Disney Heiress Abigail Disney Goes Undercover At Disneyland, Is Horrified By Workers’ Stories

'I was so livid when I came out of there because, you know, my grandfather taught me to revere these people that take your tickets, that pour your soda,' she said.

sleeping beauty castle at disneyland
Tuxyso / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0 Cropped and resized)

'I was so livid when I came out of there because, you know, my grandfather taught me to revere these people that take your tickets, that pour your soda,' she said.

Abigail Disney, granddaughter of Walt Disney’s brother Roy, and heiress to the family fortune, went undercover at Disneyland, and she said she was “horrified” by what employees said they have to endure.

As Yahoo News reports, the documentary filmmaker, whose works often focus on social and political themes, recently got a Facebook message from a worker complaining trying to make a living while earning what the company pays. She wanted to see for herself what goes on in the theme park that bears her family name, so she did what any tourist would: she bought a ticket to The Happiest Place On Earth.

It was anything but, she says.

To understand Abigail’s frustration, one needs to go back to the early days of Disneyland. Walt and Roy Disney both rose from humble beginnings to become two of the most powerful men in both the movie and TV industries, and also the burgeoning (at the time) theme-park industry.

They never forgot where they came from, and in the employee culture at The Walt Disney Company, the janitor was treated with the same respect as the top executives.

“My grandfather taught me to revere these people that take your tickets, that pour your soda. Those people are much of the recipe for success,” she said.

But over the decades, she said, that employee culture has eroded. And nowhere is that more evident than in the staggering pay gap between Disney CEO Bob Iger and most of his employees. Abigail Disney, who does not have any role in the company’s operations, says that Iger’s hourly salary is 1,000 times that of the average Disneyland worker.

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And in Southern California, where the cost of living is extremely high, what little those workers are paid makes it hard for them to make ends meet. Some complained of getting off work and having to forage through trash in order to put food on the table.

Besides low pay in general, the company reportedly pays its female workers less on average than its male workers. Those workers are part of a class-action lawsuit against the company — a suit that is still making its way through the court system.

Disney, for her part, says that she wrote a “long e-mail” to Bob Iger discussing the wealth inequality within the company. In response, she says, she got “nothing.”

The company, however, says that it is at the forefront when it comes to subsidizing higher education for its employees. The Disney Aspire program covers 100 percent of the cost of books and tuition at certain universities, and some 40 percent of Disneyland employees have signed up for the program, the company notes.