Nothing can keep a Disney cast member down for long, including the gut-punch of furloughs and lay-offs during a global pandemic. Instead, they’re creating businesses of their own.
More than 15,500 Walt Disney World Resort cast members have been laid off or furloughed as the pandemic continues. As part of an exclusive Attractions Magazine series, we’ll shine the spotlight on two more former cast member businesses this week.
Michael has drawn all his life. He never went to school for it, but sometimes passion for a craft is more than enough, and in his case, it landed him a job as a caricature artist, first at Legoland, then at Walt Disney World Resort, through third-party vendor Angie’s Art.
He isn’t “just” a caricature artist, though. Instead, Michael calls himself a “caricatoon” artist, and that creative side-step earned him a loyal following during his time at Walt Disney World Resort.
What is a caricatoon? It’s a ‘non-exaggerated likeness of a person in a style that is pleasing and never offensive.’ Or, as Michael says, “It’s a cartoon version of yourself in a character’s body. I don’t make fun of people, especially the kids. That’s why everybody likes it.”
Michael puts a distinctly Disney spin on his art, drawing clients’ facial likenesses on the body of their chosen character. Have you always wanted to be a mermaid like Ariel? Michael is on it. Are Princess Leia and Han Solo your couple goals? Be them! Super hero, sports star, or even Eleven from “Stranger Things” fending off a demogorgon more your thing? He can make that happen, too.
Originally, Michael’s schedule rotated him through locations in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Contemporary Resort, and Disney’s BoardWalk resort, but as his following grew over the course of nearly six years due to the uniqueness of his drawings, he asked if he could remain in one place—the BoardWalk Resort—so that guests didn’t have to ask where he was on any given day.
Now, his latest transition out of Disney and into his own business, Caricatoons For All, sees him traveling around Central Florida and as far north as The Villages or west to Tampa, drawing caricatoons at parties, weddings, and events. His repertoire has expanded as well, with portraits, shadow boxes, posters, and print canvases.
Along with individual portraits, clients can also commission a couples drawing or a drawing of their beloved pet. For something truly unique, Michael also does what he calls “before and after,” drawing a person as they were as a baby or child alongside a drawing as they currently appear. And, when a loved one has passed, he can draw from a photo to memorialize them forever.
His shadow boxes are another step forward from the standard offering. Rather than just featuring a favorite character or characters, he adds the client into the scene. Michael says, “My shadow boxes are not just Mickey and Minnie. I can put you right in there with them. I did one with the Disney characters all together and I included the child right there with them. If you like the Hannah Barbera cartoons—the old characters like Space Ghost, Mutley, and Bugs Bunny—I can put you with them, too.”
Michael’s work has been well-received since he started his business. “Somebody told me about ‘Ear For Each Other’ [the private Facebook group for transitioning cast members], so I went there, and I was shocked. I had just posted, and I got almost 180 views!”
Caricatoons For All has an upcoming gig at Snowcat Ridge in Tampa from Dec. 3-9, and will be at both Comic Con and MegaCon in years when they’re running.
To see more of Michael’s work, visit Caricatoons For All LLC on Facebook or CaricatoonsForAll on Instagram. For more information or to commission a caricatoon, contact him via Facebook on MichaelA.Dijamco.
Next Page with Meg
Meg had several “dream jobs” over her 14 years as a cast member, and she especially remembers fondly her role as part of the Dream Squad during the Year of a Million Dreams campaign in 2006, followed by time on the rollout team for MyMagic+. Most recently, she was an associate project manager with Park Operations.
Disney was part of her family’s DNA, with frequent family vacations to Walt Disney World Resort as a child, and the inspiration to follow in her older sister’s footsteps as a cast member once they grew up. One month after she graduated from college, Meg moved to Orlando and, as a fresh-faced intern, pinned her first cast member name tag to her costume.
Along with her lifelong love of Disney, Meg also had a passion for reading and crafting, spurred on as she became a mother of three and aunt to more than a dozen children. When the need for a job transition arose, she decided to put her creativity and a sprinkling of magic to work and founded Next Page with Meg, selling kid-friendly “Book-tivity Bins.”
Each of these bins contains a specially-chosen children’s book with engaging activities to complement the book’s subject. Bins also include nearly everything kids ages 4-12 need to create, color, excavate, sticker, sew, build, draw, plant, paint, count, or experiment, depending on the theme.
Next Page with Meg currently offers 20 Book-tivity Bins with more on the way. Some examples include:
- “Secrets of Winter” (A Shine A Light Book) by Carron Brown and Georgina Tee: As children discover which animals are out and about in wintertime, they can also shine a flashlight (included) on the backs of the book’s pages for a wintery surprise. Then, kids can turn their hands to creating their own winterscapes with materials supplied in the bin.
- “On the Space Station” by Carron Brown: Another “Shine A Light” book that delves into what astronauts do on the International Space Station, including how they eat and sleep, and what they wear. Children get a unique “window to the galaxy” by shining the included flashlight on page backs. The activity pack lets them create and color a rocket ship on a pulley.
- “Yoga Animals in the Forest” by Christiana Kerr: Youngsters can move, stretch, and breathe along with Bear and his forest friends in these gentle yoga activities. Then, slip on a pair of wrist sweat bands and let the inner artist out with a color-in water bottle holder.
Examples of other themes are “At the Hospital,” “Secrets of the Apple Tree,” “Wonders of the USA,” “On the Construction Site,” “Dinosaurs,” and “Kitty Kat Kitty Kat Where Have You Been.”
During this time when many children are learning remotely, parents and caregivers are seeking new ways to entertain at-home kids, and the season of giving is fast approaching, Book-tivity Bins are an ideal solution for interesting, educational, and creative play. Find them on Next Page With Meg on Facebook and on Instagram.
Online groups such as Ear For Each Other have provided networks for Central Florida’s newest entrepreneurs to support and inspire each other, but anyone who has been touched by the magic that cast members are well known for making can support them as well. Attractions Magazine will feature cast members’ businesses weekly, so be sure to check back often and seek out these talented people!