Colorful charm and whimsical wonder abound in Mickey’s Toontown at Disneyland park, alongside many memories for Gina Nassar, whose special opporTOONity there kickstarted a family legacy spanning more than three decades.
“Toontown was the start of my Disney career,” said Gina, who was a Walt Disney Travel Company reservations agent when she was approached for help planning the land’s original grand opening celebration in 1993. Gina was placed in charge of coordinating reservations and itineraries for media outlets invited to Disneyland park to experience the new land during a red carpet, celebrity-filled premiere. “That was my very first time with an event. I had no idea what events were before I got started,” she recalled.
The opening celebration for Mickey’s Toontown became the first of many for Gina, who moved full-time into Disneyland Resort special events in 1998 and now serves as west coast senior events manager. “The energy was infectious, just over the top,” she remembers. “It made me want to do this forever.”
As fortune had it, Gina’s future husband also worked that grand opening event as part of the guest control crew. “I was still learning,” said Al Nassar, now a senior manager in Experience Services and Event Production, whose role that evening was guiding invitees from Toontown to the “Fantasmic!” viewing area for a special performance. “I was that person who had a million questions and asked why we were doing things.”
Al had spent time in custodial and attractions, with occasional breaks hitting the road as a music tour manager, including for the Beach Boys. “This was nowhere on my career path,” remembers Al, who eventually committed to special events full-time in 1992. “I’m still having a blast 30 years in. The people kept pulling me back.”
Gina and Al got better acquainted when they supported the grand opening event for the reimagined New Tomorrowland in 1998. “We understand each other and the roles we’re in,” said Gina. “We’re very supportive of each other … we don’t put one of our careers higher than the other. We always make it work.”
That included planning their wedding in 2000 to strategically avoid conflict with the opening of Disney California Adventure park, followed by occasional parking lot handoffs during busy times at work while raising their son, Caden, born in 2002. “It’s more about quality time versus quantity,” remembers Al. “It’s understanding and having a spouse who knows what you do and is supportive of it.”
Their love for their roles left positive impressions upon their son. “I have grown up with Disney my entire life,” said Caden, now 20 years old. “I came to the parks for fun all the time. When one of my parents was working, the other would be with me [there].”
Caden had no doubts about his post-high school graduation plans. He applied at Disneyland, landing a role in attractions—knowing he wanted to participate in the Disney Aspire program, where he’s now pursuing a communications degree from Wilmington University in Delaware. But Caden truly brought the Nassar family story full circle when he applied and was selected both as a special events working lead, and to the opening team for Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway. All three Nassars played roles in a media event earlier this spring celebrating the reimagining of Mickey’s Toontown.
“Every time I work [an event], there’s someone who realizes, ‘Hey, you’re Al and Gina’s son!’” laughs Caden. “I like to take my dad and my mom’s approach and always present the best version of me to anyone I meet, so that I can make the best first impression I possibly can.”
“I’m so proud of the person he is,” says Al of his son. “I love his maturity and his professionalism, and his passion for the guests and cast.”
“It’s almost like history is starting to repeat itself,” reflects Gina on the shared family connection running straight through Mickey’s Toontown. “Sharing it with Caden and watching his career be at the point mine was … it’s surreal starting to see his dreams come true.”