The 12 Disney Parks, located worldwide, are considered to be by many to be the happiest places on Earth. Of course, people in Disney work really hard to maintain that image, and that must create a lot of situations that are not really "appropriate for the public."
Reddit user u/memezdankton wanted to learn these stories, so they asked: "Former Disney theme park employees of Reddit, what are some dirty secrets or stories you can tell us about your time there?" People started sharing the juicy and dark secrets about what is happening behind the shiny frontage. We've compiled a list of the most interesting ones. Take a look…
My mom was working in the nurses' station and got a call for a costume character who had heat exhaustion (the costumes get extremely warm, especially in summer). He was advised to remove the costume and walk to the nurse building to recover, but wasn’t allowed to. They were so busy trying to make sure that nobody saw him out of costume that they literally risked his health.
You have to be in specific height ranges to play the different characters. Because Mickey's height range is so short he's usually played by a woman. Likewise for Donald, although the most successful and best known Donald that I knew while I worked there was a little person.
People sexually harass the characters super frequently. I was working with Ariel and cast members will always count down before they take a photo so people have time to get into position. I counted down and this teen boy decided to try to rip off one of Ariel's shells. I had to open his camera and expose his film so the photo didn't get developed and passed around. I found out later that I was supposed to take it to the Kodak shop to have the film developed and that one removed - but I'd always heard the rumors about ruining the film and nobody really trains you on that so I just went with it. The little a**holes deserved it.
My SIL got a the role of Cinderella at Disneyland Paris.
She had to practice Cinderella's autograph over and over because although different actresses play her all over the world, the signature of the character has to be identical anywhere it's signed for consistency.
I used to occasionally work at one of the outdoor carts in front of the castle at Disneyland. There’s water in various areas of the park, so we got lots of ducks, and in the springtime, the babies would hatch and walk around with their mothers. People don’t always pay attention to where they are going and sometimes step on one of them, usually killing them. If I was able, I would step away from my cart to escort a family of ducks to safety.
I had a friend who was a gorgeous red head in her early twenties. She got cast to play Ariel at Disney World. She returned home after a few months saying that they were pressuring her into getting breast implants. To quote her (quoting her manager), "There is no way Ariel has such small boobs."
A friend of mine worked at Disney World. According to her Epcot is the best place to work. When she was at the Magic Kingdom she said she went home crying all the time because the moms were so mean.
Ever heard about people spreading ashes of their loved ones in the POTC or Haunted Mansion ride? Its goddamn true!
Of course, these are just some of the stories, and most employees love working there. When Disney closed the parks in 2020 due to the pandemic, close to 43,000 people were abruptly laid off. Many of them mourned the career of their dreams at 'the most magical place on Earth.'
Both hands had to be visible in photos (e.g. one outstretched and the other on someone’s shoulder). The biggest no-no is hands behind backs not visible due to the possibility of someone saying you grabbed them inappropriately.
This question came to u/memezdankton's mind after watching a show on YouTube. "It's called Defunctland, and they basically review failed theme parks and theme park attractions, and I saw an episode on Disney," the Reddit user says.
"That got me thinking as to what is going on inside these parks and what secret dramas and intrigues happen behind closed doors," they explained. "Plus, I really like reading stories on Reddit."
u/memezdankton visited Disney parks twice. "Before the thread, my opinion has always been that there must be a lot going on behind the scenes for the 'magic' to happen, like everyone being in character with guests."
The “secret” tunnels under MK and Epcot. They smelled so bad. It’s where all the garbage went to. We had a subway and another restaurant just for cast members. They would close down cast parking without telling the cast members in appropriate time. Mandatory overtime when needed without double time. I can keep going.
I went to college with a woman who played Snow White. She said she wanted to quit on her very first day because she had so many screaming, vomiting, angry, hungry, drooling children handed to her for photos. She said it was the absolute worst. I'm not sure how long she stuck it out for but I know it wasn't long.
When the princess face characters come backstage they have to take off their dresses so they don't get dirty while they're on break so the princesses are usually walking around in a smock and bloomers if you see them back there. There is some serious cognitive dissonance when you walk back and see Snow White in her bloomers on her phone cursing up a storm.
I think the worst part about character harassment is that Disney does not prosecute the guests, at least when I was there. When I was working in the 2000s, there was someone whose wrist was broken by a drunk guest who grabbed and twisted it really badly. They refused to prosecute, and I think she may have ended up with permanent nerve damage in her wrist, which really sucked because she was also a gymnast.
The popularity of the post and the number of comments only strengthened their beliefs.
"Honestly, I was surprised as to how much work goes into the acting. Literally, each person out in the park is 'in character,' which often leads to funny stories behind the scenes after these people rest from a long day of being cheerful and happy."
The interesting thing is that Disney employees aren't technically "employees." They're "cast members." And not just the ones who play actual Disney characters. Everyone working in the park, whether they're ride operators or food servers, is a "cast member."
I worked there for 3 months 2 years ago with my gf at the time and anything news worthy that happens there (usually negative) immediately gets shot down by the official page of Disney (Twitter, insta, Facebook etc) they keep everything hush hush. Lighting struck a bathroom building and there was a small fire and my gf and I weren’t working that day but we were there enjoying the park for free bc we’re cast members and she records it and posted it on her Twitter. News media pages were commenting and asking her questions like when, how, what’s being done and before she could reply the Disney page said to disregard the video bc it wasn’t true and the video is edited and the media pages stopped asking after that. She gets called into the office the next day and was super close to losing her job. The reason she didn’t was bc of how much seniority she had but she was basically on probation after that. Disney is f***ed they don’t tell people s**t.
My friend worked in the Haunted House...but before that Pirates. He said that you were under camera the whole time you are in the park and that they had tapes of people...um, being friendly. He said they would stop the ride, turn up the lights in that area and then ask them to stop over the speakers.
Disney Employees started referring to Disneyland as Mousechwitz due to working conditions.
Management told them to stop, so they used Duckau instead
In the Indiana Jones ride near the giant snakes after the bridge there is a large metal slab on the ground. Under that slab is an opening that falls into a large empty space. The opening is in the middle of the space and about 10 feet high. There is no rope, no ladder and no stairs to reach the opening from inside the space. There are no other ways to get out of that space other than the opening in the ceiling and there are no lights in the space. You could literally fall in there and be trapped forever in darkness if someone doesn’t come and help you out. It is for this and many other reasons that there is a checkout system on the ride. If you enter the ride on foot, you take a card. When you return from the ride you turn in the card. If any cards are missing than the ride cannot be turned on and a search party must go out until that person is found.
Disneyland first interview papers include a blank outline of a person to indicate where you have tattoos.
It's referenced if you want to change positions internally, to indicate how said tattoos could be revealed, based on what your new uniform would be.
If anybody tells you to have a magical day, they mean you were a gigantic a**hole and hated dealing with you. We call it the Disney F**k You.
I just have to say one thing...people suffering from heat stroke or whatever and need to take their costume off...should be able to. F**k that "ruining the magic" BS. If your kids believe these Disney characters are real...then maybe you just shouldn't lie to your kids...idk...
No one can actually ‘die’ in a park. They remove the dead person and declare them dead outside the park. Also haunted mansion people can’t smile, a favorite pastime is to get them to crack
A true story that is "dirty" ethically.
Before I worked for them, when I was just an annual passholder, I got overcome by the heat and humidity, almost had a heatstroke, at the bathrooms outside the EPCOT entrance. Two security guards wanted to take me to the park's First Aid, but a Disney manager refused. "He gets in the park when he buys a ticket." Manager walks away for a minute. Security guards say "man, I can't believe this" and "what an operation." 30 mins for Reedy Creek Fire Dept. to show up. I was so sick I didn't even pull out my AP until they got there. Security guard #1 says "NOW can he go to First Aid?" Suddenly that manager is all about helping me - and so apologetic! He pushed me in a wheelchair all the way to First Aid. "Can I get you some water, sir?"
Big f**kin' phonies.
We actually care a lot about the guest experience. If someone drops their ice cream, I can get them A new one free of charge. It’s called “keeping the magic”.
When someone pukes on a ride, it's referred to as a "protein spill" so that it doesn't sound as gross.
I worked at Kilimanjaro Safaris in Animal Kingdom. A little secret: we got paid a dollar more than all other attractions because we not only spiel, but drive 35+ guests in a truck on an uncontrolled trail. If we wanted to, we could’ve driven right out into the river where the crocs are and told you all to “run.” Hence the extra dollar an hour to keep us from doing something so crazy
This is not a secret, more just an observation of the culture. It really kind of makes me sick and disappointed with humanity.
As a cast member at Disney World in 1979 I learned quickly that putting people in uniforms brings out the worst in the instinct to “other" people. Certain cast members in specific uniforms were very high in status, and other cast members were very low. Since you wore your uniforms all the time your status was immediately spotted and people tended to treat you better or worse based on your status.
So here’s the pecking order that I observed. Many cast members told me of this pecking order. Low status to high.
The street sweepers who emptied the trash cans.
The folks in the yellow jumpsuits who sold the popcorn.
The folks in turn-of-the-century garb who worked in the stores of Main Street.
The retail workers in the other lands with costumes that matched the themes.
The ride operators whose costumes were themed to match the land such as tomorrowland, frontierland etc.
The ride operators of space mountain, who were near the top of all the ride operators.
The monorail operators. They were the absolute pinnacle of ride operators who did not have some kind of performing role.
The ride operators of the jungle Cruise. They were close to the status of the people in the entertainment division because they had lines and really had to be entertaining.
Anyone in the entertainment division, like the kids of the kingdom, the performers, singers, and musicians. And they weren’t just a little bit above everyone else, they were stratospherically above everyone else.
The tour guides, all females, in the English riding (horse) outfits with jodhpurs, complete with a riding crop and a fetching little cap on their heads. These girls basically were the top employees who wore uniforms. They met all the VIPs including hollywood stars, politicians, billionaires etc. They could get to the front of any line. They were unstoppable, and they certainly acted like they knew it.
Now everyone I tell this to always asks, “weren’t the characters the most important people and have the highest status?” Sadly—and this is really where it gets sick—they were kind of treated like freaks. All the Goofy‘s had to be really tall thin men, all the Mickeys and Minnies had to be either short women or little people. They worked very odd shifts, a half an hour on a half an hour off, and they always had people around them to help, which also made them seem weird.
So all in all my summer at Walt Disney World demonstrated to me the power of clothing in establishing a hierarchy of status. It is a sad commentary on humanity, but a fact nonetheless.
Someone lost a finger on the pirates ride. Also it’s not filtered so we tell you to keep your hands out of the water for multiple reasons.
1) so you can keep your limbs
2) you could get an infection
We weren’t supposed to talk about the finger thing really.
I worked in reservations. They give you a name, that is not your own and you better use it. My name is not Robyn Leigh, but in Disney reservations, it was.
This was years ago at DL but there used to be a show of Tinkerbell flying through the sky before fireworks started in the summer. They would put the spot light on her as she went down a zip line and go to black just as she crossed to a back stage area. The novelty of it was that there was no sophisticated mechanism to stop her. There were literally a couple of guys in a tower at the end of the zip line holding a mattress that she would crash into to stop. Nightly, CMs would gather at the base of the tower backstage just to see this happen. As soon as she crashed, everyone would go back to their locations.
When people say that it's like being part of a cult, it's 100% true. In any job you have there is bias, but at Disney, if you mess with the wrong "Leader" (manager) you'll basically be blacklisted from ever working your way up in the company.
The amount of abuse I've endured from guests and other cast is asinine, especially regarding covid.
I worked in my department for 3 years, was denied multiple promotions for never any real reason. I worked 50+ hour work weeks religiously, covered extra shifts, you name it, but because I made a mistake in my first year I never got anywhere.
If you don't kiss the a** of every manager, eat lunch with them, and cater to their every whim, you stay at the bottom.
I got so fed up after my interview for trainer. Was supposed to interview in the am, showed up, got yelled at for showing up and he told my coordinator to apologize to me, then rushed me around my area in 15 minutes because he "had a meeting" then brought up feedback he'd kept from me for months just for the interview and to deny me trainer. I quit 3 days later.