Kayla Brandt is a sophomore music business and musical theater major from Logansport, Indiana. Brandt spent last semester working at Disney World in Florida. While there, she was able to experience everything behind-the-scenes at the world-famous attraction. In the future, Brandt hopes to return to Disney and continue the tradition of creating magical moments for all.
Q: What was the process of joining Disney?
A: You apply online, and then you go through a personality quiz. If you “pass” the personality quiz, you are invited to do a phone interview. They ask you how you would handle different scenarios if you were in a certain job at Disney. And then, a few weeks after the interview, they let you know if you got in or not, and they’ll let you know what role you are. You can audition to be a character, which I did. I wasn’t hired to be a character even though I made it all the way through the audition. It’s all based on height range and availability, and my height range didn’t have many people that they needed, so I wasn’t hired. I ended up doing food service, which sounds awful, but it actually wasn’t that bad. I worked at a couple different places in Magic Kingdom. On Halloween, I handed out candy for six hours to five-year-olds who were trick-or-treating in the park. It was so fun. Other times, I was helping with crowd control, like during the parades, to make sure people didn’t go into the streets and stuff like that.
Q: What was a normal day like for you at Disney?
A: I would wake up and have to drive 20-30 minutes to Disney University, which is the training area for the employees. At that training area there is a costuming shop where you have to pick up your costume. Everyone wears a costume, whether you’re a janitor or a character. After you pick up your costume, you get on the bus. It takes you backstage and then you go underground—it’s called the Utilidor, and it’s an underground tunnel system. They can’t have workers trying to get through crowds to get to work. You never know how busy a day is going to be, and traffic is insane. And, if you work in Tomorrowland, you can’t be seen on Main Street because the costumes are specific to the lands that are in Magic Kingdom. Then you take an elevator or stairs to get to the top and then you go through hidden doors. And then you just work.
Q: Do you have a favorite memory from your time at Disney?
A: There is a lot of guest interaction. I was working a dessert party once and was talking to this family, and they were really into music and I told them that I was, too, and they asked where I was from. I said Anderson, and they were like, “No way, that’s where we live.” Their grandchild actually takes lessons from one of the music professors here. So, small world! She found me on Facebook, and now we’re Facebook friends. Another time, I was working at Casey’s Corner on Main Street, and they had a lot of people working that day so they didn’t necessarily have a job for me to do then. They told me to go out and make magical moments for people. So I got to give out free brownies to people with birthday buttons, and free Mickey straws, and just interact with people for three hours. It was so great.
Q: Do you have any dreams of working at Disney again in the future?
A: Yes—I’d really like to be able to be on the marketing team or the creative team and develop marketing plans and promotional things for the parks. I took an entertainment seminar when I was there, and there are so many jobs in the entertainment department that you don’t even think about. They go to a separate building away from the parks, and they plan out the shows. There is a whole process of where the ideas come from—it’s usually from a CEO or somebody higher up—but there’s always a need for it. If attendance is down in Animal Kingdom, they need a new show. They have to come up with an idea for it and get the funds. It takes years. If they really need it
Q: Is Disney really the “happiest place on earth”?
A: Yes and no. It is a very magical place; I still think that it is even though I know a lot more about it now and know how it works. I feel like I know more secrets now, but there are so many people working to make the guests happy and to make magical moments for guests, so I do still think it’s a very happy place. When you’re in training, they literally say your goal is to create happiness. That’s your job every day—to try and create happiness, even if it’s only for one guest, no matter your job. If you’re custodial, you still have to have guest interaction, and you’re still doing things for the guests. If it’s messy or trashy, nobody wants to come to Disney World. Every job is really important and they’re all working together to make the guest experience the best it can be.
Q: What was it like to transition back to AU after leaving Disney?
A: It was really hard. It was weird because I lived in an apartment with five other girls when I was in Florida. I was so independent. I was grocery shopping, living with five other girls, and my parents were in Indiana while I was on my own in Florida. Coming back to dorm life in Martin Hall is very different. I never realized how much time I have to do things here because it’s such a close environment. I can be at class in five minutes, whereas if you’re living on your own in a city, it takes 30 minutes to get anywhere. That was a huge culture shock for me, coming back and realizing I can get a million things done in one day because it takes no time to get places.
Q: What was it like to come back and be back in show mode for the opera?
A: I was ready to be in a show. I missed everybody in the music school. It was a really fast transition. I stopped working at Disney on Jan. 5 and I had to be here Jan. 7 for rehearsal. I had two nights to sleep in my own bed at home, and then I came here. I was kind of out of it. It was like, “Whoa, I’m not at Disney anymore, and I have rehearsal, and I have classes.” But I was very happy to come back and do the show, and I think that helped the transition back with my friends in the music school because we were together all the time right off the bat.
Q: What is your biggest dream, and do you think you’ll have the chance to chase it?
A: My biggest dream ever? It’s a far-out dream. I would really love to be in a Disney show off Broadway or Disney Live. I love Disney and I love music, so I’d like to combine those two if I could, if I got the chance to do that. I don’t know. I don’t know if that would ever happen for me, if I audition. Who’s to say if that would be an opportunity for me or not? I definitely think I want some kind of a future in the Disney Company because I love what it stands for. Too many people have jobs where they’re not happy and they’re just doing it because it pays the bills or because they feel like other people have told them what career path to follow. And I think my ultimate goal would be to be happy in my career, and with the Disney Company, not even with just the parks but the whole company, it’s still creating happiness and following your dreams and your passions even when it gets rough, and I think that’s a great thing to live by.