Working for the wonderful world of Disney


The smell of corndogs and popcorn fill the air as Alice Mcgrath Andersen walks through a crowded Frontierland in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom on her way to work.“(At Disney World) everything else melts away for a while,” said Mcgrath Andersen, a sophomore animation major. “Animated characters walk around, and everyone treats you like you’re special.”

Mcgrath Andersen works at the Splash Mountain ride at Disney World in Florida. She will take a class through the Disney College Program this fall. In August 2011, she visited Disney World with her mom before starting her freshman year at Webster University.

Alice Mcgrath Andersen (center) poses with actors dressed as Prince Eric and Princess Ariel, characters from the Disney film “The Little Mermaid.” PHOTO COURTESY OF ALICE MCGRATH ANDERSEN

“I remember her saying … ‘Wouldn’t it be fun to work here? To be here every day?’”  said Kathleen Mcgrath, Mcgrath Andersen’s mom.

Mcgrath Andersen has been to Disney World about five times and Disneyland about three times.

She said when it comes to Disney, she was “born into it.” Her parents have always enjoyed animated films and taking her to the movies. She loved “Peter Pan” and “The Little Mermaid.”

Because of her love for Disney, Mcgrath Andersen said she “never officially grew up.”

She applied for the Disney College Program this past spring. After undergoing a lengthy application process and three interviews, she was accepted.

The Disney College Program places students in a job at one of Disney World’s theme parks while students concurrently take a course. Students get credit for the courses through the American Council on Education (ACE).

Mcgrath Andersen said she may graduate a year late because she can only take a couple classes through the program. But she said the experience is worth it.

Mcgrath Andersen started working at Disney World in late July. She will take a creativity and innovation class this fall.

The program is usually six months. However, Mcgrath Andersen decided to extend her time in the program. She will take another course in the spring and stay at Disney World until May 2013.

Mcgrath Andersen’s mother said her daughter always had a passion for drawing. Mcgrath Andersen became interested in animation at Olathe North High School in Kansas when she took animation classes her sophomore through senior years. Jeff Swift started the animation program at Olathe North nine years ago.

“(Mcgrath Andersen) was able to handle the technical side in computer animation really well, but she also had a nice sense of humor. She had a good art background and she was very creative,” Swift said. “Of all the kids I’ve ever had in the program, there’s only been a small handful that I really feel had the personality, had the drive, had the creativity to make it in animation as a career, and I definitely would say Alice was one of those.”

Mcgrath Andersen said the program will give her an advantage if she applies for an animation internship at Disneyland in  the future. She said she would eventually like to work at Disney’s animation studio in California. The Disney College Program also provides career counseling.

The program pays the majority of room and board costs. It also pays an hourly wage for the students who work at the theme park.

Part of her job at Splash Mountain is assisting guests as they get onto the ride. Recently, she helped Tom and Suri Cruise get into a boat on the ride. Mcgrath Andersen didn’t recognize the Cruises at first, but she said seeing the celebrities was exciting. She has heard rumors that Johnny Depp likes to visit Disney World in the fall, and she hopes to see him.

After helping close down the Splash Mountain ride, Mcgrath Andersen walks through an empty Frontierland to leave the park. She passes by the Rivers of America, which reflect the lights from Cinderella’s castle.


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