Playing Winnie the Pooh proved magical for UNL student
By Samantha Biel
As a frail young boy gazed up at Winnie the Pooh, the cozy Disney character knelt down and wrapped him in a hug.
“Honey, tell Pooh why we’re here,” the boy’s mother said. He whispered: “The cancer’s all gone. We did it.”
For Ariel Moats, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln student wearing the Pooh costume, the tears streamed down behind her fuzzy mask.
Such magical moments proved to Moats that her lifelong dream to join the Disney College Program (DCP) was on target. That dream came to fruition in January 2017 when she began a seven-month stint working at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.
Dreams aside, getting hired by The Walt Disney Company was no fairytale, Moats found.
“I worked harder than I ever have in my life to get this chance,” she said.
Now a junior biochemistry major planning on med school, Moats recalls the crushing rejection of when she first applied for the DCP three years ago. She had spent what seemed like most of her life becoming well-versed in Disney culture before undergoing the rigorous DCP application process.
First, she had to complete an online application. The lengthy application included questions about her prior work experience, motivation for applying, and specific job interests.
A computer algorithm then scanned the application and decided whether to allow her to continue the process.
“It was hard to trust the algorithm,” said Moats, rolling her eyes and tossing her flaming red hair. “No humans read the applications.”
Within minutes of her scan, Disney notified her that she had cleared that hurdle and she continued on to the personality test.
The personality test determined whether she had a good work ethic and a positive attitude. In order to prepare for the trick questions on the test, Moats conducted extensive research on Disney’s company philosophies.
“Is the customer always right?” Moats said. “If you say no, you fail.”
Moats cleared that obstacle, too. Immediately, she was invited to undergo a phone interview.
On that first try, Moats was turned down after the phone interview. But, undeterred, she applied again in 2016. That time, she made it past the phone interview to the audition phase.
Auditioning to be performer
On her own dime, Moats traveled to Dallas, Texas, to audition to become a character performer. Several weeks later, she got the acceptance letter that admitted her to work in Disney World from January to July 2017.
DCP participants are away from their colleges for a whole semester. To fill the gap in their schooling, the DCP offers free, optional classes at local colleges. Moats did not participate in the free classes, but she always kept her biochemistry book in her break room.
Once settled in Florida, Moats could not jump right into performing in the parks. She and her fellow DCP beginners had to pass Disney’s training program and work wherever the theme parks needed extra help.
“One day I directed cars in a parking lot for twelve hours,” Moats said. “A lot of DCP participants never go back to school. They get hired by Disney. But that day in the parking lot reminded me how important it is to continue working toward medical school.”
Moats soon graduated to character performing, starting as an understudy for characters such as Winnie the Pooh and Chip and Dale.
Interacting with guests
On days she was not needed as an understudy, Moats got to do her favorite job: guiding guests and answering questions as a theme park attendant.
“I got to interact with guests and make magic while just being myself,” Moats said.
As she progressed through the DCP, Moats filmed her experiences for her YouTube channel. “Life is the Bubbles,” her channel, has over 2,000 subscribers from all over the world.
Moats learned about the DCP through other Disney enthusiasts’ videos, so she wanted to become another mentor for future Disney employees.
Ellie Robertson, a fellow Disney YouTuber and UNL student, saw YouTube as a chance to gain experience and share some happiness.
“I wanted to push my comfort zone by presenting myself honestly on the internet,” Robertson said. “Also, our channels are a cool new way to spread Disney magic.”
Disney YouTube channels popular
Disney YouTube channels have recently exploded in popularity. They allow viewers, who may otherwise never be able to visit Disney World, to live vicariously through the YouTubers, according to touringplans.com.
Moats has received messages from hundreds of people thanking her for bringing Disney to their corners of the world.
Despite her time in the DCP being over, there is no lack of Disney in Moats’ life. She still posts videos every time she visits the parks, goes on a Disney cruise, or wants to brighten someone’s day.
“I miss Disney every day,” Moats said. “But the amazing people I met and my videos keep the magic alive.”