A cast member with 109 years of experience at Disneyland Resort in California says he can’t imagine working anywhere else. Yes, 109 years of experience. Keep reading–it’ll make sense.
It’s hard to imagine a time when Disney theme park resorts didn’t exist–before Walt Disney was first inspired to create an amusement enterprise that was different from other offerings. But before 1955, that’s exactly how things were; there were no Disney parks, and only a handful of Disney films had ever been available for fans to see in the theater.
Now, however, there are Disney Parks around the world–two in the United States, one in Europe, and three in Asia, as well as a gorgeous resort and spa located on the Hawaiian island of Oahu and a resort located in Hilton Head, South Carolina–each one with its own unique kind of Disney magic and unique cast members who bring that magic to guests every day of the year.
But when guests think of cast members, they often think of those at Guest Relations, those operating rides and attractions at Disney World, those at Disney hotel concierges who attend to guests’ needs and answer their questions, and those who work in retail locations all around Disney’s theme park resorts. But not everyone remembers that Disney Parks’ custodial staff, like Rob Nieto at Disneyland Resort, are also cast members, and they, too, bring a special magic all their own to the Disney experience.
Like other Disney Parks custodial team members, Rob’s role as a third-shift custodial Guest Services team member at Disneyland is never just about punching in, working his shift, clocking out, and leaving. On the contrary, his work at Disneyland is extremely important, as he sees it as a way of keeping Walt Disney alive in the park.
“I get a sense of pride when I know I am on the team that refreshes and brings the park back to Walt Disney’s standard every single night, and that’s not a responsibility we take lightly,” Rob says.
Disney’s custodial cast members take a lot of pride in what they do, deriving a sense of joy from knowing their roles help to eliminate distractions that could sully the magic in the parks for guests. That’s part of the reason Disney strives to keep its parks clean and orderly in their appearance.
As Rob works the third shift, he often sees the last guests leaving for the evening–and the first guests arriving the next day. He says the overnight hours at Disneyland are the best.
But there’s more to Rob’s love for Disneyland than the important work he does helping to keep the park at Walt’s standard each day. For Rob, his work is about family–and a decades-long tradition with Disney.
Rob’s team is responsible for the cleanliness of both parking structures at Disneyland, including the plaza linking them. His dedication to Disneyland Resort began 15 years ago when he first joined the team.
But Rob’s love of Disneyland began when he was a child. His mother was a cast member in Custodial and Warehouse Operations before ending her 33-year career in the Team Disney Anaheim Mail Center. He recalls many days being able to stroll down Main Street, U.S.A., after school.
At the resort, Rob’s mother met his father, a 47-year Disneyland veteran who concluded his career as operations manager of Custodial Guest Services over a decade ago.
“He wanted me to carve my own path; he would never let me use his career as a stepping point for my own,” Rob explains. He says he draws inspiration from his family’s experiences as cast members in his own career.
Before becoming a Disneyland cast member, Rob tried other lines of work. Ultimately, he followed in his family’s footsteps and applied to work at Disneyland Resort, and he says he’s never looked back.
“I love it. I really don’t think I could see myself working anywhere else or on any other shift. This is my home, and it has been since I was a kid,” he says.
But Rob’s Disney family legacy didn’t end with his parents’ work and his work. Rob’s daughter Danielle also worked as a Disneyland cast member for three years while she went to college to pursue her nursing degree. Danielle met her husband Ryan while working at the park, as he began his Disney career as an engineer on the Disneyland Railroad. Since then, he has chosen a backstage role at the park, fulfilling his dream of becoming a mechanical engineer and working on the very trains he once conducted.
Altogether, the Rob Nieto family–including Rob’s parents, one of his brothers, his daughter, his son-in-law, and himself–has dedicated 109 years of service to the guests, the magic, and the memories at Disneyland Resort. In November, Rob will celebrate his 15 years of service during the park’s annual Service Celebration for cast members.
But it doesn’t sound like Rob’s stopping at year 15. He says he still asks his father’s advice on things, as his family’s heritage of bringing magic to others is important to him.
“I kept telling him I didn’t want to be a trainer or a lead, that I just wanted to come to work and do my job, that it fulfilled me,” Rob explained. Nevertheless, Rob’s father suggested that Rob step out into leadership at Disneyland, so he finally gave in.
“As usual, Dad was right,” Rob conceded. “I applied to be a trainer and loved it. I applied to be a lead, and I love that.”
Rob says his favorite activity as a cast member at Disneyland Resort is creating “magic memories” for guests. Because he works at the Pixar Pals and Mickey & Friends parking structures at the resort, Rob has the privilege of seeing guests as they’re just beginning their day at the Happiest Place on Earth.
“They all want to take pictures in front of the Mickey ball or the Pixar ball, but there’s always someone left out,” Rob explained. “That’s when I approach them and ask if they would like to be in the photo. I encourage them to ask any cast member to take their picture throughout the day. That way, everyone is included in the memories.”
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During Rob’s 15-year tenure at Disneyland, he’s learned to enjoy and embrace the simple things. He watches as excited guests of every age arrive at the park and says it reminds him of visiting Disneyland with his parents when he was young. He also reminds him of bringing his own kids to the park when they were younger.
“For me, the joy of this place cannot be matched. It really is the Happiest Place on Earth.”