Brimful of treasured nostalgia, we know Disneyland Resort as the original magic kingdom and the only Disney theme park operated under the supervision of Walt Disney. Home to two Disney Vacation Club Resorts – The Villas at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and, soon, The Villas at Disneyland Hotel – this west coast wonder is a place our members return to year after year and where Disney Vacation Club cast members like Statami (Taki) Papadatos – star of this edition of “Membership Magic Makers” – help guests unlock the magic of membership.
As an Associate Coordinator at the Disney Vacation Club Discovery Studio at Disneyland Resort, Taki welcomes families “home” and, among numerous other responsibilities, ensures that the studio’s model rooms are constantly “show ready.”
Originally born in Ethiopia but of Greek descent, Taki’s family moved to Southern California in 1958. Quick to embrace his newfound Disney roots and Walt’s ever-evolving vision for “The Happiest Place on Earth,” Taki dedicated most Sunday evenings to staying in the “Disney” know by tuning into “The Wonderful World of Disney” television show.
Taki recalls being drawn to one particular episode. Released in 1968, “Disneyland: From the Pirates of the Caribbean to the World of Tomorrow” introduced a newly minted, treacherous voyage into the 17th century Caribbean islands. Plunging Disney fans like Taki into the story of ransacking pirates, the episode revealed original concept art and figurines of our ruthless animatronic bandits, who continue to make their mischievous mark at Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort.
“I was blown away by Walt’s creation,” Taki reminisced. “Even then, I knew this place was special and wanted to be a part of it.”
Before joining the Disney Vacation Club cast family, Taki worked in the company’s corporate travel department for 12 years and, in keeping with his dedication to service, volunteered with the Walt Disney Studios Fire Department as part of the Disney VoluntEARS program.
“There weren’t a lot of emergencies,” he thankfully recalled of his volunteer role, “but I do remember responding to a small brush fire at Golden Oak Ranch; the property Walt transformed into a movie set during the late 50s,” he said, noting that his volunteer hours typically averaged more than 1,000 a year.
Taki’s focus on community and world-class service ultimately drew him to Disney Vacation Club. His dedication to those values inspired Disney Vacation Club Strategy & Development Project Manager Christina Bautista to recommend he be featured in this “Membership Magic Makers” series.
“When I heard about the series, Taki instantly came to mind,” Christina said. “He’s such a vital part of our operations team. There’s something to be said for someone who makes an effort to stay connected with guests. I’ve heard of members stopping by to say ‘hello’ to Taki and even bringing him gifts. It’s heartwarming and well-deserved.”
Throughout Taki’s 13 years with Disney Vacation Club, his roles have ranged from Disney Vacation Club Advisor and Guide (typically the first cast member to interact with guests interested in membership) to Preview Center Assistant (managing open house tours).
Reflecting on his own experiences as a member himself (since 2003) and his ongoing motivation as a magic maker (25 years and counting), Taki pointed to Disney Vacation Club’s tried and true greeting of “welcome home,” while also (perhaps unintentionally) to the official Disney Vacation Club theme song.
“Taking care of people is what Disney is all about,” he said. “And as a people-pleaser by nature, it seems I’m right where I belong.”