Mauricio’s International Adventures At Walt Disney World

Written by Jeff Heimbuch. Posted in Features, From the Mouth of the Mouse, Walt Disney World

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Published on July 24, 2012 at 8:02 pm with 5 Comments

Today’s Disney cast member interview is with Mauricio, who worked in both the International College Program (in Animal Kingdom) and the Cultural Representative Program (in EPCOT). Yes, he is one of those authentic Cast Members you meet when you wander around the World Showcase. He gives us a little more insight as to what it’s like being an international Cast Member!


JEFF: How did get into Disney to begin with? Any specific memory as a child that made you fall in love with it?

MAURICIO: I guess, as with most of us, my first contact with the Disney brand was through the movies. I was born in 1985, so I can still remember my grandma taking us to see The Little Mermaid. We all know The Little Mermaid was the beginning of the second golden era of Disney animation, so I grew up watching and loving all those Disney classics. When I was about 10 years old, my parents decided to take us on vacation to Walt Disney World and I fell in love with the place immediately. I remember coming back home and telling my mother I knew what I wanted to do in life; I wanted to work for Disney. My sister was a little bit smarter though, when she heard my answer she replied, “Not for me! I just want to be there on vacation forever.”

JEFF: How did you wind up joining the cultural representative program? What drew you to it?

MAURICIO: Disney World became my family´s favorite vacation destination, so we would usually go on vacation there once a year. In one of my trips, I saw a cast member wearing a badge that read “Tecnologico de Monterrey” which is one of the best Universities in México. I  started talking with this cast member and she told me that Disney had several International College programs and that you could also work at the Mexican pavilion in Epcot. After that, I did a lot of internet research and applied for the International College Program as soon as I was eligible. I was there for the summer of 2007 and worked at Restaurantosaurus at Animal Kingdom. I had such a great time, the summer months flew by really quickly, so I knew I had to come back. That’s when I started applying to the Cultural representative program.

JEFF: Can you tell me a bit about what the cultural representative program is?

MAURICIO: It sounds really fancy, but it is quite simple. You are chosen to represent your culture in one of the different pavilions hosted at the World Showcase in Epcot. Depending on the pavilion, you can either work at Food & Beverages, Merchandise or Attractions. On my International College Program, I used to work Food & Beverage so I already knew how hard, tiring and exhausting working for a restaurant can be, so I decided to apply for a merchandise position.  For me, doing the Cultural Representative Program meant I was able to experience everything the biggest tourist destination in the world has to offer. Disney gives out a lot of perks for Cast Members ,so you really get to do everything: from private parties, Mickey´s Very Merry Christmas Party, Halloween, special Cast Member previews, backstage tours, mini golf, and so on. Trust me, in Orlando it’s pretty hard to get bored on your days off.

JEFF: You were in merchandising in the Mexico Pavilion you said. Where did you work and what did you do?

MAURICIO: As a cultural representative you are only allowed to work in the Mexican Pavilion. There are basically 3 stores: Plaza de Los Amigos (main store inside the pavilion), Ranchito del Zocalo (outside store), and Fashions (the jewelry store).  As a merchandise cast member, we also get to work in Kidcot, which means spending the day coloring with kids.  Mexico is probably the nicest pavilion in WS, and the main store was designed as a typical marketplace in México and it’s just stunning. It is always dark, but it is also always air conditioned, which is a nice thing to have in the summer months.

JEFF: What were your basic responsibilities there? Can you give me an overview of what a typical day was like there?

MAURICIO: It all depends at what time you are scheduled to start working. If you were opening, you would basically go to the main office and start counting the money in the registers. After that, you had some extra time to make sure everything is neat and stocked properly. After the pavilion was open, we will rotate through different positions: Kidcot, Plaza, Ranch and the jewelry store. You could also be assigned to stocking duties and to perform magical moments. It might sound boring at first, but there are some great perks working in merchandise. You get a lot of guest interaction, you get to hear the Mariachi Cobre almost every day, which is a real treat, and at night, if you were positioned in Ranchito, you had one of the best spots to watch IllumiNations.

JEFF: Tell me a bit about living on Disney property!

MAURICIO: A lot of people misunderstand what living on Disney property means. I don’t know any cast member who works in the WS who hasn’t been asked if we live in the actual pavilions. Especially in Mexico where you can actually see a lot of houses surrounding the marketplace. It was always fun making up stories for the kids, and telling them we live in those houses. People really seem to believe that! Actually, inside the pyramid there is enough room to house several apartments, but what you will actually find is a break room, a dressing room for the mariachis, offices for both merchandise and food and beverage, 2 stock rooms, an elevator and a series of corridors that will take you from one place of the pyramid to other without ever being on stage. On the top there is a control room for IllumiNations.  During the program you get to live in an apartment complex called the Commons. Every cast member working in world showcase will probably live there, except for the Cast Members who work in the Morocco pavilion.  You are randomly assigned roommates so I ended up living with Norwegian, Chinese, French and an Italian guy. It is pretty hard to overcome the cultural differences at first, but we all ended being really good friends.  There was one time were my Chinese roommate had gone shopping, so I opened the freezer and a pig´s head rolled down to floor. After that I was terrified to open the freezer door! Living in the commons is a surreal experience, every day is someone’s day off so there is always something happening. It could get really crazy sometimes, but really fun. On Mondays, each country has their own party, and after twelve you would just hop from party to party.

JEFF: Any times you can think of that you went out of your way to make a guest’s visit more magical?

MAURICIO: One time a family was sitting just across the store trying to get a good spot for illuminations and they had two little kids who were restless. I was setting up the glow cart merchandise, so I grabbed two Mickey light sabers and invited the kids to play with me with the light sabers. At the end, we ended with what could have been a full tournament for kids with about 15 kids playing along. My fellow cast member and I had a blast and we completely sold out of light sabers that night. The parents took the time to write a thank you notes on the way out at the Guest Relations office so we ended up being recognized by our managers. Which by the way, if you ever want to compliment a Cast Member, make sure to leave your comments at the Guest Relations office. This is greatly appreciated by the cast members.

JEFF: Any other fun stories that you’d like to share, I’d love to hear them!

MAURICIO: There was one time we were overstaffed, there was not much to do, so we were all bored.  A friend of mine grabbed the ceramic Aztec idols we sold there, some maracas, flutes and started performing a fake “Aztek rain ritual”. The guests were so excited to see that little show and kids began joining us with maracas. We had such a good time making fun of ourselves. Three days later, a guest came by asking at what time was the “Aztek ritual” show in the pavilion performed!

A big thank you to Mauricio for sharing his stories from Epcot and Disney’s Animal Kingdom!

Don’t forget come back each week to hear more of the magic directly From the Mouth of the Mouse.

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By Jeff Heimbuch

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Comments for Mauricio’s International Adventures At Walt Disney World are now closed.

  1. Where do the Moroccans live?

    • Thank you Mauricio and Jeff. Really enjoy these cast member stories.

    • I was gonna ask the same question!

  2. This one was great, Jeff. I particularly enjoyed the behind-the-scenes info. I had no idea there was an Illuminations control room in there!

  3. Great article!!!! When I went to wdw I also fell in love with the Mexico pavilion, and the people working there were super nice!!! I’d love to work there too (although living in Tijuana, Mexico I think my best bet is DL) :) saludos!!