All Cast Members Have Stories
by Mark Eades
“Everyone has a story,” says David Koenig, speaking about Cast Members who worked at Disneyland. David never worked at Disneyland, but he might as well have—considering how many Cast Members he has interviewed (nearly 1,500) for books about working at Walt Disney’s original theme park.
For David, writing those books came as a result of growing up in Orange County and visiting Disneyland once a year. Before the days of Annual Passes, once a year was a big deal! “As a kid, Disneyland was the coolest magic trick,” he said. “It was a huge thing to go to Disneyland.”
David attended Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, California, and when he went to visit Disneyland during the summer, he found out many of his teachers worked there. “When I went to Grad Nite, one of them was there.”
After high school, David attended California State University, Fullerton, where he majored in journalism. He also discovered something about many of his fellow students at CSUF, “Everyone seemed to work at Disneyland.”
He would listen to their stories about things that took place on stage and some of the behind the scenes shenanigans. “The war stories about working at Disneyland were fascinating on a global level,” he said. But he never applied to work there. “When I was younger I always thought I wanted to work at Disneyland, but as I grew up and listened to the stories, the more I learned, I realized it was not a match for me,” he said.
David’s day job involves serving as an editor and publisher at Cutler Publishing, covering the building products industry. But his second career grew from his fascination with Disneyland Cast Members’ stories—so much so that he decided to write a book full of them, called Mouse Tales: A Behind-the-Ears Look at Disneyland.
Published in 1994 Mouse Tales’s success led to more books about Disneyland, Walt Disney World, and behind the scenes at the Disney Studios and Walt Disney Imagineering. Those books were: Mouse Under Glass: Secrets of Disney Animation & Theme Parks, More Mouse Tales: A Closer Peek Backstage at Disneyland and finally, Realityland: True-Life Adventures at Walt Disney World (all are from Bonaventure Press).
Though he’s written about backstage antics, David still likes how the parks work to entertain. “Nothing interests me more than underground or behind the magic at Disneyland,” he said. “If there was a backstage annual pass to see how they put on the show, I would spend whatever it cost for that pass.”
David still enjoys visiting the park with his wife and two kids. His favorite attraction is the Jungle Cruise. “It can be the most spontaneous and fun. From one ride to the next you can have a totally different ride. There’s nothing as much fun when it’s done right and fresh.”
He also liked “Fantasmic” but admits he no longer enjoys watching the Rivers of America spectacle. “It’s gotten uncomfortable to watch. It’s the same people watching the show every time,” he said.
David also enjoys Disney California Adventure, which he says is a much better park now than when it first opened. “I love Carsland.”
There are more books in the future, David says, depending on what he finds out.
“I continue to collect crazy Disneyland stories, and when I get enough, I will put it together.”
Editor’s note: David interviewed Mark Eades, the author of this story, for his books. Mark decided to turn the tables on David and interview him for this article.
This profile is part of a series featuring former Disney Cast Members being written for the Disneyland Alumni Club. These stories reveal the role working for Disney has played over the years in shaping the lives of the people who help "make the dream a reality," as Walt would say.
In honor of the 60th anniversary year of Disneyland in 2015, the Disneyland Alumni Club is reaching out to former employees, whether retired or younger, who may not be aware of the organization. The Club was started in 1983 by Disneyland executives Van France and Dick Nunis as a way to help Cast Members stay in touch after moving on to other careers. Is that you? If so and you'd like to take part in the Club's private celebration next August—or participate in their many other activities and benefits, please visit www.disneylandalumni.org and join today.
Here are some previous stories about Disneyland Alumni:
This article and photographs are copyright 2014 by Mark Eades, all rights reserved. Used by permission. Photographs supplied by subjects are used by permission, all rights reserved.