Walt Disney World is known as a place where dreams come true, and for Kayleigh Farris ’18, that statement couldn’t be more true. After graduation, Farris hit the road for Orlando, Florida, where she started an internship with the Disney College Program, working in costuming at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
“I have always loved Disney, and I’ve always been very passionate about it,” Farris said. “I grew up watching the old cartoons, loving the films and going to the theatre every time a new film was released. My family only lived four hours away from Orlando, and we were very fortunate enough to be able to go to Walt Disney World every summer.”
Working at Walt Disney World is something Farris has always wanted to do.
“On our drives down, we would pass the casting building, and my parents and I would jokingly touch the car window forlornly, all three of us hoping to be able to get a job one day,” she explained. “It wasn’t until one year, when we were on the Jungle Cruise, that I realized I wanted to ‘make magic.’ The skipper with us was so hilarious, friendly and cheerful, and he made a ride that we knew so well like it was a brand new experience.
“That year was also the year that we started making thank you cards for the cast members who made a difference in our trip, so after the ride was over, I handed him a card and told him thank you,” she added. “He was so touched by the card that he gave me a special cast-member-only pin to thank me for being a valued guest. That exchange meant the world to me, and I still have the pin displayed on my pin collection board.”
Farris said her favorite thing about this experience is being able to “make magic.” Working in costuming backstage, she treats other cast members as her guests, going the extra mile every day just to make them smile.
“One of my locations I work at is Fantasmic, which ia a night-time spectacle, and it’s my favorite show property-wide,” she said. “It’s the most hands-on experience and the most fun I’ve ever had. I love being able to bring smiles to thousands in the audience, even if they don’t necessarily know I’m there.”
As a dramatic arts major at Centre, the opportunities she had working with DramaCentre helped her prepare for her work at Walt Disney World.
“I mostly had backstage roles, and being able to expand my knowledge that was encouraged by our professors really prepared me for anything here,” she added. “It was also so helpful to know the theatre and show lingo that is taught in our drama classes, so I wasn’t constantly asking what meant what at Disney.”
Throughout her time at Walt Disney World, Farris said she’s gained more experience than she thought she would when she first started. She has worked at six stages that are all wildly different, worked at both outside and inside venues and with equity and non-equity actors.
“Doing the Disney College Program is essentially like putting your foot in the door,” she said. “After you complete the program, you could go straight to part-time, full-time or seasonal, or you could decide to leave. However, because your foot is in the door, if you wanted to return, Disney would see you completed the program, and they’ll welcome you back with open arms.”
When she completes the program in May, she will not be staying but said is hopeful that she can to return in the future.
“This is my true calling, and it’s where I’ve called home in my heart since I was 18-months-old,” she concluded.
by Kerry Steinhofer
January 17, 2019