- Disney California Adventure Park West general manager Gary Maggetti has worked at the Disneyland Resort full-time for 23 years.
- Before he landed a full-time role, he did a stint as a Jungle Cruise skipper in college.
- Maggetti shared his typical daily routine – which features a morning pick-me-up of green tea and lots of walking – with Business Insider.
Before the iconic resort became his workplace, he was just another kid at the park, swinging by all the best attractions with his twin brother Chris. Their family visited Disneyland every two years, starting when they were four.
Then, Maggetti was a Northern Arizona University hotel and restaurant administration major applying for the Disney College Program. He landed a summer gig as a skipper on the Jungle Cruise, one of his favourite rides.
Finally, in 1995, he landed his first full-time role at the park. By that point, Maggetti knew that Disneyland was where he wanted to stay.
In the 23 years since, Maggetti has held 13 different roles at the Walt Disney Company, including one that took him all the way to Japan. Today, he’s a general manager representing the western part of Disney California Adventure Park. Disney California Adventure and Disneyland Park are the two theme parks that make up the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California.
Maggetti said his story isn’t “unique” at Disneyland.
“You go to a meeting and you look around the room and it’s like: ‘Oh my goodness, you were in my management training class in 1996,'” he told Business Insider. “This is not an unusual story because there are so many opportunities with Disney to have different experiences.”
Maggetti recently shared his daily schedule with Business Insider. His routine sheds light on both the culture at Disneyland, and the behind-the-scenes inner-workings of the park.
Here’s what a typical day at Disneyland looks like for Maggetti:
Maggetti wakes up early and typically passes on coffee
Maggetti kicks off his day at 6 a.m. He’s not big on breakfast, but he said that he’ll sometimes eat a morning meal with his two teenage sons.
According to Maggetti, the boys take after his twin brother Chris – an executive chef at Disneyland.
“They’re actually pretty good cooks, so sometimes they will make me breakfast in the morning,” he told Business Insider.
But two figures are typically absent from the breakfast table: Maggetti said he has a “long distance marriage” with his wife, who lives and works in Northern California with his stepson. The family reunites on the weekends, though.
After breakfast, Maggetti drives his sons to school and then embarks on the 35-minute commute to Disneyland. He usually arrives at work around 8 a.m.
To prepare for the workday, Maggetti skips coffee and instead opts for decaf green tea. He said he prefers the “calming effect” of the beverage.
He meets up with his team mates and enjoys watching the park open
First up, Maggetti heads to his team’s morning huddle. Patrick Finnegan, the vice president of Disney California Adventure Park and the Downtown Disney District, leads the daily meeting. Everyone discusses the previous day and establishes a “game plan” for the coming day.
Maggetti said the team often makes a point of huddling out in the park, where they can watch early-bird guests trickle in around 9 a.m.
“It’s incredibly enjoyable to be there when the first guests go through the turnstiles,” Maggetti said. “There’s this sense of adventure and hope and excitement. You can kind of see the guests making decisions early in the day. Like, ‘Am I going to the new Incredicoaster?’ or ‘Am I going to head over to Radiator Springs Racer?’ It’s great to be a part of that.”
Up next, Maggetti learns about any cool opportunities for his cast members
Once the park is opened, all of the general managers will connect with one of the resort’s duty managers for a daily “roll call.”
Maggetti said this is his chance to learn about cool opportunities for Disney California Adventure Park cast members, such as trying out new attractions before they open to guests.
“They will let the leaders know, ‘Hey make sure your cast members know we have this great experience before the guests arrive,'” Maggetti said.
As general manager, Maggetti has to wear a number of different hats — and shoes
As the general manager of the western region of Disney California Adventure Park, Maggetti’s days revolve around everything from managing cast members to dealing with developing and building new attractions in the park.
Maggetti told Business Insider that he often wears a few different hats in his role.
“You’ve got the hat of day to day operations, and leadership for the cast members in your area, but then you also put on your construction hat,” Maggetti said.
He doesn’t just switch out hats based on the day. Recently, Maggetti played a major part in the launch of Pixar Pier – an area of the park previously known as Paradise Pier.
“I have my construction shoes in the office that are super dirty, and normal dress shoes,” he said.
Being a ‘generalist leader’ is important at Disneyland, according to Maggetti
At Disneyland Resort, every day is different. Maggetti might find himself checking in with cast members at the park’s new Lamplight Lounge restaurant, establishing a new micro-market in one of the break areas, or brainstorming park development opportunities with his direct reports.
As a result, he said managers at Disneyland have got to be capable of handling a wide range of projects and situations.
“Being a generalist leader is a great way for you to get satisfaction out of your role,” he said.
Generally, Maggetti’s daily schedule varies a lot
On a day-to-day basis, Maggetti’s schedule is often up in the air. He said that he often double or triple books meetings, calls, or visits to certain areas of the park.
Maggetti said that he’ll then make a final decision on what to do based on his top priorities that day.
Maggetti stays mobile — and often walks up to five miles a day around the park
Maggetti likes to stay mobile throughout the day. He typically walks at least five miles every day.
“I do spend as much time as I can in the parks,” Maggetti said. “So I’m a 10,000-steps-a-day person.”
Recently, Maggetti actually hit 14 miles in one day, as he darted between venues during a media event.
Maggetti said he’s grateful for the exercise and added that his park rounds “help me stay connected with cast members and guests.”
He has one major rule when it comes to supporting cast members
“As a leader your main responsibility is to care about your cast members,” Maggetti said. “You demonstrate care by asking them what they need – and listening.”
He said that “guessing” is the worst thing a leader can do when responding to a cast member’s request or question.
“Don’t guess,” he said. “Go find out and get back to the cast member.”
Maggetti also takes time to help out guests
Maggetti’s office is behind Cars Land, so he frequently does a lot of walking in the Radiator Springs area. He told Business Insider that he often passes by a particularly photogenic spot, where guests flock to take pictures in front of the park’s Cadillac Mountain Range.
“I’ll just walk out and ask guests if they want me to take their picture,” he said. “Oftentimes dad or mum don’t get to be in the picture because they are taking it.”
He said getting to interact with the guests and help them make memories at the park is a “magical experience.”
Maggetti’s two favourite rides both have a nautical theme…
Maggetti said his all-time favourite ride in the Disneyland Resort is Pirates of the Caribbean.
“It’s the one attraction that, when we come as a family, that’s the one we do,” he said.
But when it comes to his own home base, Disney’s California Adventure, he prefers The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure.
“Part of it is that nostalgia feel,” he said. “When The Little Mermaid actually came out, I was kind of reinvested in Disney animation. I was in marching band in high school and we ended up playing a whole show that had music from The Little Mermaid.”
…and one of his favourite spots in the park is ‘off the beaten path’
When he wants to “decompress,” Maggetti will head over to the spot behind Harbour Galley where the Sailing Ship Columbia docks. He said the the area is “off the beaten path” and has a few tables that most guests don’t know about.
“It’s the area where all the Splash Mountain logs splashdown,” he said. “If you’re standing on this little bridge, you can hear the peals of laughter and excitement. You don’t see the guests you only kind of see the raft floating by and the top of their heads. If you close your eyes and you realise you’re in Disneyland and all this happiness is around you – no matter what kind of day I’m having, if I walk out there, it is amazing.”
Maggetti usually skips — or at least postpones — eating lunch
Taking lunch at the usual time is a bit tricky at Disneyland, as noon to 2 p.m. are peak visiting hours at the park. Maggetti said he sometimes grab a meal later in the afternoon.
But, on Wednesdays, he’ll just have a snack prior before heading to a weekly staff meeting. The marathon session goes from noon to 5 p.m.
He doesn’t plan too far ahead
Maggetti typically heads out around 6 or 6:30 p.m. He leaves having a good idea of what the next day’s going to look like, but he said that he doesn’t plan beyond a few days in advance.
“I know exactly what’s happening today and I know exactly what’s happening tomorrow,” he said. “But I know that in this business things change on a dime. Things change very, very quickly.”
On Fridays, Maggetti makes the trip to Northern California
On most nights, Maggetti spends the evening hanging out with his sons. On Fridays, however, he’ll fly up to Northern California to visit his wife and stepson.
Once the weekend is over, Maggetti heads back on an early morning Monday flight.
“When my wife and I talk to our families about it, they think, ‘How do you guys do all this?'” Maggetti said. “At the end of the day we just do. That’s just what we do, that’s how we work our weeks. Certainly absence makes the heart grow fonder. I’m always excited to see her, but we do certainly wish we were living in the same house.”
Most evenings, he’ll play some ping pong with his sons
On week nights, Maggetti will catch up with his sons over cooking and games of ping pong.
In fact, he said his younger son will often greet him by saying, “We’ll need a game of ping pong.”
Afterwards, he’ll head to the kitchen.
“My oldest son and I will cook together, and then we’ll FaceTime with my wife,” he said. “So well stay connected that way.”
After dinner, he’ll unwind by watching TV and doing some chores
He also might watch an episode of “Modern Family” with his sons “that we’ve seen a billion times – we can quote every line.”
Later in the evening, Maggetti said he unwinds by doing chores.
“This is going to sound weird, but I love doing laundry,” he said. “I find it a great way to decompress and think about the day that is nearly concluding and about what I need to focus on for the next morning.”
On most nights, Maggetti is usually asleep by 10:30 or 11 p.m.
Working at Disneyland has been a dream come true for Maggetti
Maggetti said that he still has “powerful memories” of his childhood visits to Disneyland with his brother. So for both of them to grow up to work at the resort for so many years has been pretty poetic.
According to Maggetti, basing his career at Disneyland “took the magic that I had known as a child to a completely different level.”
Are you a current or former Disneyland cast member? Email [email protected]
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