The Shocking Dark Truth About Working at Disneyland, Revealed

Let’s face it — almost anyone who has kids has thought about visiting a Disney theme park at some point. Sure, there are tips for planning a successful Disney vacation, but no matter what you do it’s going to be a total waste of money. So what about working there? It turns out it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Like every job, there are good things and bad things about working in Disney parks. Disneyland employees definitely have insight into one of the bad things. Working at a Disney might be a dream job, but the wages aren’t enough to live on for some Disneyland employees.

A study by Economic Roundtable shows that many Disneyland employees really have it rough. How rough? You’re about to find out, and let’s just say working at Disneyland is hardly a dream come true.

1. Millions of visitors to the park

people visit disneyland and walk over commemorative bricks with

A crazy number of people visit the park every day. | Meinzahn/iStock/Getty Images

  • 27.2 million Disneyland visitors in 2016
  • An average of 74,520 per day

Disneyland welcomes 27.2 million visitors through its gates in 2016. That breaks down to nearly 75,000 each day. Those numbers are solely from Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. We’re not even considering any of the other Disney parks around the world.

Next: Let’s do some conservative math.

2. All those visitors generated billions in revenue

Entrance fees alone generate $2.72 billion. | Mark Ashman/Disney via Getty Images

  • $2.72 billion from ticket sales alone
  • Parking, concessions, and other costs aren’t factored in

If each guest paid $100 to get in, then Disneyland collected $2.72 billion from ticket sales. As it is, most park tickets cost much more than $100. Plus, Disneyland makes money from parking — $20 per car — plus in-park concessions, souvenirs, and other fees.

Next: Disney is a giant in more ways than one.

3. Disney is one of the largest employers in California

Mary Poppins dances at Disneyland

Between all the different jobs, there are 30,000 employees. | Smckenzie/iStock/Getty Images

  • The park employs 30,000 people in Orange County
  • Disney in general employs 180,000 in California

We know Disney is a corporate giant with its movies, TV shows, and theme parks, but it’s a giant in more ways than one. Disneyland alone is one of the largest employers in Orange County with 30,000 employees. The parent company is one of the largest employers in all of California with as many as 180,000 workers, according to one estimate. Yet, the Disneyland employees really have it rough.

Next: One more point before we show you have bad things are for Disneyland workers.

4. The company says it pays hourly workers solid wages


Salary compared to cost of living isn’t affordable. | Mark Ashman/Getty Images

  • About $18 per hour
  • The average hourly worker makes $37,000 per year

The L.A. Times reports the average hourly Disneyland employee makes roughly $18 per hour. At that rate, it adds up to about $37,000 each year. That doesn’t look so bad until you consider one scary figure. A single person living alone in Orange County is low income if he or she makes $58,540 a year.

Next: What happened to wages from 2000 to 2017?

5. Disneyland employees aren’t getting paid fairly

Disneyland Monorail

Things just aren’t adding up. | David McNew/Getty Images

  • Wages decreased from 2000 to 2017
  • Median hourly wage is barely above California minimum wage

As the Economic Roundtable study shows, the average and median hourly wages for Disneyland employees actually decreased from 2000 to 2017. In 2000, the average was $15.80 and the median was $13.23. Fast forward to 2017, and those numbers decreased to $13.36 and $11.15, respectively. The 2017 median is hardly above California’s minimum wage.

Next: As you might guess, things aren’t pretty for Disneyland employees.

6. No money, big problems

Disney main street usa in California

They’re just not able to make ends meet. | Kirkikis/iStock/Getty Images

  • Workers need to sleep in their cars
  • Overcrowded homes, food shortages, and more

A New York Times article about the struggles of Disneyland employees spotlights two women who slept in their cars because they couldn’t afford rent. One in 10 workers reports being homeless in the previous two years.

Things aren’t much better for those with roofs over their heads. The Economic Roundtable study shows that more than half of Disneyland employees live in overcrowded or severely overcrowded housing. Not only that, but 76% of Disneyland employees with children are food insecure.

Next: We’re just scratching the surface.

7. Caution: Scary numbers ahead

Mickey Mouse balloons in Disneyland

Not exactly the happiest place on Earth for employees. | SpVVK/iStock/Getty Images

  • Disneyland employees forego dental care
  • More than one-third can’t afford prescriptions

We’ve touched on some of the scary statistics associated with Disneyland employees low wages. Just when you think it can’t get worse, it does. Roughly 43% of employees need but forego dental care because they can’t afford it. And 37% of Disneyland workers with small children can’t always afford their necessary prescriptions.

Next: The hits just keep on coming.

8. More cause for concern

Horse-drawn streetcar at Disneyland

The low wages are stifling the local economy. | MichaelGordon1/iStock/Getty Images

  • Almost one-third have lengthy commutes
  • Low wages actually stifle the local economy

The Economic Roundtable study shows how rough Disneyland employees have it. For instance, 31% commute more than one hour to work, compared to just 4% in Orange and Los Angeles counties.

If Disneyland workers were paid $20 an hour, then the economic benefits would be astounding. Economic Roundtable estimates the local economy would see $210 million in sales at local businesses thanks to the increased spending power of the employees.

Next: The most shocking numbers of all.

9. Disney parks, management are raking it in

Star Wars Hotel Bob Iger

Bob Iger isn’t worried about money. | Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney

  • $18.4 billion net revenue for Disney Parks in 2017
  • CEO Bob Iger is making a fortune

Disney as a whole makes money hand over fist. For the fiscal year ending Sept 30, 2017, Disney theme parks raked in $18.4 billion in net revenue and the company enjoyed more than $55 billion in net revenue.

Meanwhile, CEO Bob Iger pocketed $36 million in salary and compensation in 2017. He stands to make even more in 2018, and Economic Roundtable predicts he could make as much as 9,284 Disney workers combined. If any company can stand to raise wages or give better employee bonuses, it’s safe to say that Disney can. 

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