Key, a 2007 graduate of Walker High School, was a freshman at the University of Alabama when she accepted an opportunity with the Disney College Program.
Key spent one semester studying the performing arts in Orlando, Fla. She continued to be a seasonal employee at the Walt Disney World Resort after returning to UA.
As a character performer, Key was “friends” with Wendy Darling, Peter Pan and others. She sometimes spent 14 hours a day walking around the park interacting with children.
“It was interesting because I had always just done stage performing. Getting to meet the kids and see them smile because of what I did was something special,” Key said.
Last summer, Key received a contract for “Disney Live! Mickey’s Music Festival.” The international stage show opened in the Canary Islands and spent the next eight months touring Spain, Turkey, France and the United Kingdom.
The rock and roll concert featured songs and characters from some of Disney’s most popular movies, including “Aladdin,” “The Little Mermaid” and “Toy Story.”
Key was an extra as well as an understudy. She had to learn several parts in each of the native languages associated with the stops on the tour.
There wasn’t much time for sightseeing. The performers typically participated in 12 shows from Wednesday through Sunday each week.
“It got tiring, but it was worth it to get the chance to see Europe. We spent an entire month in Paris, which was really cool,” Key said.
The four months Key spent in Spain, however, changed the direction of her life.
She relocated to Barcelona after the Disney tour ended in May. This fall, she will begin auditioning for the Spanish versions of various Broadway musicals.
Key said that although she is ready to distance herself from Disney, she is thankful for the time she spent with the family entertainment company.
“I’ve given Disney nearly four years of my life. It was a great stepping stone, and I learned a lot,” Key said.
Key, 22, began dancing as a toddler. Her mother, Deborah Ann Pyron, was her first dance teacher, and she later studied at the Dale Serrano studio in Birmingham.
Key said that if Disney had not intervened, she would have graduated from UA this month and then likely would have pursued a career in New York or Los Angeles.
However, she has no regrets about leaving college two semesters short of a degree to make her way in the real world.
“People dream of backpacking around Europe, but I got paid to see those places and to do what I love. Getting to show what I love to somebody else is one of the biggest pleasures that I can imagine, ” Key said.