Cast Member Stories

by Shoshana Lewin, staff writer

In this edition of Cast Place, we have quite a few letters from guests about exceptional CMs—of the character persuasion. These men, women and—um—animals put up with more that most people realize, and can never let it show.

We also have a lot of stories involving the magical experiences kids have at both the Disneyland Resort at Walt Disney World. The magic these children encounter at a young age stays with them—so much so that often that is the reason why many choose to become cast members themselves.

And don't forget that if you have a magical moment (or a not-so-magical one) please share it not only with City Hall, but with MousePlanet.

Kevin's Story

I worked at Oaks Tavern (later Stage Door Cafe) from 1976 to 1979. I am now a professional director, actor, and playwright in the Minneapolis theater scene.

I remember crossing Main Street to get to the lockers near Harbor House. I spotted three small boys, perhaps 8 years old or so, running around the Three Little Pigs, kicking and slapping them and using foul language. The lovely actress portraying Snow White at that time had her hands full with other children but was also trying to deal with the bad little boys.

I shouted, "Hey, you knock that off." They laughed and desisted a moment, but apparently they went back to their mischief, because as I went "backstage" to head for the locker room, Snow White dragged two of the little boys "backstage" just behind the cast entrance to tell them off.

I was treated to the delicious sight of Snow White, faced by two white-faced little boys, their eyes as big as plates, screaming at them in language not only outside of Snow White's presumed vocabulary but beyond, I'm sure, the very imaginations of the boys involved. I strode off, deeply satisfied at seeing the little boys get justice, if in an un-Disney fashion. I thank that Snow White, whoever she was, for that experience.

Jennifer's Story

We went to Disneyland in the beginning of March for my daughter's 5th birthday. This trip was a long time in planning and we were all very excited. Needless to say, that I was distressed to fall ill on the afternoon of our second day there. At first I thought I had a muscle spasm in my shoulder so I went to First Aid for an ice pack. While I was there the nurses were wonderful with advice and care.

When I started getting worse (I ended up having pneumonia), my children started to get really nervous and worried about me. One of the nurses left for a while and when she came back she brought Mary Poppins with her! So while I was being taken care of by the nurses the original Super Nanny was spending time with my children. The personal interaction in a quiet place really helped calm my children down and make them feel better about Mommy being sick. Talk about a "Spoonful of Sugar"!

The care and advice the nurses gave me and the attention they paid to my children was all top-notch. They and Mary Poppins really helped salvage our trip. I mean, if you are going to get pneumonia, get it at Disneyland where wonderful nurses and Mary Poppins herself can take care of you!

Jessica's Story

I know many people are disappointed in Disney's California Adventure (DCA), but I have a great CM story from there.

My husband and I live in Idaho but go once a year to the Disneyland Resort. This time we took my sister and my husband's close friend with us—who had never been to DCA. We were very excited to take them on Soarin'—our favorite ride there, and we had told them all about it.

Well it was evening by the time we got there, and the line was soooo long that we sort of paused outside the entrance to discuss what we should do, if we should come back later or what.

As we were making our plans, a CM who had been manning the Fastpass entrance came up to us and asked us if we needed any help since we looked sort of lost. We told him what we were trying to decide and he said he would make it easy for us and took us all the way up to the front of the Soarin' line—inside the hangar—and stayed with us while we waited for the next show to be over. He told us about how he loved his job and all about the new (at the time) Hong Kong Disneyland and the one in Tokyo—we asked him tons of questions, and he was so friendly, the wait flew by. Then he made sure we were seated in the middle, top row—the best seats—we were so impressed, and it really made our trip. We still talk about it whenever we got on that amazing ride.

Amee's Story

Over our honeymoon, my husband and I were treated like royalty. Besides being on cloud nine and at Walt Disney World (WDW) for the first time, Disney cast members gave us way special treatment. We were given the privilege of being Honorary Main Street guests, given Fastpasses at rides, special buttons, a "special moment" with an announcement to whole restaurant at the Sci-Fi Drive In, and showered with congratulations every where we went. One cast member even gave us free dessert with our lunch (it was goooood!). We felt like celebrities! Everywhere we went, cast members went out of their way to make us feel special. It made for a very memorable honeymoon.

Stephanie's Story

My family just returned from our first trip to WDW. My daughter, Rachel, who is 3, had an amazing time and that for me made the trip the special. I wanted to share a story of cast member that started the magic for us. he first park we visited was Disney Studios and I had us there early so we could enjoy every minute. Rachel got excited on the tram ride in the parking lot to the front gate. There weren't many on the tram, so it was noticeable that she was enjoying herself with her squeals of delight. When we were getting off the ride the CM speaking over the intercom said: "And Rachel, I hope you have a great day."

Well, Rachel stopped in her tracks and turned to her Dad and said, "How did she know my name?"

Before we could respond with a straightforward explanation that she had overheard us call her Rachel, the CM said, "You're in Disney, Rachel, it's magic."

From that moment on, Rachel believed in the Disney magic. Thanks to the cast member who made a small comment that created a great deal of magic for our family.

Bill's Story

In reading some of the guest experiences, I decided this would be the perfect place to share this story. My wife and I recently took our 6-year-old daughter and our 1-year-old son to WDW. The overall experience was wonderful, but one instant stands out above the rest.

The four of us went to It's Tough To Be a Bug in the Animal Kingdom. My daughter loves the movie so we thought it would be OK even though we were warned that it could be a rather scary show for younger ones. To say she "flipped out" would be an understatement. Hopper scared her pretty bad and when the spiders came out, it just pushed her over the top. The only reason we didn't get up and leave was that it was coming to the end of the show. We were getting her calmed down and then the special effect with the benches at the very end happened and that started it all over again. We got outside and she still wouldn't calm down… screaming, crying, the whole bit.

There was a cast member there who did her best to help us, but my daughter was having none of it. She was really traumatized. Although she probably will not remember what upset her so when we return in five to six years, I think she will always remember that cast member and I know I will.

She took my daughter aside and (noticing that she had one of the pin-trading lanyards on) gave her a Mickey and Donald pin, swearing her to secrecy because she said she could get in trouble for not trading for it. Even after we returned home, my daughter would call it her "secret pin" and wouldn't tell even her grandparents how she got it for fear of costing that sweet lady her job. My wife and I stopped by guest relations on our way out of the park that evening to relay the story (being careful to leave out the part about the pin and just saying that the cast member had gone above and beyond the call of duty to help our daughter).

Staci's Story

As I was reading the wonderful experiences that cast members provided to guests at WDW, I remember a very special experience that happened to us on our first trip in 2004. However, this pixie dust was provided by another guest rather than a cast member.

We were in the elevator of the Contemporary on our way to have dinner at the California Grill and we were exhausted from a very long day in the parks. My daughter was 4 at the time and we had been renting a stroller for her each day in the parks. When you return the stroller, you receive a Disney Dollar back. Lily had wanted to have the dollar so she was holding it in her hand in the elevator.

We were joined by a gentleman and his wife in their early 50s on their way up to have dinner as well.

Jokingly, the man held out his hand and asked my daughter if he could have her dollar.

Without hesitating, she reached out and handed it to him. He was shocked! He told her that he was just teasing her, but because she was so generous he wanted to give her something. He opened up his wallet and gave her a $5 bill and told her to stay so sweet and generous and then proceeded to commend myself and my husband on our daughter's manners.

It was a wonderfully spontaneous and thoughtful gesture and we made sure that Lily knew that when you do something nice for someone, it comes back to you. This gentleman made us all feel special and I suspect he was touched by the encounter, as well.

Dana's Story

Thank you for including Andy's Story in your last article (link)]. I actually Googled for bad service experiences at WDW so I would know if I was alone or not in my opinions. I am a former Disneyland cast member and was frankly shocked at the poor level of service experienced at WDW last month. Gossiping behind the registration desk, text messaging from cell phones at refreshment stands, slow-as-molasses presentations in restaurants and vapid looks on ride operators were a few of the little incidents that really caught my attention.

Yes, there are always cast members who go above and beyond, but the general standard is low. Employees are not taking pride in their work. When I donned my Disney nametag in 1991, it was a badge of honor. I can only conclude the talent pool in Central Florida is not strong enough to support this huge enterprise. The best of the best are no longer the best. Walt Disney World is just too big to offer the traditional Disney experience.

Rae's Story

I always enjoy reading about everyone's cast member experiences. After reading your last column, I realized I had a couple experiences I would like to share also. On one of my trips to WDW I purchased a Mr. Potato Head doll at "Once Upon a Toy" and filled my box as full as possible with all the accessories. Much to my dismay when I arrived home in Texas I realized I forgot to get Mr. Potato Head some ears. I wrote a letter and sent it to someone in WDW—I forgot exactly who now—explaining the situation and begging for some ears. I told them Mr. Potato Head couldn't wear his Mickey glasses and he would really appreciate some ears. I included a $1 bill, return postage and a self-addressed envelope with the hope of not inconveniencing them too much. Some kind, sweet anonymous cast member sent back my $1, the ears and included a Mickey notecard signed, "Enjoy." I made a special scrapbook page showing Mr. Potato head before and after his ears.

My other story I think is rather sweet and not intended to offend anybody. Instead, I'd like to recognize some overlooked staff members who probably don't get a lot of praise—the housekeepers. A lot of the housekeeping staff are of Puerto Rican descent and one Christmas season when I was there I left a small tip in my room with a handful of Christmas Hershey's kisses. When I got back to my room that afternoon the housekeeper had left me a small note on the nightstand. It said "Than you," which gave me a chuckle and a sweet memory. Thanks for letting me share

Laura's Story

I'm a high school junior and Disney fanatic who hopes to become a CM as soon as possible. The "Cast Place" articles are my favorite part of MousePlanet (…even when they make me cry!). I love to read about the amazing effect that CM magic can have on people. I've had so many wonderful experiences with cast members over the years in both WDW and DL and I wanted to share one of my recent stories…

In November 2005, my family and I were in WDW to celebrate my birthday. I was a bit down that the Haunted Mansion (one of my favorites) was still under for rehab on the last day of our vacation, which was coincidently my birthday. While boarding Peter Pan's Flight, the CM who was working (unfortunately, I've forgotten her name) noticed my birthday pin and asked me why I wasn't completely ecstatic that I was celebrating in the happiest place on earth. I explained to her my disappointment, and when we exited the ride, she was standing there with Fastpasses for my entire family to use on any ride in the MK. It was easily the best birthday gift I've ever received; a simple, kind gesture from a complete stranger.

It's the little experiences like this that make Disney a truly magical place.

Bob's Story

I have yet to visit WDW without having at least one major cast member-sponsored bit of absolute and unexpected magic take place. From snagging a pontoon boat for the first public viewing of the millennium edition of Illuminations; to being shown to a veranda table at Tony's during SpectroMagic; to having a room request for the same room at Port Orleans honored for five years in a row (my son now calls it "our room"), it is the spontaneous magic (in reality—the cast members who go above and beyond) that sets Disney apart from all others. But for me, two events really stand out:

Our visits to WDW usually take place over our wedding anniversary in October. One year, I had booked a surprise pontoon boat Magic Kingdom fireworks cruise for the night of our anniversary. As luck would have it, one of the infamous Florida thunderstorms blew in 10 minutes before departure. Being that lightning, water, a metal boat and people form a bad mix in Mickey's mind, the cruise was cancelled. Seeing everyone's obvious disappointment our captain asked us to wait for a minute while he made a phone call. A few minutes later a cast member arrived on a golf cart and asked myself, my wife and our son to "jump on." He took us to an isolated, covered veranda at the Grand Floridian and sat us at a single table adorned with flowers, a large shrimp and cracker platter and a bottle of champagne. When I inquired about when and how I should pay for the unordered goodies he replied that it was the least that Mickey and Minnie could do after the weather cancelled our anniversary cruise. Needless to say, the fireworks were "extra magical" that night.

A serious bout of pneumonia put another year's trip in jeopardy. I was cleared to travel by the doctor literally hours before our flight. During several past trips my wife had commented about a thing or two that she would have people do differently at WDW if she owned the Company (she still claims Fastpass was originally her idea). And so that year I had purchased her a framed share of Disney stock to officially make her an "owner." The uncertainty of our trip saw the unwrapped item put into the bottom of my suitcase at the last minute. The night before our anniversary I took the item to the night manager at the Port Orleans, explained my plight and asked if she had any wrapping paper. She told me to leave the item with her and call the front desk when we awoke the next morning. Within minutes of doing so there was a knock at our room door. There stood two cast members with happy anniversary balloons and my package wrapped in the most beautiful paper and ribbons that I've ever seen. Upon wishing us a happy anniversary (and sprinkling the package with pixie dust) they handed my wife a card with an autographed photo of Mickey and Minnie inscribed with a notation personally welcoming her to the "Disney family." There wasn't a dry eye in the room.

P.S. As for "doing Disney" while recovering from pneumonia—my Doctor was right about having to slow down from prior trips: My normal 16-hour days had to be cut back to 15-hour days. A trip to Disney is the best medicine I've ever had!

Tricia's Story

My family is going to WDW this month, and I had called to make dining reservations ahead of time before we arrived. After a few weeks and some strategic planning I had to call and cancel a reservation to attend a character dining experience we felt the children would enjoy more. When I called the reservation line, I got a cast member named Shane and he was wonderful.

I had made a breakfast reservation that would not have been covered in our dining package and was asking if I just had to pay when we were at the breakfast. He told me that I should use my dining package table meal there and maybe pay for another such as the Sci-Fi Diner when the kids meals are only $5—compared to the $11 or $12 it would have cost me! I thanked him and he said he was just doing his job and that's why he was there to get me the best dime for my dollar! I loved it, I am so glad some of the cast members look out for us now I probably saved about $20 just from that tip!

I had called twice before and no other CM had said anything about doing this! Thanks Shane you really have me looking forward to WDW with my children knowing that CMs are looking out for our best interest and wanting us to have a wonderful time!