Disney Name Tags

When I worked at Disneyland and was conducting Orientation (Traditions) classes for new hires, I would start the training session by telling my pupils that everyone in the company goes by their first name. This rule applied to the lowly guy who picked up horse poop along the parade route all the way up to the CEO, which was Donn Tatum at the time. The only exceptions to this rule were Mr. Toad, Mr. Smee, and Mr. Lincoln.

When I worked at Club 33, I often came in contact with company executives – and I was expected to call them by their first name. Saying “Good morning Mr. Tatum” was a no no.

The reason for this policy is simple. Walt wanted his cast members to treat the “customers” (a banned word at Disney) like they were “guests” in their own home. He wanted a casual informality at Disneyland. Everybody is friends at a Disney theme park. He also wanted the cast members to know that all of their jobs were important when it comes to creating the “show.” It doesn’t matter if you wash dishes backstage or conduct VIP tours for heads of state; everyone’s efforts are needed, important, and valued. Being on a first name basis with all was a leveling tool.

To promote this first-name policy, everyone in the company wears a name tag. It’s considered part of your costume. Even backstage, where guests never go, everyone sports their name.

I always liked this policy. First, I’m horrible with names and it made it a lot simpler for me when I was getting to know a new cast member. Also, this informality made it easier for me to talk to my boss. Calling your supervisor by his or her first name helps break down barriers. And finally, from the guest’s point of view, this casualness creates a relaxed atmosphere. When a guest sees your name tag, they’re far more willing to strike up a conversation with you because you seem more approachable.

Here’s what my name tag looked like in 1971. Pretty boring.

Disneyland Name Tag

At Club 33 my name tag was a little more elaborate. They still use this same design today.

Club 33 Name Tag

And here’s what the Walt Disney World name tags looked like in 1971. Once again, pretty boring by today’s standards.

Origianl WDW Name Tag

The first real change came to the name tags in 1976. In honor of the bicentennial, Disney was promoting a new pageant, America on Parade, and decided to use the name tags as a marketing tool. After that, it became common place to advertise the latest happening on these plastic wonders.

America on Parade Name Tag

Nowadays, name tags display a city (or college for those on the College Program). Each cast member is allowed to select a “home town” when they’re hired and can change this location at any time. The city selected doesn’t have to be where they were born or where they last lived, but simply a place that holds significance for them.

Here is the current name tag being used at Walt Disney World. Notice it promotes the “Where Dreams Come True” ad campaign.

WDW Current Name Tag

Something I wish had been around when I worked at Disneyland was the “Earning My Ears” ribbon.

Earning My Ears Ribbon

This wonderful piece of trimming attached to a name tag immediately tells the world that the cast member doesn’t have all the answers, that he or she is still in a learning mode. And it’s not just worn by new hires. When someone transfers from one job to another, they once again don this announcement. The amount of time this ribbon is worn varies depending on the complexity of the job.

Besides giving the cast member a little breathing room while they learn their new role, it’s also an excellent conversation starter. I know whenever I see this ribbon, I take extra time with the cast member and ask them questions like, “How’s it going?” “Are you overwhelmed?” Stuff like that.

Another pin you might see, although not on a name tag, is the Disney Trainer pin. The cast members who wear this badge are designated instructors in a certain discipline and have completed classes in a given field.

Disney Trainer Pin

After a cast member completes a year of employment, they are given a Service Award pin that they may place on the right side of their name tag. After that, they receive a new pin after completing segments of 5 years. Below are pictures of 1 through 40 years.

Service Anniversary Pins

Service Anniversary Pins

Service Anniversary Pins

Cast members are not required to wear their Service Anniversary pins. So just because you don’t see one, don’t assume that you’re dealing with a newbie. They might have worked at Disney World for years.

There is one other embellishment that you might spot on the left side of some cast member’s name tags. This is called the “Partners” pin and it designates that this individual has won the “Partners In Excellence” award.

Partners In Excellence Pin

The Partners In Excellence award celebrates those cast members, both onstage and off, who exemplify the Disney spirit. The recipients of this award must achieve and sustain excellent job performance as measured by three criteria: Guest Satisfaction, Cast Excellence, and Business Results.

To be eligible for this award a cast member must have worked for the company a minimum of three years. Then they must be recommended by a fellow cast member or their supervisor. Once a year, all of these recommendations are reviewed and a portion of these are actually accepted and the cast member is informed that he or she has been nominated to receive the award. The nominations are then reviewed again and a select few receive the Lifetime Achievement Award called Partners In Excellence.

In 2007, 3,816 people were recommended. Of that, 2,934 were nominated and 515 actually won. When you consider that Disney World employs over 60,000 people, it is an honor to receive this award.

The Disney name tag has a lot of tradition behind it. It indicates much more than just a person’s moniker. It means that an individual understands what the “Disney-way” is all about and they will do their best to make sure you enjoy yourself while visiting.
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Addendum:

After this blog was posted, one of my readers, Ben, sent me the following link.

http://www.nametagmuseum.com/

Check it out. You’ll find a wonderful history of Disney name tags.

Thanks Ben!

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37 Replies to “Disney Name Tags”

  1. Great article!

    So I take it they did away with the small diamond on the Partners in Excellence pin for multiple recipients?

    Jack’s Answer:

    I can’t speak to how things use to be, but now-a-days a cast member can only win Partners in Excellence once and it’s considered a lifetime achievement award.

  2. Thanks for this great article. I love the history and the images. I have two WDW trips planned for later this year. Now I can look for these different pins and maybe have an interesting conversation with a cast member.

  3. A very interesting article. I like to read about lesser-known things.

    I would like to work at Disney, but I reckon they would have little use for a social worker.

    I would be interested reading about your experiences as a trainer with Disney, not insider secrets, but your favorite or most memorable moments on the job.

    Jack’s Answer:

    Disney almost always is hiring for “off the street” jobs. This would include openings as maids, servers, ride operators, and the like. But in most cases, this would be part-time work.

    If you’re looking for a “professional” career with Disney, this probably isn’t the best time to apply for a job since they just went through a downsizing due to the economy. But things will turn around.

    Disney has over 1,000 job titles. You might be surprised to find out how they might be able to put a social worker’s talents to use.

    I’ve already written about my favorite moment as a trainer. You can read about it at the following link.

    http://land.allears.net/blogs/jackspence/2009/04/owen_pope_1.html

  4. I never thought about it before, but I have almost a compulsive habit of looking at cast member name tags to see where people are from. Maybe it’s name-tag envy. But I have noticed a few times that name tags will have character names instead of hometowns (I see a lot of Cinderella) is there a reason behind this?

    Jack’s Answer:

    A couple of years ago, instead of placing your hometown on the name tag, cast members could choose a “favorite Disney moment or memory.” For example, if their first introduction to Disney was seeing the Mickey Mouse Club, they could have this engraved on their name tag. There was a large list to choose from. Cinderella, along with many other movies, was on this list.

    I’m guessing you saw these name tags a couple of years ago or some cast members are wearing outdated tags.

  5. Thanks for another wonderful article! A few years ago, when my stepbrother and sister-in-law went with my two stepnephews (both aged 9 at the time), they made a game of looking for all fifty states on the name tags. When they were in Epcot, which they at first thought at “kinda lame”, they enjoyed looking for all the countries too!

  6. LOVED this blog! I will have to make notice of the pins on my next trip (which JUST might be THIS September, since my husband sprung the “news” that he’d like to go again for free dining on me yesterday–which was my bday!)

  7. Your blog on Disney Name Tags was Great ! I just returned last month from my company’s recognition conference at the Yacht Club and part of our conference “work” time was with the Disney Institute folks. Our training guide talked about the “Partners in Excellence” pin and sent us off for homework to look for people wearing it and talk with them about their experience. We got some very emotional responses from people wearing that pin ! Thanks for letting more people know about the special significance of the pin.

  8. Hey Jack!
    You got me totally emotional with this article.
    I really miss my ICP days and I wish I can go back to using this nametags again some day. (Wishing and working on it!)
    One funny memory I have is the day I forgot my tag and had to use one with a chinese name on it! Guests got a little confused, but it was so obvious that it ended up as a conversation topic with a lot of people.

  9. I worked part time at a Disney Outlet for over 3 years in Pigeon Forge, TN and when I left (I was 5 months pregnant at the age of 42 and was still teaching full time!), they made me give them my nametag back. I sooooooo wanted to keep it! I still look on ebay for one with my name on it from anywhere!

    Jack’s Comment:

    I’m sorry you had to return your name tag. They make a great keepsake. Bummer.

    Maybe this will brighten your day. Well, probably not. But your comment was the 1,000th I have received since we added this ability to our blogs. You don’t win anything. You just get to know that you made me happy by helping me reach this milestone. For whatever it’s worth, congratulations. 🙂

    And to the rest of you who have written me over these last several months, thank you.

  10. The Club 33 tag reminds me of the Haunted Mansion hehe.

    I live in a smaller unincorporated area outside of Tampa, and I actually found someone at MGM, err…DHS, that lives in the same area that I do. It was really exciting!

    So everyone that completes a year of service gets the lil Steamboat Willie pin?

    OMG, i totally need to get a seasonal job there. Quit talking about it and just do it!

    Thanks for the article!! You always keep us informed 😀

  11. Loved the article! I recently wondered where the flags on the tags had gone, and why were they removed, just learned why! =)
    As for the brazilian flag, I must agree, it was confusing. Very often it is thought that Spanish is spoken in Brazil, I believe due to our location in South America,surrounded by Spanish speaking countries. It is now easy to see we speak Portuguese instead.

    Thanks Jack,this was really nice !!

    Theresa Konno
    Greetings from Brazil to everyone!! =)

  12. This was very interesting! One of my favorite things to do while visiting the world is to check everyone’s name tag to see where they are from and how many people I can find from my homestate, NJ. Last year I started talking to a castmember from NJ and they ended up being from the same small town as me! Thanks for the great blog!

  13. Thanks,Jack.This is a great tutorial on the name tags. I know a CM who received a Partners Pin for work he did for hurricane relief. He’s a very modest person but proudly wears this pin.

  14. I have always made it a habit to read people’s name tags over the years because I, also, am terrible at remembering names. I love that Disney allows CMs to put hometowns and such. It makes it easier to start conversations with them. It also allows my children to learn more about other regions and countries. Thanks for a great article.

  15. This is great to know. When I go back this December, I will notice what nametag each character I meet & talk to them about it. Great way to meet new people. Also, if new, a great way to encourage them.

    I also think a great idea would be to have a place where guests can get a personalized nametag noting how many visits they have had to the resort(s)

  16. Hi Jack,

    I remember cast members having flags attached to their name tags to show the languages they speak. Are they still used? If I remember correctly I saw them at Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney World.
    Greetings from Germany

    Jack’s Answer:

    The flags caused some confusion and were replaced with a new identifier. For example, Spain’s flag was used to represent the Spanish language, while the Brazilian flag was used to represent the Portuguese language. This was inconsistent.

    Now, each language is spelled out as it would be in that country. For example, the pin does not say “Spanish” it says “Español” and “German” would be “Deutsch.” In addition, the Asian languages are spelled out using the Asian letters. There is even a pin that shows hands, indicating the person speaks sign language.

  17. Hi Jack,
    I have always liked the nametags with the city and state listed because it’s fun to find a cast member from your own state and sometimes from the same town!
    Thanks again for an interesting blog!

  18. Jack –

    Just wanted to thank you for your wonderful blog. I came across it today and have spent a lot of time this morning reading several of your posts. A few of them even brought tears to me eyes, as they brought back some wonderful memories.

  19. Great article, Jack. Thanks for the informative and interesting inside scoop. Now that you mention it, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of him referred to as Mr. Disney, always just good old Walt.

  20. Thanks Jack! it’s bits of knowledge such as these that are really interesting and fun! i liked learning about the service pins- and thank you for including such detailed photos!

  21. Thanks Jack for the information. It is Walt’s attention to detail that makes all trips to the World special. Please keep up the good work.

  22. Jack,
    I am so excited to be joining the Disney name tag family in August! I will be in the Disney College Program at Walt Disney World and I can’t WAIT to start “Earning My Ears”

  23. Do the cast members that wear character or performance costumes have name tags? Do these cast members wear a Disney vest or something where a name tag could be placed to the park before they don their super-sized heads and three-fingered gloves back stage?

    Jack’s Answer:

    To my knowledge, all cast members are issued a name tag when they hire on. But obviously, a name tag is not always appropriate attire for all “on stage” cast members (like the Festival of the Lion King). I have to believe there are rules governing how and when the name tags are worn by these individuals backstage, but I don’t know what they are.

    As for “donning their super-sized heads and three-fingered gloves,” I have no idea what you’re talking about. Mickey, Minnie, and all of their friends are real, live individuals. I do know, however, that each of these lovable characters has a “helper” that assists them in their many demanding tasks. 😉

  24. Once again your insights are remarkable. Leave it up to you to do a report on name tags – a seemingly pedestrian subject – and I can’t wait to tell my wife what I just learned.

  25. Jack,

    Thank you again for your nice bits of Disney knowledge. I go to the World in 15 days, and I will be on the look out for the different pins!! As always, a great column!

  26. Wow. That is a *great* article. Thank you very much for that bit of “behind the scenes” information. Yet another example of Disney’s incredible attention to detail in all that they do. Who would have thought so much time and effort and thought goes into the selecting of a name tag? Thanks, Jack!!

  27. As always, a WONDERFUL blog. Thank you for sharing more “behind the scenes” Disney information. It is truly fascinating and inspiring to see how Disney treats its cast members.

  28. Jack, hi. My name is Tim Jennings and like you I am a former Cast Member and website owner.
    I run a little community for former Disney Cast Members over at After the mouse.com — whilst doing a little research for a piece I am writing I came across your recent post http://land.allears.net/blogs/jackspence/2009/06/disney_name_tags.html – nice writing by the way, and I found a thing I have been looking for for a while, your images of the service pins.
    I was wondering if, with your permission I might use them in the piece I am writing?
    Many thanks

    Tim

  29. Jack,
    Thank you once again for some pretty interesting information. Now I know when I go to WDW and see the “Earning my Ears” ribbon, to ask how they’re doing. Thanks again for the great article!!

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