As part of the Disney100 Celebration at Disneyland Resort and the “World of Color – ONE” spectacular, we are highlighting cast members who, like our new show, exemplify how one small idea or action — like a single drop of water — can create a ripple that grows into a wave of positive change. Today, let’s meet Paul Villegas, a Fantasyland attractions lead and trainer at Disneyland park.
Storybook Land Canal Boats is Paul Villegas’ favorite Fantasyland attraction, but it always bothered him when young guests would shy away from an offer to sit at the front of the boat — especially when they saw the intimidating mouth of Monstro the whale at the start of the journey.
That got Paul thinking: What would ease their fears and make children eager to sit up front? After all, once guests emerge from the whale’s mouth, the boat ride is an enchanting tour of miniature scenes from classic Disney movies.
“I asked if I could design an ‘Official Whale Watcher’ sticker that cast members could hand out to our young guests and tell them it’s their job to be on the lookout for whales,” said Paul, who credits his creative streak to his sister, a first-grade teacher. The sticker, one of several Paul has designed for Fantasyland attractions and shows, has been a hit with cast and guests alike.
“A lot of what I saw my sister do in her classroom over the years were things I knew I could bring into my role as a lead and trainer,” said Paul, who has worked in Fantasyland attractions since joining Disney nine years ago. He is now the go-to person whenever the team is looking for an artistic flair for its flyers and special projects.
Paul welcomes the opportunity to express his passion for art, especially since it’s his career goal to become a full-time graphic designer for Disney. In fact, he is about a year away from getting his bachelor’s degree in graphic design through Disney Aspire, Disney’s education investment program that offers 100% paid tuition at a network of schools.
“Art is a great way to bring people together, and using visuals really helps in training new cast members,” said Paul, who prides himself on seeing cast he’s trained go on to become leads and managers.
Operations manager Austin Leonard says Paul’s dedication to cast growth can be seen in his creative contributions, and it’s one of the reasons he was recognized last fall with the Walt Disney Legacy Award, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products’ highest honor. He praised one of Paul’s recent projects, which involved creating miniature boats and collateral for the “Battle of the Boats” campaign, a friendly competition to drive efficiency among cast who work on Storybook Land Canal Boats, Jungle Cruise and Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. “Paul really excels at taking an idea and creating something that inspires and rallies our cast,” Austin said.
Paul advises cast members not to hesitate to share their own ideas. “We can always go above and beyond” for guests and fellow cast, he said. “One small thing can affect the rest of a person’s day — and that ripple effect starts with us.”