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CORE OF THE MAGIC

An interview with Kris Theiler, VP, Disneyland Park, About the Cast Member Experience
By Dani Decena

As the Disneyland Resort continues the momentum from reopening over a year ago, its prioritization of cast members and their experience is stronger than ever. Based upon dialogue with cast members, resort leaders are making intentional changes to enhance the overall experience and environment for the more than 30,000 cast members who work here. VP, Disneyland Park, Kris Theiler is among the group of leaders working to ensure that cast members feel proud of where they work and know that they are the “core” of the magic. We recently sat down with Kris to get her perspective on why these changes are important and what she hopes the overall impact will be for cast members.

We have seen the excitement for cast-exclusive events to return. Why are these such an important part of the cast member culture?

KT: It’s so important for cast members to experience the product so that they can be great advocates. But there’s some-thing more now with these cast events; there’s a great sense of community and camaraderie. They’re able to experience the park in a way that’s different from when they visit with family or as a guest themselves — it’s real community building. For example, we had the “Fantasmic!” cast preview, the “Main Street Electrical Parade” disco party, yoga in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle, and much more coming this summer including the return of our long tradition of canoe races. Cast members get up early to race in teams around the Rivers of America before guests enter the park for the day; it’s a blast!

Can you tell us about some of the other work you are part of and why it’s important?

KT: The core of our experience is our cast members. They are the ones who deliver the magic on a daily basis. What our guests remember is how they were treated by our cast. We have a unique opportunity with our employees more than any other company does. If we can make sure that they’re having a great experience, that they feel good about where they work and feel deep pride in what they do, we can unlock a key to success with the guests. That’s why I’m so passionate about the cast… they are the keys to success. We are trying to ensure that we are creating environments that make the cast proud of where they work, especially in back-of-house areas, including office spaces, break rooms, meeting areas, etc. benefit, so we’ve been busy working on our new reservation system, which is allowing us to provide many more days for Cast to visit with their family and friends than we previously had available. We are continually improving the system, since we know it’s such a popular perk for the cast.

Many of these improvements were based on dialogue with leaders and cast members. How important is it for you as a leader to have a communicative relationship with the cast?

KT: It’s critical. It is important for me that cast members know that I’m somebody that they can come up to and have a relationship with. I’m very open to feedback. That’s how we solve problems: being good listeners and getting to the core of the issue and then figuring out how we might address it. I also want our cast to know that although our jobs are different, they’re necessary for different reasons. Disneyland Resort does not work if every single person at the resort doesn’t fundamentally believe their job is important.

What are you hoping the cast will feel from these changes?

KT: Pride is an important emotion and such a valuable motivator that helps us give our best effort. I hope that with these continued changes, cast will feel proud and excited to work at Disneyland Resort, and I hope they understand the importance of their roles. They are part of a bigger family here that cares about them. When you have that sense of family and community, you have to be open and transparent with them. You must tell them the “why” behind decisions to help them understand and feel that sense of belonging and inclusion. It’s a great relationship that we have with our cast, and we want to continue to make it better and better.

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