Disney Doesn’t Pay Cast Members, It Gives Them “Discounts”

Cast members at Disney World; disney cast member discounts
Credit: Disney

Cast members are the heart and soul of the Disney experience. Any guest who’s ever been to any Disney Resort around the world would agree. Cast members spend a lot of time making magic for guests all over the world, be that through character interactions or even creating a special surprise for an occasion. 

Off-late, guests have begun complaining about cast member behavior, noting that many have become more short or rude. Some even claim that cast members are picking fights and shouting at them. 

While there have been enough reports of this nature that it’s entirely possible this is true, some guests have still sympathized with cast members pointing out how they don’t get paid enough to deal with some of the guests who frequent the parks. 

magic kingdom cinderella castle on the way to adventureland

Cinderella Castle, Magic Kingdom Park, Walt Disney World Resort / Credit: Becky Burkett

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In the past, we’ve reported on some awful guest behavior wherein guests have harassed cast members, yelled obscenities at them, and even disrupted the operations of rides. While guests always claim they’re in the right, many who hear these stories unreservedly speak out in support of the cast members. 

Not only is guest behavior often unacceptable, but there are also difficult situations that arise at the parks, from medical emergencies to safety hazards and more. Cast members are trained and equipped to deal with them all. 

Yet, one of the biggest complaints cast members have had in recent years is that they have not been paid a fair wage, especially given the constant increases in the cost of living in Florida and California. 

disney's hollywood studios

Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park / Credit: Disney

Cast member unions in both states even organized strikes because many of them were not earning enough to make rent and were homeless and sleeping in their cars. 

The Walt Disney Company initially didn’t give the cast members a deal they were happy with, but eventually, the two parties came to an agreement. For now, things have relaxed again, but it’s worth noting that despite this, there’s a large chunk of CMs who don’t get paid fairly: those who are a part of the Disney College Program. 

tree of life in walt disney world animal kingdom park

Tree of Life, Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park, Walt Disney World Resort / Credit: Victor Ibarra, Unsplash

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The cast members are often quite young and, therefore, are subject to high-stress situations while getting paid (at least in 2012) $7.67 an hour. 

A former cast member, Skipper Meaghan, who has, by her own account, enjoyed her time at Disney World and repeatedly made clear she would go back to being a Disney cast member, shares stories of her time at Disney online. 

Meaghan shared both the good and bad, the best and worst, but her anecdotes raise larger questions about the treatment of cast members by the Mouse House.  

While detailing some of the worst things about working at Disney, Meaghan shared that she counter-intuitively felt that the discounts cast members enjoyed were some of the worst things about the job. 

This is because cast members didn’t get paid well at all—refer back to the $7.67/hour comment—but would be given discounts on merchandise that, while could be steep, were still inaccessible in price. (Meaghan gave the specific example of a Jungle Cruise shadow box that Disney was selling for $100, highly discounted, but was still far out of her price range.) 

Now, while cast members should certainly enjoy the perks of working at Disney and discounts, it would be far more astute to simply pay them a living wage and allow them to comfortably afford merchandise and trips to the very experience they’re working at. 

Hollywood Studios annual passholder genie+

Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park / Credit: mckenzie-sobieski on Unsplash

Related: Seven Wonders of Disney’s World

It’s true that Walt Disney World cast members get discounts on theme park tickets and merchandise and enjoy a cast member dining discount. But if these discounts are how Disney is justifying not paying them enough to live well, then perhaps it’s worth noting that discounts don’t pay the bills.

Disclaimer: The opinions reflected in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect Disney Dining’s perspective on Disney Parks operations.

About Priyanka Kumar

Priyanka is a writer, artist, avid reader, and travel enthusiast based in Chicago. In her free time, she is probably walking by the lake, catching up on the latest releases on TV, or spending inordinate amounts of time rewatching Moana, Encanto, and her Disney Channel life-long favorites Zack and Cody wreak havoc on the Tipton.

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