Ever wanted to dance and audition for Disneyland? Well, the SoCal dance community is filled with Disneyland employees.
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The crossover between the community dancers and Disney dancers has become so prominent that they even have their own team: Cast Members Only!
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So what is it about dancing and working for the Mouse that attracts dancers from all over the community?
From helpful advice to crazy performance stories, our wonderful friends from Cast Members Only have answers for you!
1. So, why DID you audition for Disneyland?
“Honestly I needed a job and what gay man can turn down pixie dust, dancing in front of a castle, and getting paid for it?”
“On a whim, a few of my college friends and I went to a High School Musical 3 Parade audition; we didn’t have class so we were thinking, ‘Ummm free dance class!’ I ended up making it to the last cut before they picked the new hires, and I felt good with that. Shockingly, a few days later, I got a phone call asking me to come in for a private audition for a ‘new project’ that was coming out, and I’m like, ‘Whaaaaaaaaaaat!’ I go back to Anaheim alone, which was #STRESS, and I auditioned. Before I got to the freeway, I was offered a Disney Cruise Line gig. Let’s just say, The Princess and the Frog came out and I just happened to be in the right place when they were looking for little black girls … the rest is history!”
2. But of course, everyone made it on their first try, right? Wrong.
“I’ve always made it to the final cuts but was never chosen. Finally, in April/May 2012, I was one of the five selected to be a performer in Mickey’s Soundsational Parade.”
“Since my senior year in high school, I auditioned for Disney maybe 8 times before getting hired. Despite all the ‘no’s, I never gave up.”
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3. Was Disney the main life goal for some of our cast members?
“Dancing for the Mouse has been one of my life goals and it is a blessing that I have achieved it. I’m keeping this as long as possible, as well as hopefully pursuing more opportunities in Disney.”
“Dancing at Disney has always been a dance goal for me. I used to always watch the parades when I was little, and I thought it would be such a fun job to have. Right now, I’m a nursing student, and once I start my career, I don’t know if I’ll have time for Disney, but I’ll do my best to make it work. If possible, once I get experience, I hope to work at Disney part time as a nurse.”
“The goal is to actually work for corporate Disney, so I’m trying to stay as long as I possibly can.”
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“Disney was absolutely never a dream job, but I guess I was just in the right place at the right time. For now, Disney is great; it’s a laid back schedule. But my life goals are event planning and marketing, either within the company or outside of it. This body cannot perform 6 shows a day forever!”
“I tried out for fun in support of a friend but ended up loving it. I actually plan to move soon to Hawaii to become a teacher and to get a job at Aulani (Disney Hawaii Resort) as a performer. I want to keep my Disney ties and I love working for Disney because there are so many new people you can connect with, and everyone has a similar love and zest for life with that Disney flare.”
4. The best part about working at Disney is pretty clear…
“I love that it makes people happy, especially kids and the elderly. The most genuine smiles come from kids and old people.”
“The rush of dancing in front of people NEVER GETS OLD. It’s such an interesting dynamic from dancing anywhere else because you have a super captivated audience every single day. When you dance at school or even in the community, your audience is way more subjective – they can like your piece or hate it. At Disney, no matter what we do, people love it. People pay hundreds (the prices just went up again *eye roll*) just to watch us, and the kids’ faces are worth it.”
“The best part is honestly bringing the magic to all that come to that happy place. I was once in their shoes, and to now switch roles knowing that I could be that person who started that little boy or girl’s dream is the icing on the cake.”
5. …but there are other perks as well!
“During down time, we’ll go into the dance room and someone will teach a class and everybody would go AWFF!!!!”
“Having a free Disneyland pass haha. Being able to go in whenever I want is probably one of the best feelings.”
6. Are there any things the cast members wish they knew about working at Disney before joining?
“How random the hours can be and how unforgiving Disney is when you are late or sick.”
“I wish I knew about the inconsistent scheduling.”
“To be honest, I wish I knew that cast member discounts don’t work on popcorn or churro carts. Devastating, I know. In all seriousness though, I wish I had at least a little experience in technical dancing because it’s the main style at Disney.”
“Imma keep it real: it’s kinda like high school and being on a dance team. There is a lot of Disney drama like, ‘Why did he get that role?’ and, ‘Why didn’t I get casted?’ and, ‘This new person sucks.'”
“Sometimes the system can be very unfair and based off everything else but talent. You think that’s what’s most important but actually it’s all about look, and there are tens of thousands of rules to follow pertaining to.”
7. Being cheesy and “thinking Disney” seem to be VERY important…
“Think DISNEY, think cheesy, think big movements and ALSO, SMILE! Other than that, GO THE HELL OFF!!!”
“When going into the audition, look clean and prepared: shaved face, proper haircut, no earrings – basically nothing too out of the norm. Dance-wise, have full out facials and smile a lot. They like really clean dancers and it’s more of a happy go lucky thing, so you can’t exactly do the choreo all hip hop.”
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“Disney is a ONE day audition. You get ONE chance to impress a room full of casting directors that are barely even looking up from their papers. Mickey gives you about 30 minutes maybe to learn, go across the floor, and do a combo. Also, the biggest thing is HIP HOP FACE. So many times, really amazing community people are turned away because they’re killin’ it from the neck down but their faces aren’t giving life. This is a G rated situation. More youthful, fun, energetic! Less hard hitting, bawse bitch, and angry.”
8. …but the cast members have other pieces of advice for dancers!
“Just be available. I hate getting new people who can only work 2 days; if that’s the case, go work at Forever 21 #sorryboo. Also, make sure you put in them ADOs early cause come competition time, literally everyone is being scheduled out their availability and us all trying to get the same day off is not going to work!”
“Keep auditioning, and don’t audition strictly for dancing roles. ANYTHING could be a gateway for ANYTHING in the park – don’t limit yourself!”
“Don’t ever give up. It only takes one time for casting to say ‘yes’. Some people have tried 10 times and finally got it on the 11th. The Walt Disney company always says, ‘If you can dream it, you can do.'”
9. Rehearsing and performing all the time MUST lead to some interesting stories, right?
“I was walking into a back stage area and I stepped on a curb. I thought it was a child, but I looked down and realized it was just a curb. I laughed it off and started to skip… only to swing my arm backwards, punching a child in the face. YES, the fur cushioned the blow, but the child was on the floor in tears. I spent an extra ten minutes trying to convince the child that my character was his friend. I’ve never felt so awful, but he finally gave me a hug.”
“I got to meet Halle Berry!”
“I have a lot of stories but my favorite time during the parade or show is when I see a cute guy and literally everyone in my unit is giving him a show. It’s like we’re all trying to grab this one guy’s attention while he’s with his wife and kids.”
“When I was working on the cruise line and hanging out with my girl Princess Tiana, a single dad wrote his phone number in his daughter’s autograph book to give to Tiana. He was confident! Tiana, in her southern accent, politely let him know that she was taken, but I literally laughed for weeks on that one!”
“Once, the screen of my show went off mid performance. A fellow performer was yelling to a girl on stage, calling her Shaqueefa. He was gonna say it again but right in the middle of the word, power went out on the stage and all you hear is, “QUEEF,” super loud – it made us and the audience laugh.”
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“One time I was pretty gassy during the parade and there’s one part of my choreo where I run towards the kids with Nemo, turn around, and swim away. Unfortunately, I unleashed this dank ass fart when I turned my back on a kid, and I’m sure I ruined his day hahaha.”
10. And because it’s Disney, of course we also had to ask… which Disney princess/character would they be?
“I would definitely be Aladdin cause I like bread.”
“I would be Baymax because he’s bae.”
“I would be Princess Jasmine because she has a pet tiger that listens to her. Who wouldn’t want a pet tiger?! That would be freaking epic…”
“I would be Mulan because she’s the manliest one out of them all.”
“Princess Tiana lol.”
“Jasmine because she’s pretty fierce if she needs to be, she has a pet tiger, she’s good to her subjects, and she doesn’t marry the guy with the most money. She marries the guy she loves.
And she has to have abs to show off her midriff so DAMN I look good.”
“Well I kinda am a princess already lol #awkward but if I had to be ANOTHER one, I think I’d be either Sarabi (yes, Simba’s mother) or Nala (Simba’s bae). They’re the fiercest bitches to ever walk out of a Disney film…”
“Princess Jasmine. She was born royalty… And she has a freakin TIGER as a pet!”
“I would definitely be the warrior of China — Mulan! Not so much a princess but she does kick ass and save all of China. I don’t think any princess has done that!”
“I feel like I’d like to be Belle. No one f*cks with her because of her man. Then again, I’m not down to get wrecked by a grizzly bear if you know what I’m saying. Ok I’ll be Mulan. No one f*cks with her cuz she’s Mulan. Hell ya. Ok I’d be Mulan.”
“Well since I’m already a princess, I would say myself, but Walt won’t hire me to be a princess. If I had to choose, it’s either Jasmine or Pocahontas. Jasmine because Aladdin is so cute, but Pocahontas have you seen her hair it’s LAID!!!!! She said NEW WEAVE 22 INCHES.”
The community has been growing, and its presence at Disneyland is expanding all the time.
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Think of working at Disneyland as joining a really big project team in the community (oh wait, that’s basically Cast Members Only lol).
Sonny reminds us that, “It’s really cool how I used to compete against a lot of my fellow cast members at competitions like Vibe, Fusion, and Body Rock, and now we’re all working together and we’ve created a team for us not to dance against each other but with each other.”
If you think dancing on a team (collegiate or professional) was fun, your next step might be dancing with the Mouse.
“The dance community has been a part of Disneyland for years. You’re not only stepping into the walls of Disneyland, but also a history of the dance community. Our fellow community members were not only competing in such competitions, but they were also creating magic at one of the happiest places on earth. Come in, step into our shoes, and enjoy it!”
Thank you to all the cast members who helped out!:
Christopher Hawaii Dayoan
247danceforce (Hawaii), PAC Modern, Breed, IV League, Cast Members Only
Since March 2013
Umbrella Bug Boy in the Pixar Play Parade
PrimeD, Cast Members Only
Meet and greet characters, Padawan in the Jedi Training Academy, and a Y.E.S. (Youth Education Series) Facilitator
PAC Modern, a director of Cast Members Only
Performer and Lead with Pixar Play Parade, Teacher for students in Leadership and Physics with Y.E.S., and works with new hire orientation and Welcome to Entertainment
Team Millennia, Cast Members Only
Friends with Nemo, Crush, Slinky, Heimlich, Mr. Potato Head, and friends with King Louie and White Rabbit
Common Ground, Ceramic Flow, Griminalz, Kings & Queens, Adaminatti (Mandroids), Reality Check, The Survey Corps, Breed OCLA, Outlaw Project, Rogue Makers, Cast Members Only
Dancer for Mickey and the Magical Map
The Survey Corps, Cast Members Only
2010 – Disney Cruise Line on the Wonder cruise ship (2 years), Disneyland (3 years)
Parade Dancer for Mickey’s Soundsational Parade, Pixar Play Parade, Fantastmic, and DJ’s Dance and Drive
Ehrik Princess Wright
Team Millennia, IV League, Team Ferosha, Kings & Queens, Cast Members Only
Flik and Green Army Man
Christian Kevin Galvez
Team Millennia, PAC Modern, Breed, The Prototypes: HHI, guest appearances for Three-23, various projects, Cast Members Only
Sub-Performer in Disneyland Parades
Fr3sh Dance Company, Flo, UFP, Team Ferosha, Kaba Modern, Cast Members Only
Soundsational Parade, Christmas Fantasy, and Fantasmic
Kaba Modern, Team Millennia, Cast Members Only
Pixar Play Parade, Green Army Man, Soundsational Parade, and Fantasmic
909, Collective Faction, Hall of Fame, Kings & Queens, 50 Shades of Shade, GRV, Cast Members Only
Pixar Play Parade, friends with Nemo, Crush, Slinky, Heimlich, and Mr. Potato Head
Kreative Movement (Kaba Kids), Groovement, PrimeD, Kenna Inc., KM Legacy, SGBM, Cast Members Only
Pixar Play Parade, friends with Bloat, Crush, Marlin, and Green Army Man
Cast Members Only
Tinker Toy and Green Army Man in Pixar Play Parade
Is there anything that surprised you about what some of the cast members said? Leave a comment to share with us below!
And if you have any dancer friends who love Disneyland or wants to dance there, share this article with them!
This article was written by Christina Kim and originally published on March 18, 2015.