A little more than two years ago, I was offered a job at the Disney Archives in Burbank, California. And I turned it down.
For the record, I don’t regret my decision at all. Working at the Disney Archives was a dream of mine, but as I started writing, my dreams changed. I now want to write about Disney professionally, and I’d like to think I’ve got a bit of a head start on that.
However, the experience was amazing, and wonderful, and unexpected, and I still feel so lucky that I was even considered to work for such an exclusive part of the Walt Disney Company.
The Disney Archives is like the ULTIMATE Disney museum. Sure, there’s the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco (which is also extremely cool), but the Archives are in a realm all its own.
Started by archivist Dave Smith in 1970, there are millions of Disney objects located there- costumes, props from movies and the theme parks, collectibles, photos, and artifacts once belonging to Walt Disney himself. They even have the first Disneyland admission ticket ever sold.
After my Disney Professional Internship ended, I knew that I still wanted to work for the Disney company in some way. Working at the theme parks, while a great experience, wasn’t really my thing. I wanted to be indoors, and I wanted to work in some sort of Disney museum.
Animal Kingdom used to have this amazing library and computer center backstage (which I’m not sure if they have anymore), and I always thought it would be cool to work somewhere like that.
In short, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I just knew that it had to involve Disney, and thanks to my experience in the museum world, it had to involve museums. Talk about a specific job path, right?
I started going to school at Johns Hopkins University for Museum Studies, taking courses while working part time at a museum, and part time at a historical society. It was during this time that I discovered my love of archiving the preserving of rare artifacts and exhibiting them for others to see and enjoy. I especially loved the digital aspect of archiving, particularly when it came to photos and articles.
It didn’t take long, after some Google searching, to find out about the Disney Archives. Yes, it was all the way across the country. Yes, they hadn’t hired someone new there in over 20 years. But, I knew I had to try.
Nevertheless, She Persisted
Let me just say this- it is NOT easy getting the attention of a higher-up at the Disney Studios. They are busy people. Especially when you consider that I was exchanging emails with these people right before the 2015 D23 Expo.
Before that, however, I had to find their email addresses. This involved a lot of friendly stalking on LinkedIn. I emailed and messaged and emailed some more until finally, FINALLY I got a response back from one of the gentleman at the Disney Photo Archives, encouraging me to send him my resume.
This was especially exciting, as a job opportunity had just been put up on the Disney Careers website (which I was constantly refreshing). The job was for a project hire at the photo archives, for someone to digitally preserve their collection of images- images of all sorts, ranging from the parks, to movie sets, to Walt’s home life and career on the Disney Studios lot.
I sent the Cast Member at the Photo Archives my resume, and in the meantime, I found the emails of Becky Cline (Director of the Disney Archives) and another gentleman who used to host the web series “Armchair Archivist,” in which they showed the Disney Archives on many of their segments.
This guy was a little weird (he was now a producer for Disney), and friended me on Facebook, but I was never sure whether he truly liked me or not. We would talk sometimes on Facebook and I would ask for advice, but I would never get straight answers. He has since unfollowed me, I believe, yet I have no idea why.
Meanwhile, it was really encouraging to have Becky Cline accept my LinkedIn invitation to connect. She is one of my Disney idols, and even though we only messaged each other once or twice, I was excited at the prospect of one day working with her. Ms. Cline is always at the D23 Expo, presenting whichever Disney Archives exhibit they have on display (this year, there was a special Pirates of the Caribbean exhibit). I watched many interviews people had with her on YouTube.
I was excited, and monitored my email like a hawk over the next few weeks for a response.
Finally, it came- a chance to set up an initial phone interview with a few people from the Disney Archives! I think I actually cried tears of joy when I got a phone call from the L.A. area code. It was an amazing feeling, knowing that I had been selected out of what must have been millions of resumes for a phone interview.
After a few basic questions about my background and why I wanted to work for Disney (and if I would be willing to move to Southern California), we set up a video conference, Skype-style interview. At this point, I was still in shock that I had moved so far along in the process.
Even though I wouldn’t be there in person, I still made sure to look professional as I connected my webcam and virtually met three people from the Disney Archives. We talked for about an hour, and I recounted all my museum experience, as well as my experience working for Disney and my love of the company. The conference ended with them saying they’d be in touch.
During this time, I was assigned a Disney recruiter to help answer any questions I had about the position. I asked a lot of questions in regards to moving and salary. The answers weren’t exactly to my liking- I would have to move across the country within a few weeks, work on very little salary, and the company would not help with any relocation costs.
However, the recruiter kept insisting that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and that the archives would probably not be hiring again in the near future. In short, it was now or never.
I had a hard decision in front of me.
The New Dream
I decided to hold off all decision-making until I was offered the position, but I did start researching apartments in Burbank, California, and talked to a few people in Disney Alumni Facebook groups about what it was like working at the studios. Everyone had positive things to say about the job, but not-so-positive things about living in the expensive state of California.
I had endless talks with my husband about this opportunity. See, another HUGE factor in my decision was that, well, I was getting married. This job was due to start a few months before our wedding. It wasn’t the best timing. Nevertheless, my husband is the most amazing man on the planet, and he was supportive of my decision no matter what.
Other people were not so supportive, and a lot of tears were involved. It’s still too raw to get into the whole ordeal now, but man. It seemed like EVERYONE had something to say about me moving across the country to work for Disney.
Eventually, a miracle occurred, and I was offered the position. This was both something I wanted, and something I was now dreading. I was given a few weeks to move and start work (this involved finding an apartment, roommate, and a way to get around in southern California).
I spent a lot of time in tears, a lot of time jumping for joy, but mostly, a lot of time emailing back and forth with the recruiter. She was very nice, but I could tell she was impatient, and a little upset that I hadn’t accepted the offer immediately without question.
Eventually, I said no, based on the following reasons:
- The salary was too low, especially for where I would be living. (They would not budge on salary, but then again, people don’t work at Disney for the money).
- The job was a project hire, meaning it was temporary, with no guarantee of it turning into a full-time job.
- I was getting married, and did not want to spend the first few months (or years) of marriage apart.
All of these were really hard decisions to make, and I know it would have been really cool to work for the Archives. However, I know I would have hated being away from my husband, and living alone in a strange state. I would have panic attacks on not being able to afford to live there, and anxiety on driving to and from work every day. To me, the benefits of the job did not outweigh the risks.
I asked the recruiter if, by turning down this job, it meant that I would forever be blacklisted from working for Disney again (after all, I felt terrible for wasting the time of all these important people). She assured me it wouldn’t.
I was a little down for a few weeks following this ordeal, even though I knew I had done the right thing. However, getting married and writing a book was, like Rapunzel would say, my new dream.
I now have an amazing job that I love, a writing hobby that I adore, two published books, and a happy home with my husband. We have annual passes to Disney, which to me, is better than working there.
I’ll forever be grateful that I got the opportunity to interview for the Archives. I still would love to go on a tour of the Archives one day (the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank doesn’t let you on the lot unless you are going on a D23 Archives/Studio tour).
If writing doesn’t work out, I would still love to be an Archivist- whether or not it’s for Disney.
If anyone has any questions about working, or interviewing, for Disney- let me know in the comments! Also, I would love to hear other interview stories!
Hugs and Fishes,