Inside Look: Global Disney Ambassador Program Continues Nearly 60-Year Tradition

Inside Look: Global Disney Ambassador Program Continues Nearly 60-Year Tradition blog header

As fall returns to Disney Parks and Resorts, the Global Disney Ambassador Program is currently selecting cast members for two-year terms representing Disney destinations around the world. I served as a 2001-2002 Disney Ambassador at Walt Disney World and now lead the program in Florida. During my experience, I learned what makes Disney special – it’s the cast members who create magic for so many people every day. But did you know the Disney Ambassador Program is a #DisneyCastLife tradition with a connection to Walt Disney?

The Tencennial Ambassador

As plans were being finalized for Disneyland’s 10th Anniversary in 1965, a marketing cast member named Jack Lindquist proposed an idea to Walt Disney. Jack thought it would be “good to have an individual selected from all the cast members each year to represent Disneyland” during the milestone celebration. The “Tencennial Ambassador” would travel to different cities and share the excitement of Disneyland with media and guests. A few weeks later, Walt replied to Jack’s memo, “Good idea. Let’s do it.”

Announced in October 1964, Disneyland’s “Tencennial” celebration would kick off in January 1965 and end with a “Re-Dedication Day” in mid-July. Activities included special events each month, the expansion of popular events such as Grad Nights and Big Band Nights, the opening of the Plaza Inn and the arrival of an advanced Audio-Animatronics Mr. Lincoln in the Opera House on Main Street, U.S.A. The announcement also mentioned a Tencennial Ambassador would carry the park’s birthday message throughout the United States and overseas.

Jack would later serve in executive roles with marketing before becoming President of Disneyland in 1990. He was named a Disney Legend in 1994. In May 2005, I thanked him for suggesting this special program while reprising my role as a Disney Ambassador for the Happiest Homecoming on Earth press event at Disneyland.

Selecting The First Disney Ambassador

By the end of October 1964, six final candidates were selected out of 135 applicants. They participated in the Anaheim Halloween parade on Saturday, Oct. 31. This wrapped up a month-long interview process by Disneyland leaders and Disney Studio executives.

One of those final candidates was Marcia Miner, who would later serve as Disneyland’s 1967 Ambassador. I was happy to learn this fact as I also interviewed twice for the Disney Ambassador role. Perseverance pays off!

A week later in early November, Julie Reihm Casaletto was named the first Disneyland Ambassador during a colorful celebration held in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle. She received an attaché case from Mickey Mouse for use during a worldwide tour celebrating Disneyland.

The world was introduced to Julie during the Jan. 3, 1965, broadcast of “Disney’s Wonderful World of Color.” The episode, titled “Disneyland 10th Anniversary,” featured Walt and Julie previewing new Disneyland attractions in development at Walt Disney Imagineering (then known as WED Enterprises). Julie was named a Disney Legend in 2015.

A Global Disney Ambassador Family

The Disney Ambassador tradition continued with Connie Swanson Lane being selected for the role in December 1965. Julie and Connie were the only two Disney Ambassadors who worked directly with Walt during their terms.

As Disney moved east to Florida, Debby Dane Browne was named as Walt Disney World’s first Disney Ambassador in October 1970. Today, a global Disney Ambassador family exists at Disney destinations around the world. Each “goodwill emissary” is charged with shining a light on outstanding cast members, sharing the magic of Disney with guests and inspiring hope in local communities.

I will never forget spending time with Debby, Julie and Connie at the D23 Expo in September 2022. For a lifelong Disney fan like me, it was a dream come true. I felt a connection after hearing their stories of cast members they met and adventures they shared.

Look carefully and you will spot golden Disney name tags which were inspired by Walt Disney’s original Disneyland name tag. Disney Ambassadors receive this gold name tag upon completion of their term.

Speaking on behalf of fellow Disney Ambassadors and cast members around the world, we are grateful for the 2022-2023 Global Disney Ambassador Team – they have brought joy to so many. We are also collectively excited to welcome new cast members to the 2024-2025 Disney Ambassador Team.