Around the time that Walt Disney was first presenting the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City, Mary Poppins was about to be released, and he was also trying secretly buying up land in a mosquito-ridden swamp land we now know and love, he realized he needed a little help in representing the Company at all the events where he was asked to appear. Thus the Disney Ambassador program was born and has been in place ever since, 47 years later.
Today at Epcot, a ceremony was held to choose and announce the two new Ambassadors from five finalists for the 2013-2014 season. On hand were Vice President of Epcot Erin Youngs, President of Walt Disney Parks and Operations, United States and France, Meg Crofton, current Ambassadors Norman Vossschulte and Jennifer Mason, and 65 former Walt Disney World Ambassadors to welcome the new team members.
In a twist a little like a Miss America pageant, all five finalists were called to the stage and were able to say a few words about themselves and their journey, while their fellow Cast Member friends and family cheered on. World Showcase Cast Members stood behind them with giant posters featuring their faces and names as we waited with anticipation for the announcement. Mickey and Minnie joined in, carrying the Ambassador pins and scroll featuring the Ambassador pledge. The scroll was read aloud before the names were chosen, while the Voices of Liberty sang softly in the background. Meg Crofton had the honor of announcing that Tye Arnold and Richard Tamayo were to be the newest Walt Disney World Ambassadors as confetti and applause filled the American Gardens Theater.
The Ambassador selection process is an intensive, two-month search for candidates who demonstrate a commitment to fellow Cast Members and the community, an understanding of the company’s heritage, and, above all, Disney Passion, which was very evident today among the finalists and the chosen Ambassadors. Cast Members of any level or role may apply and simply must have had at least one full year of service at Disney before the September application date. They then proceed with several rounds of interviews before finalists have the opportunity to interact with Cast, visit non-profit organizations and test their presentation and media interview skills.
I asked one of the current Ambassadors, Jennifer Mason, what her role will now become with the selection of the new Ambassadors completed. She let me know that they now train the new Ambassadors, hopefully getting them to as many live events as possible to be able to jump in and perform duties rather than just watch and wait for their service to start. Once the new Ambassadors term begins, Jennifer and Norman will become mentors along with the other former Ambassadors who, she mentioned, all stay in touch thanks to the technology of today. They truly are a family, which definitely seems how Walt would have wanted it.
New Ambassadors Tye and Rich will now embark on a two-month training program before beginning their busy two-year term which includes more than 3,500 events to attend. Hosting Disney VoluntEAR events, appearances with Disney characters at community presentations, serving as master of ceremonies at park events and recognizing Cast Members’ milestones and achievements are just some of the responsibilities of they’ll share.
The two chosen Ambassadors have both had a varied career with Walt Disney World. Tye Arnold comes from the Sunset Attractions (Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith and Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage) area at Disney’s Hollywood Studios after starting his career with the College Program and Outdoor Foods at Magic Kingdom. Tye was also chosen as a Dream Squad Specialist during the Year of a Million Dreams, creating magical moments for guests in the parks. Rich Tamayo began at the now ESPN Wide World of Sports before spending time honing his skills and passion at Disney’s Hilton Head Resort and currently working at the front desk of Disney’s Boardwalk Resort.
Both Ambassadors were humbled by their selection, and you could see their true passion shining through as I spoke to them after the ceremony, which as a fan and a guest, was wonderful to witness. The Disney Ambassador program is a lasting vestige of Walt’s message and commitment is ideals and it was a treat to see that tradition come to life. Next time you are at a Disney event, keep an eye for the well-dressed Disney Ambassadors as Tye and Rich fulfill their own dreams of spreading Disney magic to all they meet.
When she’s not dining with Minnie Mouse, Suzannah can be found at Zannaland.