Disney’s Culture of Success: Work Hard, Play Hard


“The business we’re in, if we can’t have fun, how could we expect the public to have fun?”

Disney University Founder, Van France

Over the years, Disney theme park cast members and their families have enjoyed unique events that energize, motivate and—in some cases—literally “shed light” on park operations:

  • * What does the inside of Space Mountain look like … with the lights on?
  • * How are the fireflies at Pirates of the Caribbean created?
  • * What is the secret behind those dancing ghosts in the Haunted Mansion?
  • * Which team will capsize during the summer Disneyland Cast Canoe Races?

Whether through backstage and behind-the-scenes tours, annual parties, service awards banquets, sports leagues or picnics, the company creates and publicizes events that pull the cast together. Creating “The Happiest Place on Earth” is a lot of work, and cast members need a way to balance that with some laugh-generating teambuilding.

Disney University founder Van France knew the value of supporting a productive environment with a good dose of fun. Van firmly believed providing cast members engaging and enjoyable opportunities for professional and personal development—both inside and outside the classroom—would reap tremendous rewards … and this model has worked for close to 60 years.

How is work balanced with activities that enhance curiosity, energy and productivity in your organization?

A Sense of Humor:

  • * What role does humor play in your organizational culture? If not, why?
  • * Do your employee recreation and teambuilding events promote fun and respect?

A Sense of Curiosity:

  • * How do you encourage curiosity and teamwork?
  • * What is unique about your property, products, location or operation that can be leveraged to promote an enjoyable (and educational) event?

The Disney University and many generations of cast members tirelessly nurture Walt Disney’s and Van France’s philosophy of having fun, remaining curious and working hard.

“Why do we have to grow up? That’s the real trouble with the world, too many people grow up.They forget. They don’t remember what it’s like to be twelve years old.”

Walt Disney