Why are celebrities so obsessed with Disneyland?

From the Kardashian-Jenners to Cardi B's teacup-riding bodyguard, we unpack the obsession the rich and famous have with the happiest place on earth.

by Marianne Eloise
27 April 2022, 7:00am

Deep inside the original Disneyland park in Anaheim, there’s a door you or I will likely never enter. Located in New Orleans Square, not so far from fan-favourite ride Haunted Mansion, the door itself is inconspicuous. Green with gold detailing, the only thing that gives it away is a plaque reading “33”. It marks the location of one of several secret clubs within the Disney Parks — with a steep joining fee ($25,000 plus an annual fee of $10,000 for the OG Disneyland), a lengthy waiting list (years) and unclear entry requirements, it’s really only open to the most elite of Disney adults. Reportedly, Tom Hanks and Elton John are members. The mysterious plaque is a symbol of Disneyland’s long-standing relationship with celebrities, one which dates back to the park’s opening in July 1955 — and one that continues to this day.

In recent weeks, various Kardashians have made headlines for not only going to Disneyland but for engaging in both annoying and chaotic behaviour whilst there; from line-skipping to completely closing down rides. Parks blog Inside the Magic made the bold claim that, “Kourtney Kardashian Celebrates As Sisters Cause Chaos In Disney”.

The hyperbolic chaos itself was just a bit of entitled queue-jumping, but it adds to a litany of sins in the eyes of regular, well-behaved Parks fans: ITM also report that Kylie Jenner’s bodyguard went off on a guest for filming her in a very public place, while Kylie herself recently shut down “It’s a Small World” in Walt Disney World so that she could ride alone.

With all of those headline-making visits, onlookers might think that the Kardashians are the only grown adult celebrities inclined to visit. You might find yourself wondering: what’s the appeal of celebrating a 43rd birthday in Disneyland, surrounded by screaming kids, anyway? Particularly when the only place they sell booze in the main park is Club 33, a place the Kardashians do not appear to have been offered membership to?

Well, simply put, it’s not unusual. The Kardashians aren’t alone in enjoying the guilty pleasure of the happiest place on earth; they’re just seemingly the only celebs who act so entitled during their visits as to warrant extensive press coverage. In fact, celebrities love Disney, albeit in a more lowkey way than the family whose show has recently moved to Disney+. Paris Hilton apparently wears prosthetics when she visits the parks in order to avoid being spotted. Cardi B was seen on the teacups in March while her security guard quietly rode in the teacup next door. Nicole Richie makes semi-regular trips with her family. The Kardashian-Jenners are far from the most famous people going to Disneyland, even if they do seem to be the worst behaved.

While Disneyland does offer private VIP tours to those who can afford them, they tend to not make a habit of offering special privileges like shutting down the parks or even sections of them. Clearing out rides is a major rarity, because Disney want to be seen to offer the same level of experience to all “guests” (at a price, but whatever). Celebrities who attend Disneyland then, have to pretty much do so like a regular person. It therefore begs the question: why do they do it at all, when they could instead afford all manner of other, more exclusive experiences without being bothered by strangers’ kids?

There’s a few reasons why that might be the case. It’s important to know that, firstly, a lot of regular people in Southern California visit Disneyland a lot more frequently than we, in the UK, might head over to Paris. In fact, Disneyland California used to offer annual passes to local residents to encourage regular trips, and even today they still get discounted access. The appeal for the parks’ neighbours is obvious: it’s not that far away, it’s accessible, and if you’re rich, it comes at a pretty insignificant cost. Over the years, the site has become something of a cultural touchstone in the area, one that celebrities — even celebrities without kids — want to be close to. Plus, if you can handle the queues and don’t have a heart of stone, Disneyland is, after all, a fun day out.

Of course, a lot of celebrities do have kids, and so it follows that for them the Happiest Place on Earth holds a greater appeal, even for the uber-famous. Kourtney Kardashian’s recent visit was with both her and Travis Barker’s kids. Chrissy Teigen and John Legend also take their family; while Christina Aguilera has been spotted visiting with her daughter. If you had a family, all the money in the world, and lived an hour from the happiest place on earth, wouldn’t you make their dreams come true a couple of times a month? While the Kardashians hit headlines for being so… Kardashian-like with their visits, ultimately their decision to pop in and visit Mickey is hardly unique.

Of course, not all celebrities enjoy Disneyland in a nice, normal, casual way just because of its proximity to their palatial homes. Some of them are just massive nerds about it. Even the famous are not immune from the appeal of becoming a Disney adult. Ryan Gosling for instance — who began his career as a Mouseketeer in the early-90s — supposedly loved one ride (the Haunted Mansion, my favourite) so much that he and a friend started a band inspired by it: Dead Man’s Bones. He was even long-rumoured to be starring in a film about the ride by Guillermo Del Toro, but the project has been pretty much shelved, despite the desires of fans. For nerds (me, Gosling), there’s a lot to love in Disneyland, and digging into the trivia and lore makes a trip well worth it.

It may seem weird from the outside — us mere mortals have to save money and make big plans in order to go to Disneyland — but even for regular Southern Californians, it’s a relatively easy trip. Perhaps for celebrities though, a Disney trip is more than just a way to entertain the kids. Perhaps it’s about escapism. I love Disneyland because it’s fully immersive, taking you to a separate world for the day; one that doesn’t abide by the laws or worries of ours. Despite the crowds and the cameras and the chaos, maybe Disneyland is a way for celebrities to feel normal. A place for those who want to sink into a crowd and indulge their inner child, living by no clock but the whims of queue times. And who could deny them that?

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Kylie Jenner
Kourtney Kardashian
Cardi B