15 Etiquette Rules Disney Employees Must Follow
Think working at Disney sounds like a dream job? See if you still feel that way after seeing all of these strict rules park employees must follow.
All the park’s a stage
Disney employees aren’t technically “employees”—they’re “Cast Members.” And no, not just the ones who play actual Disney characters. Every employee in the park, whether they operate rides, serve food, or actually put on a show, is a “Cast Member.” The idea is that the entire Disney park itself is a “stage.” Even Disney’s career website talks about the “unique opportunities available to Cast Members.” Ever wonder why Mickey and Minnie always wear gloves? Here’s why you’ll see most of the original Disney characters donning gloved hands.
Everything is Disney
And what’s the most important thing a Cast Member has to do? Stay in character, of course. If you’re playing a Disney character, that character’s world becomes your world. You’re not allowed to make references to any pop culture that exists outside of the Disney universe. From the moment you don the costume to the moment you take it off, you can’t talk about anything that Snow White, Peter Pan, or whomever you’re playing wouldn’t know about—whether that’s the latest iPhone or the Harry Potter park just across Orlando.
Just like you have to be 44 inches tall to ride Space Mountain, you have to be a certain height to portray certain Disney roles. Most notably, anyone aspiring to play a Disney princess—yes, any princess—must be between 5’4″ and 5’8″. If you’re shorter, between 4’11” and 5’2″, you can play other characters, including Alice from Alice in Wonderland and Wendy from Peter Pan.
Looking the part
From hair to fingernails, Disney has lots of requirements for the physical appearances of their employees. Women’s hair needs to be in a “classic” style and a natural-looking color. Women actually can have highlights, but they must be “subtle, well-blended, and be over the entire head,” according to Disney’s career site. As for men, their hair can’t cover their ears or be long enough to reach their collars. Men are allowed to have facial hair, but it must be neat, and it can’t be longer than a quarter of an inch.
There are also very specific fingernail rules for anyone working in food or merchandise. Your fingernails can’t extend beyond your fingertips, and you can’t wear nail polish or fake nails. Surprisingly, you can actually have a tattoo—but it has to be completely covered, whether by clothing or opaque makeup. And here’s more about what it’s really like to play a princess at Walt Disney World.
Women are allowed to wear one ring on each hand and only one earring in each ear. For men, the ring rule is the same, but earrings aren’t allowed at all. You can have other piercings, but you have to remove them while at work. Gauges are prohibited altogether. Check out the full list of surprising dress code rules for Disney employees.
First name basis
Cast Members are only known by their first names—no “Mr.” or “Miss.” Rumor has it that this tradition dates right back to Walt Disney himself. He always told everyone at the Disney parks to call him Walt, not Mr. Disney. Employees also wear nametags with only their first names on them. A weirder aspect of this rule? Cast Members aren’t allowed to have duplicate names. Disney can still hire multiple people with the same first name, but there’s no using last initials—one of the people has to choose a new name to go by while at Disney. Seems a little weird…but on the bright side, maybe they can view it as the same as being a character.
What’s the point
Disney employees have a special way of pointing. If they’re giving directions, they’re not allowed to point with one finger, since it could potentially be considered rude. Instead, they employ a special Disney point, often with two fingers or sometimes even with the whole hand. Aside from being more friendly in general, it’s also more kid-friendly, because it’s easier for children to see. Don’t miss these insider secrets from a Disney World super-fan.
Graceful garbage disposal
If a Cast Member sees a piece of trash on the ground, he or she must pick it up—litter has no place in the Happiest Place on Earth. But they can’t just pick it up—Disney employees have to use a special maneuver to pick up trash. Rather than squatting down, they have to collect the trash with a graceful “swoop-and-scoop” motion. That sounds like lots of fun to practice during training.
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If someone asks a Cast Member a question about the park, those three deadly words— “I don’t know”— are absolutely forbidden. Even if it’s true, the Cast Member must ask another employee or call a park operator until they find out the answer. Find out the best spots to work at Disney parks, according to former employees.
Speaking in code
With lots of little kids (and animals) running around in the park, there’s bound to be some unpleasant bodily-fluid-related incidents every now and then. Fortunately, Disney has a special way to identify them without grossing anyone out. Employees use “Code V” to signify a throw-up incident and “Code P” or “Code U” for urine. If a parade horse poops in the park, that’s a “Code H.” Here are the other three words Disney employees aren’t allowed to say.
One of the most fun parts of any trip to Disney, especially for kids, is getting autographs from your favorite characters. Every character’s signature is distinct and has a recognizable look—no matter who’s playing that character. Regardless of what your own handwriting looks like, you’re going to have to go through “autograph training” so that you know how to write like Mickey Mouse. Learn some surprising facts you never knew about your favorite Disney characters.
Silence is golden
Sure, if you’re playing a human character—be it a princess, an Old-West frontiersman in Frontierland, or a space explorer in Tomorrowland—it can be tough enough to make sure you’re only saying things that your character would say. But if you’re in a full-body costume, where your own face isn’t visible—think Mickey, Donald Duck, and the Beast—you’re not allowed to speak at all while in costume. Having to act the part for hours on end, all without saying a word, may not sound so magical—but hey, neither is hearing a muffled, non-mousey voice coming from a perpetually smiling Minnie.
Eye see you
Disney World is located in the Sunshine State, so if you’re heading to the park, grabbing your sunglasses is a given. But Disney cast members even have rules to follow when it comes to their shades. The Disney career site says that dark glasses may “be a block to interpersonal communication with guests.” Cast Members aren’t banned from wearing sunglasses altogether, but there are some regulations. The glasses cannot be so dark that guests can’t see your eyes through them (mirrored shades are a no-go too), and if you’re speaking to a guest, you must remove them. Here are some surprising things that are banned from Disney parks.
No social media
Disney Cast Members don’t have to give up social media altogether, but they’re not allowed to post about their jobs. They can’t even reveal what character(s) they are playing, and they can’t take any pictures backstage. We wouldn’t want to ruin the magic, now would we?
Because the entire park is considered a “stage,” cast members are not allowed to eat “onstage,” which means no snacks or meals in the park areas while on the job. Cast members eat in a separate employee cafeteria. However, they do get a pretty nice dining perk when they’re not on duty—they can get up to 40% off at many dining spots in the park and in Disney Springs at certain times of the year. Next, find out even more insider secrets Disney employees won’t tell you.