Celebrities—they’re just like us except they have way more money, they need security, they have entourages of people following them around, their appearances are constantly being judged, they live in the public light, every word they say gets documented in video or text form, they have fan clubs dedicated to them...
...okay, comment rescinded. Celebrities—they’re nothing like us.
But one similarity between many celebrities and Club 55 members is that they love going to The Happiest Place on Earth! I myself have encountered a grand total of eleven celebrities in Disneyland. Finding a celebrity in the Park requires a certain skill set: a mastery of social media, crowd scanning abilities, quick pace, a knowledge of park layout and key attraction points, and a great deal of luck. Let’s start with the first lesson!
Lesson 1: How to Find Out about Celebrity Presence in the Parks
Furthermore, if you know a celebrity is in the park, search their name on Twitter or Instagram and look at the latest posts about them. Sometimes, you can figure out a star’s location based on other sightings.
Lesson 2: Key Times for Celebrity Visits
For example, only a few days ago, Emma Watson and Dan Stevens from the upcoming Beauty and the Beast live action reboot were seen in the park. Two years ago, if they were coming at this time, a Friday in early March, it would be incredibly likely that I would have found them. However, with surge pricing, the park was at near capacity that day, and therefore it was nearly impossible to find either of them. Every time of the year is pretty fair game now, except I usually see a dip in celebrity presence during in the always busy and always sweltering summer months.
Also look for upcoming important premieres or special events to gauge celebrities who might make a presence in the parks. For example, after Beauty and the Beast made its premiere in Los Angeles, the next day was when Stevens and Watson came to Disneyland. During the D23 Expo every other year during the summer is also a key time that draws a lot of celebrities who attend the convention to walk across the street and go to the parks. I spotted Lily James and Richard Madden from the live action Cinderella took photos in front of the castle during an Annual Passholder night in the park, when the park had significantly lower attendance.
In terms of time of day when celebrities arrive, you will most assuredly find them during the day time. Not only are they easier to spot in the daylight, but more often than not, the celebrity will make a day trip and will be gone by the evening.
Lesson 3: Park Layout
Disneyland has an unseen area where Cast Members traverse, go on break, move goods, and load in equipment called, “Backstage.” There are many entrances and exits in these areas, which I’m sure you have seen marked with signs reading, “Cast Members Only.” Backstage areas can also be used to move celebrities. The less lag time between attractions, the less likely it is for a celebrity to be noticed by fans passing by. So the more famous the celeb you’re hunting for is, the more likely that they are going to use the Backstage pathways.
The main entrances and exits that I have seen used by celebrities are By the Rancho del Zocalo, by the New Orleans Square train station, by Coke Corner, and by the Plaza Inn bathrooms bordering Tomorrowland. Don’t spend too much time looking on Main Street, as many times celebrities will bypass it altogether using the Backstage.
Also consider key attractions that your celebrity might flock to. The most popular spots I have noticed that the most popular locations inside Disneyland are the castle, Pirates, and Fantasyland in general. In Downtown Disney, the Grand Californian is the finest hotel in the area, and is the most likely place for celebrities to be staying if they are visiting for several days. Sometimes, you can find one hanging in the Grand Californian lobby. California Adventure is pretty random. There are still Backstage areas, but as the park is more spread out, celebs can really be anywhere at any time.
Lesson 4: Plaids
Keep your eyes peeled for these guys every time you’re in the park! You never know who they may be leading around!
Lesson 5: Etiquette
- Photo ops:
- If they said no...
- If you do find them...
Here’s another rule of thumb I use: I never approach a celebrity if they’re with their kids. That means that the celebrity is there for their kids. I let them have their time together as a family.
- Keep it short and sweet. Be ready:
- If I encountered Dan Stevens (the Beast) in the park the other day, I was ready to say, “I’m so sorry to bother you, sir, but I just wanted to say that you’re great at what you do and I appreciate your work. Have a great day!”
- A friend of mine saw Once Upon a Time actress Jennifer Morrison in California Adventure while in line for California Screamin’. He knew she was getting bombarded by OUAT fans, so he decided to reference a lesser film role of hers. “I loved you in Star Trek!” he cried. She turned and looked at him and laughed, and later found him in Disneyland, thanking him for the comment.
- It doesn’t even need to be a sentence. For the life of me, when I saw Lily James from Cinderella, I could NOT remember her name! All I could think of was her character’s name from Downton Abbey. “LADY ROSE!” I cried. She spun around and looked straight at me and smiled.
- It doesn’t even have to be verbal! Sometimes, just a look is enough! James Franco passed by me and a friend and filmed us on his phone camera as he passed by. We didn’t say a word! One time, I was passing over the Pirates bridge and I spotted John Stamos walking in the opposite direction towards me. Me, him and his Plaid were the only people on the bridge, so he turned his head away from me when he saw me see him, as to not be recognized. Finally, when I wouldn’t break my gaze, he turned and looked at me at the last minute before he passed, so I just smiled at him and kept walking. He smiled back! Sometimes, words aren’t even necessary.
- Final rule of thumb: Refer to them formally.
Go forth, my pupils! Class dismissed, and happy sleuthing!