Article and photos Courtesy Alumni Christy Sims
Cast Member and Disneyland Alumni Ken Neufeld began working at Disneyland in 1968. He was primarily scheduled at Main Gate merchandise locations, but we’re guessing the bright lights of Main Street U.S.A. beckoned and thus the Main Street Magic Shop became his home before year’s end.
As Ken learned and performed the tricks of the trade, his super showmanship was recognized and his status was changed to Magic Demonstrator. He baffled Guests with his prestidigitation, and kept them laughing with the light-hearted, wacky humor apparent in this 1976 photo.
However, it turned out that Ken’s humor wasn’t limited to his magic demonstrations. He also had a penchant for pranks. These sometimes involved made-up procedures he insisted new Cast Members follow to the letter – with uproarious results! There were times, though, that his co-workers “reciprocated.”
One quiet morning, as Ken readied the shop for the day, he opened a cash register drawer and a mass of malicious creatures jumped out at him. When Ken screamed at the top of his lungs, a supervisor hurried into the shop only to find Ken surrounded by spring-loaded snakes from the joke peanut brittle cans sold in the shop.
As Ken continued his tenure at the Park, his other super talents began to show themselves. The Entertainment Division took notice and Ken was cast in a variety of roles to delight the Guests. He substituted with the Dickens Carolers, became a weekend Riverboat Gambler on the Mark Twain Riverboat, and was understudy for the role of Father Music in Fun with Music (an educational program for school children presented in the Mickey Mouse Theater).
That theater had already become “a home away from the Magic Shop” for Ken as he performed in nine Disneyland Drama Workshop productions there. Cast Members presented shows for invited family and friends on evenings Disneyland was closed. Ken started in the chorus, but soon moved into supporting and then leading roles. “The experience was great fun, and I learned a lot!” he remembered.
A 1975 Disneyland Drama Workshop production featured Ken as Uncle Max in The Sound of Music.
Meanwhile, Ken (an accomplished singer, arranger and composer) continued to entertain Park Guests. During the summer of 1976, he was a star in the melodrama Chicken Ranching for Fun and Profit at The Golden Horseshoe.
Playing opposite Disney Legend Wally Boag’s villainous Grasper Quick (BOO), Ken was the hero, of course, Victor Virtue (CHEER). This zany “comic opera” was presented when the regular summer show had days off. The overacting, sprinkled with singing and dancing, was accompanied by sound effects and other assists courtesy of The Golden Horseshoe band.
“I was most grateful to both the Merchandise and Entertainment supervisors during those years,” said Ken. “They made the schedules and agreements work so I could transition between departments. What an amazing opportunity to perform and have fun with the guests not only in the Magic Shop, but on various stages around the Park!”
Even after Ken left the Magic Shop and the Magic Kingdom in 1981, he couldn’t resist the lure of Main Street, U.S.A. The Entertainment Division called upon his talents yet again, and he substituted with the Dapper Dans barbershop quartet, as needed, for more than a decade!
The friendships Ken made at Disneyland have also proven to be long lasting. Former Magic Shop Cast Members and their spouses still get together and, in fact, they recently held a good-bye party for Ken at Mama Cozza’s Italian Restaurant.
Ken is escaping California and moving to Kansas City, Missouri. Farewell gifts included a multimedia presentation of his Disneyland career, and Missouri necessities such as Kansas City Royals fan gear and a unique knit hat for winter.
Another special gift was a miniature of The Golden Horseshoe, handcrafted by Magic Shop Disneyland Alumni Chuck Lucas. (You can visit this link on etsy.com to see more of Chuck’s work or order custom work.)
The group shared a lot of laughter, memories and love at Ken’s party that October evening. It was truly a bittersweet send-off for our magical fellow Cast Member!
Editor’s Note: We love to keep past and current Cast Members connected. We also love to hear about trips to special places, or those you’ve taken to Disneyland, other theme parks around the world, and interesting vacations. Or stories about some of the fun you used to have when working at the Disneyland Resort.
Send a story and photos to us via email to email@example.com.
November 8th, 2021