Julianna and Carmela Earn Their Ears

Our Secret Walt Disney World Cast Member Diary

by Julianna Cavallo and Carmela Cavallo | Release Date: November 7, 2015 | Availability: Print, Kindle

Tales of the Theme Park Twins

As twins, Julianna and Carmela are used to doing everything together. Why should the Disney College Program be any different? Join these bubbly girls from Long Island as they live their Disney dreams in the Magic Kingdom, the Grand Floridian, and DinoLand.

The "Earning Your Ears" series chronicles the experiences of young people from around the country and around the world who leave home, often for the first time, to live and work in Walt Disney World or Disneyland for several months, or even longer.

Each book in the "EARS" series makes you an honorary cast member as the author takes you behind Disney's pixie dust curtain to learn things the Mouse would prefer you didn't know, and what no guidebook will tell you, including how the theme parks operate from the inside out and what Disney employees do when they're not wishing you a magical day.

In Julianna and Carmela Earn Their Ears, former Disney World cast members Julianna and Carmela Cavallo recount:

  • Why the guest is always right at Disney's Grand Floridian, even when they're cursing at you
  • The surprisingly stressful job of character attendant in the Magic Kingdom
  • What it's like backstage at Fantasmic!
  • The job that time forgot: wrangling guests into and out of their Time Rovers in Animal Kingdom's DINOSAUR

If you've ever wondered what it would be like not just to visit a Disney theme park but to work in one, the "Earning Your Ears" series is your E-ticket!

Table of Contents



About "Earning Your Ears"

Thirty-one chapters of Disney College Program goodness!

I love publishing EARS books.

When I started the “Earning Yours Ears” series back in 2013, with Amber Earns Her Ears, I figured it would be a one-and-done. But Amber’s book was not only popular, it was inspirational, too. Others who had taken (or were taking) the Disney College Program (DCP) wanted to share their experiences.

Not everyone, unfortunately, can write an EARS book. For every twenty pitches I receive, one makes the grade. What amazes me is the diversity: no two stories are alike. And what amazes me even more is the hope and the wonder and the potential that each DCP participant brings. Forget about the cynical accusations that Disney uses college program participants as low-wage labor. There’s more to it.

Carmela and Julianna Cavallo, the authors of this book, are twins. They applied for the program together, and they attended the program together, though in different roles (Carmela first in Concierge and then in Attractions, Julianna in Entertainment throughout). It was their dream to work for Disney, and how that they’ve done so, it’s their dream to work for Disney again..

Each EARS book reflects the personality of its author (or in this case, authors). While I do cut out a lot of extraneous material during edit, I try not to lose the “voice” of the person who wrote the book. After all, it’s their story. The Cavallos, as they’ll tell you themselves, have not one negative thing to say about Disney. Not one. You’ll find that this entry in the EARS series is by far the “gushiest”, and perhaps serves as a counter-balance to a few of the previous volumes where the authors were less enamored of the “magic”.

I publish EARS books because it feels good to publish EARS books. I don’t sell a huge number of them. They do well, but the authors aren’t relaxing on yachts. Most have gone on from their Disney experience to the real world of making grades in college and worrying about what kind of job awaits them and whether they’ll be earning enough for a mortgage and what they really want to do with their lives.

For a few months, however, none of that matters. They’re making minimum wage for menial labor in a sea of others doing the same thing. And they love it. It’s their childhood dream come true. Whatever role Disney had played in their lives, they are now part of it. Like Amber and all the rest, Cami’s on stage, as Disney likes to describe it, and making the same kind of magic that once was made for her.

So why, really, do I love publishing EARS books? If you read enough of them, you’ll find life itself encapsulated: the uncertainty of whether you’re good enough to make the cut, the transition from what you’ve known all your life to something new and quite grand, the settling in to work and friends and routine, the responsibility of being on your own and having others rely upon you, and finally, inevitably the winding down and the departure. All of this, in just a few months.

I could publish 100 EARS books and still not run out of unique tales about the Disney College Program.

Carmela and Julianna’s story is one of them.

The “Earning Your Ears” series chronicles the experiences of young people from around the country and around the world who leave home, often for the first time, to live and work in Walt Disney World or Disneyland for several months, or even longer.

They are given “roles” to perform, from working in a Disney restaurant or shop to donning a costume and becoming one of the Disney characters who appear in the parks.

Each book in the EARS series makes you an honorary cast member as the author takes you behind Disney’s pixie dust curtain to learn things the Mouse would prefer you didn’t know, and what no guidebook will tell you, including how the theme parks operate from the inside out and what Disney employees do when they’re not wishing you a magical day.

The EARS series currently includes seven books, with a new volume published by Theme Park Press every few months:

  • Amber Earns Her Ears
  • Ema Earns Her Ears
  • Sara Earns Her Ears
  • Katie Earns Her Ears
  • Brittany Earns Her Ears
  • Cami Earns Her Ears

If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like not just to visit a Disney theme park but to work in one, the “Earning Your Ears” series is your E-ticket!

To learn about forthcoming books and everything there is to know about the Disney College Program, please visit us on Facebook:


Julianna & Carmela Cavallo

Julianna Cavallo and Carmela Cavallo are identical twins who live and breathe Disney. Originally from Long Island, New York, they now attend college in Charleston, South Carolina, where both major in marketing. Upon graduation, they plan to apply for professional internships in the marketing or guest services fields at Walt Disney World.

If you were told that you'd been chosen for a sweet upgrade at the Grand Floridian as the "family of the day", you'd be thrilled, right? Not these losers...

I’m sure that you are probably wondering if I ever had any rude guests. You bet I did. Luckily, I had more polite guests than rude guests. I can count on my fingers the amount of rude guests that I had. When confronting a rude guest, stay calm and make sure to stay in character. Unfortunately, you cannot stand up for yourself or argue with the guest. You are customer service. You need to know that the customer, or in this guest, is always right. If any guest is making you feel uncomfortable, call a manager or a coordinator. They will help you as soon as they can. In hospitality, many guests think that Disney is a push over and will compensate if the guest pretends to have issues. Those guests are the worst kind. It’s sad that all they want are free things. They try to take advantage of all cast members. Just remember to stay in character and you should be fine. Don’t forget to keep smiling and when they leave, say, “Have a magical day.”

My first rude guest came in during my first full day on my own. I had just earned my ears for Front Desk. I started work at 6pm. Around 7:30pm, a family came and they were from England. I was excited because I love UK culture. I talked in their lingo and asked if they were here for a holiday and they were at first very polite and excited to be here. They told me about their long flight and how they were exhausted, and I said I understood and would be as quick and efficient as possible during their check in.

All was fine until I pulled up their reservation on the computer. I looked at their room number and the notes on their reservation and it said that they were the “family of the day”. Each morning the back office picks a random family of the day and give them a free upgrade to a club-level room; in this case, the UK family were to be given not just a club-level room, but one with a Magic Kingdom view. Talk about an upgrade. (Their original reservation was for a standard room.)

I was trained that every time I saw a club-level room reservation coming in that day, I would call a curb-side cast member to check them in. I saw the comment and was so excited to tell them that they were the family of the day and that they got a free upgrade and their room is now a Magic Kingdom view and in the main building. They had no look of excitement. Instead of them saying, “No way. Yay!” they said, “Are you kidding me? What about our lagoon view in Boca Chica?” I was shocked. How are you not excited to stay in a Grand Floridian suite? They were staying for two weeks, so they would had more value with the suite. They were mad. The father started cursing at me. I couldn’t believe the words that were coming out of his mouth. I was mortified. The fact that he was cursing out an 18-year-old girl (me), and that his younger daughter was there listening, was appalling. I made sure that I listened to why he was upset and then I told him that I will get my supervisor.

When I called over an FSA (Front-line Service Advisor), the man cursed at her, too. It was unbelievable. The FSA said if he didn’t calm down, she would call Security. Yes, it got that bad. When she said that, the man calmed down. After all of the drama, the FSA said that the family’s original room was taken for two nights, so they would have to stay in the suite for those two nights, and then they could move back to the standard room for the rest of their stay. When they left, I was amazed about what had just happened. I never thought someone would be so rude to two young women.

My FSA asked if I was alright. She was concerned about me. She thought I was upset, but honestly, I was amused. I’m from New York, so this wasn’t the first rude thing I’ve seen. There will be guests who can push you over the edge and make you cry off stage. It’s happened to some of my co-workers. Just try to not let these guests who you will never see again ruin your day. Yes, it’s easier said than done, but take a deep breath. It happens. There are a lot of rude people in the world. Just be the better person and smile and tell them to have a magical day or, in translation, I hope you step in dog pooh.

Continued in "Julianna and Carmela Earn Their Ear"!

Julianna takes a distressed Mickey back for some cheesecake, and walks into a disciplinary pixie storm.

It was time for my last set. Now or never. I chose to attend Mickey Mouse himself. His storyline was: “Mickey is going to get some cheesecake and he will be back at Character Spot later.”

By the way, Character Spot is a meet-and-greet location for Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and other characters. I felt great about attending Mickey there. I wanted to keep improving. A few minutes into the set, Mickey gives the signal of distress that we learned in training. My heart was doing flips and I anxiously took Mickey off set. I was supposed to tell the guests that he had something in his eye, but I must have forgotten to do so in the stress of the moment and instead gave the usual spiel. I walked backstage with Mickey. A performance trainer and my trainer followed. We took care of Mickey’s issues, and then my trainer scolded me: “You must alert the guests that Mickey will be leaving and not say that he will be back because he could possibly not come back.” I was discouraged. That had to happen to me, right? No one else had any issues or malfunctions but me. I thought I was doing a great job and the others were doing the same job as me, but of course I was the one getting hell. But it was a learning experience, and I did learn from it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the only thing of that nature which happened to me.

As I’m rebounding from Mickey’s distress, a guest leaves a backpack right by his side. I don’t think logically, so I grab the bag and eagerly deliver it to my trainer who gave me the death stare. She told me that we never pick up “unmarked” bags and that we have to call Security to check it out. I was angry because there should be no bomb in it since the bag had been inspected outside the main gate, but I guess you can never be too sure. I felt like I was two-feet tall at that point. I thought I was doing something right by removing the bag from Mickey’s blind side, but nope. Security comes, and guess what? The bag is safe. Then, a few minutes later, the guest frantically comes back to retrieve the bag. I wish I had been told in training how to handle these situations.

And then the most magical thing happened. It was literally the last bit of sunlight before a storm. A Make-a-Wish family came to greet our characters after we were going off set. The trainers took the family aside so they could get a private meeting and there were tons of smiles. We each gave the kids stickers since we had different ones and it felt great to make magic after my not-so-magical training day.

Here comes the storm. As I was walking back to the trailer, my trainer informed me that I needed an extra training day. I felt like I was going to cry. She said that she had to have another day when she trained, but that did not make me feel better. I should have known I couldn’t do this. So typical of me.

I had to watch my fellow attendants take the assessment. They were not aware of my situation, apparently. I sat there twiddling my thumbs and watching them smile as they finished their tests and handed them in. Of course they passed and they were moving on. My weekend was snapped into another day of training. I was so hurt, and when you’re down, you sometimes criticize others. The other attendants were like me, and if I had handled those tough situations correctly, I would be in their position now. I realize all this now. Then, I was mad at the world and upset. I went home in tears, thinking I was going to get termed. I wanted to be here so badly. I felt like I was being tested and I was failing.

Continued in "Julianna and Carmela Earn Their Ear"!

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