During Destination D23 at Walt Disney World today, we got the opportunity to speak with Walt Disney World Ambassador Ali Manion as she prepares for the next step in her Disney journey after her ambassadorship. Check out our interview below.
Benji Breitbart: Well, congratulations, Ali.
Ali Manion: Thank you.
BB: You're coming to the end of your term. Now that you're looking back at your 2022-23 ambassadorship, what are your thoughts? What are the emotions that come up?
AM: Oh, so many wonderful emotions. It has been just an amazing two and a half years representing our cast here at Walt Disney World, along with Raevon. We've celebrated a lot here at Walt Disney World in the last two years. Everything from coming out of COVID to our 50th anniversary. I think that was one of my favorite moments was just being there on Main Street on October 1st and being with our cast members to celebrate. Oh gosh, the memories are really countless. There's so much. I could talk here for hours to you about memories for my ambassador term, but the 50th is definitely a highlight.
BB: Now that you're coming to the end, do you remember what it was like when you were announced as one of the members of the ambassador team?
AM: I do, and I will say I was speechless. I remember whenever Jeff delivered the news, my reaction was literally, wait what? I was in shock because it was a dream I had always had ever since I found out about the ambassador program on my college program. I had gone out for the role, this was my third time trying, and I said it was going to be my last one. I went through the process. Going through those emotions, I was so grateful and I was able to look back on my experience at Disney and seeing all of the experiences build from being a leader to working communications to my time in entertainment. It all built up and culminated into this really exciting moment, and my family was there to celebrate with me, which made it even more special.
BB: And you were an ambassador at a very special time, as you mentioned, the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World.
BB: Also, sort of a coming out party of Walt Disney World as we all reentered the world. When you think about this special moment in Walt Disney World's history, what do you think about the celebration that just wrapped up and the 50th anniversary?
AM: Well, and I think as an ambassador, our focus has always been on representing our cast members, and I think what's been so special about the 50th anniversary is we took a lot of extra time to celebrate our cast members because without our cast members, Walt Disney World wouldn't have been here for these 50 years that it has been and been able to prosper and to grow, and so, getting to celebrate along beside them with different special Disney cast life previews that we've had for them for some of our attractions, like Guardians of the Galaxy and Tron, to really being able to celebrate with them through the Disney Volunteers program as well. We had the 50 for 50 Disney Volunteers Challenge, and we had a lot of Disney volunteers and cast members show up and shine out with their volunteer work out in the central Florida community, and so getting to celebrate with our cast members is really just has been the best part.
BB: And a lot of Disney volunteers recently celebrated a special activity for World Princess Week. Can you talk about that special moment.
AM: Absolutely. We had the Once Upon a Wish party right here at the Contemporary just a few weeks ago, and it was so special to see over 59 Wish kids celebrate with their families, their parents, their siblings. We made all of those wishes come true. We even had the 150,000th Disney Wish, Miss McKayla celebrate and sing on stage and live out her dream of performing at Disney, and I have a personal connection to Make-a-Wish. I have a family member who went on a wish trip here to Walt Disney World, and so being able to work with Make-A-Wish and to celebrate that party with this event that was unlike anything we had ever done before, was truly incredible.
BB: Now, you're just a couple weeks away from announcing who's going to step into your very big shoes as we enter the next ambassador. What kind of hopes do you have for their term as Walt Disney World Ambassadors?
AM: Absolutely. Well, I think we've had an incredible legacy to lean on, Raevon and I. We've been able to continue this amazing ambassador program, really help it grow and evolve. It's been amazing to see how it's evolved in the last 50 years here at Walt Disney World, and I'm so excited to see our new team continue to evolve and to continue to take the Ambassador Program into the future, to continue to keep it relevant for our cast members, for our guests, and for our community, and to just truly be those authentic representatives that our cast members look to and aspire to be. It's amazing.
BB: And as we always do here at Walt Disney World, we keep moving forward –
AM: Yes, we do.
BB: What's your next dream here at Walt Disney World?
AM: Well, it's actually, it's a full circle moment for me, and I've said that Raevon and I have shared a lot of full circle moments during our ambassador term, but this one is probably the most special and the most important. I will actually be going over to join our Disney Programs team as a program experience manager, where I'll be focusing on the learning and academic and advancement piece of the college program. I'm really excited because I started on a Disney College program. That's where my Disney journey began, so I'm excited to foster and to see our young leaders in our company really grow and to hopefully give them a little magic along the way.
BB: And there's a beautiful new facility at Flamingo Crossing for them, right?
AM: It's amazing. It is just a spectacular place for them to live, and really what I'm most excited about is those learning offerings that they have. That team over there brings in executives and leaders from all across the company to really showcase to our cast members and to our college program cast that the sky is the limit. If you want to be an ambassador 11 years later, it really is possible and Disney can make it happen.
BB: Well, congratulations and thanks for all the special moments you brought us in the last two years. It's been an honor to get to know you and we wish you all the best.
AM: Thank you so much, Benji. I really appreciate it.
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