A close-up of life at Disney World.
Mitchell’s memoir speaks to a popular fantasy of running away to join the workforce at the iconic vacation destination: “All my life, Disney has been a kind of sanctuary for me, a place that felt safe when everything else was going fuzzy.” The California-bred author had worked as a semi-professional skateboarder and freelance photographer when cascading personal crises propelled him toward an impulsive move to the Magic Kingdom, where he quickly found work in photo processing. He was instantly fascinated by the intricacies of Disney culture: hidden messages in park architecture, endless regulations enforced by prissy managers and a high-school–like system of cliques with the employees who play “characters” at the top. “Anyone who believed in fairies could work, live, eat, drink, and date entirely within the Disney matrix without ever leaving Disney property,” he writes. “And from what I could tell, it wasn’t uncommon.” Initially disdained, Mitchell figured out a way to break the rules, becoming known as the “out of character” photographer—Goofy smoking, for instance—which ingratiated him with the snooty inner circle of Cast Members. Soon he committed the ultimate sin, when an attractive co-worker (“Dale”, as in Chip ’n Dale) initiated him into the SOP (Sex on Property) Club: “I was if I could almost see the spirit of Walt shaking his head, sorely disappointed.” Eventually, Mitchell became disillusioned in Orlando, especially after he was turned down for a coveted “face character” role of Aladdin, and learned that his friends and girlfriend at Disney were not the carefree perpetual adolescents they pretended to be. Mitchell effectively captures the inside minutiae of working at Disney, which will surely interest fans, and its surreal effect on the Central Florida landscape. However, the prose is often rambling and heavy on adjectives and clumsy similes.
An unremarkable memoir, but Disney fans will probably appreciate the insider view.