20 Secrets Disney Employees Never Tell You
It's not always the happiest place on earth.
Disney theme parks may be known as the happiest places on earth, but their employees often see a side of the magic that guests aren't privy to. Underneath those princess gowns and oversized character heads are just regular people trying to earn a paycheck. That often means dealing with bodily fluids, creepy guests, and some seriously strict rules about staying in character, no matter what. Here, we've tapped some of Disney's most prized employees to get their inside scoop and behind-the-scenes secrets. Hint: Sometimes, things aren't as wonderful as they may seem.
People love taking their dead relatives there.
While this should go without saying, don't use Disney as a burial ground. Numerous employees report catching guests dumping ashes on Disney property, particularly in the Haunted Mansion. "Please PLEASE leave your cremated loved ones at home. Stop dumping them in the Haunted Mansion," pleads one employee. "They just get vacuumed up and disposed of."
And doing so gets you a lifetime ban.
Unfortunately, if you do decide to spread your loved ones' ashes in Disney, you don't get to come back. "You get banned for life for that, and the ashes get cleaned up, or the water gets dumped," says one employee. "If you respect your loved one's remains, do not do this."
Security is everywhere.
Disney is intent upon keeping the magic alive for every guest, so undercover officers are all over. "I know some people who work undercover security at Disneyland. I've seen them when they're working and they look like the biggest dork tourists you could possibly imagine (big hats, zinc on nose, silly character shirts tucked into ill fitting shorts, hiking boots, etc.) so they fit right in," says one Redditor. As a result, "It's almost impossible to be anywhere in the park without being within sight of someone from security, uniformed or not."
Characters get attacked frequently.
However, despite everyone's best efforts, there are regular scuffles. Worse yet, the people on the receiving ends of most beatdowns are the costumed cast members. "A family attacked a Pluto," recounts one former Disney cast member. "Pushed her into the fountain. I didn't actually see the attack, just got to deal with the aftermath backstage. I got to dry all of Pluto's costume and clean the head. Later Pluto told me the family was mad that she had to take her break after they had waited to get a picture. I think Pluto either broke her arm or her leg."
A lot can get you fired.
Landing a job at a Disney park is surprisingly hard, with thousands of applicants vying for just a few spots. Unfortunately, keeping a job at Disney is even harder. One Redditor reveals that a friend was fired for eating a piece of popcorn that fell on their shirt and a princess was canned for a broken ankle.
They have to stay in character—even under the worst circumstances.
If you're wearing a Disney costume, you had better be prepared to stay in character, no matter what. "A scuba instructor I had once told me that before accepting a job as 'water Goofy' on a Disney cruise (Goofy that hangs out in the pool), he had to agree that, in the event that he starts drowning, he is to be carried away before lifeguards remove his costume (so as not to upset the children of course). CPR wouldn't be performed on scene," reveals an insider.
They use codes to maintain the magic.
Disney employees are all about making your visit magical, so don't be surprised if some of what you hear them saying to one another doesn't make sense. To keep guests from getting freaked out, employees use code words for emergencies.
"When talking on headsets, you're supposed to use different codes for things; for example, a medical situation was usually a 'balloon' for blood," recalls one former Disney employee. "So, you can imagine my surprise when we get a call in saying 'We have a code Pooh, Piglet is on the loose.' Like, what? Turns out some crying toddler-aged kid was using the sandbox as his public bathroom, and when someone approached him, he just ran away."
The water surrounding rides gets really gross.
If you're thinking of taking a dip in the water surrounding any Disney ride, think again. In addition to the ashes of the dearly departed, those waters are frequently vomit receptacles. "One day, a kid had ate a bunch of pasta with marinara and then promptly threw it all up right in front of the entrance to Big Thunder Mountain. It was a huge pile of watery barf, easily two feet wide and three feet long," reveals one employee.
People are serious about lines.
Not only do fights break out among people who feel like they've been waiting for too long, guests can get mighty salty about sick kids cutting the line, too. Multiple employees recount guests complaining and even using derogatory language when children on Make-a-Wish trips were allowed to skip to the front. Fortunately, most complaining customers did get something out of their griping: a lifetime ban.
They really don't want to hold your baby.
Snapping a picture with characters is all part of the experience. However, you shouldn't entrust them with the care of your infant. "Guests routinely do stupid weird things. I think the worst of them is when people bring their newborn infants to the parks and ask us to hold them for a picture," says one former Disney cast member. "I can't see [anything] in Goofy let alone other costumes, and I'm wearing giant gloves or paws or whatever depending on what character I am. Why would you let me hold your baby? Yeesh!"
There's a secret tunnel for your trash.
If you've ever wondered how Disney keeps its parks so clean, it's their state-of-the-art Automated Vacuum Assisted Collection System. "There's a 'tunnel' underneath (it's actually the first floor, the second and third floors are what you see in the park) and the AVACS is a series of tubes that connects all of the restaurants to the main dump that's behind Splash Mountain. The trash is whisked away under the park so the guests don't have to see it or smell it. It's pretty cool," says one Disney insider.
Full-costume characters can't talk—ever.
If Goofy won't tell you how to get to Splash Mountain, he's not just being rude. Many costumed characters are required to stay silent in front of guests. "We are NOT ALLOWED TO EVER TALK IN COSTUME IN FRONT OF GUESTS. EVER. Backstage however, anything goes," says one former Goofy.
Disney jail is real.
Those rumors about Disney jail are true. However, don't count on Mickey bringing you your meals or enjoying a Disney princess bed to rest your head on. "They have a holding place," says one former Disney World employee. "And on Disney property there is a police station."
There is a character hierarchy.
If you're playing one of the '90s Disney princess characters, don't be surprised if newer cast members don't want to sit with you. "Some of the break rooms are like the high school cafeteria where the 'cool' princesses (Elsa and Anna) sit on one side and make eyes at the 'old' characters (Snow and Poppins). It's really childish," says one former cast member. "Other face performers think they're on Broadway and demand respect and they hate not getting it." If you're not getting the respect you deserve at work, outsmarting your bully boss can help.
People always try to sneak their kids on rides.
If you have to make the not-so-difficult choice between sitting out a ride with your baby or bringing them on board, sit it out every time. Unfortunately, may Disney guests don't understand why trying to smuggle an infant onto rides is such a big deal.
"This couple were trying to ride Space Mountain, and had a black duffel bag. [A crew member] heard something come from the bag, so he asked them to open it. They refused. Security comes, forces them to open it. It was their 6-month-old baby," says one Redditor. Multiple former employees report guests trying to do the same.
Cast member friends and family don't always go for free.
Although cast members can get into Disney parks whenever they want for free, their discount doesn't extend to their friends and family. "It used to be that we could get [anyone] into the parks whenever we wanted, but that changed," says one former Disney performer. However, they do occasionally get a free ride. "Now it's only on certain days for certain parks."
Dangerous situations do occur.
While Disney does their best to keep everyone in their parks as safe as possible, there are still serious security threats that do take place. During a particularly crowded holiday weekend, one former employee recounts complete madness: "One guest freaked out and pulled out something sharp and started stabbing guests to get out. I had to bring a stabbed guest back to her hotel to get her ID so she could go to the hospital."
The Tree of Life at the Animal Kingdom was built over an oil rig.
The man-made tree was built over a retrofitted 14-story oil rig. The 145-foot creation is covered with more than 100,000 leaves that are each more than a foot long. The tree's trunk is made of concrete, not wood.
You can't buy gum at Disney World.
In order to protect the park from unsightly globs of gum, Disney World stopped selling the stuff. It isn't banned, but if guests want a piece, they'll have to bring their own.
There are strategically designed barriers for the animals on the Kilimanjaro Safari.
The 18-minute safari ride in Animal Kingdom allows visitors the chance to get up close and personal with animals that are seemingly roaming free. But have no fear, these creatures can't run up and get you—or each other. Barriers such as water features and moats are added to the reserve to keep the animals in specific areas.