Disney World’s Army Of Intern Burger-Flippers

disneyAt the world’s most beloved theme park, thousands of interns serve the fast food, operate the rides, and mop up children’s vomit in what is billed as an “educational experience.” Is this the economic model of the future? Via Guernica:

Like other employers, Disney has mastered how to rebrand ordinary jobs as exciting opportunities. “We’re not there to flip burgers or to give people food,” a fast food intern told the Associated Press. “We’re there to create magic.” Yet training and education are afterthoughts: the kids are brought in to work. Having traveled thousands of miles and barely breaking even financially, they find themselves cleaning hotel rooms, performing custodial work, and parking cars in the guise of an academic exercise.

Like many a corporate titan, Disney likes to give the impression it’s in the education business. Disney University, born in 1955 as the company’s training division, predated McDonald’s Hamburger University, Motorola University, and others, prefiguring what Andrew Ross has called “the quasi-convergence of the academy and the knowledge corporation.”

In its scale, the Disney program is unusual, if not unique. Although technically legal, the program has grown up over thirty years to become an eerie model, a microcosm of an internship culture gone haywire. The word “internship” has no set meaning, but at Disney World it signifies cheap, flexible labor for one of the world’s best-known companies—magical, educational burger-flipping in the Happiest Place on Earth.

If few oproblems seem visible in the smiling faces of housekeeping and fast food interns, you can thank the Disney Look. A College Program recruiter calls it a “clean, classic, timeless look, [that] goes back to Walt Disney himself,” where “timeless” apparently means 1950s suburban America. An extensive literature covers the regulations for hair: short for men, long for women, and “extremes in dying, bleaching, or coloring” are not permitted. Mustaches are permitted under certain conditions, as well as sideburns that extend to the bottom of the earlobe but no further. Good “stage presence” means no chewing gum, no smoking on the job, no sleepiness, no moodiness, and no eating or drinking. Along with the Disney Look, there is Disneyspeak. Customers are “guests,” positions are “roles,” and a crowd is “an audience.” Vomit is a “protein spill.”

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  • Mamagriff50

    Sounds like slave labor youth bootcamp….is alive and well at Disney theme parks. My $ is spent better elsewhere. 

  • Mamagriff50

    Sounds like slave labor youth bootcamp….is alive and well at Disney theme parks. My $ is spent better elsewhere. 

  • Liam_McGonagle

    You’re really on the wrong track here, mate, if you think any internship is about the acquisition of technical skills.  It’s all about attitude and commitment.

    Grading Scale:
    F:  Demonstrates independent moral judgment; requires active intimidation to tow the line

    D:  Demonstrates interests outside participation in the program or the personal interests of the program administration, yet ethically “malleable” with a minimum of coercion.

    C:  Displays no overt sense of self as an autonomous human being, but requires excessive instruction

    B:  Shows complete congruence of personal goals/ethics with the short term interests of the organization and its leadership, or at least strong efforts to suppress native deviance

    A:  Actively identifies and participates in the punishment of deviance in other team members

    Burger flipping is NOT a time waster, taking away from valuable opportunities for technical instruction.  It is, at minimum, proof that you can subordinate your personal dignity/goals/interests to those of the collective, that you are not “unmutual”.  For the top percentile of go-getters, it is an opportunity to punish others on behalf of the collective.

    All that technical shit is for the grunts who aren’t going anywhere anyhow.

    • GoodDoktorBad

      Love your “grading scale”. It reminds me of my own “education”. People who don’t do well in formal education environments often fall into the “F” and “D” range mainly because there “sense of self” is stronger, more questioning, naturally sceptical about “established thought” and therefore less accepting of social conditioning and mutualism. Some find a way to make this individualism work in their favor, but most do not.
      I applaud those who try, for there is an inherent greatness and respectablity to those who dare walk there own path -alone if neccesary.

      I’ve noticed some people assume I have some formal education -I don’t really have much at all. I often recieved poor grades in middle and high school, yet somehow learned more practical knowledge than many graduates. I noticed that at least some of the kids with good grades were often “dumb as a box of rocks” when it came to practical application and common sense. I think we have all noticed a certain thick headed
      ignorance to many “formally educated” people. They take pride in there diploma -with it they think they “know something”. The main problem with that is as soon as you think you “know”, all other input on the matter ceases. Which of course is just plain stupid. “I have this fancy paper that says I’m smart”
      Pride enters the mix and reason takes a back seat.  

      • Liam_McGonagle

        Agreed.  Huge swathes of American academia are openly acknowledged to be pure D bullshit.

        I love the vacuous MBA in particular.  Nobody even bothers to pretend that it is anything other than a speed bump to keep out trouble makers. 

        I’ve had some positive experiences with teachers and some negative.  I like the idea of school being available to everyone who wants it.  But as you say, it clearly is NOT the end-all and be-all.  It can only take you so far.

      • Hadrian999

         I’m in college now and it blows my mind, I was in a class that I thought was really easy(and I had been out of school for 15 years) and some people in my class are flunking, I don’t get it at all

        • Liam_McGonagle

          So much is variable that there are probably very few hard and fast universally true observations across the board.  Some whoLE* disciplines are obscene blasphemies against the notion of human intelligence, and others are vastly, though quietly, under-rated and disdained.Then there’s the question of specific student/teacher fit, or whether the student’s more receptive to independent study type programs versus hour long lectures with regular projects, etc., etc. 

          Was it a journalism class?  Just curious.

          *Edited 5/18/11 for spelling

          • Hadrian999

            no it was just a basic U.S. History class, the lack of understanding in this area fucking blew my mind. it had a great teacher but and very clear testing but some of the kids in it were just totally lost

        • GoodDoktorBad

          Its hard to find any coherant answers to so many abiguities. The educational focus has been narrowed considerably since we went to school to promote a less confrontational, more conformist populus.
          The “liberal” explosion of the 60’s and 70’s scared alot of people…

        • SF2K01

          I took several classes in college with an excellent professor. The class was an easy A, much of the grade was from attendance, participation and group discussion. I took it because it was relevant to my major and a lot of the information was really interesting.

          Yet still, there would be people who would fail the class. I’m not even talking of people who register and never come, but people who would show up and fail for who knows what reason. In a class like that where the teacher was doing everything he could to make the class interesting yet not tax people too much, people would fail almost like they were doing it on purpose. There’s no reason to have any faith in humanity at this point.

        • GoodDoktorBad

          Also, alot of people go to college just to get a diploma (their ticket to a job presumably), not with the attitude of really wanting to learn something. The choice and quality of motivation seems to be the biggest factor…  

          • Liam_McGonagle

            That’s totally what I did.  And I regret it.  There are so many cool alternative things I could have done instead of some bullshit business degree. 

          • Rex Vestri

             That’s exactly what I did too, and exactly how I feel as well!

          • GoodDoktorBad

            The sad thing about our lovely society is that few can say differently. We’re all faking it. Few get to reach their potential in favor of so called “practical” reasons that seemed like a good idea at the time.
            Happy, happy, Joy!

          • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

            I still lament not accepting an offer to manage bands as a booker/impresario back in the early 90s…alt/rock was exploding and I could have had a great run of it…but I chose to keep that boring job and not travel the countryside hitting bar after bar (except on the weekends).

        • Haystack

          I took a course once where the professor told the class what questions were going to be on the next day’s test, and even went on to answer them…and some people still managed to fail. 

        • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

          Same way here. Went back to school after a couple decades of work…discovered that after years of work and bills and BS…school is a cakewalk now. I think what really changed was me. 20 years ago I wanted to drink beer, get nekkid and get laid as much as possible. I still do…but I’ve also spent two decades managing myself and my living situation through employment…which really changes your perspective on writing a few pages of homework out every night or two.  

      • Tjb1993

        what you say is true, im at a 6thform collage in England, and those who do not wish to follow societys path are disregarded, and often get the less desirable jobs, if theyre lucky. when will people learn that theres more to life than being book smart ? apparantly never  

        • Richard

          Sounds like the students (such as the ones who are failing the easy US history class or where the prof gave them test answers and they still failed) aren’t even “book smart” to begin with!

  • Liam_McGonagle

    You’re really on the wrong track here, mate, if you think any internship is about the acquisition of technical skills.  It’s all about attitude and commitment.

    Grading Scale:
    F:  Demonstrates independent moral judgment; requires active intimidation to tow the line

    D:  Demonstrates interests outside participation in the program or the personal interests of the program administration, yet ethically “malleable” with a minimum of coercion.

    C:  Displays no overt sense of self as an autonomous human being, but requires excessive instruction

    B:  Shows complete congruence of personal goals/ethics with the short term interests of the organization and its leadership, or at least strong efforts to suppress native deviance

    A:  Actively identifies and participates in the punishment of deviance in other team members

    Burger flipping is NOT a time waster, taking away from valuable opportunities for technical instruction.  It is, at minimum, proof that you can subordinate your personal dignity/goals/interests to those of the collective, that you are not “unmutual”.  For the top percentile of go-getters, it is an opportunity to punish others on behalf of the collective.

    All that technical shit is for the grunts who aren’t going anywhere anyhow.

  • Anonymous

    Love your “grading scale”. It reminds me of my own “education”. People who don’t do well in formal education environments often fall into the “F” and “D” range mainly because there “sense of self” is stronger, more questioning, naturally sceptical about “established thought” and therefore less accepting of social conditioning and mutualism. Some find a way to make this individualism work in their favor, but most do not.
    I applaud those who try, for there is an inherent greatness and respectablity to those who dare walk there own path -alone if neccesary.

    I’ve noticed some people assume I have some formal education -I don’t really have much at all. I often recieved poor grades in middle and high school, yet somehow learned more practical knowledge than many graduates. I noticed that at least some of the kids with good grades were often “dumb as a box of rocks” when it came to practical application and common sense. I think we have all noticed a certain thick headed
    ignorance to many “formally educated” people. They take pride in there diploma -with it they think they “know something”. The main problem with that is as soon as you think you “know”, all other input on the matter ceases. Which of course is just plain stupid. “I have this fancy paper that says I’m smart”
    Pride enters the mix and reason takes a back seat.  

  • Rex Vestri

    Duck Fisney, again.

  • Rex Vestri

    Duck Fisney, again.

  • Anonymous

    Agreed.  Huge swathes of American academia are openly acknowledged to be pure D bullshit.

    I love the vacuous MBA in particular.  Nobody even bothers to pretend that it is anything other than a speed bump to keep out trouble makers. 

    I’ve had some positive experiences with teachers and some negative.  I like the idea of school being available to everyone who wants it.  But as you say, it clearly is NOT the end-all and be-all.  It can only take you so far.

  • Hadrian999

     I’m in college now and it blows my mind, I was in a class that I thought was really easy(and I had been out of school for 15 years) and some people in my class are flunking, I don’t get it at all

  • Anonymous

    So much is variable that there are probably very few hard and fast universally true observations across the board.  Some who disciplines are obscene blasphemies against the notion of human intelligence, and others are vastly, though quietly, under-rated and disdained.Then there’s the question of specific student/teacher fit, or whether the student’s more receptive to independent study type programs versus hour long lectures with regular projects, etc., etc. 

    Was it a journalism class?  Just curious.

  • Anonymous

    Its hard to find any coherant answers to so many abiguities. The educational focus has been narrowed considerably since we went to school to promote a less confrontational, more conformist populus.
    The “liberal” explosion of the 60’s and 70’s scared alot of people…

  • Hadrian999

    no it was just a basic U.S. History class, the lack of understanding in this area fucking blew my mind. it had a great teacher but and very clear testing but some of the kids in it were just totally lost

  • Anonymous

    I took several classes in college with an excellent professor. The class was an easy A, much of the grade was from attendance, participation and group discussion. I took it because it was relevant to my major and a lot of the information was really interesting.

    Yet still, there would be people who would fail the class. I’m not even talking of people who register and never come, but people who would show up and fail for who knows what reason. In a class like that where the teacher was doing everything he could to make the class interesting yet not tax people too much, people would fail almost like they were doing it on purpose. There’s no reason to have any faith in humanity at this point.

  • Anonymous

    Also, alot of people go to college just to get a diploma (their ticket to a job presumably), not with the attitude of really wanting to learn something. The choice and quality of motivation seems to be the biggest factor…  

  • Anonymous

    Also, alot of people go to college just to get a diploma (their ticket to a job presumably), not with the attitude of really wanting to learn something. The choice and quality of motivation seems to be the biggest factor…  

  • Haystack

    I took a course once where the professor told the class what questions were going to be on the next day’s test, and even went on to answer them…and some people still managed to fail. 

  • Anonymous

    That’s totally what I did.  And I regret it.  There are so many cool alternative things I could have done instead of some bullshit business degree. 

  • Rex Vestri

     That’s exactly what I did too, and exactly how I feel as well!

  • Anonymous

    The sad thing about our lovely society is that few can say differently. We’re all faking it. Few get to reach their potential in favor of so called “practical” reasons that seemed like a good idea at the time.
    Happy, happy, Joy!

  • Tjb1993

    what you say is true, im at a 6thform collage in England, and those who do not wish to follow societys path are disregarded, and often get the less desirable jobs, if theyre lucky. when will people learn that theres more to life than being book smart ? apparantly never  

  • Richard

    Sounds like the students (such as the ones who are failing the easy US history class or where the prof gave them test answers and they still failed) aren’t even “book smart” to begin with!

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

     I just had a ‘protein spill’…but Disney-anything does that to me. Ugh.

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

     I just had a ‘protein spill’…but Disney-anything does that to me. Ugh.

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    Same way here. Went back to school after a couple decades of work…discovered that after years of work and bills and BS…school is a cakewalk now. I think what really changed was me. 20 years ago I wanted to drink beer, get nekkid and get laid as much as possible. I still do…but I’ve also spent two decades managing myself and my living situation through employment…which really changes your perspective on writing a few pages of homework out every night or two.  

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    I still lament not accepting an offer to manage bands as a booker/impresario back in the early 90s…alt/rock was exploding and I could have had a great run of it…but I chose to keep that boring job and not travel the countryside hitting bar after bar (except on the weekends).

  • Guest

     so the moral of the story is those that do not go to school are “better than” these kids that accepted an internship they thought would help them in their education that they are pursuing.  as a student that thinks outside the box, but is forced to pay tuition and go to a school that is heavily censored, funded in all the wrong areas (just like everywhere else) and pretty much mundane, non-stimulating, and boring because that is the only option rather than skipping straight to direct corporate slavery or selling drugs and making cash for a living, i become kind of defensive when i hear the other side which is “i’m smart, i didn’t go to school, and i can pick and choose whatever i want to learn.”  yeah, well, so can college students.. and they do.  onto the original topic of disney, this semester at school, i actually noticed these colorful, glossy, cardboard, three-sided promotional items sitting on all the tables in the lobby of at least one building i was in… they were the disney internship ads that made it sound more-than-appealing to come to work for disney.. it even specifically said on there they accept internships of all majors (bogus).  for me, upon seeing and reading this, i was alarmed that not only were there disney ads at my university, but that politically unaware students may see the disney name, need an internship, and pack up and go off to be a cheap wh%re for disney..

  • Guest

     so the moral of the story is those that do not go to school are “better than” these kids that accepted an internship they thought would help them in their education that they are pursuing.  as a student that thinks outside the box, but is forced to pay tuition and go to a school that is heavily censored, funded in all the wrong areas (just like everywhere else) and pretty much mundane, non-stimulating, and boring because that is the only option rather than skipping straight to direct corporate slavery or selling drugs and making cash for a living, i become kind of defensive when i hear the other side which is “i’m smart, i didn’t go to school, and i can pick and choose whatever i want to learn.”  yeah, well, so can college students.. and they do.  onto the original topic of disney, this semester at school, i actually noticed these colorful, glossy, cardboard, three-sided promotional items sitting on all the tables in the lobby of at least one building i was in… they were the disney internship ads that made it sound more-than-appealing to come to work for disney.. it even specifically said on there they accept internships of all majors (bogus).  for me, upon seeing and reading this, i was alarmed that not only were there disney ads at my university, but that politically unaware students may see the disney name, need an internship, and pack up and go off to be a cheap wh%re for disney..

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