In one meeting room, Winnie the Pooh and Tigger eagerly await the latest sales figures, whilst Mike Wazowski takes time off from his usual shift at Monsters, Inc. to sit on a filing cabinet and grin at passing cast members. No, I haven’t gone mad; these are just two of the vivid sights to be witnessed should you ever find yourself immersed in the UK headquarters of various arms of the Walt Disney Company.
This vast Hammersmith building (divided into the very sci-fi sounding Phases One and Two) is nine floors of creativity, professionalism and friendly American culture with a British accent – there’s the expected branches of the Disney Channels, Parks and Talent Desk, but also ABC News and the sports broadcaster ESPN, one of the Mouse’s most recent acquisitions. The cast (no-one is referred to as “staff” at Disney, even if they’ve never touched a costume or joined a parade) informed me on my third day that the familial atmosphere is infectious: at least three couples met through their work.
Must be the pixie dust.
The idea that work experience consists mostly of making tea and coffee for the “real” workers is, here at least, a myth – a sales rep exclaimed to me on my first day that “we’ve got a machine for that!”
Instead I spent my week perusing revenue, archiving news coverage (more interesting than it sounds) and having a gander at a brand-new advert for Walt Disney World. This involved a sudden Tube hop (one of my favourite London things – I like the wobbling) to a sound studio in Oxford Circus, where my task was to literally sit on a sofa with an intern or two and listen to the caramel-rich voice of a lovely actress while eating Maoams.
Omitting the lengthy commute (the novelty of which admittedly wore off by the end of the week), it was a pleasure to be at DDI – as the park branch is fondly known – to join the department, learn new skills and make some great contacts for the future.
The burrito was nice, too.
This article was originally published in the BHASVIC Buzz online magazine. The opportunity to do this work experience arose from my interview of a former Disney cast member, which can be read here.