They wear annual passes dangling from lanyards embellished with Disneyland commemorative pins. Golden anniversary Mickey Mouse ears are perched on their heads, and they sport the latest Disneyland T-shirts, jackets, watches and other trinkets collected over years of visiting what for them, truly is, the happiest place on Earth.
Disneyland employees refer to them as "the annual-pass holders," but they're really self-acknowledged Disneymaniacs and they were out in full force May 5, eager to celebrate the first day of the theme park's 18-month 50th birthday party.
"Lots of companies would love to have customers this passionate about their product," said Disneyland President Matt Ouimet. "Companies work long and hard to get that kind of loyalty and only a few ever achieve it."
Ouimet took over management of the park 18 months ago, after running the Disneyland Cruise Line out of Florida. According to some Disneymaniacs, prior to Ouimet's arrival, Disneyland suffered through 10 years of neglect brought on by corporate downsizing and budget cuts. When Ouimet rode into town, things changed.
"This park, the original, is different from all the other Disney resorts," Ouimet said. "This one is special and I feel an obligation to maintain it in a vision that continues in the tradition of Walt Disney."