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In the 25+ years I've been writing about Disneyland, I don't think a single year has gone by without a cast member telling me, "Employee morale has never been lower." And, in recent years, the park appears to have given up even trying to dispel the notion.


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In the 1980s, even as the company began slashing pay scales, benefits and work hours, managers were still trained to at least feign appreciation to the rank and file—holding elaborate Christmas parties (when cast members had the park to themselves), organizing retirement parties, providing buttons on the park's July 17 birthday, and handing out a host of other perks simply to say, "You're appreciated."

Over the last few years, most of those perks disappeared. Cast members grumbled, but soldiered on. But the disenchantment all seemed to come to a head this past Memorial Day weekend, at a 24-hour party during which guests filed a record number of complaints against cranky cast members.

To its credit, management finally got the message. So this week, to mark Disneyland's 59th anniversary, Team Disney Anaheim rolled out Cast Celebration Week—six days of treats and thank-yous to show employees that they're appreciated:

  • On Monday July 14, cast members were given free healthy snacks, including apples, oranges, bananas, and granola bars.
  • On Tuesday, each received a meal, consisting of a hot dog, bag of chips, chocolate chip cookie, and soda or bottled water.
  • On Wednesday, every employee was treated to a Mickey Mouse ice cream bar. 
  • Yesterday, cast members got a Disneyland birthday button. 
  • Today, the Opera House on Main Street will show vintage footage of Disneyland with artifacts from the Disney archives in the lobby. Popcorn and bottled water will be served.

And throughout the week, cast members have been able to have their photo taken with a classic attraction vehicle at various locations.

They're all simple acts, but so unexpected that, together, they're going a long way to help repair cast member/Mouse relations.

A Peek Inside the New Club 33

Today also marks the reopening of the remodeled and expanded Club 33. A few observations, from cast members who toured the facility earlier this week:

  • "It was nice, but it lacks the Disney feel to it. It resembles more of a generic fancy restaurant than an exclusive club inside the park."
  • Most Club 33 employees sound unhappy with the restaurant's cartoonish new logo.
  • Maybe it's best that me and the rest of the peasantry can no longer see the Court of Angels, since it sounds like the remodel destroyed much of its charm. The spiral staircase has been "safetyfied" with additional metal railings and lights. The new elevator is huge and intrudes into the courtyard.
    "The courtyard looks a lot fancier—or should I say tacky?—but it doesn't improve it," one witness reported.
    The metal plaque in memory of cast member Sally McWhirter is still there, but absent was the stained glass sign that heralded the "Court des Anges."
  • The Club's original entrance has lost its elevator and been converted into a merchandise stockroom for Le Bat en Rouge, La Mascarade d'Orleans, and the Arribas Brothers Crystal Shop, which lost its stockroom to the new Club 33 lounge.
  • La Mascarade is no longer a pin shop; it's now a high-priced boutique selling items themed to New Orleans Square.

Disneyana Show Signing

Yesterday, wasn't just the 59th anniversary of the Happiest Place on Earth. It was also the 20th anniversary of the first publication of Mouse Tales: A Behind-the-Ears Look at Disneyland, the book that started me on this wayward backstage path.

Come celebrate with me—and maybe pick up a copy of the new paperback edition of Realityland: True-Life Adventures at Walt Disney World—this Sunday June 20 at the Disneyana Collectible Expo (formerly the NFFC Show & Sale) at the Wyndham Garden Grove (formerly the Crowne Plaza). I will not be handing out free buttons.



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(Send an email to David Koenig)

David Koenig is the senior editor of the 80-year-old business journal, The Merchant Magazine.

After receiving his degree in journalism from California State University, Fullerton (aka Cal State Disneyland), he began years of research for his first book, Mouse Tales: A Behind-the-Ears Look at Disneyland (1994), which he followed with Mouse Under Glass: Secrets of Disney Animation & Theme Parks (1997, revised 2001) and More Mouse Tales: A Closer Peek Backstage at Disneyland (1999) (All titles published by Bonaventure Press).

He lives in Aliso Viejo, California, with his lovely wife, Laura, their wonderful son, Zachary, and their adorable daughter, Rebecca.