Cast Member Magic
There are so many magical elements that make up Walt Disney World: the attractions, the shows, the food, the Audio Animatronics, the fireworks, the music. The list goes on and one, but one element rises above the rest: Cast Members. It is the people of Walt Disney World that make it truly special. As Walt Disney said, “You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.” Cast Members bring are the heart and soul of the parks.
Most folks I’ve talked to have their own memories of Cast Members, encounters which added that extra bit of pixie dust to their visit. For some, it was an encounter with Richard Gerth, the kindly greeter at the Grand Floridian who was always welcoming Guests with a smile and a tip of his straw boater hat. Stories of encounters with the Fairy Godmother in the Magic Kingdom have gone viral on social media. Anyone who has met her can attest to her warmth and the great lengths she will go to to bless visitors with her special brand of magic.
Visitors to Liberty Square have bragged about James, a worker at the Hall of Presidents. He seems an endless fountain of knowledge relating to American History, entertaining Guests with stories and facts before they enter the show. Even those who haven’t listened to his stories have seen him standing in front of the Hall of Presidents early in the morning, waving to Guests as they stream into the park.
Our family has had more special moments with Cast Members than we can count. Some are subtle. Returning to our room in the evening, our kids often find their stuffed animals arranged in whimsical ways, sometimes sitting in front of open books, or gathered together in groups on the bed. On one occasion, while visiting Satuli Canteen, we found ourselves debating which dessert to purchase. One of the Cast Members made the decision easier for us.
“This one’s my favorite,” she said. “Why don’t you try it for free?”
So we got to taste both.
Our kids first visit to the parks was for their birthdays. They were wearing birthday pins. While walking through Adventureland, they passed by a performance of Jack Sparrow’s Pirate Tutorial. The pirate captain himself noticed their birthday buttons and stopped his piratical banter to wish them both a happy birthday.
My personal favorite instance took place over two nights at the Magic Kingdom. The first occurred during Extra Magic Hours. It was almost time for the park to close, and we were watching The Country Bear Jamboree. Before the show started, we were entertained by a Cast Member named Gabby. She joked and laughed with the crowd, telling us jokes (What do you call a bear with no teeth? A GUMMY BEAR!) It was close to midnight, but she had lost none of her spirit.
We saw her again at Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. We were getting ready to watch the parade when she stopped us.
“Go to the second parade,” she said. “It’s never as crowded. And find a seat near the planters outside Pecos Bills. There’s usually a lot of open spots and your kids will get a lot more character interaction, because it’s still early in the parade.”
We mentioned seeing her the night before at the Country Bear Jamboree and thanked her for making it such an amazing experience. My wife mentioned that we were huge fans of the Country Bears, and that Big Al was my personal favorite.
“Just a minute,” she said. “Come with me.”
She whisked my wife away inside of Pecos Bills. They were gone for a few minutes, and when they came back they were hiding something.
“You have to say trick or treat,” I was informed.
After complying, Gabby revealed a jug full of lemonade and decorated with Big Al. She gave it to us for free. Just because she heard I loved the big, burly bear.
It’s been years since that visit, and we still talk about it. Sure, the fireworks, and the characters, and the Attractions were amazing, but it was that human magic that made it REALLY special.
What are your favorite Cast Member memories?