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Disney’s Hidden Labor Drama: Unraveling the Surprising Union of Costumed Characters and the Teamsters

Disney’s Hidden Labor Drama: Unraveling the Surprising Union of Costumed Characters and the Teamsters

The Unlikely Union: Disney World Costumed Characters and the Teamsters

In the heart of the magical kingdom of Disney World, where dreams come true and fantasies unfold, there exists an unexpected alliance that has captivated the attention of both Disney enthusiasts and labor advocates alike. The costumed characters, the beloved icons that bring joy to millions of visitors, are members of an unlikely union: the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 385.

This unique marriage between the world of make-believe and the world of labor has been chronicled in a compelling new book, “Behind the Magic: The Untold Story of the Disney Costumed Characters and the Teamsters,” by journalist and author Eric Schneider. Schneider, a longtime observer of the Orlando scene, was drawn to this intriguing tale, recognizing its potential to shed light on a hidden aspect of Disney’s vast empire.

The Story of Local 385

Schneider’s book delves into the history of Local 385, a union that has represented Disney costumed characters since the early 1970s. The story is one of conflict and tension, as performers struggled against corrupt leadership and fought for their rights in the face of opposition from both Disney management and the Teamsters’ own international leadership.

Schneider’s account brings to life the challenges faced by these performers, who often found themselves caught between their love for their jobs and their desire for fair treatment. The result was a simmering tension between the Disney characters and the Teamsters, a tension that would eventually escalate to the highest levels of the international union.

The Intervention of James Hoffa

In 2019, the conflict between Local 385 and the international Teamsters reached a boiling point. The union’s general president, James Hoffa, intervened, placing the local under a trusteeship and appointing a new leadership team. Schneider’s book provides an insider’s view of this dramatic intervention, offering a rare glimpse into the inner workings of one of the most powerful unions in the world.

Donna-Lynne Dalton: The Heroine of the Story

At the heart of Schneider’s narrative is the story of Donna-Lynne Dalton, a costumed character performer who emerged as a champion of the performers’ rights. Dalton, a dedicated and passionate advocate for her fellow workers, fought tirelessly for fair treatment and better working conditions.

Schneider portrays Dalton as a heroine, a woman who risked her job and her livelihood to stand up for what she believed in. Her story is an inspiring example of the power of one individual to make a difference, even in the face of overwhelming odds.

The Importance of Union Democracy

Schneider’s book also serves as a reminder of the importance of union democracy. The story of Local 385 highlights the dangers of authoritarian leadership and the need for proper checks and balances within unions. Schneider argues that the corruption and mismanagement that plagued Local 385 could have been prevented if there had been more accountability and transparency in the union’s leadership.

Quirky Anecdotes from the Job

In addition to its historical and political insights, Schneider’s book is also filled with quirky and entertaining anecdotes from the world of Disney costumed characters. From the case of the Tigger performer accused of sexual molestation to the jury’s experimentation with the costume, Schneider brings to life the unique challenges and experiences of these performers.

The Power of Magic: The Performers’ Love for Their Job

Despite the challenges they faced, Schneider observed a genuine love for their jobs among the costumed characters. These performers truly believed in the magic of Disney and were dedicated to connecting with guests and maintaining the illusion. Their stories are a testament to the power of imagination and the transformative nature of play.

Upcoming Book Tour Event

Eric Schneider will be hosting a book tour event on March 10, 2024, at the Orlando Public Library. The event will feature a reading from the book, a Q&A session with Schneider, and a book signing. Copies of “Behind the Magic” will be available for purchase at the event.


Eric Schneider’s “Behind the Magic” is a fascinating and insightful look into a hidden aspect of Disney World. The book sheds light on the challenges faced by costumed characters, the importance of union democracy, and the enduring power of magic. It is a must-read for Disney fans, labor enthusiasts, and anyone interested in the intersection of fantasy and reality.