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Worst Work Uniforms: Disney

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It's rarely the Happiest Place on Earth under 47 pounds of felt.

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The next time you're wrestling a stress headache at work, lamenting the choices you've made that landed you at your current desk job, consider this: Right now, you could be outside in Florida's notorious 95-degree heat and 100% humidity, housed inside a cloak of fur that tips the scales at one-fourth your body weight, trying to nail down Goofy's signature walk while phlegm-filled five-year-olds riddle your shins with kicks.

Despite the family-friendly image the brand exhibits, Disney's (DIS) working conditions for its costumed characters -- or "Cast Members" as the company refers to them -- remain downright Dickensian, largely due to the strict guidelines to which each employees must adhere. Don't ever speak while in costume, keep a happy disposition, and even if you're choking on bile as your semi-digested lunch lines the inner wall of your mask, never ever remove your head in front of a visitor.

Essentially, shatter the fantasy of someone's precious snowflake and you lose your job.

Take this nightmarish scenario, for example, detailed in the tell-all exposé Inside the Mouse: Work and Play at Disney World.

Some say it gets as high as 130 degrees. All peripheral vision is cut off. Some of the heads are so unwieldy or the body of the wearer so small that a metal brace is worn on the shoulders with a post extending down the back and up into the head to keep it aloft. Without this, a child's overzealous hug might throw the characters off balance and send them, like grotesque babies, following the head to the ground. The working conditions are so bad that the characters are supposed to go above ground for only 20 to 25 minutes at a time, though in peak seasons they may stay longer. Even then, it is not unusual for the characters to pass out on stage.


Physical injuries sidelined nearly a third of Disney staff in 2005, according to records kept by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration. The organization noted the wide range of ailments suffered by the costumed Cast Members: Rashes occur due to profuse sweating, strain to the neck and back are common from the heavy costume load, and heat stroke isn't unheard of.

And that's not counting the routine pummeling incurred by rambunctious youngsters keen on taking out Winnie the Pooh.

But before the Disney outfit is donned, employees have to strip away anything the brand deems "unsavory." Visible tattoos and anything more than subtle jewelry can keep you from earning the reported $8 to $14 per hour paid to Disney's performers. Only the facial hair ban was recently lifted in 2000, but just for neatly groomed mustaches. Beards and sideburns are still verboten.

And if heat exhaustion or having a personality doesn't take you out of the park, the economy will. Nearly 2,000 Disney employees, some with decades of experience, were laid off this year due to visitor decline and "restructuring."

Now, does that deadline you're working to meet seem so daunting?

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