As we continue our look at Disney VIPs and luminaries, we re-visit our interview with former long-time Disneyland Cast Member Peg Matthews Rose (Part 1 of 2).
Peg joined the cast of Disneyland just a year after Walt Disney passed away. Although she never met the Man, she did meet the Mouse–even played the part of Mickey at one time. Peg reveres Walt Disney and his legacy and has become quite a reputable expert on the life of this legendary man. She has contributed to several books, including How to Be Like Walt, by Pat Williams, written with Jim Denney.
Peg’s love of Walt Disney and his Disneyland is quite evident…and contagious! She shared so much wonderful information with Magical Mouse Schoolhouse we had to break the interview into two parts. I’m sure you’ll enjoy today’s post. After you read this interview, you’ll understand why Disneyland is the happiest place on Earth!
MMS: When were you a Cast Member at Disneyland?
PMR: That’s a long story! I worked at Disneyland beginning at 18, back in 1967, just a year after Walt Disney died. Part-time for the first few years, then full-time and salaried by 1976 through 1980, when I left (the first time). Went back to the company in 1988 and back to Disneyland Park in 1996, leaving again in 2000.
MMS: What positions did you hold during your time at Disneyland?
PMR: An even longer story! Here’s a bullet-point resume in chronological order:
- Characters: Peter Pan, with brief instances as Pinocchio, Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, and Minnie Mouse.
- Counter Service: Sunkist Citrus House (Mainstreet, USA) and Sunkist, I Presume (Adventureland). Both facilities are now long gone. In this position, I worked for a lessee (Sunkist) rather than for Disneyland.
- Ticket Seller: Main Entrance and at central booths (also long gone) throughout the Park. Way before passports.
- Disney University: Cast Communications intern, then full-time writer and eventually editor of The Disneyland Line and Backstage Magazine (Backstage also long gone).
- Editor, Disney Times at the Walt Disney Studio. This was a corporate publication that went to all Cast Members throughout the Walt Disney Company.
- QUIT TO BE A FULL-TIME MOM, NEVER INTENDING TO RETURN–BUT THAT MOUSE JUST WOULDN’T LET GO.
- The Disney Stores, Sales Associate. Did this part-time for seven years. Loved talking to Guests about Walt Disney.
- Back to Disneyland and Store Operations. In short order, I became a communications specialist working as a liaison between Merchandise division and other divisions of the company. Then as a communications specialist for all of theme park operations.
- Manager of PBX (telephone operators).
MMS: Why did you decide to work at Disneyland?
PMR: Walt Disney won my heart when he walked into my living room on TV. I was four years old and certain he was building Disneyland (only a few miles from my home) just for me! I remember my first visit and saying, when I saw the Cast Members’ name tags, “They get to LIVE here!” From that day forward, I determined I would too.
When my older brother got a job with the Character department, it was only a matter of time before I followed. He left; I stayed. And stayed. And stayed.
MMS: What are some perks of being a Cast Member?
PMR: Going to the happiest place on Earth every day! At first, at least, that’s how it feels. Sadly, many of us become jaded to that pixie dust stuff after a while. But as an active alumni, I’ve noticed that once a Disney Cast Member, always a Disney Cast Member in our hearts. Walt said it best, “You can take the person out of the Mouse, but you can’t take the Mouse out of the Person.” Longtime Disneyland University Founder and Director Van Arsdale France modified that when he and then Disneyland President Dick Nunis founded the Disneyland Alumni Club in 1983: “You can take the Cast Member out of Disneyland, but you can’t take Disneyland out of the Cast Member.”
- Merchandise discounts.
- Silver pass (salaried or after a certain number of years) allows you to sign yourself and a limited number of Guests into the Park(s) on designated days.
- Cast-only facilities like Company D (cast-exclusive merchandise).
- Exclusive events throughout the year, often related to special occasions or departments.
- Great fellowship with other Cast Members.
- Opportunity to represent Disney to the world (I see this as a perk but can’t say the same for everyone).
- Opportunity to remain connected to Disney after the Cast Member moves on to another job through the Disneyland Alumni Club.
Those are the biggies.
MMS: Have you ridden every ride at Disneyland?
PMR: All but Splash Mountain. By the time that one opened, my stomach wasn’t into the drama anymore. As for Disney’s California Adventure, I think the only one I’ve been on is Soarin’ Over California.
MMS: Which is your overall favorite attraction?
PMR: Great question! I’d say I like Pirates of the Caribbean about as much as any. Of course, the Disneyland Railroad is a perpetual favorite, along with Peter Pan’s Flight–not sure why :). It’s a small world never loses its charm (proper way to spell that attraction’s name is with no caps) and I really have liked the small world holiday theme. Pretty much a sucker for Walt’s classics.
MMS: Have you been to California Adventure? Is that a separate park or part of Disneyland?
PMR: Disney’s California Adventure is a separate gated park, built on the old Disneyland parking lot. I was working for Disneyland Park communications while DCA was being built and later worked at DCA during its first year for the Robert Mondavi Company.
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MMS: What’s your favorite attraction per park?
PMR: Disneyland Park: Pirates of the Caribbean. You know, I really like the Jungle Cruise too.
Disneyland California Adventure: Soarin’ Over California
MMS: How many times have you been to Disneyland as a Guest with your friends an family (not for work)?
PMR: Could not possibly count. Many, many, many times beginning with my childhood. Even since I stopped being a Cast Member, hubby and I have been annual passholders, so we continue to go several times a year.
MMS: What are your family members’ favorite attractions/favorite things to do/see at Disneyland?
PMR: Pretty much the same.
MMS: What’s the best time of year to visit Disneyland?
PMR: Depends on if you like crowds or not! It used to be you could pretty much count on the crowds dropping off after Labor Day, but the marketing folks are getting pretty smart these days, planning events that give fans reasons to come all year ’round. Still, if you want to enjoy a leisurely time in the Park, pick September to mid-November or January to mid-March. April can be good too before the summer season officially kicks in. If you come mid-November to before Thanksgiving, you get all the holiday frou-frou but with less foot traffic. Fridays through Sundays, they’ll run fireworks and Fantasmic!, both of which are every night during the summer.
MMS: Do you have a “game plan” when you go to Disneyland? You know, what rides to hit first? How to avoid long waits?
PMR: Well, we don’t really go for the rides much anymore. I just love to be there, to watch the crowds and be amazed at how Disneyland continues to appeal to all generations year after year after year.
For some time now, they’ve used the FastPass system that allows you to reserve a time to ride an attraction, thus cutting down wait times. Not sure if that is going on anymore as I’ve heard rumors they are about to try something new.
MMS: Do you have any tips for us “Average Joe” visitors?
PMR: Here’s what I used to tell people when they bought tickets at the Main Entrance: First thing to do, if possible, is to ride the Disneyland Railroad from Main Street Station to Main Street Station (all the way around the Park). That gives you an overview and helps you decide which “land” you want to visit first. Keep in mind that once you are past Main Street, USA, the Park is designed like a wheel, with all lands moving off a central hub (called the Central Plaza, where Walt and Mickey statue is located). My advice is to move through them in a circle as much as possible to avoid going back and forth.
- Wear comfortable shoes!
- Drink lots of water.
- Spot out the benches in each land.
- Take sunscreen, sunglasses, hats.
- Bring a light jacket for our chilly nights (except late July-September).
- Oh yes, and bring lots of money! It will come in handy.
- If you’re in a party that is likely to split up at some point, pick a time and landmark for meeting up again. Keep in mind that during parade times, the pathway from Main Street, USA, to it’s a small world will be roped off, making it difficult to cross the Park’s midsection. So take that guide pamphlet they hand you at the Main Entrance and study it well.
- If you’ve got children with you, make sure you locate City Hall, the Baby Station, First Aid, and the restrooms first thing.
- If you need anything at all or have any questions, ask a Cast Member. They are trained to help you find what you need.
- In fact, point them out to your kids and tell them that if they get lost to go to a Cast Member. Make sure they know the difference between a Cast Member and a non-cast member.
- HAVE THE TIME OF YOUR LIVES! It’s what Walt always wanted and had in mind.
MMS: My first interview for this blog was about the late Imagineer Leota Toombs Thomas. Did you ever meet her, by chance?
PMR: Sadly, I never met Leota. Did meet a few other Disney Legends along the way, including Marc Davis, John Hench, and Ward Kimball. My brother met Walt himself on several occasions though I missed that magical moment (Oh, the heartache! I’m still not over it!). Speaking of Leota, I believe it is she whose image is reflected in the crystal ball in the Haunted Mansion. Always referred to as Madame Leota.
[MMS: Yes, it is! You can read about Leota here.]
MMS: Did you ever meet Roy E. Disney, Roy O. Disney, or any other Disney family members?
PMR: I met Roy E. at a Disney Legends event in 2004 and have spoken with Diane Disney Miller. That’s it for me, personally. My brother John met Walt, as I said, and may have met Roy O. Not sure about that–I’ll have to ask him.
MMS: As a Cast Member, have you participated in any special park events?
PMR: In a roundabout way, many of them. My role in communications involved me in getting the word out to the frontline Cast during daily forums we called “Mickey’s Roll Call,” as well as through newsletters, binders, and Friday bulletins. The merchandise team I served on was deeply involved in the New Tomorrowland opening in 1998, for example.
MMS: Is there anything you’d like to tell us about your experience that I haven’t already asked? Feel free to share as much or as little as you’d like!
PMR: My Disney life shaped so much of my other life it’s hard to know where one leaves off and the other starts. I really had intended to just move on both times I left (1980 and 2000), but that old Mouse kept hauling me back. He knows right where my heart strings are. While I have not gone back to work for the company since my departure in 2000, I have been long involved in the Disneyland Alumni Club and now serve on both the board of directors and as a part of the editorial team.
It’s so much of who I am that one of my friends calls me her cartoon pal. Just recently, I attended a funeral for the man who was Walt Disney’s hand-picked Mickey (in character costume), a man named Paul Castle. Paul had great success on the ice back in the 1940s and on, skating for the Ice Capades. Walt saw him in one of the shows and said, “That’s my Mickey.” Attending his service was like a reunion of sorts with people I’d worked with and known so well.
Seriously, I can’t think of a person who has impacted both my life and our world more than has Walt Disney. There is almost nowhere you can go in this world his magic has not touched. Disney transcends almost all human philosophy. What Walt accomplished truly is magical.
Seven years ago, I had the opportunity to assist in the creation of a book called How to Be Like Walt, authored by Pat Williams of the Orlando Magic and writer Jim Denney. One of the key realizations we experienced in the process was how the sheer force of this man, Walt Disney, continues to influence our lives and our world. And he’s been gone for fifty years!
Magical Mouse Schoolhouse would like to thank Peggy Matthews Rose so very much for sharing her experience with us (and her photos)! We will discuss How to Be Like Walt a bit more in Part 2 of our interview, and we’ll take a look at some more general Disneyland tidbits. Please check back next Monday, November 21, to hear about the Disney family apartment at Disneyland, the petrified tree in Adventureland, and feral cats!
Peg would like former Disneyland Cast Members to be aware of the Disneyland Alumni Club reunions. The Disneyland Alumni Club www.disneylandalumni.org has mini-reunions every year and major reunions in the anniversary years. It’s just $15 a year and entitles members to participate in events (including fun family movie screenings at the Walt Disney Studio every holiday season), buy exclusive merchandise, and so much more!
You can read more about Peg and view samples of her writings at her website.
Character Cast Members are trained to perform using specific mannerisms and body language. Those who wear full costume with masks do not speak, so what they say with their motions must effectively communicate to the fans.
Have your children create a mask using either a paper grocery sack or a paper plate. Cut out only eyes and small nose holes and mouth for breathing, but try to keep most of the face covered so facial expressions are hidden. Be creative! Decorate a Mickey or a Donald or even a Lion King using crayons, markers, paint, beads, ribbons, buttons and yarn. Once the masks are complete, have the children take turns acting out their characters–but NO talking! See how well they communicate in character without using words.
SCHOOL SUBJECT: Art — Drama
SKILL LEVEL: Middle Grades
©2016, 2010 Magical Mouse Schoolhouse, your Disney homeschool resource.
*An earlier version of this interview appeared at Magical Mouse Schoolhouse in 2010.
Think outside the textbook with this veteran homeschooling author & editor, and learn while you play!