Disney World: it’s the Happiest Place on Earth, right? While that might be true for guests, Disney employees — also known as cast members — might have a different story to tell. And specifically, when it comes to the cast members that are lucky enough to be hired on as a princess, they have incredibly strict rules to follow.
One of the most important aspects of working at Disney is making sure to maintain the Disney Magic. What is Disney Magic? Disney superfans know it as the magic that you “feel in your heart” while you’re at the Disney parks. “Disney is the one place that you can escape from the reality of life, and just feel at peace for awhile,” one blogger opined. “As soon as you arrive on Disney Property, it’s as if the real world does not exist. That was Walt Disney’s vision, and he more than succeeded at his goal. It seems like the whole ‘World’ is full of fantasy, magic, and nostalgia” (via The Main Street Mouse).
Disney cast members have to say they're "friends" of a princess
Considering the importance fans place on the atmosphere, for princesses, maintaining that Disney magic is key. That’s why Disney employees are called cast members, as they’re seen as putting on a show when they’re at work (via Business Insider). This is also why cast members are never allowed to say they’re ‘acting as’ or ‘playing’ a character or princess. Instead, the proper protocol to indicate your job as a character is to say that you are “friends” with that character (via The Sun).
The idea is that if you were overheard speaking about your job, the Disney Magic wouldn’t be ruined if someone — particularly a child — overheard you saying you were playing a character. When you’re at Disney, there are no characters — the illusion is that when you meet a character, it really is the character and not someone playing as them.
Disney princesses train at "princess school"
Coming as a surprise to no one, there is intense training that goes into becoming a Disney princess. Colloquially known as “princess school,” this is where prospective princesses learn the ins and outs of acting as…. er, “becoming friends” with their character. Emily Cook Harris, a former Disney cast member, told Reader’s Digest all about her experience working at Disney and exactly how she went about learning the phrases, mannerisms, voice, and even signature of her character. Harris was selected to play Alice from Alice in Wonderland, who, while technically not a princess, still had to go through the official training.
With the goal of perfecting Alice character, Harris obsessively watched the movie as research. “I had seen it maybe once or twice as a kid, but once I was cast I watched it countless times — at least 50. I memorized all her favorite phrases, the colorful characters in her world, her British accent, and her mannerisms,” she said.
Disney princesses are forced to smile for hours on end
Constant happiness — or at least the illusion of it — is pivotal to maintaining the Disney Magic. That’s why face characters, or Disney characters whose faces are always shown and covered in makeup instead of a mask, need to be constantly smiling — it’s literally a rule (via Buzzfeed). According to a former Belle who chose to stay anonymous in a Cosmopolitan article, “You have to smile for an hour straight; you can’t drop your smile until you go on break and are behind closed doors because Disney doesn’t want any pictures of us not smiling. The first few weeks, my face literally hurt.”
In the same article, the former princess also explained that face characters have a quota of interacting with 172 guests per hour. “An attendant would have a clicker to count the number of people we met, and if we went under, we would get a reprimand.” She added that four reprimands could lead to getting fired.
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