Book Review: The People Who Clean Disneyland

This piece is for my fellow Disney fanatics.

cleaning-kingdomI have been reading the book Cleaning the Kingdom: Insider Tales of Keeping Walt’s Dream Spotless by Ken Pellman & Lynn Barron (Synergy Books, 2015).  I’m only about two thirds of the way through (it’s 439 pages of narrative plus supporting material), but it’s the best book I’ve ever read about the inside workings of a theme park.

Custodial is a critical, almost mythical, part of Disney theme-park lore.  Not only do they maintain the parks’ sterling reputation for cleanliness, they are the cast members who have the most interaction with the guests.  In 18 chapters, Ken and Lynn tell you what it’s really like to work at Disneyland.  Of all the ‘insider’ books I’ve read, this is the best.  At times, I feel like I’m right there with them.  It includes the good and the bad, the funny and the serious.

For example — Next time you’re at Disneyland, ask a sweeper “How’s business?”  The probable response will be “It’s always picking up.”  (DO NOT say “You missed a spot.”  They hear that all the time.)

And there was this entry on page 287:


Guests would line up early for parades, sometimes by hours depending on the parade.  The Christmas parade was always a popular one, even after Very Merry Christmas Parade switched to the smaller Christmas Fantasy.  A guest noticed there was quite a crowd on Main Street waiting and asked me how much longer until the parade.  She wasn’t expecting that it was still a bit of a wait before it would start.

“Jesus Christ!” she exclaimed.

“Yes it is the Christmas parade, but He’s not in it,” I replied without hesitation.

As a Disney fan, I have always appreciated the extras cast members bring to their jobs.  For the really good ones, it becomes automatic.  I particularly liked this story from page 292:

On a quiet night in Frontierland [a manager] approached me and complimented me on the interaction I had just had with a guest.  I didn’t know what I had done that was so special.  She described it to me.  The guest was a woman who had a sleeping youngster resting his head on her shoulder, and she had asked a question as she approached me.  What [manager] Janet had seen me do was deliberately maneuver around the woman so I could speak to the ear the kid wasn’t sleeping next to, lean in, and quietly answer her question.  I hadn’t even thought about it.  Practicing something over and over again really could make doing it automatic.

Disneyland really is a special place, and much of the magic is the people who work there.


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