Disney Essay, Research Paper
Table of Contents
I. What Walt Disney World Represents
II. What I Did and How I Learned
A. Traditions and Discovery Day
B. Working as a Custodial Hostess
C. Working as a Cast Member
D. Working as a College Program Student
E. Comparing Walt Disney World
To Other Theme Parks
1. Busch Gardens
2. Sea World
3. Universal Studios
4. Walt Disney World Corporation
III. How This Internship Related to Illinois State University
A. Marketing Management
B. International Marketing
IV. Which Classes Would Have Enriched My Experience
A. Foreign Language Classes
V. Now It s Time To Say Good-bye . . .
A. Brand Essence
B. Custodial Host / Hostess Responsibilities
C. Seminar Objectives
D. College Program Activities
D – 1. Marketing Organizational Chart
D – 2. Marketing Department Seminar
D – 3. Independent Studies
WHAT WALT DISNEY WORLD REPRESENTS
I worked in several capacities while I was down in Disney World. I will address each of
these categories as I discuss the different areas in which I gained considerable knowledge from my
experience. Let me first describe the company for which I worked.
Walt Disney World is a very successful entertainment industry, but the corporation offers
much more than simple entertainment in order to entice guests to make the trek from all over the
world to visit the Disney Theme Parks. The Walt Disney World Corporation has a detailed brand
essence, located in Appendix A, which lays out the company s plan to provide the very best in
guest service and entertainment.
I worked as a Custodial Hostess in EPCOT, a theme-park based on the discoveries of
mankind. This was the most internationally minded theme park, and I was exposed to
innumerable different cultures and languages – - it was a priceless experience.
WHAT I DID AND HOW I LEARNED
Traditions and Discovery Day
One of the most important ways to provide excellence in guest service and entertainment
is to make sure all cast members are working towards the same goal after receiving the same
preliminary training. In order to facilitate this behavior, newly-hired cast members go through
two separate days of training. The first day is called Traditions, where cast members learn about
traditions behind the Disney name. The next day of training is called Discovery Day, in which
cast members go to their area in Walt Disney World and become experts on their area, be it a
theme park, a resort, a water park, or some other on-stage location falling under Disney s scope.
These two days are vital in establishing the necessary relations between the individual cast
members and the Walt Disney World Corporation so that company goals and objectives can be
During Traditions, trainers explain the reasoning behind the Disney mission statement and
brand essence. New cast members also discover what Walter Elias Disney had in mind when he
was drawing Mickey Mouse so many years ago. This day focuses on Walt Disney World in
general, and cast members find out about the different parks and resorts that synergistically create
Walt Disney World in Florida. One of the things I noticed about this day is that it really solidified
the positive image Disney World brought to mind and stressed the stake the new cast members
had in the whole picture. Cast members left covered in pixie dust – - the stuff creating Disney
During Discovery Day, training efforts were focused on the area in which the cast
members would be working. Much like Traditions, the background of the area was given, and the
cast members were given all conceivable information about their park, from founding date to the
food selection in each restaurant in the park. Since I was assigned to EPCOT, I spent a good deal
of time with my group learning about the different countries in EPCOT S World Showcase.
Working as a Custodial Hostess
First of all, targeting the activities surrounding my job title, I had several duties to perform
as a Custodial Hostess. I received several days of training with an experienced Custodial Host
before I worked more independently. A list of the different responsibilities is located in Appendix
B. During our preliminary training, it was made clear to new Custodial Hosts and Hostesses that
our job was to have fun and entertain guests while providing service excellence. By providing a
clean, healthy, and safe area for guests to eat and relax in, we were fulfilling our duties as
I went down to Walt Disney World looking to receive a considerable exposure to the
guests visiting the parks, and my position was ideal for that capacity. Custodial Hosts and
Hostesses receive the most guest interaction because they are working in the forefront. I needed
to be able to do my job while seeking out guest contact and assessing the needs of guests without
forcing them to seek help from me first. This proved to be quite a balancing act, I assure you!
Working as a Cast Member
My second position during this internship was that of a Walt Disney World Cast Member.
Cast members were required to follow the stipulations of a very detailed booklet concerning
appearance when in costume and in view of guests. Specifications included in the booklet
covered such topics as appropriate nail length, hair maintenance, make-up application, and
representation for the Disney Corporation through personal actions and behavior. The lists of
appropriate and negative behavior in the presence of guests were explained in the first two days of
training (Traditions and Discovery Day). It was very interesting to see how closely Disney paid
attention to detail. In turn, the corporation expected its cast members to focus on these details
when dealing with guests.
Working as a College Program Student
Many different levels of cast members exist, the College Program being one of these
levels. The different levels provide for different opportunities for the cast members. As a College
Program cast member, I attended an educational seminar every Thursday afternoon for five
weeks. The five different topics included in this seminar were Disney Traditions , The Cultural
Adjustment Process , Communicating With Style , The Art of Leadership , and The World of
Corporate Change . The last four topics had set objectives described by their titles that can be
looked over in Appendix C.
Apart from these seminars, College Program students were required to attend a Speakers
Forum on a specific topic relating to internal activities within Disney. I was able to attend the
Marketing Department Speakers Forum, which was fascinating. The Walt Disney World
Marketing Department is broken down into eight different sections, but the marketing staff is
relatively small, in light of the importance and monetary weight of the market sections in question.
The breakdown of departments is seen in the organizational chart located in Appendix D-1.
College Program members also received the rare opportunity to visit the Walt Disney
World Marketing Department. One of the reasons such an opportunity is so rare stems from the
secrecy of the different activities and accounts hidden from competitor s view behind closed
doors. I wrote a summary of the event, and it is located in Appendix D-2.
Secrecy and brand protection created the largest amount of frustration for me as a College
Program student. I was given the chance to network with and shadow people while they perform
their usually responsibilities. It was one of the best ways to learn about what goes on behind the
scenes and how operations are controlled. However, people in the Marketing Department were
specifically instructed not to receive calls from College Program students, in addition to taking
measures to prevent these students from coming into the Marketing Department and following the
marketers around for a day. The trip to the Marketing Department provided an ideal opportunity
to ask questions about the credentials of cast members in the Marketing Department and about
the requirements of the marketing jobs themselves. Each separate subdivision of the Marketing
Department was equally important to securing the success of the organization.
Finally, College Program Students were encouraged to choose two areas of personal
development and do independent studies of these areas in libraries on Disney property called
Centers of Excellence . In these centers, there were many skills developmental materials
available to assist cast members. I decided to work on my communication skills and my
knowledge of customer service. Both of these subjects were relative to my position as a
Custodial Hostess, and I have included summaries of each independent study in Appendix D-3.
Comparing Walt Disney World To Other Theme Parks
Florida is home to several major Theme Parks run by several different corporations. Each
competes against each other, but each is slightly different in its focus. This differentiation is the
main reason why Walt Disney World has remained the top vacation destination in the world and
how this corporation has enjoyed so much success over the years. Let s take a look at how
competitors are marketing their theme parks and why they aren t enjoying such success as Disney.
Theme parks are changing today to meet the needs of and to cater to their audiences.
Busch Gardens is based on African adventures and wildlife, and more than 2,700 animals are
located in this park. This park and Sea World are both concerned with the conservation of nature
and its wildlife. In order to sell such a concept to guests, it is enclosed in an entertainment
package. Busch Gardens is now home to two roller coasters designed to entice thrill-seekers to
swing by the parks. The market this park targets consists of families with younger children, and
by adding newer and faster rides, the park is trying to increase its teenage audience. The diversity
of wildlife offered within this park is unmatched in Florida, it s the park s specialty. It entices
people interested in seeing Africa s wildlife into the park for a day or two.
In point of fact, Anheuser Busch runs both Busch Gardens and Sea World. This theme
park is more conservation oriented, with its focus swimming with marine life. In order to attract
an audience, Sea World fills the park with adventure, making the guest s stay educational and fun.
The targeted market, again, seems to be families, with enough entertainment to attract teenaged
audiences. The famed Shamu calls this park home, as do many other large sea-based animals
that people of all ages find fascinating. The advertisements for the park hold promises of
adventure and excitement. The variety of animals that make their homes in the waves and on
beaches can be found living in this Florida theme park.
Of all theme parks in Florida, the strongest competitor to Walt Disney World is Universal
Studios. This corporation is targeting the same audiences as Disney, for the most part, and recent
developments are starting to make it a more efficient and able competitor. Universal s new
CityWalk definitely has Walt Disney officials talking. Universal Studios theme parks, put
together, create the Universal Studios Escape. Much like Walt Disney World, this collection
consists of theme parks, resorts, and a vacation club.
The new developments Universal Studios has been working on are designed to target the
older audiences: parents, married couples, adults looking for an exciting night on the town.
Attractions in this nightlife scene include a Hard Rock Cafe, a NASCAR Cafe, Latin dancing,
Rasta Music, a movie theatre and several other attractions that adults would find worthwhile.
This is almost identical to the offerings within Disney s Pleasure Island and Market Place to some
degree. Below is a small selection from the internet web site Universal Studios has designed
describing plans for the future.
Already the country’s third-most-popular attraction and ranked
seventh worldwide, Universal Studios Florida is poised to enter a new era
in entertainment. Universal will soon be unveiling our multi-billion-dollar
expansion, Universal FloridaSM, a world-class destination resort that will
include themed hotels, conference and meeting facilities; Universal Studios
CityWalkSM, a 30-acre entertainment complex scheduled to open in 1998,
and a second theme park, Universal Studios Islands of AdventureSM, set to
open in 1999. (http://www.usf.com/guide/index_gen.html)
Walt Disney World Corporation
Looking at all of the theme parks above, I realize that each theme park is unique and
successful in its own capacity. However, none of them can match Disney World because of the
strong foundation Walter Disney laid years ago. The founder of the Disney institution wanted to
design a theme park that provided a safe, clean, happy environment where parents could take their
children without trepidation. He came to this conclusion shortly after visiting a theme park in
which the rides were dangerous and dirty and employees were unfriendly.
This man spent enormous amounts of money to ensure that quality was in no way
compromised and that the guests were ensured the time of their lives. Walt Disney World is
based on the idea that guests can escape from reality. They are taken away from the cares of the
world while they are in the care of cast members. That is the basic premise of Disney quality and
One of the ways in which we do this is to first create strong bonds between cast members.
Power distances are removed, and everyone is on a first name basis. Cast members are never
referred to as employees. Cast members are required to have fun, and if they see their position as
just a job, that won t happen. Cast members also are required to perform what is called a Take
5 . In this event, a cast member takes five minutes to make a guest feel as if the park is their
personal playground. This is done through celebrating a guest s birthday, involving them in a
sing-along, or simply finding out where they are from and which Disney character is their favorite.
There are so many different ways I singled out guests and helped them feel the Disney magic. It is
such a simple way to brighten the guest s day and to remind them they are in a world where
anything can happen.
Another way to ensure guests satisfaction is through a guest service recovery system.
Custodial Hostesses were key members of this system, because we are out there mingling with the
people. We can do such things as find the Mickey Mouse stuffed animal that wandered off, catch
the balloon that decided to drift away, and use pixie dust to make a child s favorite character
magically appear if they are having a bad day. Replacing a lost helium balloon, a misplaced
stuffed animal, or a cold pizza can mean the difference between whether or not the guest decides
At no other theme parks does such magic occur. This is what Walter Elias Disney meant
by making guests happy, going to great lengths to provide guest service and entertainment
excellence. Once we are able to be seen by guests, cast members are on stage and performing.
This what our first two days of training was targeting. Disney training cast members realize that
in order to motivate new cast members to accept the Disney Heritage and Mission Statement, the
cast members must take in these values internally and match their daily goals with that of the
corporation – - to keep guests happy and encourage them to return to relive the magic.
This objective is what sets Disney apart from the other theme parks. While other theme
parks and organizations may want to entertain guests, their training systems and organizational
structure limits their ability to develop relations with guests. This is the key idea behind Disney
marketing – - building relationships with guests that will span generations. Grandparents come to
the parks with their grandchildren, and nothing restores the childhood of the elderly like reliving
the Main Street Character Parade or spotting and running to catch Mickey Mouse for his
autograph. Walt Disney World is an organization people can trust. It is one based on the good
things in life, in perfection, and it is a fundamental element that has been a part of people s lives
This relationship is very tough for competitors to break, but it is one that cannot remain
strong if also remaining stagnant. Currently, Walt Disney World is incorporating several new
changes to prepare for the Millenium. EPCOT – - the Environmental Prototype Community of
Tomorrow – - was created to be on the cutting edge of technology. Over the years, attractions at
the park and technology in the attractions have become dated. When I was working at EPCOT,
several different projects were going on and attractions were shutting down for refurbishment,
meaning something new was coming to EPCOT.
Also, this theme park is the location of the Walt Disney World Millenium celebration.
Kicking off on October 1st, 1999, the celebration extends for 15 months, until 2001. All resorts,
comprising more than 65,000 rooms, were sold out from October 1999 through February 2000
over a year in advance. EPCOT is receiving a face lift, and it will not be recognizable after all
construction is finished. Walt Disney World Imagineers are responsible for all of these changes,
and it is through their inspirational designs that guests are kept in a constant state of wonderment
and fantasy. I can t begin to describe the feeling of being a part of such an industry.
HOW THIS INTERNSHIP RELATED TO ILLINOIS STATE UNIVERSITY
One of the main concepts from a class I took at Illinois State University was evident in the
activities at EPCOT. I got a chance to shadow managers, following them around and learning
more about their daily activities. I learned from them about the strategy EPCOT managers had
for ensuring Guest Service Excellence. Cast members are much like marketing representatives,
available to facilitate the guests enjoyment of the park by making hard-to-find products accessible
and providing directions and suggestions to help the guests see more of the park before the day is
through. We play a part in this distribution of goods by leading guests to the products in which
they are interested. We play promotional roles by telling guests about events happening in the
next couple of days or occurring in different parks throughout Disney World. Custodial Hosts
and Hostesses are in the best position to assist guests, because these cast members are throughout
the park and are very accessible to guests with questions.
I am happy I received the opportunity to play at EPCOT, because the crowd tend to be
more international because of the different countries represented in the World Showcase. I had
just taken an International Marketing class in the summer of 1998, and this was the perfect
opportunity to witness how different cultures behave as consumers. I very rarely interacted with
someone without a noticeable foreign accent, and it was interesting to see how they behaved in
the parks. Brazilian tour groups were a common sight, as they often numbered close to one
hundred strong and could be easily spotted by common brightly colored tee-shirts or heard
through Portuguese songs they sang. These children often purchased Disney hats and light wands
to further establish themselves as a group as they had fun together in the park. Marketers would
be interested in this information, perhaps to put together packages for such tour groups in the
Another nationality that was often represented came from Great Britain. English guests
sought out fish and chips for their meals, real tea or coffee, and they were often tickled to find
out that the Royal Crown Pub located in the United Kingdom Pavilion supported Sky television, a
special channel brought to Disney via satellite. Accommodating such cultural conditions is what
sets Walt Disney World apart from other theme parks. Cultural marketing is a very important
concept to keep in mind when marketing a service to the entire world. I found out that
Disneyland Paris had a little bit of touble with concept, and the problem was solved only after
getting French assistance in designing certain aspects of the park.
WHICH CLASSES WOULD HAVE ENRICHED MY EXPERIENCE
Foreign Language Classes
I am International Business and Marketing major, and I have had most of my marketing
classes required for my major. I feel as though these classes prepared me sufficiently to deal with
the marketing aspects of my internship. However, I would like to have had more language skills
than I possessed going down to Disney. I took three years of Spanish in High School and two
years of French in college. This was useful in communicating with guests, but a better grasp of
these languages would have open the doors to communication a bit wider. I would have been
able to better serve customers and estabish more solid relationships if I could have spoken their
native language – - representing the magic of Disney.
I did have someone tutoring me with my Spanish skills, and cast members from the
Moroccan Pavilion were teaching me Arabic and French. In fact, I have been back to see my
Moroccan friends already, and they continue to help me with Arabic, especially since Illinois State
University doesn t currently support an Arabic language program. Other than underdeveloped
linguistic skills, I feel that I was sufficiently prepared to work under the requirements and terms of
NOW IT S TIME TO SAY GOOD – BYE . . .
All things considered, this is an invaluable internship experience. It opens up college
students to a world of opportunities and helps them understand just how large the world really is.
By coming into contact with such a diverse population, it becomes clearer just how important
internationally – and culturally – minded marketing programs are to the success of large
I also learned very valuable lessons concerning the service industry and how consequential
guest relations can be. If relations are good, the guests are much more likely to return, because if
relations are negative or underdeveloped, it s much more difficult to assess concerns, needs, and
desires of the guests. The Walt Disney World Corporation is truely an expert in providing
excellence in guest service and in entertainment. I am extremely pleased I got a chance to be a
part of the magic, and I plan on continuing to work on a Casual Temporary basis with Disney
indefinitely. They have always know just how to market their services to me, and I love being a
part of this corporation.
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