Disneyland Resort is known as THE destination for celebrating the joy and wonder of childlike whimsy. But what goes into making that magic? Most would immediately mention their favorite character, attraction, food or retail location.
For Custodial cast members, however, it comes from knowing they are eliminating any distraction from the magic surrounding guests. Often, that begins the moment the last guest leaves for the evening. Rob Nieto, Third Shift Custodial Guest Services, says the overnight hours are his favorite time to be here.
“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 said.
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.
It was at the resort that 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 still looks to his family’s experiences as inspiration for his own career. After trying several different lines of work, Rob followed his family’s footsteps and joined Disneyland Resort. He has 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.
Rob (center) with his daughter, Danielle, and son-in-law, Ryan
Rob’s family legacy does not end with his parents. His daughter, Danielle, was an Attractions cast member for three years before pursuing a nursing career. She also met her husband working at Disneyland: Ryan, now Rob’s son-in-law, began his Disney career as an engineer on the Disneyland Railroad. He later moved backstage, fulfilling his dream of becoming a mechanical engineer for the same trains he conducted.
Altogether, Rob’s family has dedicated 109 years of service to Disneyland Resort, including his brother, who worked for over a year as a mechanic at Disney California Adventure park. Rob will celebrate his 15 years of service at the annual Service Celebration this November.
Rob says he continues to seek advice from his father, keeping the family heritage as a guiding light. “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 said.
But his dad suggested taking steps toward leadership, and finally, Rob gave in. “As usual, Dad was right. I applied to be a trainer and loved it. I applied to be a lead, and I love that.”
Rob at his 10-year Service Celebration in 2018
Rob says his favorite activity nearing the end of his shift is creating what he calls “magic memories.” Working at the Pixar Pals and Mickey & Friends parking structures, he gets to see many guests at the very beginning of their day.
“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.”
Such a simple act can create lasting effects, as Rob has seen in his 15 years. Sometimes he just watches excited guests of all ages flood the plaza at the parking structures. Rob says it reminds him of visiting the park as a kid with his parents, bringing his own daughter to the park as a child and then seeing her serve as a cast member.
“For me, the joy of this place cannot be matched. It really is the Happiest Place on Earth.”