Working at Disney: Be Careful What You Ask For
Anyone who has hung around the Disney product has always wondered what it would be like to work for them. The fantasy that we experience as a customer shades our perception of what it must be “Off Stage”. Oh oh, I want to be a Monorail driver. I want to work as a Jungle Cruise boat operator. Are you Face or Fur?
Information on the work environment is not secret. There are seminars, even a Disney University. So what is it like to work for arguably one of the largest global employers?
Walt was a task master. He drove his people hard. And from an organizational standpoint, Disney still does. This set the foundation of expectation for generations to come, and it is these expectations that give us the product we are addicted to today.
The training is so detailed. Terminology, facial hair, height, even how you point, are all trained nuances to the “On Stage” experience. Remember you are part of a show!
Bert Anthony was an illustrator for the Disney Studios. The rumors somewhat contradict the events, but in the end, Bert was fired. Bert was also an ASU graduate who designed Sparky, the mascot and logo, created in 1948. I don’t know, but maybe Bert was a bit bitter about his termination?
In the beginning when Walt wanted to make feature animated films, he instituted a perfectionist process. You have probably heard the stories of the “Sweat Box”, the equivalent of Rushes or Dailies. It wasn’t hot in there, it was stressful. There was a box much like a voting booth. It has a small projected and animators would bring their work there for Walt to review. He would thread the film and run it through. The Animators would wait outside, “sweating” what Walt’s review would bring. Imagine how they all felt when Walt obtained the technology for Color Filming shortly before the black and white release of Snow White! The groans must have registered on the Richter scale. It is that perfectionist idealism that translates through all the Disney product today.
Disney Legend Herb Ryman, a man many believe to be Walt’s #1 animator, would talk about how Walt was the master motivator. Another Disney Legend, Harrison “Buzz” Price talked about how Walt could always get the maximum talent out of his people. Walt had that knack to see what one could do, and push them to get to that level, and Disney continues to manage based on this talent expectation.
In the end, if you cannot agree with the work ethic generated, Disney University will tell you, “Find Your Magic Elsewhere”. Remember, many of them wish to give you that lifetime memorable experience you are looking for. It doesn’t take much to tell them how much you appreciate their effort. For those of us who enjoy the fruits of these Cast Members labor, let us not forget, they work hard to give us this experience. Incredibly Hard!
It ain’t easy being Disney, right SEJ101?