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Why more than 10,000 people applied for the Disney Parks Moms Panel — with no pay

These 14 new Disney Parks Mom Panel members beat out thousands of applicants. (Photo: Disney Parks)

They’ve mastered Mickey, downed Dole Whips by the dozen and been tossed and turned by the teacups countless times — now they’re, yep, going to Disney World.

On Wednesday, Disney Parks revealed the 14 people joining the Disney Parks Moms Panel for 2020 — and no, not all of them are moms or even women, with three men and two non-parents in the mix. According to the New York Times, more than 10,000 Disney enthusiasts applied for the unpaid opportunity to dish out their top tips for navigating the company’s theme parks, resorts and cruises, from how to fast-track a fussy toddler through long lines to stocking up on the best snacks.

"Every guest has their own unique expectations for a magical Disney vacation,” Leanne O'Regan, director of public relations for Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, said in a press release. “Disney parks and resorts offer endless options — from dining and activities to accommodations and transportation — for vacationers looking to personalize their dream trip. Making the choices that best fit your ideal Disney vacation is where the Disney Parks Moms Panel comes in. Our Disney-savvy panelists are incredibly passionate and eager to help others experience the wonder of Disney for themselves, which is why they are the ideal group to provide guidance and advice to those preparing for their next Disney vacation."

The new recruits — billed as “real moms, dads, grandparents and ‘in the know’ family members” with 714 Disney vacations between them — will join 28 existing members of the Disney Parks Mom Panel in offering online advice and sharing their firsthand experiences with prospective park guests. The first panel, launched in 2008, had just 12 members.

Members of the Disney Parks Mom Panel don't have be moms, but they do have to share their in-depth insight into the parks and resorts. (Photo: Abigail Nilsson/ABC via Getty Images)

As the Times reports, being a panelist means devoting nights, weekends and/or days off to responding to about 15 typically detailed questions from people planning their own Disney vacations. Each panelist boasts a particular area of expertise — for example, California-based Tiffanie Sojourner is touted as a pro at Disneyland Resort’s vegan and plant-based food options — and is given training on researching park info and interacting with members of the public in a polite, helpful manner.

While the work is unpaid — many panelists, who are considered Disney contractors, have full-time employment elsewhere — there is a major perk. In exchange for their expertise and vacation planning assistance, they’ll each score a free 5-might stay at a Disney park or vacation club for themselves and three guests. O’Regan told the Times that the lack of monetary pay results in “authenticity” from the panelists, who are free to share their honest feedback and recommendations with travelers.

Even without the pay, many told the newspaper that the gig is a dream come true.

While I’d love to work for Disney, I love what I do,” Sojourner, a Passholder who works in wealth management and doesn’t have children, said. “I feel like I’m able to be a part of this Disney family without having to move or change my life completely.”

“I know there are a lot of people that love Disney and that would love to help other people to have a memorable vacation with their family,” added new panelist Tamela Hansen, who spent 12 years applying for the role. “I just thought, ‘OK, well, the glass slipper isn’t shiny for me this year. It’ll be shiny for me one year.’”

Hansen finally got her chance — and with it, insider details on amusements, rides, guest services and food — this year after joining the thousands who responded to Disney’s call for applications last August. Before being hired, she and others went through a three-part interview process which included short answer essay questions, a video submission and a phone interview. At each stage, applicants were encouraged to show off not only their Disney knowledge, but also their personal passion for the brand.

As O’Regan put it to the Times: “The Disney Parks Moms Panelists live and breathe Disney details.”

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