Rachel Adams has been making magic since before she graduated college. A Disney College Program student, Adams became a full-time cast member at Walt Disney World immediately after graduating. But now, after 17 years, Adams is seeking opportunities separate from the mouse.
By Victoria Lim
“I always joked I wanted to be NSYNC’s tour manager. This was the next best option!” Adams said.
Adams is one of the 28,000 cast members recently laid off across Disney Parks in Florida and California. Disney said part-time workers make up the majority of job losses. While Walt Disney World Resort has opened with restrictions and coronavirus-related policies for guests, Disneyland Resort remains closed.
Her first roles were at the front desk of the All-Star Music Resort. Her journey took her across the resort to Disney Fairytale Weddings, convention services at Coronado Springs, Disney Animal Kingdom events, Park Events Operations, Media Operations, and then Catering Operations – which is where she worked at the time of her layoff. In this role, she arranged events in the theme parks for conventions. (such as private parties during “Illuminations” at Epcot).
“I’ve had jobs before, but this was my first career, and I had hit the jackpot with a company where the culture is very strong and there’s a lot of feelings and emotion that connect you to the culture. It resonates with how strong the brand is,” Adams said. “There was pride in the work, excitement about talking about the company. I’m sure that factored into why I stayed over the years.”
The layoffs affected even the most decorated cast members. Former 2015-2016 Disney Ambassador Caitlin Busscher also lost her job. Her career was varied and broad before landing the ambassador role.
“It might sound simple, but I wanted to pursue the role because I love the company and I love the people,” Busscher said.
She appeared on network news, “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” and even “Wheel of Fortune.” She joined ambassadors around the globe to open Shanghai Disney Resort. With almost a decade with the company, as an individual contributor, to team lead in departments such as research, cast member training, and costuming, she said meeting and making friends with as many of the 70,000 cast members she represented was her favorite part of the job.
“Working for Disney has been an absolute dream come true. Pixie dust is woven into the fabric of my life. I grew up coming to Walt Disney World, I’ve met some of my best friends through work, I’ve created memories with my husband and son at the parks, resorts, and cruises. This company has provided me the opportunity to grow professionally, to travel, and to collect some pretty fantastic people as my Disney family,” she said.
“It’s like a ‘band of brothers’,” described Christopher Miovac, who worked at the Disneyland Resort on and off for 46 years — almost five decades — before losing his job two weeks ago. “People you’ve worked with, labored with, cried with, laughed with, worked together for years. There’s just that natural feeling, even if you’re apart for months or a year, you come back together and pick up where you left off.”
Miovac began his Disney journey at the age of 14, as a hippo in the Robin Hood unit of the Fantasy on Parade. From there he worked other roles in entertainment before moving to the video production department, where he spent the majority of his career both full-time and freelance. He returned as a cast member just shy of five years ago.
“It used to be a lot more family-friendly, but as the company matured over the years, they’ve unfortunately had to go to being a company and having the workers and unions, and all the stuff we had to deal with. It was very cold and calculated with everybody,” Miovac said of the how the layoff notices were handled.
Throughout the almost five decades he’s worked for and with Disney, he says the “making magic” that cast members are famously known for was as much for those who worked at the theme parks as much as it was for those who visited.
“I’ve been a part of that group that made magic. As a team, we came together and everyone did their part, to put smiles and bring laughter to people and kids,” he said. “Just seeing that smile on people’s faces is the reason we do it. It even puts smiles on our own faces and working together to make ourselves laugh is why we did it.”
Adams said, “In the moment, it’s about how your job is impacting someone’s life, and, obviously not on the same scale as a medical discovery, but being happy and helping people enjoying their vacations and their families. When you can be a part of that, I understand how that’s just a draw for people. You hear that so much from cast members. The immediacy of making someone happy as a human is something we all really enjoy, and the company is that for so many people. It exists on a grander scale than just going to grocery store or at another type of attraction.”
“I think it’s because we’ve all been on the receiving end of that magic at some point,” said Busscher, “and we know the power it has to turn your day around or even change your life. We’ve all heard the stories of how a small kindness has made a huge impact on someone – and those moments happen at Disney every day,”. “There is also a sense of pride when you put on your name tag – we feel like we are part of something bigger than ourselves. While I’m not naive, of course Disney is a business that needs to make money, it wouldn’t be successful without the thousands of people who genuinely love what they do and want to spread kindness. And I think that is something we can certainly use right now.”
You can read the extended interviews with these cast members at the links below: