Disney Performers Reveal Interesting Things on Getting Hired at Parks
- Insider spoke with several Disney employees about what it takes to get a performer job in the parks.
- According to past employees, attributes like height and blemishes impact if an auditionee gets cast.
- Cast member said they don’t get much time to make an impression.
Working in Disney parks can seem like the most magical job on Earth but, according to past employees, becoming a performer isn’t always easy.
To learn more, Insider spoke with current and former Disney employees about what it’s like getting hired at the theme parks.
Some last names have been withheld for privacy reasons. Insider has verified their identities as well as their employment at the Disney parks.
In many cases, you won’t know which role you’re auditioning for
Unlike most auditions, it’s unlikely you’ll just walk in and read for a specific role.
Sarah Daniels, a former cast member, said the “worst part” of auditioning “is just going in and having no clue of what they’re looking for, what their needs are.”
At Disney auditions, you generally don’t know what you’re auditioning for unless you’re trying out to be an equity performer, which entails some combination of singing, dancing, and acting in shows and parades.
Plus, former employees said, many auditionees who get hired end up being cast in multiple roles — so you could play a princess one day and a fur character the next.
Daniels said she played Mickey Mouse and several face characters, including Ariel, during her time at Disney.
Height can largely determine the roles you’ll get to play
Each audition lists a range of heights, so those trying out must disclose theirs when applying for a role.
According to Daniels, these measurements are crucial to casting, and several roles fit into certain height ranges.
Meeting the required height for a character is important for both consistency across the parks and safety while wearing the costume.
According to Natalie, who unsuccessfully auditioned for a job at the parks three times, princesses are typically around 5-foot-3 to 5-foot-7. She said fairy height and mouse height are typically under 5-foot-3.
“Mouse height is a very important height range, because there are so many Mickeys everywhere, all the time,” Daniels said. “So they need short people. I kind of knew that being short, I would probably go and be Mickey.”
Sometimes blemishes, tattoos, or piercings can make it more complicated for you to get certain roles
There are other physical factors that can take auditionees out of the running for certain face-character parts, including blemishes or tattoos.
“I have, like, a blemish, I have a mole on my face, so I know that would kind of already knock me out from being a princess, they don’t really tend to have those things,” said Jenna Parkany, a former employee who was cast for fur characters Winnie the Pooh, King Louie, and Chip ‘n Dale.
According to Parkany, casting agents may also ask auditionees to fill out paperwork disclosing if they have any tattoos or piercings.
Dante Payne, who works as an equity performer at Hong Kong Disneyland, told Insider that after attending several unsuccessful auditions, a casting agent became so familiar with him she didn’t even need to hear him sing — she just needed to update some of the staff on Payne’s tattoo to “see if they can hide it” if he were cast.
For many characters, acting is a minimal part of the audition
In auditions to become equity performers, singing, acting, and dancing are important for getting the role. But Melanie said acting is not as important as height or appearance for the open auditions for face or fur characters.
“You show up at the audition and then 90% of the audition is standing in a line and smiling with a number,” said Melanie, a former cast member who has previously shared her experiences working for Disney with Insider.
The second round of the audition sometimes involves animation
If an auditionee makes it to the second round, they most likely will animate in front of the judges.
In the animation round, auditionees are given a scenario and must act it out in a wordless performance. According to Jessica Tremmel, who has documented her experiences as a cast member on TikTok, this performance is “essentially pantomime” and may include two different animation exercises.
During Parkany’s animation round, she said she was given the prompt of acting as a villain creating a monster and then turning into that monster.
“They played ‘Calling All the Monsters’ like it’s upbeat, fun music,” said Parkany. “You kind of have to tell the story on your own and you can be as creative as you want. They often give you ideas of things to do.”
Parkany said the casting agents gave the auditionees some inspiration and suggestions, like, “Are you grabbing from a bookshelf? Are you stirring your cauldron?'”
From there, it’s the auditionee’s job to tell a story with their body.
The entire hiring process involves a lot of waiting
Former auditionees said people may arrive one to two hours before auditions in order to get a number that allows them to try out for a role earlier in the day.
“Everyone hangs out in their car beforehand, you can see through the window, everyone practicing their music or warming up their voice or whatever,” said Anthony Gargiula, a pop-music recording artist who formerly worked as an equity performer portraying Finn Fiesta for Disney Junior Dance Party.
Auditionees don’t get much time to make an impression
The lead-up can feel agonizingly slow, but when you’re one of about 50 people called in for the first round of auditions, you have a very short time to make an impression.
In open auditions, participants may just stand and smile at the judges for a few minutes until the first cuts are made. Then you might have 30 seconds to a couple of minutes to animate or perform a dance in front of the judges.
Tremmel explained that the dances start out “very simple” and, by the end, there’s “more advance choreography.”
“Essentially, that is their way of being able to separate who are their more advanced dancers from just basic movers,” she said.
Helen Jane Planchet, a former Disney equity performer who played Elena of Avalor, said you’ll sometimes sing just “16 bars of music, which is between like 30 seconds and a minute,” for the judges.
If you want a princess or face-character roles, the judges may get up close and personal
After the second round of animation and dancing in open auditions, judges will hold some participants to consider for face characters, like princesses. But Tremmel says the third round can feel awkward and weird as the casting agents evaluate each auditionee by getting “too close to your face.”
“They’re getting really close up in your personal space to see your bone structure, to see how your skin is, to see your eye color, to see your eye shape, to see all these different things about you,” she said. “They don’t say anything, so it’s really, really awkward.”
You might not know what role you get until after you’re hired
According to former employees, some people who do get cast might have to move closer to a park for work — but don’t know what’s expected of them until they arrive.
After attending an audition and making it into “the pool” of potential face characters, Tremmel said she received communication in which she was told she was hired in entertainment. She said she wasn’t told which role she got.
“I didn’t know what character they wanted me for,” Tremmel told Insider. “They didn’t say anything. So I didn’t learn until I moved down to Florida, what character they were even fitting me in, never mind actually hiring me for.”
But once you get the job, working a shift can be mentally exhausting
According to former employees, auditionees might find out if they got the part that same day or even months later.
And although there are certainly some uplifting and inspiring experiences when you put on that costume and talk to park visitors, one shift can bring a wide range of emotions.
For Parkany, some of the most amazing times as a cast member involved helping guests share special announcements, including in a memorable promposal and a gender reveal.
But other times, it was hard to handle the emotional toll of just a single day’s work.
Parkany said she wasn’t expecting “the emotional rollercoaster that you deal with as a performer and as you’re going through interactions with so many guests in a short period of time.”
Your shift at a park could cover a dinner, where one table is full of unhappy children or young adults not interested in interacting with the characters.
“There were days when I would come home from a shift and I wouldn’t know if I had a good day or a bad day,” Parkany said. “You’re just like, kind of in this headspace of processing it all.”
Disney did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.