My family and I have lived in Florida for about ten years now. We are just minutes from Walt Disney World. We go all the time. Sometimes we’ll spend a full day at one of the theme parks, other times we will just go for a walk or to grab a pretzel. Since we spend so much time on Disney property, we have met thousands of Cast Members over the years. I can count on one hand the number of really bad Cast Members that we’ve run across. If I were to count the wonderful Cast Members that we’ve interacted with, the number would be well into the thousands.
When I think about special Cast Members, one young man immediately comes to mind. I am not going to give his name for privacy reasons, I’ll just call him “Walt”. We were fairly new Passholders when we first met Walt. I have never liked touching the finger scanner, and this was back in the days before MagicBands. Right after we bought our passes we learned that you could show a picture ID instead of scanning your finger, and the Cast Member at the entrance would press the letter “K” on the keypad. You would then be allowed in. The problem was that not all Cast Members knew about that, so we tried to remember those who took care of it without having to ask someone else for help.
One evening we were at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We didn’t see any of the entrance Cast Members who we had gone to before. There was a young man at one of the turnstiles with no line, so we went to him. We pulled out our IDs and got ready to explain why we didn’t want to touch the scanner. Walt didn’t need an explanation, he just smiled, and agreed that those things can be gross. He was so friendly that my daughter and I agreed that he would be the main person that we would look for at DHS.
We didn’t see Walt again for several weeks. The next time that we saw him we were at Disney’s Hollywood Studios specifically to see Fantasmic!. Walt remembered us, even though he had seen thousands of guests since us. We had a little bit of time, and we chatted with Walt for a minute or so. He was in the Disney College Program, and he attended the same school that my niece went to.
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Disney’s Hollywood Studios has always been my favorite of the four theme parks, and at that time we had a goal. My daughter and I wanted to reach 100 rides on Star Tours – The Adventures Continue in less than a year. We would head to the park just to ride. We started to look for Walt each time. He just made our day a little bit brighter! One day he told us how to find him on Facebook, and he immediately accepted our friend requests once we did. I think that he enjoyed seeing us as much as we hoped to see him.
We told Walt about our 100 ride goal. He often asked us what the current countdown was. When we reached 95 rides, Walt was as excited as we were. When we hit 98, I told him that I wished that he could ride the 100th time with us. He smiled, and said maybe it was possible. We told him which day we thought we would reach that milestone. That evening, after the park closed, we received a message from Walt on Facebook. He had asked his manager, and he was going to be able to time his break so that he could ride with us!
The day that we hit 100 we arrived at the park at a set time. Walt found his manager, clocked out, and then headed to the ride with us. This was when they still used paper FASTPASS, which we didn’t have. The standby line was fairly long. Walt talked to the Cast Members at the ride’s entrance, and explained what was going on. They let us through the FASTPASS entrance, and congratulated us on our 100th ride. We also got to pick our seats. The whole experience was a lot of fun. It was a great milestone for my daughter and me, and one that would have gone unnoticed if it wasn’t for a special Cast Member who had become a friend. I’m sure that there aren’t too many people who can say that they rode with a Cast Member in the middle of his shift.
After the end of his College Program, Walt left Walt Disney World and Florida, but we’ve stayed in touch. The college that he attended is not too far from where I grew up, so when we would head up North to spend some time with my parents we would make sure that we would see Walt. He also has returned to Florida several times since, and we always get together with him. He was in town when it was time for our 200th ride on Star Tours, so we rode it with him once again. We still have a way to go before we hit 300, but my daughter and I agree that we will somehow make sure that he’s here when we do.
I know that many people have magical Cast Member stories about resort upgrades, free dessert, or a stuffed Mickey for a crying child. My Cast Member magic may not be the same, but it is part of what makes Disney so special. I never thought that my hatred of the finger scanner would result in a lifelong friend. Thank you, “Walt”, for creating memories, both at Walt Disney World, and also in the years since. My life is better for knowing you.