Disney: The Underbelly

Great post from BWE. Do take time to listen to the YouTube at the bottom. He bangs on a bit, but it’s quite diverting.

Many years ago, back when I was in college, my high school best friend from Miami got a job working at Disneyworld for the summer. I believe she played a “waitress” at the Diamond Horseshoe Saloon, which was an understood knowing wink as she was clearly an old-timey Disney whore. She was forced to wear a dreadfully unflattering red polyester dress and black apron, while touching the shoulders of the hundreds of thousands of fathers that made their way through the saloon for just a tad too long. This is after she got ever so close to playing Sleeping Beauty, until the cruel casting director sat her down and told her she was too “squinty.” From what I understand, it was the best summer of her life, thanks in large part to her eye-widening surgery.

What did this mean for me, her giant best friend? It meant that I got to Disneyworld that summer VIP style. I was a pig in sh*t. Free ticket into the park, automatic access to the rides, walking past the 3 hour long lines with two middle fingers in the air… it was bliss.

Perhaps it was because of the endorphins firing in my brain that day that I dared to play with Disney fire. Because that day, friends, I did what is often described as “the impossible.” I snuck into the Disneyworld Underground City. That’s right: Actual Disneyworld is built on top of a giant underground human hamster world where the employees go to change, eat, and be human. It’s called the “Utilidors” and it is where the fantasy of Disney comes literally crashing to Earth. And, in an effort to score some discounted food (waves at proud Grandfather in Heaven), I Mission: Impossible 3‘d my way down there, friend in tow, to grab a burger for $1.99 and run like hell.

We found the hidden doorway (a secret I would never even think of revealing) and slowly cartoon tiptoe tinyfooted tinked our way to the employee cafeteria. How to describe the Disneyworld Tunnels… hmm. It’s like a Home Depot of childhood sadness. Cold, fluorescent, concrete. Huge. Oh, look, there’s Pluto with his head off, smoking. Did you hear that loud sigh of distress? That’s the 17-year-old girl playing Mickey Mousewalking by. If you are a Disney fanatic, the underground is your Room 101. It is where the fantasy dies. We lined our jeans with burgers, managed to avoid getting tackled by security, and made our way back into the blistering sunlight of positivity that is the above-ground Disneyworld theme park.

Why this story? Well we happened to catch a fantastic, hilarious, must-see video called “Confessions of a Disney Employee,” and all of my memories came flooding back. OK, the video is 11 minutes long, but believe me, it flies by thanks to the engaging narrator, a former employee who describes his experience working there for minimum wage. Those of you out there who love both sticking it to the man and free food, this is required viewing.

I do kind of wish he’d gone further though. He didn’t exactly “stick it to the man”, but the first bit’s good.

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