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by Ken Pellman (archives)
April 9, 2001
This month Ken has A Day in the Life of a Disneyland Cast Member - a detailed look at what goes on throughout on day as a custodial Cast Member.

A Day in the Life of a Disneyland Cast Member

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Did you ever wonder what a typical day is like for a Disneyland cast member, working onstage at the Happiest Place on Earth?

Those of you raised on MTV might find this too long and slow-paced. It is the longest of the Kenversations™ so far.

This isn't a collection of highlights (or lowlights, as the case may be). This is a look at what a typical day of being a cast member is like. It will not be an expose', and it will not be so thorough as to completely pull back the curtain. However, if you don't want to know what the "actor" is going through to put on the show known as "The Happiest Place on Earth", then read no further. For those of you who are interested, I hope I succeed in painting a clear enough picture to satisfy your curiosity.

These are my own personal thoughts. I'm not on the clock.

Although only a small percentage of the cast members working at Disneyland Park are Day Custodial Cast Members, many of the cast members working in operations have similar elements to their workdays, as do cast members working at Disney's California Adventure park. What happens during a "typical" day may vary from season to season, and depends on the weather and attendance.

As a Disneyland Park Day Custodial Cast Member, I could be starting as early as 6 a.m. or as late as 7 p.m. for my shift. In this piece, I'll describe what it is like to be an opening foreman (a.k.a. "lead") in Disneyland Park Day Custodial on an average Saturday.

On My Way
The alarm clock goes off at 4 a.m. If I owned a rooster, I'd go yell at it to wake it up, just for the sadistic fun of it. It is dark outside, and I tell myself I really need to get to bed on time one of these days. Of course, that would mean getting to sleep at 8 p.m. for a full night’s rest. The park is opening at 8 a.m., but we start at 6 a.m. because there are opening procedures to do and "Magic Morning", meaning guests will be in parts of the park at 6:30 a.m. I leave the radio on so that I might catch a traffic report that actually mentions freeway closures. My shift will go until 5p.m. and I'll have a half-hour unpaid lunch. That will give me a total of ten-and-a-half hours for the day.

People who start later in the day are often woken up with a phone call to come in earlier if the day is looking busier than expected or if someone has left a "hole" by calling in sick or whatever. If they are called in to be opening foreman, they often are called too late for them to show up at 6 a.m.

Back when I’d be starting my shift later in the day, I’d check out and be updated on what was going on at the park before I even got there. Especially, if you’re coming out of your two or three days off (depending on your schedule), you can learn more about what is happening "at work" from outside sources, before the people who are actually working there will. The Resort's cast communications team does a great job getting information out, though.

Anyway, it is time to shave and shower, because Disney resorts have strict grooming standards and I want to be as clean as possible, because chances are I’ll be getting dirty and sweaty during the day. I need to be out the door by 4:45 a.m. or so, so it is just a quick hop online to check things out while I’m drying off and making sure I have all that I need for my day.

I get dressed in normal street clothes. Others are on "Fast Track", meaning they have costumes assigned to them that that can take home or wear home. This means that they don’t have to dress twice - once to go to work, and again once they are there. I have opted not to use it, because I get to keep my personal locker and because, since I was always told to protect "the show", I don’t feel right wearing my costume when I’m off-stage.

I might grab breakfast at home, from a drive-through with a cast member discount on the way to work, or at the park.

It is Saturday morning, and the streets are freeways are light on the traffic but heavy on the fog. It is nice to be able to zip southward on the I-5 Santa Ana Freeway without the usual endless crawl. Fortunately, there are no freeway closures for construction to show me the finer areas of Buena Park, Fullerton, and Anaheim, and I hurry unimpeded towards my exit.

Cast members live all over the area. Some live in apartments that are walking distance from the Resort, sharing a place with other cast members. There are a lot who are students living at home. Some cast members come from as far as L.A. or deep in the Inland Empire. Some of the only places most cast members can afford homes of their own are so far away that their daily commutes are rather long.

Carpooling is encouraged, but can be hard at a place where shifts can vary so much, and can be shortened or extended.



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