Out of all the wonderful things the Disney theme parks and resorts are known for, one of the most special is the Cast Members who work there. Cast Members are responsible for the entirety of your vacation, from your time in the parks to your stay at a Disney Resort Hotel, and there are high standards of service they are required to meet.
To ensure everything runs smoothly and guests are given the best experience possible, there are a lot of rules Cast Members have to follow. Some of them are fairly common, but there are many that are unique to The Walt Disney Company that you likely have never heard about. Before diving into the rules Cast Members have to follow, it’s important to understand why these rules are in place to begin with.
In this article:
Where Did These Rules Come From?
Some of the rules that Disney’s employees aka Cast Members have to follow have been introduced throughout the last almost 70 years of the Disney theme parks being operational, especially as trends have changed and society has continued to develop. However, a lot of these rules were actually thought of by Walt Disney himself as he was creating and improving Disneyland. The rules were implemented by Disney Legend Van Arsdale France who created the University of Disneyland and is credited with creating the Disney Cast Member learning manuals that were the basis for training programs that continue to this day.
Walt was a big believer in treating his guests with the utmost respect and care, so many of the rules that are related to guest service and courtesy come straight from him. He also worked hard to keep his theme parks—and those who worked there—looking polished and beautiful, so there are a lot of rules Cast Members are required to abide by that are related to the theming and look of the parks and resorts.
Keep reading to learn about the rules you never knew that Cast Members have to follow and the reasoning behind why those rules exist!
Disney Look Guidelines
The “Disney Look” was created by leaders during Walt Disney’s time when Disneyland first opened because he wanted the theme park to have a clean, consistent feel, all the way down to the Cast Members working there. The appearance of Cast Members had to meet certain standards for looking “clean, polished, and approachable.”
As certain trends and styles have become more widely accepted throughout the years, The 1955 Disney Look was quite different compared to the present guidelines. Cast Members are now able to have visible tattoos and piercings in certain areas of their body as long as they adhere to specific size and style limits. Cast Members can also now wear their hair in more colors than just natural blonde, brown, and black. There are certainly still specific standards in place, but they have shifted just as our culture has.
The Two-Finger Point
If you’ve ever asked a Cast Member for directions to an area of the park or resort, you may have noticed that they don’t ever point with just one finger. When showing you where you needed to go, they likely pointed with both their index and middle fingers or perhaps gestured with their entire hand. This is one of the first rules that Cast Members learn about when joining the Walt Disney Company, and it’s one that Walt Disney followed too.
As people began to travel from all over the world to visit the Disney theme parks in the United States, it was recognized that every country has its own unique standards for what is considered appropriate. In many places, pointing with one finger is considered rude, improper, and even degrading, and The Walt Disney Company wanted to ensure that everyone felt comfortable at their parks. Thus, the two-finger point was created!
Following the 5 Keys
The 5 Keys are a set of guidelines that not a lot of guests are aware of unless they know a Cast Member personally. They were put in place by leaders during Walt’s time as a way to determine the most important aspects of working for his company, and they go as follows: Safety (keeping guests and workers safe), Courtesy (being kind and respectful to guests), Show (upholding the appearance and atmosphere of the parks and resorts), and Efficiency (completing tasks in a timely manner). Disney recently also added a fifth key – Inclusion. That key is already being put to use with changes to the Disney Cast Member dress code and new changes to popular attractions like the retheme of Splash Mountain.
In addition to abiding by these five rules, Cast Members must also follow them in the order listed above. Safety is the top priority of everything that happens in the theme parks and resorts, which is why it receives the number one spot. Even before being courteous to guests, Cast Members need to implement the safety rules and regulations to ensure that everyone is taken care of.
The other three keys are also in their designated order for specific reasons. Courtesy is second in the lineup because Disney takes great pride in the levels of guest service Cast Members provide. Show is third because while it is not as critical as safety and doesn’t directly affect guests as much as Courtesy, it is still a large part of the Disney brand.
Efficiency is fourth because although working quickly is necessary to accomplish everything that needs to happen at the parks and resorts, Cast Members shouldn’t compromise safety, courtesy, or show in order to be efficient. The 4 Keys are really what help keep the Disney theme parks and resorts operating at the high standards they are known for, which is why they’re so crucial for Cast Members to follow!
Wearing a Nametag
Something else that was important to Walt Disney was guests feeling like they were at home in his theme parks. He wanted them to have an open and friendly atmosphere so guests would feel comfortable throughout their visit. One of the easiest ways to do this was having all the Cast Members wear a nametag with their first name. This way, they would appear approachable and easy to talk to when guests had questions or concerns.
To this day, nametags are a required part of every Cast Member’s costume, and they need to wear one whenever they are working. If a Cast Member forgets their nametag at home, most locations have a drawer of nametags that can be borrowed for the day. There are a few very generic nametags that were created specifically for this purpose—for example, if you see a Cast Member named Chris whose hometown is Orlando, it’s highly likely that it’s not their real name!
Saying “I Don’t Know”
Cast Members interact with hundreds of guests every day, each with their own needs and questions. While Cast Members generally know a lot of information about their work location and the surrounding area, they might be asked about places, activities, and experiences they are not familiar with. However, Cast Members are not supposed to tell guests that they don’t know the answer to a question.
Instead, the proper response from a Cast Member who doesn’t know the information the guest is asking them about is “Let me find out for you.” Cast Members are meant to help guests as much as they can, and it only makes the guest more confused and stressed if every Cast Member they speak to doesn’t have an answer and just passes them along to the next worker.
Cast Members have a lot of resources at their disposal, and if they don’t know the answer to your question, they will be able to contact someone who does. It may take a bit longer for you to learn the information if the Cast Member has to ask around, but in the end, it will save you the headache of having to ask multiple people for assistance.
Interactions with Children
In addition to their training on communicating with adult guests, Cast Members are also taught specifically how to interact with children. There are a few rules that Cast Members have to follow when speaking with kids to ensure they feel safe and comfortable. This is highly beneficial in everyday circumstances, but it’s especially important when a child is separated from their group and feels lost and scared.
For example, bending down to the child’s level so the Cast Member can look them in the face when speaking with them is important, as it makes the Cast Member appear more approachable and friendly. Cast Members are also trained in playful interactions with kids, like giving high fives and fist bumps or asking them questions about their vacation and the exciting things they’ve gotten to do.
Using Themed Language
One of the best parts of visiting the Disney theme parks is being completely immersed in the theming. Every park and resort has its own special story, and the design and characteristics of the location reflect that story. This isn’t limited to just the décor of the buildings; it also includes the costumes the Cast Members wear and the way they interact with the guests in that specific area.
One way that Cast Members help to bring the storyline of their location to life is through using themed language. For example, Disney’s Port Orleans Resort and Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort at Walt Disney World both are completely different in almost every aspect. When you’re visiting Port Orleans, you feel as though you’re in the deep South, whereas at the Polynesian, it’s like you’ve been transported to Hawaii.
Because each of these resorts provides such a unique experience, it makes sense that the language the Cast Members use would be unique to that location as well. You wouldn’t expect to hear the words “Aloha” or “Mahalo” in Louisiana, just as you likely wouldn’t hear “Hey y’all” on a visit to a tropical island. When Cast Members follow the rule of using appropriately themed language, they add authenticity to the atmosphere they’re working in.
Keeping Backstage Areas Private
The Disney theme parks are meant to be one giant entertainment experience, and the phrases that Cast Members use within their workspaces reflect that environment—in fact, that’s why Disney employees are called Cast Members! Their uniforms are known as “costumes,” all public areas within the parks and resorts are considered “onstage areas,” and “Cast Member Only” areas are “backstage.”
One of the most critical rules Cast Members are required to follow is never allowing guests or the general public to view backstage spaces. There are a couple of reasons for this, but the primary one is to keep up the consistent, pristine appearance that Disney is famous for. Areas where guests are not permitted to go are not designed to match the look of the public-facing spaces, and they’re often used for storage, trash, and other things that are not very appealing to look at. Read more about how Disney tricks you with psychology!
Cast Members are not permitted to bring anyone who does not work for Disney into any backstage areas or locations that the general public is kept from seeing. This has been a rule since Disneyland first opened, and because technology has advanced so much since then, they’ve had to update the guideline to include no photos, videos, or social media posts showing or discussing those spaces as well.
When guests go into backstage areas around the theme parks and resorts, they can end up getting in trouble, sometimes to the point of being banned. Learn more about the other ways guests can be kicked out of the Disney theme parks!
Protecting the Magic
In addition to preventing guests from seeing backstage areas, Cast Members are asked to help protect the magic of the Disney theme parks and resorts in other ways, preserving the immersive nature of the Disney Parks and not disclosing the behind-the-scenes details of their attractions, entertainment offerings, and character meet-and-greets. For example, character Cast Members need to stay immersed in their role at all times, so if you mention something outside of the Disney universe, they will act like they don’t know what you’re talking about.
All of these Cast Member rules are in place to ensure guests young and old are able to enjoy the magic of the parks. Interested in learning more about the lives of Cast Members? You can read about the special perks and benefits Disney Cast Members receive!
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