Disney Theme Park

3 Surprising Things About Working at Expedition Everest



By Dustin West


For about 6 months in 2011, I was a cast member at Expedition Everest in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. There are plenty of fun trivia facts out there about the attraction and the amazing theming. However, I want to bring you some surprising facts from the perspective of a cast member working there on a daily basis. Hopefully this article won’t ruin the magic for the purists out there, but beware that I do talk about some backstage secrets. You’ve been warned.

1) You Have to be Good at Tetris

When you work at Walt Disney World, there’s this lovely little thing called “CDS” or “Cast Deployment System.” It keeps track of where everyone is located, who needs a break, where you’ll be working next, etc… You’re not working the same position checking the height of small children all day. You’re moving around to different positions every 45 minutes to an hour.

One of those positions was called “Grouper.” This is where you ask the guest how many are in their party and then direct them to which row they’ll be sitting in. There are 17 rows of 2 on the attraction with trains departing every 1 minute. You’re arranging odd numbered parties with even numbered parties. Every train probably has someone waiting for the front row. And, don’t forget, you’re filling in the gaps with folks from the single rider line. Now you have to fit them all on the same train.

Speaking of single rider, it’s so funny to see the “Single Rider Junkies.” These are people who ride the attraction several times in a row. I’ve seen people ride Expedition Everest 6 or 7 times in an hour. You probably wouldn’t notice that people do that unless you're standing in the same spot for an hour.


In this “Grouper” position you’re playing Tetris, except the blocks are human beings. You need to be efficient, fast, and courteous at the same time. I’ve seen several cast members who were just not cut out for it. They were great cast members, but it’s a really stressful position. If you’re not excelling at it by the end of your training, it’s probably not going to work out.

2) Apparently, People Have a Death Wish

I’m not trying to be grim here, but people seem to abandon the safety part of their brain when they’re on vacation at Walt Disney World. I’m not saying that everyone does this, but it does happen often.

Imagine this scenario. You’ve just finished riding Expedition Everest. You exit the train and rush to the gift shop to see your ride photo. Uh oh! You realize you’ve left your cell phone in the ride vehicle’s netted pouch. What do you do? Do you inform the nearest cast member of your mistake? Or, do you run toward the multi-ton kinetic metal death trap in hopes of retrieving your phone before the next guy loads onto the train? 8/10 people go for option 2.


You basically have to be an NFL defensive line man. I’ve body blocked a few people in my time working at Expedition Everest. People don’t realize that a giant moving train can seriously injure you, especially when it’s moving. All you have to do is let someone know. The train will be back in 5 minutes and your cell phone will be there in the pouch. Please don’t run toward the moving expedition train after you’ve exited!

3) You May be Climbing the Mountain Every Day

Let me clear something up first. When I say “climbing” the mountain, I mean that there are stairwells located along the ride path of the roller coaster track. The only portion of walking the track that resembles climbing is when you have to walk up the exposed bridge you can see from the rest of the theme park.


You may be wondering why a ride operator would need to walk the roller coaster track and climb the mountain everyday. Why not just have the maintenance team do that? The maintenance team does climb the mountain every day to test all the equipment. But our job as ride operator requires us to climb the mountain and walk the track for one of two reasons: to power up/power down the attraction or for evacuations.

When I first started working there, it never even crossed my mind that I might be climbing the 200 ft mountain. I thought it would just be pushing buttons and checking lap bars. But, if you open the attraction in the morning or close at night, walking the track is a daily part of your job.

I don’t want to give too much away about the inside of the mountain. In fact I don’t know that I have the words to describe what I see as a confusing, loud, dark, gargantuan labyrinth of steel. Having only worked there on and off for 6 months, I never really learned the inside of the mountain like the back of my hand. Other cast members who had been there for years could get around like it was their own house. I’m still confused as to which stairwell goes where and which path to follow to get to the different areas of the ride.

Exploring the interior of the Expedition Everest mountain is one of the nerdiest and most amazing things a Disney fan like myself can do. Working at Expedition Everest was a great experience. I love discovering new things about Disney attractions. Working at so many of them have given me this opportunity. I hope you enjoyed some of the surprising things I discovered while working there.