Reaching Career Goals as a Disney Performer from Shanghai to Hong Kong


Attending a Disney audition on a whim set Nicholas Clemens down a new career path that would take him across the globe with performance contracts at Shanghai Disney Resort and Hong Kong Disneyland Resort. Now five years into his performing career, Nicholas reflects on an early love of Disney that inspired his journey.

“My passion for performing comes from my experiences as a child going to Disneyland. Story time - My favorite character growing up was Simba from The Lion King. I remember seeing Simba standing on Pride Rock in Disneyland’s Parade of Dreams, and the magic I experienced in this moment was unforgettable. The joy and happiness I felt from seeing my favorite Disney character is what inspires me to perform. This was such a magical moment for me as a kid, and now, I get to be that person who makes magic for people of all ages.”

Despite discovering a natural ability for performing, Nicholas didn’t originally set out with this dream in mind. While studying architecture at UC Berkeley with a minor in theater set design, he began to fall in love with theater. After graduation while working at an architecture firm, a friend who worked at Disneyland Resort encouraged him to give Disney Auditions a shot.

“The audition was in five days, and I had never been to an audition for anything in my life! Going in with no expectations, I surprised myself when I made it to the final round and was even more surprised when I got the call two weeks later to move to Shanghai!”

For two and half years, Nicholas worked at Shanghai Disney Resort which he describes as “some of the best moments of growth and development” he’s ever experienced.

“I got to bring classic Disney stories to life at Shanghai Disney Resort and learned first-hand all about Chinese culture. I was so fascinated by it, that I even learned how to speak, read, and write Mandarin Chinese! My experience was more than I ever dreamed for - and I made some lifelong friendships with my castmates.”

Aside from adjusting to living in a new country, Nicholas and his fellow cast went through extensive training to prepare them to bring unforgettable entertainment experiences to life.

“At the start of training, we learn the fundamentals of acting, which is great for people with no prior experience, and also a great refresher for seasoned performers. This includes general physical animation, and vocal animation. Once we have these basic skills in place, we then begin to layer story into the process.”

The training process sets performers up for success with practice backstage and deep dives into the stories they’re interacting with before they step onstage to perform for guests.

“The physical and mental transformation that we make when performing is a skillset that challenges your storytelling abilities. I enjoy working for Disney because I get to create the same magic for guests that I received while growing up going to Disneyland. It really is a full-circle kind of experience.”


One of Nicholas’s favorite parts of working at Disney is the variety and fun of each day.

“Because of how big and diverse the cast is, every day is completely different from the previous. One day you may be dancing in a parade down Main Street, and the next day you are greeting guests inside the castle. My castmates are always so encouraging, and we always celebrate little victories with each other - things like getting cast in a new show or getting to do a special event. It is rare to find an environment where everyone is so positive, but every Disney location I have worked at is always so positive and fun!”

For Nicholas, being a part of the Disney magic for thousands of guests is an incredibly rewarding experience.

“Every day, I get to see smiles and hear laughter from guests, and that is what our job is all about - we create happiness. Happiness is a universal emotion, and even when we meet guests that don’t speak our language, they still smile and laugh during our interactions together.”

While enjoying his contracts as a performer, Nicholas also set his eyes on career growth opportunities available to him as a cast member.

“While performing at Hong Kong Disneyland, I was also pursuing an MBA and focused on international business culture. Upon completing my MBA, I applied to become a trainer. We have completely revamped the onboarding and training processes, and have made the transition into Hong Kong Disneyland fun, smooth, and exciting for our new performers!”

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For the next step in his adventure, Nicholas accepted a contract with Hong Kong Disneyland Resort to enjoy all the destination has to offer.

“Working for Hong Kong Disneyland is also such a magical experience in its own way. One day I’ll be hiking through mountains and down to a gorgeous beach, and the next day I’ll be on a rooftop overlooking the city, dining with my friends. Hong Kong is such a diverse and safe environment with activities for everyone. Working for Disney has created this opportunity for me, and every day I am so grateful I get to live here!”

Something Nicholas has learned throughout his time performing abroad is the importance of the camaraderie with his fellow cast members.

“We really do become a chosen family with each other. Despite being thousands of miles away from our families, we all get to grow so close with each other. I have made countless memories with them: I’ve walked across the Great Wall of China with my friends, eaten the spiciest Sichuan hot pot, celebrated every birthday, had movie marathons, traveled to Tokyo, Philippines…. the list truly does go on.”

Nicholas now has his prospects set on opportunities to join Hong Kong Disneyland’s Creative/Casting team in the future. His wish is to one day collaborate with Production & Operations teams to create more efficient workflows and bring even more magic to the guests for years to come.

“I think what has surprised me the most is that working for Disney is truly a world of opportunity. I never thought that a career for Disney would lead me to creating a whole life for myself here in Asia - living in both Shanghai and Hong Kong is something that past me wouldn’t believe is possible. Additionally, the opportunities for growth within the company are quite surprising too! There is always a chance to grow your professional career with Disney. I never thought this type of growth would be possible as a performer, but I was completely proven wrong!”

For those considering attending a Disney audition, Nicholas shared this advice: let yourself be surprised and go in with no expectations.


“What I mean by this is to not have any assumptions about the casting process, and to be open to anything you may do during an audition. A casting director wants to see your authentic self and see how you fit into their vision. If you are already limiting yourself from the get-go, then there’s less room for you to grow. But, if you go into an audition as just yourself, then you will be seen for so much more, and may be asked to sing, dance, or act in a role you never imagined you would do! By having no expectations and allowing yourself to be surprised, you are opening the door even wider for more opportunity.”

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