What is a Disney Ambassador? Insights from a former Walt Disney World Ambassador
Updated: Apr 28, 2020
*I am a current Cast Member of The Walt Disney Company. Any opinions or unintentional misinformation are my own.
One of the highlights of my Disney career was the two years I spent as a Walt Disney World Ambassador.
The role not only provided me with amazing memories, the chance to meet hundreds (if not thousands) of amazing Guests and Cast Members, and incredible professional development—it also gave me my amazing travel buddy, Nathaniel Palma.
During my very first month working at Walt Disney World, a colleague invited me to attend the Ambassador Selection Ceremony. I had no idea what it was—just that it took place on the Cinderella Castle Stage before Magic Kingdom Park opened. I was in.
During the ceremony, five Disney Cast Members spoke on stage, while their co-workers, leaders, and family cheered from the crowd. They waved signs and various objects with the candidates’ photos attached (brooms and mops for a Custodial candidate, light sabers for one who worked at Star Wars).
While I had originally attended for the pure thrill of seeing Magic Kingdom pre-opening, in that moment I was more amazed by the love and support demonstrated by the people around me. These people woke up before the sun and voluntarily trekked to work early to cheer on a colleague with genuine enthusiasm. In that moment, I realized what working at Disney was all about.
Flash forward four years from that day, and I had the honor to find myself on stage in front of my colleagues—feeling overwhelmed with emotion. Nervous, excited, but overall humbled that we were surrounded by 50 years’ of WDW Ambassadors around us and a crowd of the most supportive co-workers we could ask for.
Yet, while this is a dream role on many Cast Members’ bucket lists, it is one people don’t know much about and is sometimes the focus of much speculation. Since I am so proud to be a part of this tradition, I wanted to share a little of the history and legacy of the Disney Ambassador Program.
What is the Disney Ambassador Program?
Walt Disney and his marketing executive, Jack Lindquist, created the Disney Ambassador Program in 1965. With the tencennial of Disneyland, the Hollywood opening of Mary Poppins, and an increased demand in personal appearances, he needed a representative to act on his behalf. He selected Julie Reihm to serve as the first official “Ms. Disneyland.”
Julie welcomed VIPs and dignitaries, made appearances, and was the representative of Disneyland on Walt’s behalf. The program was so successful, it expanded to Walt Disney World in 1971, with the selection of Debby Dane.
Today, the program selects Cast Members from across the world to represent Disney Parks and Resorts worldwide.
Side note: The Disney Store has its own ambassador program, not to be confused with the Disney Parks Ambassador Program. The Disney Store program is a recognition program for Disney Store Cast Members, who are self-nominated or nominated by their peers as recognition for their hard work.
The Disney Ambassador Program is a full-time job served by just a handful of Cast Members worldwide for a 2-year term. I’ve seen some confusion in other posts that attribute the Disney Store application process to the Disney Ambassador selection process, and they are two very different processes and roles.
What is the Disney Ambassador Program like today?
Today, there are Ambassadors in Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Hong Kong Disneyland, Shanghai Disneyland, Tokyo Disney Resort, Disneyland Paris, and Aulani. All are selected in the same year and serve two-year terms.
The announcement process has changed over the years, but up until our term it included a public ceremony to announce the new team.
Training takes place at Disneyland and Walt Disney World, and is generally a lot of fun because it is the first time you meet your global ambassador team. It is also a whirlwind of meeting executives, practicing media interviews, and getting to know Cast Members. It may have been two of the most exhausting, rewarding weeks of my Disney career.
The program has changed since the “Ms. Disneyland” days, and each Ambassador is expected to not only be a representative of the spirit of Walt (and therefore, the Disney brand), but a representative for all Cast Members.
For us, that meant when we stood on a stage or attended a ribbon cutting, we were doing it on behalf of the 75,000 WDW Cast Members who had made the moment possible. It is truly a service role—and we always felt humbled and grateful for the opportunity.
What does a Disney Ambassador do?
The short answer is that a Disney Ambassador serves as an official spokesperson on behalf of the company, an emissary of goodwill in the community, and as a representative for all Cast Members.
This loosely translates to a lot of public appearances. It could mean attending ribbon cuttings for new property offerings, speaking at Cast recognition events, participating in media interviews, representing Disney’s philanthropic donations across the world, or delivering heritage presentations for Cast and Guests.