Cast Member Service Anniversary Event

Jack Spence Masthead

Today’s blog is going to be a little different. Instead of highlighting some attraction, shop, or restaurant, I’m going to take a look at a “backstage” cast member event. Back in July, I wrote an article about getting a job at Walt Disney World and what to expect. In that article I described both the good and bad aspects of working at WDW and some of the perks received. This article will highlight one of the perks.

Once a year (usually in November), Disney honors all of their WDW cast members who have achieved 10, 15, 20, 25, etc. years of service with the company. It’s their way of thanking their employees for the outstanding job they have done over the years. This last February, my friend Donald reached 20 years of service and invited me to be his guest at this year’s event to be held on November 8th. After experiencing this gala night, I thought all of you might enjoy reliving it through my eyes. So here goes.

Several months before the event, all honorees received an invitation in the mail. Inside the trifold card were instructions, dress codes, driving directions, and more.

Cast Member Invitation

Cast Member Invitation

This year’s event was held at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The park was closed that day to regular guests at 4pm. This would give the Special Events team two and half hours to transform the park from its normal appearance into a grand banquet and entertainment venue.

This year, those celebrating 20 years or more were to park at the Studio. Those celebrating 10 and 15 years were to park at Epcot where they would be bussed to the event. To make sure no one had misunderstood where to park, Disney placed electronic signboards on all the major roadways leading to the Studio with instructions. As Donald was celebrating 20 years of service, we parked at the Studio.

As guests approached the ticket booths, huge balloons welcomed everyone to the event. Large tables contained special nametags and illuminated lanyards for the honorees. After we picked up Donald’s we proceeded to the turnstiles and waited for 6:30 to arrive.



Name Tag




Once the gates opened, everyone proceeded into the park. In the forecourt, searchlights were scanning the sky in true Hollywood fashion. A red carpet lined the entire length of Hollywood Boulevard. Cast members lined both sides of the street, applauding, cheering, and congratulating the honorees as they took the “walk of fame.”

Walk of Fame

Other cast members were on hand passing out glasses of champagne. And if you couldn’t find a cast member, there was a table full just waiting for the thirsty party-goers.



Almost every walkway and thoroughfare in the park had been lined with tables and chairs for guests to enjoy food and drink. It was truly magical to sit and relax at a table beneath the Osborne Christmas lights and not worry about fighting the throngs of guests that normally occupy this space. Here are pictures of Animation Courtyard, Sorcerer’s Hat area, Pixar Place, Streets of America, and Sunset Boulevard.

Animation Courtyard

Sorcerer's Hat area

Pixar Place

Streets of America

Sunset Boulevard

Food and drink tables were everywhere. And lines were practically nonexistent as Disney had set up so many opportunities for indulging. Let me give you a rundown of the menu.

Shrimp & Dip with Cocktail Sauce and Key Lime Dip (These were the largest shrimp I have ever seen in my life – they were huge.)

Raw Vegetables with Avocado Dip

Roasted Ruskin Tomato Soup

Artisan Cheeses

Fisherman’s Pie with Maine Lobster, Crab, and Calamari

Roasted Sustainable Mahi

Sea Salt Grilled Flatbread

Asian BBQ Chicken Breast

Chimichurri Roasted Beef Tenderloin

Seared Lamb Chops


Lobster on a Stick (20 year service honorees and above)

Various pastas and cooked vegetables as side dishes

Dessert tables

Table of Food

Table of Food

Table of Food

Table of Food

Table of Food

Table of Food

Plate of Food

There was an abundance of food, even in the late hours of the event. Disney wasn’t going to run out so you didn’t need to stuff yourself at the beginning of the night. You could pace yourself. In addition, the food was delicious and top rate. As you can tell by the menu, they weren’t serving chicken nuggets and mac-&-cheese. This was decent fare.

Beverages were also available throughout the park. A nice selection of beer and wine were served along with a special blue martini served in an illuminated glass. Soft drinks were also on hand.

Beverage Table

Illuminated Glasses

Martini Glass

A number of bands could be found around the park. Everything from Big Band to Rock ‘N’ Roll was on hand to entertain the honorees.




Photographers were everywhere as were characters. And downloading pictures was free once back home.



All of the marquees along Sunset Boulevard had been modified to recognize the honorees.



Disney also opened Star Tours, Tower of Terror, Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster, and Toy Story Mania. We could literally walk onto all of these attractions. To give you an example, when Donald and I rode Tower of Terror, there were only four other people in the elevator with us.

At 9:30, Disney presented a special fireworks display. The show’s narration was specifically recorded for the honorees and thanked them for their contributions and efforts. The display was first class. Disney did not skimp on this presentation.


The event ended at 11:30. From my point of view, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and felt Disney had done an outstanding job of recognizing their cast members.

Disney spent big bucks on this event – as they do every year to honor their cast members. In my opinion, it is money well spent. The cast members do an outstanding job, often under less than ideal conditions. It’s nice to see Disney honor their valued, long-term employees in this way. I was grateful to be allowed to see this event first hand and thank my friend Donald for inviting me as his guest.

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31 Replies to “Cast Member Service Anniversary Event”

  1. Sounds like a great event Jack, and I’m glad Disney does this.

    I suspect that Disney told its regular guests that “Disney’s Hollywood Studios will close today at 4:30 for a private event” or something similar. I always wonder what those events are, subconsciously assuming that they are somehow for rich muckety-mucks who are stealing hours from the parks. I think people would like to know the reason the park is closing and would approve of the reason.

    Is the event only for those celebrating their 5 year anniversaries (i.e. 10, 15, 20, 25 and so on), or are those with 23 years, for example, also invited?

    Thanks very much,

    Jack’s Answer:

    I think Disney is in a no-win situation when it comes to informing guests as to why the park is closing early. Although there are people like you who are interested, there are other who would say, “It’s not fair to close the park for a CM event. They can visit anytime.”

    As to your question, people with 5 year’s service were not invited. And you had to have a multiple of 5 years to attend. Someone with 23 years was excluded.

  2. hey jack !!! did you see my buddy yeha bob jackson @ the party??? i know it was a great nite for him & his wife . glad you were able to attend with your friend donald , that was a honor indeed 20 years .
    btw will be @ the world 12/9-12/15 for all the xmas bueaty.
    my best, dusty

  3. Just wondered if any 40-year honorees were in attendance?
    (Does DLR do the same type of party, do you know or have you attended in the past?)
    Thanks for the detailed report of this wonderful backstage event.

    Jack’s Answer:

    I saw several CMs with 40-year lanyards around there necks. There were definately in attendance.

    I have no idea what Disney land does for their cast members. Sorry.

  4. Thank you to Donald, and to you Jack, for sharing this event with us. Looks like it was quite a party! I was just curious if you happened to know how many years of service the longest serving CM has worked?

    Jack’s Answer:

    I really don’t know. However I can tell you, WDW does offer a 45 year service pin for CM name tags.

    I can tell you that one guy was actually hired as a boy by Walt to play Tom Sawyer at Disneyland. He later transferred to WDW. He had over 50 years of service.

  5. As a long-time Disney fan who has experienced a great many magical moments, I am tickled pink that Disney has events such as this to honor their employees. And even better, they honor the 10, 15 and 20-year veterans. Many companies don’t bother until 25-30 years, if even then.

    Many of the greatest moments I have experienced at Disney were the result of a smart, quick-thinking, or just a smiling, cast member. From Goofy asking my dad if he could marry me in 1993, to Chef TJ feeding my allergic self to double capacity at Boma in 2001, to the unforgettable Victoria & Alberts in 2009… It always comes down to great cast members. THANK YOU CMs!

    A.D. Johnson
    Littleton, CO

  6. Jack,

    Great article. I truly enjoy reading all your blogs. I would have loved to sit and relax under the Osborne lights!

    I did want to correct an error, I believe. Being from Maine, I assume that was “Maine” lobster and not “Main” lobster.


    R Bernard

  7. Hi Jack,

    Thanks so much for sharing this event with everyone – now I want to work there even more 🙂

    Seriously they really outdid themselves and it’s nice to know they place a high priority on recognizing their employees.


  8. How sweet. Few companies (too few these days) actually do anything to appreciate their employees. It’s incredibly nice to see Disney doing it.

  9. I am so glad to see Disney honor their employees this way, thank you for this article. Congratulations to Donald for 20 years of service!

  10. Hey Jack,

    Interesting and informative. Disney goes to great extents for this celebration. One of my friends went that night to celebrate 15 years. She said it was really cold but the event was wonderful and worth it.

    Today, I did online check-in for arrival the day after Thanksgiving. What a great time to go to WDW. Can’t wait. if only to get away from NJ and the devastation Sandy left. I was lucky, others not so much.

    Look forward to the next newsletter and your article. Never know what to expect. Thanks.

    Barbara G.

  11. Hi Jack! What a wonderful way for Disney to acknowledge their dedicated employees. I wish all businesses did this. I think when you feel valued, you tend to do a better job…Just one more way Disney goes above and beyond…

  12. This is so cool! How lucky you got to go. You get to eat well down there at all kinds of neat Disney events! Thanks for “working” this event to share with us. 🙂

    we just got back yesterday from a trip to Ft. Lauderdale for a family function. I kept wanting to pull off at the turnpike exit and again at I-4 to make a side stop at WDW, but my husband woudn’t let me 🙁

  13. Hey Jack,
    Looks like that was a lot of fun! As others have said, it’s such a joy to see a company put so much effort into an event for their longtime employees.

    Two things caught my eye. First, Ruskin tomatoes! The finest Hillsborough County has to offer. So glad we could do our part here in the Tampa Bay area. :0)

    Second- your friend’s name is really Donald von Drake? Either that’s the coolest coincidence for a Disney employee ever, or you’ve changed it for privacy (or fun, not sure which!). Either way, I love it!

    Thanks again for the behind-the-scenes tour. Always a hoot reading your blog!

  14. Jack, I always enjoy your posts, but I especially enjoy the behind the scenes ones. Sounds like a fun event.

    As a Disney fan and shareholder, I’m glad to see Disney recognizing their employees in this way.

    Thanks for all you do in helping to bring Disney to us.


  15. Jack,
    I enjoyed the behind the scenes look of an event that gives much deserved recognition for the castmembers. It is the castmembers that are the real reason that guests keep coming back year after year. I do have one thought, that has been bugging me. You do not say how many people were at the party(and how many of those were honored), but given the size of the studios parking lot and that the event was specifically for a select group of castmembers, you would think that the 10 and 15 year honorees would be able to park at the studios as well.

    Jack’s Answer:

    Disney separated the parking for a reason. Those with 20+ years of service were admitted to the Studio starting at 6:30pm. Those with 10 and 15 were admitted at 7:30pm. It was Disney’s way of managing the crowd more efficiently. In addition, those with 10 and 15 years of service were dropped off at other, backstage entrances with separate red carpets. Once again, this was done to help disperse the crowd evenly throughout the park. That way, none of the food table were jammed with people.

  16. What a fantastic evening this must have been! I am happy to know that the wonderful cast members who help make us all love WDW are treated to such a special night. I just returned from a trip with my children and grandchildren, and we all wondered why the Studios closed so early that day. Thanks for sharing the details with us Jack, and I am glad you were invited!

  17. Jack-

    Disney clearly spared no expense to make such a memorable event for their dedicated cast members- with one exception. I found it odd that a particular menu item (lobster on a stick) was limited to the 20+ year cast members. Of course it’s a high ticket item, but in the scheme of things, how much more would it have cost to have enough for anyone who wanted it? With the abundance of other great food options, I think it would have better to have eliminated it. Were folks who wanted it actually turned away? Again, I find it a curious choice in a festive party setting to limit offerings to a certain group.

    Jack’s Comment:

    Cast Members with 20+ years of service were allowed into Disney’s Hollywood Studios an hour before those with 10 and 15 years (6:30pm) as an extra perk for longer service. At 7:30pm, when the rest of the honorees arrived, the lobster was pulled from the menu so those with lesser service never even knew it was available (until they read my blog).

  18. This was so nice Jack. I’m so happy that you had a chance to experience this event and Congratulations to your friend and all other

  19. This appeared to be a truly remarkable event and really went a long way to show employees appreciation. This is very rare amoung companies today and especially in this economy. So kudos to Disney for living up to the Magic that we all love by remembering the employees.

  20. Thank you for letting us know about this awesome event. How nice that your friend brough you as his guest.

    Disney really puts on a great show for their employees. That is very impressive. What a great way to honor them for their service to the company. Plus, that food sounds wonderful!!!

    Thanks for another great blog!

  21. I love my job but when I reached the 10 year mark I got a card from a company executive thanking me for my loyalty. I’m not complaining but they didn’t close Disneyworld for my party! People who complain about big “greedy” companies never see how much Disney spends to make the “World of Disney” truly the Happiest place on Earth. Not just for their guests but all of their castmembers as well.

  22. Another wonderful blog, Jack. That really seemed to be a first rate party!. Very cool that you got to attend. 🙂

    However I wouldn’t be doing my “job” if I let this slip by. *dons spell check hat*

    “Raw Vegetables with Avocado Dip

    Roasted Ruskin Tomato Soup

    Artisan Chesses…”

    I think you meant Artisan Cheeses (not Chesses).

    Keep up the great work!


  23. I hate you!! Just kidding. But I am jealous! That sounded like a fantastic party. It’s good to see how they honor their employees, especially in this day and age, when many employers make you feel you’re just lucky to have a job. Thanks for sharing!

  24. hey Jack
    This is a great way to honor Disney’s cast members who have been there for so long. without them, as well as all of the other cast members, Disney World would not be the same. They all work so hard to make sure that everyone is able to have a great time and all I have to say is thank you to all past and present cast members. can’t wait for your next blog and as always keep up the great work.

  25. Jack,

    Thank you for sharing your experience with us. It was nice to read that Disney spared no expense at an event meant to honor their “loyal” employees, so many times you read that staff is underpaid and under appreciated. Such statements have a truth to them, but in this instance Disney really seamed to pull out all the stops.

  26. Hi Jack

    Thank you for describing this wonderful event.

    It is so nice to see that Disney puts in that kind of effort to show appreciation for the work their everyday employees put in to make so many magical vacation memories for others.

    I think the red carpet idea is fantastic and the marquee messages were a nice touch.

    It’s probably easy for employees to get tired of the Disney experience, this event must give them a chance to feel that magic again.

    CEO’s get too much credit, this event honours the people that matter.


  27. Jack –
    Thanks for posting – I always look forward to reading your insights. I love how you have the menu, too!
    Ages ago I printed one of your photos – “Our greatest natural resource is the minds of our children.” – Walter Elias Disney ~ it sits on my desk at work (with your (C) stamp) and I look at it every day.
    Thanks for all you do to keep the Disney magic something that is DAILY instead of just every once in a while when I can make a trip down there!