Sam Sinns spent 10 years as a performer and dance captain at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park in Florida before moving to Pennsylvania to open Twirl, a dance studio in Newtown Square. So when he heard that the pandemic had forced Disney to lay off many of his former colleagues last year, he quickly came up with a plan to hire some of them.

“I thought, ‘Why don’t I reach out to them first before I go anywhere else [to find job candidates] to see if they would be interested?’ I knew they needed the work,” Sinns said. “They are like family to me, and my heart just went out to them.”

Sinns, who lives with his wife, Amy, and their daughter, Emma, 16, In Malvern, had been in the 2006 opening cast of Finding Nemo, the Musical, at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and stayed with the show for a decade before moving north in 2016. He turned to a Facebook page for Finding Nemo cast, crew, and alumni members with offers for work.

Turns out, this was no Mickey Mouse operation. Not only has Sinns been able to employ several former Disney workers, his small business has benefitted in unexpected ways from their talents.

“Pretty much everything I’ve needed came from the Disney performers, which was awesome,” he said. “It’s just such a talented group of people, and they all had skills.”

Sinns was able to hire some of his former colleagues to work remotely, which allowed them to stay in the Orlando area, where the Disney parks are located. Among the video editors now working for Sinns is Charles Stevens, a former performer in Finding Nemo, who was furloughed by Disney in March 2020 and laid off by the end of the year.

He didn’t have much video-editing experience, but was all in when Sinns asked him to take on production of virtual presentations, necessitated by the pandemic, of Twirl’s dance shows and recitals. Sinns would send Stevens the raw footage, and Stevens would splice it into something cohesive.

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“Since you couldn’t have full classes together [because of social distancing], you would edit one half of the kids and then edit the other half and make it look like they were all together,” Stevens said with pride.

Once the shows were edited, they were sent not just to parents and relatives but to area nursing homes to provide entertainment to those who couldn’t get out.

Although Stevens, 35, who lives in Orlando, and Sinns worked at Disney at different times, their experience of the place gave them an instant connection.

“There is a bond because we both understood the process, and there is a level of respect and understanding,” said Stevens. “We were able to hit it off easily.”

Sinns also now works with former colleague Tony Whitten, who had been a puppet specialist, actor, and a cast trainer for Finding Nemo. Through Disney, Whitten took classes in graphic design and earned his certificate virtually from Wilmington University in Delaware. Sinns hired him to create logos for Twirl, among other things.

“I told Sam I was still learning, but any chance to help would be great,” said Whitten, 47, who lives in Orlando. “Sam was extremely generous, extremely nice to help a friend in these times, and I am glad I could help.”

Working for Twirl, he added, helped build his portfolio.

“It gave me experience I needed and has helped with getting other work,” said Whitten, who has finished Sinns’ projects but remains ever ready to take on new ones as needed.

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Sinns’ studio is growing — Twirl has about 315 students, ranging in age from 3 to adults — and that has necessitated him hiring more Disney colleagues on a freelance basis. Among them are a costume seamstress, a website creative, and a former actor now doing accounting work for Twirl. Sinns is thrilled to have them on board.

“It’s totally mutually beneficial,” he said. “I really needed people to help. That I could line it up with my friends and coworkers at Disney? It’s been awesome.”