At the time of my hire with the Walt Disney Company (back in good ol’ 2004), once offered a position your first few days on that job were an overview of the ins and outs of the Disneyland Resort--a training called “Traditions”, first introduced by Van Arsedale France back in May of 1955. Arsedale is the mastermind behind what is now known as Disney University, where “Traditions” is a combination of setting expectations, telling the Disney story, and familiarizing new Cast Members (CMs) with the culture and physical landscape of the Resort.
Expectations: During “Traditions”, CMs are introduced to the Disney Look, the 4 Keys, and the SERVICE model (see also: dress code, school-wide expectations, and how to handle interpersonal communication--the latter I’ll discuss in an upcoming blog). If you’re curious, there’s a 28 page booklet (yes, 28) that outlines what is and isn’t Disney Look appropriate and leaves no room for confusion. It has evolved since I first started working to accommodate a bit more personal style. I’ll add that the Disney Look and costuming is responsible for my deplorable lack of fashion sense. Going to private school for 12 years (wearing a uniform) and working for Disney for 7 years (where they GIVE you your costume daily) led to a minor inability to create my own wardrobe, so if you ever meet me in “real life” and I look questionable, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
In addition to the Disney Look, CMs are introduced to the Point System. The Point System keeps track of your attendance and clearly outlines when you’ll receive reprimands. Honestly, it was sometimes difficult to keep track of--Elly and Caroline Collins wrote an extensive blog post with exact details. The beauty of putting introducing all of this information up-front was accountability. CMs quickly learned what was and wasn’t acceptable and appropriate.
Storytelling: Cast Members learn the “why” behind all of the expectations after learning what they are. As a former CM, learning the purpose of all of the expectations gave me HUGE buy-in. So much so, that as a guest in the park, I still say Happy Birthday to those with Birthday Buttons and use a two-fingered point or open hand to gesture or give directions (which I just can’t seem to shake!).
Walt wanted to create a place that would immerse guests in experiences that were different from their everyday lives. When you came to work, you were playing a role. Dave Burgess recognized Immersion as such an important part of the learning and engagement experience it gets a whole LETTER in TLAP. In the context of Disneyland, Walt needed people to create that immersive experience.
Using “Traditions”, Walt and Van delivered the tools and understanding that each and every CM was a representation of the bigger picture. The people are what makes Disneyland so successful. Do some CM’s take their jobs more seriously than others? Absolutely. Are some just there for the paycheck? Absolutely. Do we see the same things in education? Absolutely (and unfortunately). Ultimately, it’s the understanding that your role is to create a positive experience for any guest who comes through the gates, or student who comes through your door. I attest that it’s teachers who have this understanding who are making the most difference for their students.
“You can dream, create, design, and build the most wonderful place in the world, but it requires people to make the dream a reality. "