Thursday, December 12, 2019

disney college program: character attendant role explained

here to answer the question on everyone's mind: what am i going to be doing at disney next semester?

Confession time: I was scared to look at my offer letter when I got accepted back in September.

I really wish that was a joke.

When I first applied for the DCP back in 2016, I said I would be happy with whatever role I was offered.  I was a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed 18-year-old with no internship experience who had a dream to complete the Disney College Program.  But this time around, things were a little more complicated for this 22-year-old set to graduate this semester.

Leaving college and entering the "real world" full-time means it's really time to crack down and find jobs that fit your career aspirations and can benefit you in the long run.  I was desperate to return to Disney for a short period of time to do one specific job, and if I hadn't gotten it, I probably would have turned down my Program offer.

With so many of my short-term goals riding on this one role within the DCP, I stared at my computer screen for a good 10 minutes after I had gotten my "Congratulations!" email, mentally preparing myself for the possibility of getting a different role.  Technically, you can get placed in any role that you put interest in, so there were 5-6 other roles I could have gotten.  So you can imagine the relief that washed over me and rush of excitement that coursed through my veins when I opened that offer letter and saw those two precious words: Character Attendant!

What Exactly is a Character Attendant?

We all remember what it feels like to meet Mickey Mouse for the first time.  I was 4 years old, shuffling tepidly behind my parents in line at the Judge's Tent in Mickey's Toontown Fair.  When it was our turn to meet the Big Cheese, my parents stood back and encouraged me to give him a hug.  I was a little too shy for a hug, so I cautiously approached him and gently held his hand.  Cue the chorus of "aww" from every other person in the room as they watched the events unfold.

While you probably remember your first time meeting Mickey, you probably don't remember the Cast Member who brought you into the M&G room.  The same one who told you Mickey would have to take Pluto for a walk soon, but would be right back.  The same one who took your autograph book from you when Mickey was done signing so that you could get the perfect photo taken.  The same one who, with her free hand, took the photo on your cell phone.

She's the Character Attendant, and she's here to make sure you and your favorite Disney characters are having the most magical time possible!

Character Attendants are part of the Disney Parks Entertainment department family.  They're front-line Cast Members who help assist characters during meet & greets, character dining experiences, stage shows, dance parties, and anywhere else you'd find characters in the parks!  Their special role in the show is to make sure characters and guests are safe, immersed in the magic, and creating memories that will last an entire lifetime.

When I was told my role would be "Attractions" back in 2016, I had no idea what I could possibly be doing!  The resort is huge, and "Attractions" encompasses a lot of different lines of business at Walt Disney World.  Things are so different now that I'm a Character Attendant, because I know exactly what I'm getting into this time around.

No matter where you're placed, Character Attendant role responsibilities include:

  • Providing Guests with information about show schedules, Character locations, and visitation times
  • Providing audience control, including handling challenging Guest situations
  • Ensuring the safety of Characters and Guests
  • Partnering with PhotoPass photographers
  • Maintaining show quality and Character integrity
  • Proactively interacting with our Guests by involving them in the Characters’ story
  • Setting up and removing stanchions, ropes and poles
  • Retrieving and arranging strollers
  • Maintaining cleanliness and order in work location
  • Standing for extended periods, working outdoors

Things to Know about Character Attendant

  • Character Attendant is currently only offered as a DCP role at Walt Disney World Resort.  Unfortunately, Disneyland Resort does not offer this role to its College Program participants.  I don't see this ever becoming a possibility because of the way the entertainment department is run in Anaheim.  If you really want to become a Character Attendant, be prepared to head to the East Coast for a little bit.
  • Character Attendant is a globally-trained role.  Like most other roles in Entertainment, you can pick up shifts almost anywhere else on the resort.  As a Character Attendant, I will have a base park that I will be stationed at.  This will be one of the four theme parks at Walt Disney World, but my "base park" may even include surrounding resort hotel character dining experiences, Disney Water Parks, and more!  As a global Cast Member, I may be asked to work elsewhere, or even choose to trade/pick up shifts in other parks.  Other global roles include Merchandise, QSFB, Custodial, PhotoPass, Character Performer, and more.  This is the polar opposite of what I did when I worked in Attractions, where I was trained and stationed at Peter Pan's Flight/it's a small world and did not work anywhere else for the entire duration of my Program.  Being global is both a blessing and a curse: while being global will give you the opportunity to work almost anywhere, you could also find yourself involuntarily deployed from your home location to a different, possibly unfamiliar area for an undisclosed period of time.
  • Being a Character Attendant requires a dense amount of training.  Character Attendants go through one of the most thorough training processes in the resort.  After Traditions, Character Attendants will go through both an operations welcome class, a park orientation, and an entertainment welcome class without their core role training.  Core training, which teaches you how to globally perform your job responsibilities, will encompass several days and cover every aspect of your job.  During core, not only will you learn how to perform your job responsibilities, you will also learn a lot about the entertainment department in general, all about Disney media and Disney characters, and more.  After you're finished with core training, you will also have to complete an additional day or two of training specifically at your park.  It is an overwhelming amount of training, moreso than many other roles in the Program, which means your first few weeks on the job are going to be a little rough as you absorb everything and get into the groove of this challenging role.
  • Character Attendant is a difficult role.  In addition to all of that training you have to go through, being a Character Attendant means dealing with challenging situations every single day.  You are the one that closes the line for a character, which means you are unfortunately the one that tells a family that they will be unable to meet a certain character.  You are also expected to be constantly watching out for the safety of the characters and the safety of the guests, which means having to juggle monitoring both the line and the guest interacting with the character.  Angry guests and crazy interactions are just part of the job.
  • Most Character Attendant DCP offers go out to Alumni.  For those last two reasons: the heavy training and high volume of difficult guest situations, Disney certainly seems to prefer casting successful Program alumn into this role.  Casting wants to be sure that the people who get this role are fully aware of how difficult it is, and it helps to already have worked with Disney before this role.  For example-- learning about the Walt Disney Company and everything Cast Members are expected to do at the Resort, including Disney Look guidelines and the Four Keys concepts, is a daunting enough task by itself.  Having to learn Cast Member & Company basics in addition to Attendant training seems a little overwhelming.  Of course, it's not impossible, and there are a few Character Attendants who are not Alumni in every season!  But an overwhelming amount of Character Attendants are registered Disney College Program Alumni Association members every season, which is something to consider if you're interested in the role.

Why is Character Attendant my Dream Role?

Now that I've explained all of the challenges and stressors that come with being a Character Attendant, you've probably wondering: what makes this your dream role?

As overwhelming as it can get, this is such an exciting job, and no two days are the same.  You'll learn to work in a variety of locations with a variety of characters and performers, growing as a professional as your exposure to different work environments teaches you how to adapt and figure out which ones work for you.  Everything you take away from this job can be transferred to different career aspirations: learning how to deal with challenging guest situations, learning how to juggle different tasks at once, learning how to adapt to multiple different environments and situations that require different needs.  And as everyone who has ever been an Attendant can tell you: this is such a rewarding job.  For every difficult guest you encounter, there are 10 more amazing guests to interact with: toddlers who are meeting Mickey for the first time, adults who have never met their favorite princess before, families remembering loved ones who were fondly associated with Winnie the Pooh.  Disney characters are truly magical, and they bring out the best in guests.

My favorite part about visiting Walt Disney World has always been meeting characters and I am so excited to help pass this special experience along to guests!  I am so honored to be able to make magic in this special role and can't wait to start learning & earning with the Disney College Program again this Spring!


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