California Disneyland Characters Form Union

Amidst the glitz and glamour of the Disneyland Resort in sunny Southern California, Zach Elefante’s story is emblematic of a lesser-known reality for those who bring beloved characters to life within the park’s magical confines.

For three years, Elefante has donned various costumes, adding enchantment to parades and shows, but behind the scenes, he’s juggled multiple jobs just to make ends meet.

Unlike their counterparts in Florida’s Disney parks, where character performers enjoy more stable schedules due to a smaller talent pool, Elefante and his fellow performers in California often find themselves grappling with uncertain work hours.

Disney characters Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse. (Credit: MN Chan/Getty)

Despite Disney’s insistence on full availability, actual work hours don’t always follow suit, leaving performers like Elefante scrambling to cobble together a living.

This precarious situation has prompted California’s character performers to take action, with the backing of the Actors’ Equity Association, filing a petition for union recognition.

It marks a departure from the past, as California performers seek representation in an era and union distinct from the rocky history between Florida performers and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

The timing of this movement is no coincidence. Unlike Florida, where character performance is often a full-time occupation, many California performers pursue a patchwork of gigs, from Hollywood productions to entertainment hosting.

Angela Nichols, for instance, moved to California to pursue a career in TV writing but also finds herself assisting character performers at Disneyland while navigating the uncertainties of the industry.

Disney workers and union employees march for higher wages at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, Ca., in June 2018. (Credit: MediaNews Group/ Getty Images)

The upheavals brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and recent strikes in the entertainment sector have only heightened the performers’ resolve for more consistent scheduling and improved safety measures at Disneyland.

Concerns over health and safety, particularly in light of close guest interactions and costume cleanliness, have become paramount in their demands for better working conditions.

In contrast to their Florida counterparts, California’s character performers find solace in being represented by a union dedicated to performers’ needs.

The Actors’ Equity Association understands the unique challenges faced by theme park performers and advocates for their well-being, from costume safety checks to addressing long-standing issues like unclean costumes.

For Elefante and his fellow performers, union representation signifies more than just a seat at the table; it’s about having a voice in decisions that directly impact their livelihoods and well-being.

As they strive to carve out a brighter future within the domain of Disney magic, they hope that their efforts will pave the way for a fairer and more sustainable path for all performers.

Keval Dave
Keval Dave
Keval Dave, a university student majoring in Mass Communication, possesses a profound interest in politics and strategic affairs. His analytical prowess and dedication to understanding global dynamics drive his pursuit of knowledge.
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