Chesapeake alum launches her career in the Happiest Place on Earth.
A dream is a wish your heart makes, and can come true with tenacity. Chesapeake College 2022 graduate Erin King is living her dream with a career at Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL.
“This is not where I saw myself even a few years ago,” King said after a recent visit back to the Eastern Shore.
King, a native of Centreville, was a “Disney kid” growing up and steeped in the culture of Disney entertainment. She eventually grew into a “theatre kid” performing in high school and community productions, singing in the choir, and taking dance classes.
A 2020 graduate of Queen Anne’s County High School, King missed out on many traditional senior year activities because of the Covid-19 Pandemic. She was eager to begin her next chapter when she enrolled at Chesapeake College for the Fall 20 semester. Further exploring her interest in performing arts, King took theatre classes with Professor Rob Thompson and joined the Peake Players.
“Rob (Thompson) both as a person and with his style of teaching pushes students to take risks and put yourself out there. I think we came out of his classes with more confidence and ready to take chances on ourselves,” King said. “Taking a chance is the first step in success, but it can be the toughest.”
King decided to take a risk and apply for the Disney College Program. She knew that she would be competing with applicants from all over the world for a spot in the highly selective program for college students and recent graduates.
“The first time I applied to the Disney College Program, I was literally rejected a few hours after I submitted my application,” she said. “So, I tried again and again. Eventually, I made it to the online questionnaire. Another rejection, but it showed a little progress.”
This was enough progress to encourage her to apply again. For King, the fourth time was the charm and she was accepted into the program for the summer of 2022.
She missed her graduation ceremony from Chesapeake so she could move to Orlando and begin her training in the Disney College Program. She was assigned to Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. She enjoyed her work so much, that she applied to extend her time in the program.
“I’m working with people from all over the world and learning so much about different cultures and the ways that people grow up,” she said. “This is such a diverse environment and it’s amazing.”
As she became comfortable in her new surroundings and learned more about the company, King decided to make another bold move and auditioned as a performer in the entertainment division. The audition process is intense and highly competitive, but King said she felt ready to take a shot.
At 4’11”, King is in the sweet spot of Disney performer dimensions.
“I’m lucky because I’m short. Someone who is 5’10’ is eligible for five character roles. At my height, I’m eligible for 41 roles,” she said.
King was cast as a performer after her try at the multi-round audition process. She underwent meticulous measuring for her costume and begin training as a character performer.
Bound by Disney’s entertainer rules, King is not allowed to discuss which characters she portrays in the parks. She is, however, allowed to discuss the experience.
“It’s a job and like any job, it has ups and downs,” King said. “But it really is the best job. Interacting with guests and hearing them say they’re having the best day of their lives is so rewarding. On a professional level, I’m learning so much about what goes into creating an immersive experience. As a performer, I learn something new every day. Just having Disney World on your resume is a big deal. Now I understand why."
King said special moments aren’t just for the guests. Even employees can experience the famous Disney Magic while they’re on the job. Like most members of Gen Z, King can quickly cite her favorite Disney movie. “Hercules” with its featured song of “Go the Distance” is her favorite Disney film.
“I was in my character costume with my face pressed up against the glass watching the amazing fireworks display one night, when my handler opened the door so that we could hear the soundtrack. “You Can Go the Distance” was playing,” King said. “Yeah, I was working but it was a magical moment for me that I’ll never forget. It hit me then that if you keep trying, you really can go the distance. I feel so lucky.”
King was recently made a permanent, full-time employee and Disney and is preparing to participate in upcoming holiday events at Disney World.