cost to Disney) anyone they choose to. I said right from the beginning that even if 4,000 people accept, you will still see layoffs.

This whole thing is a well crafted exercise for Disney to reduce its work staff (I believe that it will be beyond 4,000), pick and choose who goes, and try to come out not smelling too bad.

Steve, I think you've got this program pegged. One source estimated that, so far, 237 out of a targeted 246 cast members had "taken the package," including a handful of well known park executives.

Reader Chris wrote:

The VSP program is being taxed at 42% to 48%. My friend was going to take it, but decided against it since it was taxed at such a higher rate than normal.


That sounds even higher than the Eisner Tax Bracket.

Cast Member's Revenge


David Koenig is the senior editor of the 80-year-old business journal, The Merchant Magazine.

After receiving his degree in journalism from California State University, Fullerton (aka Cal State Disneyland), he began years of research for his first book, Mouse Tales: A Behind-the-Ears Look at Disneyland (1994), which he followed with Mouse Under Glass: Secrets of Disney Animation & Theme Parks (1997, revised 2001) and More Mouse Tales: A Closer Peek Backstage at Disneyland (1999); all titles published by Bonaventure Press.

He lives in Aliso Viejo, California, with his lovely wife, Laura, their wonderful son, Zachary, and their adorable daughter, Rebecca.

You can contact David here.


Click here to go to David's main page for a list of archived articles.

Visit MouseShoppe to purchase copies of David's books. (Clicking on the link opens a new window.)


Click Here to Pay Learn MoreAmazon Honor System


Click here to go to David's main page for a list of archived articles.

Visit MouseShoppe to purchase copies of David's books. (Clicking on the link opens a new window.)

Click Here to Pay Learn MoreAmazon Honor System

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