Disneyland Park calls itself “the happiest place on Earth,” and the complex has seen more than its fair share of celebrities pass through its gates over the years. While most of these famous faces are normally on their best behavior, some apparently haven’t been. And it’s this latter group which an ex-employee allegedly exposed in a series of TikTok posts in May 2020.
We’ll return to what the former worker had to say about these A-listers a little later, but first let’s learn a bit more about Disneyland itself. The man behind it all – Walt Disney – was an iconic animator and the creator of one of the most ubiquitous brands in world history. He is recorded to have one said, “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.”
A supplementary complex to Disneyland is the massive Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. The latter currently houses four theme parks, 27 hotels, two water parks, golf courses, the Disney Springs shopping center, a camping resort and other entertainment establishments. The original Disneyland venue in California, meanwhile, opened in 1955 and the wider amusement park chain is the largest in the world in terms of attendance, according to Statista.
The website Tripsavvy notes that Walt Disney’s initial inspiration for the park came when children began asking questions about where his characters lived. Of course, he could take the kids on tours of his animation studio, but Disney believed that they’d find it boring. His solution, therefore, was to build some kind of character display adjacent to the studio.
In the Disneyland News Media Source Book, one of the company’s artist-architects called John Hench spoke about the early days of the eponymous animator’s idea. He said, “I remember several Sundays seeing Walt across the street in a weed-filled lot, standing, visualizing, all by himself.”
Unfortunately, few people shared Disney’s belief in the project. In the aforementioned book, the animator was quoted as saying, “I could never convince the financiers that Disneyland was feasible because dreams offer too little collateral.” Apparently, the entrepreneur sold his second home and used his life insurance policy to borrow money in an effort to construct something that would sell his idea to people.
In the end, Disney and his sibling Roy managed to raise $17 million, but that still wasn’t enough to construct the park. They wound up striking a deal with ABC-TV, which loaned them $6 million under the proviso that Disney would make them a weekly television show. Everything was set for construction to begin – or so it seemed.
Frustratingly, the City of Burbank rejected the plans to build Disneyland next to the studio. So, Disney enlisted the help of the Stanford Research Institute to help him identify an ideal building ground for the park. The organisation picked Anaheim – believing that the city would form the center of future economic prosperity in southern California.
Disney took the Standard Research Institute’s advice and purchased 160 acres of land in Anaheim. Construction began in May 1954 with an aim to have the park ready by July the following year. In the end, the project was completed on time and 30,000 people arrived at Disneyland on its opening day. Incredibly, a further 70 million people watched from their homes on a live television broadcast, according to Tripsavvy.
In the beginning, Disneyland was split into five themed areas. Main Street, U.S.A. resembled an early 20th century Midwestern town. Adventureland, meanwhile, was a jungle adventure area in which Tarzan would have been right at home. Another area was called Fantasyland, which evoked the popular stories and characters from Disney’s animated movies. Tomorrowland presented a gleaming, optimistic depiction of a sci-fi future, while Frontierland – the last section – was a Wild West fan’s dream.
However, the opening day would go down in history as a disaster and is apparently known in Disney folklore as “Black Sunday.” Tripsavvy reports that 30,000 people attended the park, and that was double the amount that Walt Disney was expecting. Fifteen-thousand special invitations had been mailed out for opening day attendees, but, according to History.com, criminals had put counterfeit versions into circulation, and the park simply wasn’t capable of handling the numbers.
The explosion in visitor numbers reportedly led to a seven-mile traffic jam on the freeway. And the various rides and attractions in the park continuously broke down as too many attendees used them. Fantasyland, for its part, was also forced to close down for a period due to a dangerous gas leak.
To make matters worse, a plumber’s strike at the time had apparently forced Disney to make a tough decision. By opening day, he could either have operational restroom facilities or running water for the drinking fountains, but not both. He chose to have functioning toilets and sinks, but that left thousands of people thirsty in the hot California sun.
The asphalt on Main Street gradually began to melt in the heat, according to Tripsavvy, and it left a collection of women’s high heels stuck in the black sludge. Overall, the park was poorly reviewed by attendees, the majority of whom deemed it too expensive and run by management who had bungled the opening day.
In spite of the litany of mishaps, Disneyland opened to the public the very next day and over 10,000 people attended, the publication reported. The problems from day one were dealt with by the staff and Disney, who soon realized that daily numbers needed to be limited to 20,000 to maintain standards and avoid overcrowding. Seven weeks later, Tripsavvy added that attendance rose past one million.
Disneyland would, of course, continue to expand over the following decades. In 1965 the eponymous entrepreneur began to develop a supplemental park near Orlando, Florida. However, he would sadly pass away a year later during the initial planning phase. It would eventually open to the public in 1971 and be known as Walt Disney World. The complex has since became world’s most popular vacation resort, with 58 million visitors in 2018, according to Theme Index and Museum Index: The Global Attractions Attendance Report.
The Magic Kingdom was the first theme park to open there. Over the next two decades the Epcot Center, Disney-MGM Studios and Animal Kingdom then opened their doors to eager fans. Disneyland Tokyo came in 1983, and that was followed nine years later by Disneyland Paris. Hong Kong also has its own variant, which was opened in 2005.
And attendees at the Disneyworld are spoiled for choice when it comes to activities. At the California branch, Splash Mountain hurls guests through a half-mile long water ride, and the Indiana Jones Adventure ride puts you in the shoes of Harrison Ford’s iconic movie hero. Elsewhere, the Space Mountain rollercoaster will get pulses racing.
One of the biggest selling points of Disneyland is that children get the chance to meet their heroes. Characters like Mickie and Minnie Mouse are always walking around Toontown – taking pictures and talking with kids. Star Wars fans, meanwhile, can interact with that universe of characters in Tomorrowland’s Star Wars Launch Bay.
Elaborate parades are thrown two or three times a day at Disneyland. If you’re lucky, you may see a firework show too, as the park conducts displays around 250 times per year, according to Tripsavvy. And for those hungry, there are countless themed restaurants and other eateries waiting for you to indulge yourself.
Disneyland also produces live shows that offer dancing, singing and audience participation. The Frozen show is extremely popular at the time of writing, with children singing along to the adventures of Elsa and Olaf the snowman.
And if you still need some retail therapy while you’re there, the park has you covered. There are themed stores outside most rides selling souvenirs. You can buy princess dresses at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, which is found near the park’s famed castle. There are also special stores that sell sought-after Disney collectables and merchandise.
But people got a chance to see behind the curtain at Disneyland in May 2020 when a TikTok user named Nicole Smith posted three videos on the platform. The woman revealed that she was once an employee at the California complex and claimed that she’d met a slew of celebrities while working there. Smith then gave a rundown of her alleged experiences with the stars, and though the majority were positive, she did name and shame a few so-called “divas.”
According to Smith, the first celebrity she encountered was on her very first day working at the park. She said, “Will Ferrell was the very first celebrity I met at my very first shift at Disneyland when I worked at the Haunted Mansion, and he is very cool. A very nice man.”
Ferrell’s co-star in Daddy’s Home Mark Wahlberg also allegedly crossed paths with Smith at the park, and she was equally complimentary about him. In fact, she claimed that the Hollywood hunk lived up to his big screen image. She said, “Can confirm that Mark Wahlberg is just as handsome in person as he is in photographs, and he is also a very nice man.”
Smith then paid an emotional tribute to the late basketball legend Kobe Bryant, who tragically died along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and several others in a helicopter crash in January 2020. The ex-employee said, “He was so sweet, and his family was so sweet. They were beautiful and I’m really sad that he’s gone.”
During her time at Disneyland, Smith said she witnessed several musical performances from the park’s celebrity guests. She gushed that Mary J. Blige is “talented. Brilliant. Amazing. Show-stopping. Queen. She was the nicest person ever and she sings amazing live.” She also praised Demi Lovato, saying, “She was also a great singer live. Loved her.”
Some other celebs didn’t fare so well in Smith’s estimation, though it appears she didn’t outright dislike them. The ex-staffer claimed that eccentric movie star Nicolas Cage was “creepy” and “looks like a vampire.” Rapper Jason Derulo, on the other hand, “Does not know the lyrics to Christmas songs and he had to write the lyrics on his hand. It was kind of embarrassing.”
Smith’s alleged encounter with actor Jason Earles had a hint of awkwardness, but she was ultimately positive about him. For reference, the actor began playing a 16-year-old on Hannah Montana when he was 29. Smith quipped, “No joke, I thought he was a teenage boy and I was kind of embarrassed when I found out it was him. He was actually a really nice guy.”
Teen idol Ross Lynch of the Disney Channel series Austin & Alley was criticized by Smith for his alleged behavior at the park. Smith claimed, “He was fresh off of Teen Beach Movie when he came into the park and, uh, he was lovin’ all the attention. He was all over it! And he was very annoying. I’m sorry.”
The famous faces who truly came off badly in Smith’s videos, however, were Mariah Carey and her husband Nick Cannon. The ex-worker said on TikTok, “These people are awful. I had to deal with both of them separately. She is an absolute diva and he is an absolute diva, and I hope that no cast member has to deal with these monsters ever again.”
Smith claimed that, as a fan of Carey, her negative encounter was upsetting, adding, “She’s a diva, we all know it… I heard it from many cast members, it’s not just me. She’s just rude. She’s not very friendly. And I love her, and I was really sad about that.”
Smith’s opinion on Carey’s husband Nick Cannon was even more scathing, however. She went on, “Nick Cannon, on the other hand, has zero excuse to be a diva.” Smith then alleged that he had been rude to her when she’d encountered him backstage at a Christmas parade. The ex-worker said, “He was basically like, ‘Don’t look at me, don’t talk to me, don’t even breath in my direction.’”
Another star who came in for criticism was Bradley Steven Perry – a young actor on Disney Channel’s Good Luck Charlie. Smith claimed, “… This kid was a little a**hole. I did not like him at all.” The former staff member also apparently crossed paths with Leigh-Allyn Baker – another star of the show – but she didn’t share any opinions on her.
Interestingly, both Perry and Baker addressed Smith’s comments on Instagram. The former amusingly posted, “She must have meant Jason,” referring to co-star Jason Dolley, who played Perry’s older brother in the show. He concluded his post with, “For the record, I don’t have TikTok.”
Baker, for her part, said on Instagram, “Okay. So, she didn’t like the two of us! Ummm… she’s no fun! Clearly.” The actress then went on to express a desire to communicate with Smith directly, adding, “Give me her [Instagram]! I wanna talk to her!”
“What can I say, the girl knows an a**hole when she sees one,” Baker added. “She is cracking me up. We should invite her to a cast zoom.” Elsewhere, despite stirring up a bit of controversy among the Good Luck Charlie cast, none of the other celebrities who Smith mentioned have responded to her claims.
Later in May 2020 Smith posted an illuminating message on TikTok. She wrote in a statement, “This is the last [time] I’ll be posting about Disneyland and my experience there. I never wanted to be featured on the news nor did I expect so much backlash, especially from Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon fans, but my experience with them was unpleasant.”
Smith continued, “My opinion and experiences are my own and if some of you don’t believe [me] that then that’s on you. I have nothing to hide nor anything to gain from posting those. I wanted to share my celebrity encounters while working there – like other TikToks I’ve seen before – because it’s an interesting job to have…”
“… For some reason, the media latched onto my particular story and decided to make that the news of the week,” Smith went on. “I regret nothing, and I hope you enjoyed watching the videos. I literally only made the video to share my experience working at Disneyland. I had zero followers so I thought no one would see it, but here I am.”