A full-time Epcot cast member recently spoke with Slate.com and offered a unique perspective about Walt Disney World reopening. We’ve seen all of the pictures documenting low crowds, lots of plexiglass dividers and the new normal at the theme parks from the point of view of the guests. But what about the cast members?
The anonymous Epcot cast member shed some light on what it was like after the parks initially closed, what it’s been like to return and how the interactions with guests have completely changed.
What was it like when Walt Disney World first closed?
“When the park first shut down in March, they told us it would be closed for two weeks. And at first, we were getting paid for it, thanks to our union. So at first, everyone was just like, “Oh, cool, two-week paid vacation! We’ll get to stay at home and not do anything.” It was especially nice for the people who do what I do every day: on our feet eight, 10, 14 hours a day, depending on the length of our shift. At work, you have to keep a smile on your face all day, and that gets to be a lot. A lot of us were pretty excited to be able to just sit at home and not have to talk to anybody or go anywhere.”
Eventually, cast members began returning to Walt Disney World as the theme parks prepared to reopen. They were met with new safety procedures and regulations, transforming their usual responsibilities.
How have things changed with guests after the theme parks reopened?
“As Disney cast members, we’re always told to be accommodating and do as much as we can for our guests. But the new safety procedures are the polar opposite. There’s no budging at all—it’s concrete. You can’t compromise at all when it comes to safety. It’s such a stressful and scary time.”
Normally, cast members go out of their way to make sure guests are having the best experience possible. They’re usually the driving force that makes Disney vacations so memorable and magical.
How have guests responded to the new normal at Walt Disney World?
“People will come up to me and say, “Oh, my gosh, the lines are so short! It’s awesome! I’ve been on this ride six times today.” When I hear from guests, and especially when I hear people complain about how “you can’t do this now,” or “you can’t do that now,” there’s one thought that always runs through my head: “Well, you’re here by choice, and I’m here by necessity. You had a choice to come, and I did not.” But if they’re going to come and follow the safety guidelines, I’m grateful to have a job. I love what I do. But once people start to complain about the safety measures that have been taken to not only protect them but also us, that’s when I get frustrated.”
Local visitors to Walt Disney World have expressed mostly positive reviews. The lack of FastPass+, crowds and lines have made it much easier to experience a bunch of attractions in one day. Those still showing up for those once-in-a-lifetime trips are making the best of it, but have been the most vocal about the safety restrictions.
Have they had a COVID-19 scare?
“Recently, my roommate had a COVID-19 scare, and as soon as he was “presumed positive,” I was asked to self-isolate until I knew my test result. Unfortunately, I did not get paid while I waited.”
The large volume of cases throughout Florida has led many to question why Walt Disney World and the nearby theme parks are still open. Whether or not cast members believe Disney should close once again may depend on their access to unemployment.
Are they in favor of Walt Disney World closing again?
“With cases spiking so much in Florida, I’m not sure what conditions would make the park shut down again. My co-workers and I even asked my management team, and they’re not sure either. I’m sure that Disney does have some plan stashed away in a room somewhere, but none of us are privy to that information right now. If things keep going in the direction that they are, I would be in favor of closing—but it also depends on if the Florida unemployment site will be kind to me this time.”
Summarized, it’s not an easy time to be a Disney cast member.
Click here to read the full story on Slate.com.