I can definitely affirm: This park really is the Happiest Place on Earth. But not for the reasons you might think.
First, let me explain myself: I’ve visited Disneyland so many times mostly because we lived right by Anaheim most of my life. My childhood home is in Corona, less than 20 miles from Disneyland. Lots of people we knew growing up bought season passes to the Disney parks, because that was just what you did. Needed a staycation? Go hang out in Fantasyland for a while. Looking for a present for your nephew? You can pop over to Toontown and see what they have in the gift shops. Nowadays, my grandma sometimes goes over to Disneyland just to people-watch and get in some walking exercise. It was and is a very nonchalant thing to do in southern California.
More than local culture, my family has a very deep connection with Disneyland. My mom performed there with her drill team and jazz choir when she was in high school. My dad worked on the Jungle Cruise back in the ’80s. My great-grandfather performed jazz in the New Orleans Square section of the park decades before. And goodness knows the little kids of my family pretended to be various Disney characters back in the day.
But after having been to Disneyland so many times, you pick up on the real charm of the place. And it’s not in the rides or attractions — it’s in the people who work there. I remember one visit where my brother Brian (the kid in the horizontally striped shirt) got injured three times in the course of one visit. And every time we visited the Nurse’s Station (yes, there is a freaking Nurse’s Station at Disneyland), they were kind and considerate to him. When Space Mountain suddenly stopped when dad and I were on it, a couple of crew members helped us get out of the ride safely. When my little brother Erik was scared to take a picture with a woman dressed as Wendy from Peter Pan, she stayed and talked with him for ten minutes until he felt ready to pose with her. These people are dedicated to their job, and it shows.
There are tons of employees at Disneyland, and they have to follow lots of regulations while on the job. I didn’t know this, but apparently the rule are so strict about going costuming that entire systems of underground tunnels were constructed to prevent workers from wearing their costume in the incorrect “land.” For example, if my dad was covering a shift for someone over at Toontown, he have probably have had to go underground to change out of his safari outfit, then pop out the other side of a tunnel into Toontown. This is just speculation about how it would have been back in the ’80s. But holy cow, these workers have an intense job!
I know that it’s weird to say, but I truly believe it: Disneyland is fun because the workers work their butts off at their jobs. As someone who’s worked at a variety of “grunt jobs,” I have a newfound respect for these workers. They deal with scared kids, people who speak different languages, and sometimes wearing different costumes every day. More than the fun rides, the people in the uniforms are what have made Disneyland fun for thousands of people. They basically have the most hectic carnival job ever, in one of the most famous theme parks in the world. And yet they manage to put on a happy face every day and make Disneyland a fun place for people to visit. They’re what, in my opinion, make the park amazing.
If you don’t believe me, think about this: You may not remember every detail of your first ride on Space Mountain. But you would remember this forever: