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Cast Member Recognized for Helping a Claustrophobic Guest Experience Na’vi River Journey

Jennifer Fickley-Baker

by , Editorial Content Manager, Walt Disney World Resort

Disney cast members have a reputation for making magical experiences for guests at Disney Parks around the world. Recently, Samantha Burns, an attractions hostess at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, went above and beyond to help a claustrophobic guest overcome her fears at Na’vi River Journey in Pandora – The World of Avatar.

The guest really wanted to experience Na’vi River Journey in Pandora – The World of Avatar with her young children, husband and friends, but felt anxious due to her history of claustrophobic episodes. She approached Samantha with a lot of questions about the attraction so she’d know what to expect. Samantha responded by asking the guest if she’d like her to ride with her through the attraction. She did, and according to the guest, Samantha held her hand throughout the experience, pointed out safety exits along the way, and also entertained the guest’s children as they moved through Pandora’s astounding bioluminescent rainforest.

In honor of her positivity and readiness to go above and beyond for this guest, Samantha was recognized with a special memento from Djuan Rivers, vice president of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Joe Kalla, general manager of Park Operations at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Has a Disney cast member gone above and beyond for you? Share your story below!


  • My youngest son has autism spectrum disorder and loves traveling to Disney. We have had many character meet and greets and he usually tries to touch faces and costumes. On August 11th we were at our last park day at MK. It was park closing and we managed to get in the line for Mickey and Minnie. Part one of the story was the first cast member holding us in line until my husband got in. She could only hold for so long but he managed to get in and we were to be the last family of the night. When we got into Mickey and Minnie’s room and were nearing the front of the line we reminded our son not to touch faces. Our son wears and autism awareness ribbon on his shirt. And when it came to greeting Mickey he had a special interaction. I guess Mickey over heard our reminder so he took our sons hand and helped him be curious about his nose and ears. We have wonderful pictures to remind us about the awareness we experienced that evening.

  • Back in the early 90s, my family went to WDW and one morning went to a character breakfast and met Aladdin and Jasmine. My sister and I were about 10 and 12. Later that day we were watching the parade and Aladdin and Jasmine were on top of a float. Jasmine looked down at my sister and I, waved and called out our names. My mum couldn’t believe the princess remembered both our names and still talks about how special it made us feel.

  • Yes! For years, I had a dream of taking a ride in the Lilly Belle parlor car (you used to be able to simply put your name on a list – and then the Lilly Belle was available as part of a paid tour, but now neither are available), and had previously missed out five times. I had mentioned this to Christy when I reserved a Lilly Belle tour earlier in the day, but that ride was cancelled due to rain (the Lilly Belle is very old and delicate and does not go out if it’s raining). Christy let me know that if the weather cleared and someone else backed out, I might be able to get into a later tour. Later in the day, the rain stopped, the Lilly Belle was available again, and I went back to the train station to find out that Christy had remembered me and personally arranged for my group to join the Lilly Belle’s final tour of the day! Afterwards, we went to thank her, and she gave me a huge hug. I will never forget Christy and what she did to make my dream come true – it felt like having my own fairy godmother. We immediately went to City Hall to make sure they knew just how special Christy was. Cast Members are an absolute treasure, and they help set Disney Parks apart from other theme parks.

  • My mom & I won a VIP tour-guide during Disneyland’s Diamond Anniversary. That was amazing in itself. Katie was our guide and took us on almost every ride (some multiple times). When it was time to ride Tower of Terror, I told her how much the drops scared me and how I don’t like elevators. She explained that the elevator is actually pulled down not dropping. She sat next to me and would tap me when it was about to drop. Even thought ToT is now Guardians, I think of her every single time. I wish I had her to tell me when the drops are for Guardians now!

  • The first part of this story was in 2013 when my family of four plus my parents and sister had traveled to WDW for a weekend trip before my sister was to leave for a semester in Tokyo. My son was 3, he wanted so bad to ride Big Thunder Mountain with his big sister and those of us that rode it, he was in tears. The CM that was working the Fast Pass check-in saw how upset he was, he came over and gave him a card that he told us to present on our return trip when he was tall enough to ride. We held onto that card and when we returned when in 2016, he proudly presented that card to the CM at the FP check-in. The CM made a big deal about checking to see if he was tall enough and then filled the card out and sent us through the fast pass line. My son happily showed that card at each check point and each CM was so excited and would high five him. We still have that card in his memory book, on the back the CM had filled in that on that date Alexander was tall enough to ride. He still will bring that up as a favorite memory. All the BTM CMs made him feel special that day and that CM three years earlier was the one that started it all.

  • My mother is restricted to an extremely low fat diet for medical reasons. With all of the fad diets out there, it can be extremely difficult to request (and actually receive) meal accommodations. She had basically written off ever being able to have more than fruit as a dessert in any restaurant. That is until one trip when we ate at Liberty Tree Tavern. The chef personally came out and spoke with my mother to better understand her dietary restrictions. The meal itself was wonderful, but the best part was when he surprised her with a low-fat chocolate souffle for dessert! She was so surprised and incredibly grateful! There have been a few other chefs around the WDW resort which have also gone above and beyond, however this one was definitely special.

  • Reading this story, and the additional comments warms my heart and restores my faith in humanity! …and some people can’t understand my absolute love of all things disney! CAST MEMBERS ROCK!

  • My sister-in-law, her husband, two sons, my daughter and myself were on FOP. When we got off, one of the cast members asked us to step to the side. We didn’t know what was going on but after the other guests passed by, he said he had noticed my sister-in-law’s button that said “5 years cancer free”. He wanted to give her (and the rest of us) 3 fast passes to celebrate!! It brought tears to my eyes!! This was during the early days of the Avatar section so we rode FOP a few more times that day. Disney cast members are the best!!!! So glad that Disney recognizes these wonderful workers!

  • Over the years we’ve gone, there were many. The person who we do see often is Lana whenever she is manning the Firehouse as we go by to pick up the Sorcerers cards.

  • Samantha Burns truly is what Disney Magic is all about!

  • My oldest daughter and I visited WALT Disney World in June for a special mother, daughter trip before she entered high school. I’m trying to soak in all the time I can get before it quickly slips away. A cast member at Hollywood Studios asked if we were celebrating anything special. We explained our trip and she was so sweet to give us celebration pins with mother daughter trip written on them. She genuinely cared about us as guest and our story. My daughter and I could see it and feel it! When we returned to our room and picked up our purchase from the hotel gift shop, she had included the sweetest note that said, “Have a magical mother daughter trip! <3 Allyson.” We had already thought she made us feel special out of the thousands of people around, but there we were both of us in tears.
    Thank you, Allyson for making our trip more magical!
    That was June 9th, 2019

  • We’ve had many special moments by Cast members the most recent were in 2015 on the Disney Fantasy, we wanted to eat at Remy’s. I have gluten intolerance and a pescatarian. We thought we couldn’t eat there and really enjoy it. We were so wrong. We explained this to a cast member and they arranged for me to meet the head Chef, Benoit. We went over what I could and couldn’t eat, I told him my palate was in his capable hands and to have fun doing what he does best. Not only was the meal amazing, Benoit came out and sat with us during the meal to “check in”. In 2017, we had breakfast at the Castle, my husband asked the server if they could accommodate my dietary restrictions. And boy did they, I got my own little plate of goodies and a special breakfast. I was charmed. We left the castle heading over to the Carrousel on that beautiful sunny day and I jokingly said “My kingdom looks wonderful as always this morning” unbeknownst to either of us the Minstrel Cast member from the Sword and the Stone show was behind us and said “you’re stinking adorable, have a magical day”. My husband now fondly says that to me quite often and I simply blush and giggle like a kid each time. Disney is Magic!!

  • There were 9 of us wanting to ride 7 Dwarfs Mine Train the youngest being 6 years old. Skylar was very nervous and at the last minute started crying as she was scared. The cast suggested that mom stay with her and then ride when everyone else got off. In the meantime this very nice staff member talked ever so lovingly to Skylar and explained the whole ride etc. She convinced Skylar to try it with her mother and she did. She was still crying a bit when she got off and the cast member had stayed with the rest of the family. The cast member went right over to Skylar, gave her a big hug and told her how proud she was of her. This made Sky beam…. she then proceeded to give Skylar 9 fastpasses to choose where she would like to treat her family. It was truly a Magical moment.

  • Our first trip. My son is on the spectrum and we went to the Pirate League. My son was 7 and over stimulated and really freaking out. We’d had a super stressful start to the day and ran really late for our appointment. Sarah was checking people in. She recognized my sons uniqueness, and gave him a pin. Then, when he admired anther child’s toy parrot, she brought back “a gift from Jack Sparrow” which was the Mickey pirate kit. We loved her so much and she told us that we could request her to do the makeover. During the makeover, she talked him through every step, calmed him gently when he would start to stress out, and got him all the way through to the end when she proudly proclaimed to the room that “Sir Francis Blackhawk” was a new pirate. She set the tone for the rest of that trip, and our “once in a lifetime” trip turned into someplace that we come to year after year. Sarah epitomizes the spirit of magic and pixie dust and made us WDW fanatics for life.

  • There was a cast member working at the Firehouse named Danny from NH (what his tag said) We was standing out front with the book that you can trade cards for the game at Magic Kingdom. My daughter who is 8 had sorted her cards before our trip. Then typed up all the cards she was missing in hopes of getting at least one new card on this trip. We chatted with Danny and she brought her cards to trade and she got out her list. Unfortunately there were no new cards in the binder. So we talked about stopping back later to see if we could find some new cards. Danny said no way! He pulled out his personal cards from his pocket and traded her for a couple she didn’t have. I thought this was so sweet. I know the cards he got were more common than what she received. It really made our trip. His thoughtfulness and the time he took was just wonderful. That is why we keep coming back. People like him make the magic.

  • This cast member is a jewel, and I hope you are able to keep her for a long, long time. Samantha, from all accounts I’ve read of this situations, was amazing, and is the epitome of guest service!