Not everyone can crack you up AND make you think, so allow us to introduce one of our favorite people: Jim Babcock. Jim wears two hats (or should that be sets of mouse ears?) at The Walt Disney Company. As Director of Internal Communications for Disney Consumer Products he’s responsible for keeping the employees of Disney Consumer Products informed and in step with Company needs. On the side, he serves as emcee for Disney employee events — as many as 40 or 50 a year. One week he might be keeping the fun level high at a Halloween costume contest, and the next you’ll find him introducing Disney CEO Bob Iger at a corporate event.
So, how did Jim become the “go-to” host? As it turns out, more or less by accident! Jim explains, “It’s not my ‘real’ job, it’s kind of a side job, but I’ve been lucky enough to do it since 1989. It started when I was working at Disney University [which offers training and classes to Disney employees]. Our Halloween event was coming up and I was brand new to the team. They were looking for a host because the guy who was supposed to do it called in sick. I could hear them going from cube to cube asking everybody, and they finally got to me and said, ‘Jim, we have no other choice! Can you host this for us?’ I was scared to death, but I said sure, I’ll do it. It was for a couple thousand employees, so it was scary but I loved it! They asked me to do it the next year, so I started doing the Halloween event and that turned into other internal events, and now I do external events for press and PR. It also got me interested in improv comedy, which I do on the side as well. It’s become a passion of mine.”
Jim’s gift of gab has allowed him to travel to surprising places and interact with some fascinating people. “I just recently had the opportunity to interview John Goodman at Toy Fair in New York. I’ve talked to directors and producers of various Disney films. Sometimes I just stop and think ‘I really get to do this? That’s cool!’” he laughs. “I’ve worked with Bob Iger on many events over the years – he’s been very generous to let me be funny while he handles the serious side, although occasionally he’ll send a zinger right back at me! And I’ve had the chance to do crazy stuff – I’ve gotten to do improv on stage at Disney events. I’m very excited to do all of that.”
Jim’s day-to-day work life doesn’t put him on stage, but it does mean keeping people informed and excited. He heads up internal communications for the employees of Disney Consumer Products (they’re the ones behind all the cool Disney gear we love to shop for, from Villains nail polish to Buzz Lightyear bedding). “Every way we communicate with our employees comes through my team,” he explains. “I spend my time managing a team of 12 – and they’re amazing! They’re the experts on what they do. We don’t want our information to be dry and repetitive — we want it to be fun and have a creative spin. So part of my job is strengthening our culture and making it a fun place to work.”
Jim’s Disney career began where so many great ones (from actors to execs) do, interacting with the public as a Disney Theme Park Cast Member. “I sold candy on Disneyland Park’s Main Street in 1986 when I first moved here from Michigan. I’d always wanted to work for Disney. I thought that was the coolest thing ever! Then I got into training and development for Disneyland Resort and that really launched my career. I’ve been able to hop all over the Company, but it really all started with selling candy on Main Street.”
Now, 26 years later, Jim has a wealth of Disney experience — and some great advice for aspiring Cast Members. “I always tell people that it’s the best Company in the world. I love what I do and I love the Company. I don’t think it’s for everybody, though. You have to embrace the brand. For people who treat it as just another job, that’s fine and it might work out for them – but the people I see who are the most successful are the ones who really embrace what Disney’s all about.”
And no one demonstrates that principle better than Jim himself. “I grew up with a special place in my heart for Disney, so when I got that first job, that was one of the best things that ever happened to me. When they gave me my name tag, I was so excited to get to wear it every day! I got to help people have a great time at Disneyland! And that’s what working for Disney is really about – how can I help other people have a great Disney experience? Even though I tend to be a more funny, jokey person (which I think every workplace needs!), I take what I do very seriously.”
There you have it – from The Candy Palace to Mr. Iger’s warm-up act, Jim is living proof that a Disney career can go as far as dreams and hard work will reach.