6 Pinays Get Real About What It's Like To Work For Disney

'Don't just dream, do it.'
by Chiara Mesiona
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A lot of people may be convinced that landing a job at the Disney Company is just a distant childhood dream, but these six Pinays show that opportunities to be part of the company are very real and quite varied. These women prove that Pinay talent has a place all over the world when it comes to making the “Disney magic” come alive. 

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Maita Ponce-Sevilla, Disneyland Resort Hong Kong

Age: 32

Can you provide a short description of what you did at Disney?

I was a vocalist in a musical revue entitled The Golden Mickeys. I did two tracks or roles for the show, but my main track was Bebe, the Cantonese host. The show was like the Oscars, and I was there to present the highest award (“The Golden Mickeys”) to the winner. Instead, the Disney characters took me on a roller coaster of magical adventures about friendship, bravery, and love. The best part for me was coming out in this beautiful, golden gown complete with a sparkling tiara where I got to sing Disney's theme song, When You Wish Upon A Star.



When did you decide that you wanted to work there?

I saw an auditions ad online and decided to give it a shot. This was back in 2008. I was a full-time performer in Manila. I did musicals and shot films and music videos on the side. I also taught musical theater for children and teens. I wanted to try something new and experience living and working abroad and Disney seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to do those.

What were some personal and professional challenges during the application process?

After I signed the contract, [the difficulty of living alone for the first time and being away from my family] didn’t really sink in. That was a major adjustment I had to do. Also, since it was basically a regular job, performing two to three shows every single day with two days off, I really had to be conscious of my health and diet and had to adjust my lifestyle.

How did it feel to work in the “happiest place on earth”? What would you say was the best part?

I felt very lucky to work at Disney. It did not really feel like “work” because we got to have fun on-stage and offstage. The best part was meeting world-class performers from all over the world. We had internal events in the theater—like Christmas cabaret and people would really go all out for that because they missed performing something else. Sharing the stage with people who are now doing shows on Broadway and West End was a huge privilege.

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What advice would you give to other girls aspiring to work at Disney?

Dreams really do come true. Put yourself out there more. Keep doing what you love to do and never stop learning.

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Candice Co, Disneyland Resort California

Age: 29

Can you provide a short description of what you did at Disney? 

I entered the company as a College Program Intern. We took business classes as well as personal development classes at the Disney University. As interns, we were given part-time positions at the Disneyland Resort. I chose to work at the PhotoPass department since it was related to my career path. I took photos of guests in front of famous landmarks as well as their interactions with the Disney characters.



When did you decide that you wanted to work there?  

I’m a marketing graphic designer. I always dreamed of working for Disney. I applied through their online portal and filled the application there. I remember submitting it and thought, “Whatever happens, happens.” A couple of weeks later, I got an email saying they wanted to schedule a phone interview with me. I was ecstatic! During the phone interview, I was really nervous, but the interviewer made the conversation very light, which put me at ease. A month after the interview, I received my welcome packet. The last time I felt the same excitement was when I got into Ateneo de Manila. January 30, 2010 was my first day. That was the day that changed my life. 

What were some personal and professional challenges during the application process?

As someone who grew up in the Philippines, I did not have work experience in the U.S. American teens usually work part-time jobs and that is a big leverage for them. For me, that was a huge challenge. My resume was not as impressive as the other candidates’.

How did it feel to work in the “happiest place on earth”? What would you say was the best part? 

I felt really honored. Not a lot of people get through the application process. I have a few family members and friends who tried to apply but never got a call back. So achieving that makes me really proud of the work that I did for them. The best part of my day was seeing the children’s faces light up when they saw their favorite character. I captured those moments on camera, and they were priceless!

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Can you tell us anything about their compensation packages? 

During the internship program, which ran for six months, the compensation range was $31,000 to $50,000. After the program, I stayed on as a part-timer and my compensation was around  $16,000 to $30,000 depending on the number of shifts.

What advice would you give to other girls aspiring to work at Disney?

Be confident, enthusiastic, and passionate about the work that you do and will do for Disney. They really screen their applicants well. They look for a good culture fit as well as for someone who can do their job with passion and minimal supervision. 

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Shanna Gale Torres, Walt Disney Company Florida

Age: 34

Can you provide a short description of what you did at Disney?

I was a Disney employee from 2004 to 2009. I started as a Direct Deposit Specialist but after years of hard work, I applied and was promoted to be a Shared Services Sr. Associate for the Payroll and Employee Services Department of the Disney Company. My job was to assist the Tier 1 customer service agents with the necessary documentation and tools to resolve Payroll and HR inquiries for the Disney employees in a timely and efficient manner.



When did you decide that you wanted to work there?

I applied for the job through a referral and was fortunate enough to be chosen for the position. Disney was part of my childhood so I was more than excited to work for them.

What were some personal and professional challenges during the application process?

I was fresh from college and my only work experience was working for my mom at her travel agency company in the Philippines. Other than a college degree, my resume did not look promising. I was scared but determined. During the job interview, I probably looked more confident than how I really felt.

I arrived in the US just two months before I had to start, so I was still trying to find my own way. I come from a very close-knit family so being away from them was a challenge. The job required a lot of training, which I actually loved. It allowed me to increase my knowledge and be a better support person for my teammates. However, being away from family eventually took its toll on me, especially during the holidays. I got married in 2008 and decided to move to Texas a year later to be closer to my husband’s family.

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How did it feel to work in the “happiest place on earth”? What would you say was the best part?

I loved being part of the magic that only Disney can bring. It may sound cliché, but I loved sharing the Disney experience with my family and friends. Their looks of amazement and awe always got to me.

What advice would you give to other girls aspiring to work at Disney?

It is okay to dream big. Believe in yourself and do not be afraid to take that first step. Life has its challenges but with God and your family by your side, anything is possible. I may no longer work for Disney and every employee experience may be different, but I treasure all the things I learned while I was there.

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Maria Luz Lu-Vrána, Disney English China 

Age: 34

Can you provide a short description of what you did at Disney?

I worked for Disney English, which is a business institution under The Walt Disney Company umbrella based in China. It is focused on providing English language exposure and education to children within the age of three and 12 years. The entire curriculum is quite interactive as Disney English created programs that can be launched on smartboards—this makes learning very engaging. In general, I taught around eight classes for 16 hours a week. The rest of the work hours were spent attending meetings and/or seminars, creating lesson plans and making preparations for classes.



When did you decide that you wanted to work there?

Usually, job requirements for teaching English usually include being a native speaker. When I read the requirements for Disney English, it did not say anything about being an English-speaking native. So I thought, “Is this for real?” My sister urged me to try it out. After I spoke to her that night, I sent my application. The next day, I got an email asking me to schedule for an interview. I had my interview the following day. Fast forward to April 2013, I flew to Shanghai, China to start my Disney English adventure!

What were some personal and professional challenges during the application process?

The work was not stressful at all. I did have challenges, but I found them to be full of learning and growth. One thing I had to learn was how to deal with the parents. Disney English is a relatively expensive learning school in China. The Chinese parents, understandably, had concerns about the teachers who were not native English speakers. But I had a great partner and we were able to engage with parents through one-on-one conferences.

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How did it feel to work in the “happiest place on earth”? What would you say was the best part?

During my first Disney English Christmas party, I was awarded Best Debut for my hard work and responsiveness. Disney also showered us with a lot of merchandise and perks! We would get free DVDs of all new or re-mastered films. Each Disney cast-member had a special pass and complimentary tickets that allowed me, and a few guests, to enter the parks. There’s always something happening within the company—events, outreach programs, parties, trips, and fun intercompany contests. It’s important to infuse fun in our daily routines. The very best part about Disney is [how much the company allows you to grow]. Within the first six months of my Disney English career, my director signed me up for a project that allowed me to be part of the creative team; creating was always something I look forward to doing. I was given the opportunity to help construct new worksheets, events, courses, and programs that are now being used by Disney English centers all over China.

Can you tell us anything about their compensation packages? 

My salary was between $16,000 and $30,000 annually. The company also gave me an allowance for rent and the freedom to live where I wanted.

What advice would you give to other girls aspiring to work at Disney?

They will not hire just anyone. They look for experienced teachers but also someone who has that Disney flair. I love to be playful with children and I’ve always been a “Disney dork”. The teachers will be trained and exposed to the Disney standards but the rest depends your passion for teaching.  

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Crisel Consunji, Disneyland Resort Hong Kong

Age: 32

Can you provide a short description of what you did at Disney? 

I was hired as a vocalist, which basically meant that performed or recorded any show, song, or voice over that needed my voice type—whether it be a stage character, a lead singer for a show/event, a part of a quartet, or a park voice-over. My daily work was to perform singing roles in the shows, particularly High School Musical and The Golden Mickeys, where I had to host the show in Cantonese.



When did you decide that you wanted to work there?  

It was 2007. I was in the middle of writing my political science Master's thesis, when my friends from theatre shared that Disney was doing their audition rounds. I sent in my application and auditioned, and was lucky to fit the role they were looking for at that time.

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What were some personal and professional challenges during the application process?

To be honest, I do not remember much struggle in the application process. I was keen to try something new, and thought of this as a nice transition as I decided on what career I wanted to pursue. 

How did it feel to work in the “happiest place on earth”? What would you say was the best part? 

It takes a lot of hard work behind the scenes to make the “magic” come alive for the guests. To be able to maintain the standards of quality that were expected from cast members, we needed to give a consistently great performance in spite of physical, mental, and emotional challenges. As performing was our "day job," we had to be disciplined to keep our bodies, voices, and minds in top shape.

The best parts were working with some of the most talented performers and brilliant teams. It was a humbling experience to be among people who were at the top of their fields, both performing arts and the creative team behind the scenes. I also loved being immersed in a very international environment—there was so much to learn from people who came from different cultural backgrounds.

Best and most relevant of all, this was an eye opening experience for me to see how a well-organised international corporation like Disney handles their staff management, training, and operations. Many of their programs and policies inspire the decisions I make for the arts school I run at present. 

What advice would you give to other girls aspiring to work at Disney? 

Be physically, mentally, and emotionally ready. It is a fun environment, but it also involves work that requires a high level of stamina and professionalism to consistently thrive. Also, keep in mind that, like any performing arts job, not everyone stays young enough to keep their roles for years. With that said, always keep next steps in your career—whether in performing arts or other fields—in perspective.

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Charlene Elizabeth Magalit, Disney Cruise Line Florida

Age: 27

Can you provide a short description of what you did at Disney?

I was a main stage performer on the Disney Cruise Line. I performed Broadway-style plays on stage and portrayed roles of different Disney princesses.



When did you decide that you wanted to work there?

Disney has such a huge impact on children. Needless to say, I have always wanted to work for Disney in whatever line possible whether it be in animation, voice acting, or live performance. I had been trying out for Hong Kong Disneyland since I was 18 years old and I only got lucky on my third try, but for a different location—the Disney Cruise Line. Auditioning for Disney, like so many other auditions for any other production, requires both a singing audition and dance audition, as well as callbacks for each part. If they like you enough, they will take a video of you to keep for their file and then you will find out within a month or two if you have an offer or not. 

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What were some personal and professional challenges during the application process?

Some of the challenges that I encountered were getting all the necessary documents an oversease Filipino worker or seafarer to be able to work in a different country. When I was already on the ship, it was more of the distance and the time difference that  got in the way of getting in touch with family. 

How did it feel to work in the “happiest place on earth”? What would you say was the best part?  

Working for Disney was definitely a huge accomplishment and such a huge learning experience. You get to be exposed to so many different cultures and meet so many people from different backgrounds. I was also doing what I loved—performing—and not a lot of people get to do what they love for a living. So I consider myself very blessed. 

What advice would you give to other girls aspiring to work at Disney? 

Just work on your skill sets, which should include acting, singing, and dancing. Audition every time you can! You will never know when you will be at the right place and at the right time.   

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