Disney World is the dream destination for kids everywhere – the idea of getting to meet all your favourite characters in real life is so enticing. But behind those costumes are real people, just working their 9-5. They may just have a different experience of the place “Where dreams come true”.
Here, Disney employees share their most ridiculous behind-the-scene experience while working at Disney World.
1/24. As a character, you are supposed to throw up in your mask if you are sick. Taking it off is not an option. You cover one eye with your hand and raise the other arm in the air to alert maintenance that you are not well. Also, if there is another character (same as you) you cannot, under ANY circumstances be seen with them. You also must take a course to match signature style for autographs.
2/24. Disney security listens to ALL Disney Radio channels at ALL times for any distress call, or other issue that is relevant to Security.
My friend, we’ll call him Daniel (because that’s his name) worked for Disney World in Florida once. He worked in one of the resorts. I’m not quite sure what his job actually was, but his radio call sign was “Movie Runner.”
He was walking between resorts one night, and near a pool he was cornered by a momma bobcat. Usually not a huge deal because the bobcat will eventually realize the person is not a threat, but he radioed the resort to let them know that he was being cornered by a bobcat.
Next radio transmission, without missing a beat: “Movie Runner, this is Disney Security Base, we understand you are being cornered by a bobcat. Please remain calm, we have two units approaching your location, ETA two minutes, please Acknowledge, over.”
3/24. I worked for Disney in 2006 at MGM Studios. I was 19. I’d never been there before in my life. I can tell you that the underground passageways are real, elaborate, and odd. Magic Kingdom has an extensive honeycomb underneath of it. They are mainly used by staff to get from one place to the other as fast as possible, as I found out. A door lead up to a closet behind the stage of the Hall of Presidents. Another opened up a false wall behind a tiny exhibit. Very strange.
When I was working there, I was approached to be one of the people in the Goofy costume because of my height. When I asked what had happened to the other Goofy, I was told that the actor was playing Jessie, the Toy Story character, a few days ago. A popular game for terrible kids is to kick the female costumed characters to find out if there is a guy in the suit. So this poor guy was the unfortunate victim of this game, as was the woman standing right beside him in the Woody costume. They kicked her so hard that she was rushed to the hospital.
I wore the costume for an afternoon, just to help out, and will never put on one of those things ever again. As I walked out of the dressing area, I ran into a smaller girl in the Stitch costume who laughed at how awkwardly I wore the suit and said, cheerfully, “Be thankful you don’t have a tail!” When I asked why, she told me about her coworker who had been in the Tigger suit. The tails are held into place by being screwed into a large metal plate inside the suit and, for the most part depending on how tall you are, the plate sits just at the base of your spine. So when someone gave Tigger a huge bear hug, they ground the metal plate right into her coworker’s spine and left her paralyzed.
4/24. If you hear an announcement over the park wide sound system looking for a specific person, it is something very important. Announcements like that have a chain of approval before Disney will allow the “magic” illusion to be broken.
But it’s not always bad news like informing families of a death. I’ve done several park announcements to find someone to inform them an organ donation was matched, a medical courier was on their way to Orlando, and they needed to get to the hospital asap.
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5/24. Most times the costume that a character(even if different performers) has worn was not washed recently to preserve the delicate materials(furs, fancy fabric, jewels, etc…). Or at all.
6/24. People have sex on the Epcot monorail at night a lot and act like we don’t know. We always know.
7/24. I worked at Club Disney for the brief time it was open. We had codes we used on the radio headsets that were coordinated with character names. For instance, code Baloo meant there was blood that needed to be cleaned up immediately.
One day, I’m taking a stroll around the club to check on things when I spot a small boy about two years old taking a massive dump right in the middle of the play area. He sees me, starts to cry, and runs away with no clothing on the lower half of his body. I get on the radio and can’t think of what to say as we hadn’t discussed a code for “human feces in the play area and naked kid running around.” So I just called, “I have a code Pooh situation in the play area and Piglet’s on the loose.”
8/24. The flashers don’t happen very often, actually it’s usually men with their shirts off. In this case their ride photo is blanked out and they can’t purchase it.
9/24. After all the tours and fun stuff and exploring the tunnels, I had a meal at the Mousketeeria (cafeteria) and had my eye on Cinderella and some other princess, maybe Snow White, while I ate. They were MAD. After the meal, I went out to wait for the bus back to the parking lot around the same time they left. Now keep in mind characters aren’t allowed to keep their costumes on as soon as they’re “off stage” so the princesses typically walked around in tank tops and short short pajama shorts, but the with wig and full makeup. So I’m waiting for the bus and Cinderella and Snow White are gossiping about some this girl who slept with one of their boyfriends…. While chain smoking. Turns out, they were talking about a girl who played Ariel. SERIOUSLY!? 21 year old me was in total shock because it was my first day and knew it could only get better from there.
And it did. Like the time Aladdin and Peter Pan were making out on one of the tables in the same Mousketeeria. Or the time I saw Mickey Mouse give someone the finger underground directly after a parade (it’s hot in those costumes, she was probably justified!!). Or the time a different Cinderella got really pissed because Paris Hilton was visiting the park that day and didn’t go to see her. On the bus back to the lot she was like “I’M CINDERELLA! WHY WOULDN’T SHE COME FIND ME!?” Oh man, good times, good times.
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10/24. I used to be a cast member at the Disney store in my local mall. We were required to greet everyone within 10 seconds of them entering the store.There used to be a game online that kids would play about getting to the back of the store, grabbing a stuffed animal from the” plush mountain” and get back up front before getting greeted. I saw this one teenager run across the store and dove head first in the mountain of stuffed animals… only to quickly find out that they were on risers. He was taken away on a stretcher but ended up being fine. And yes, I greeted him while he was in mid air so he lost the game.
11/24. I think I’ve left a comment similar to this before, but I briefly trained for Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney World. At one point on the ride, you go over a bridge with crocodiles underneath. As I was riding with no one in the truck other than my trainer, she felt free to tell me that if anyone were to stand up and fall into the crocodile pit, I was to drive away immediately so that others wouldn’t have to see the carnage or try to rescue the person. The crocodiles are apparently fed from that bridge and anything that drops from there is food to them, and they are surprisingly fast.
12/24. I worked at Splash Mountain. Sometimes we had guests decide it was a great idea to hop out of the log because they didn’t want to ride anymore. Well we know about that, every time. The ride is littered with motion sensors, pressure pads, the like.
13/24. The stories about underground passageways and secret police are 100% true.
Was in the Magic Kingdom for a band trip in high school, hanging out with a few friends. One guy, we’ll call him Jack, decided it’d be a good idea to shoplift some keychains from one of the stores. This being Disney, there were probably 50 different security cameras that saw this.
A few minutes later we’re walking through a crowded area when my shoelace came undone so we stopped. Two big guys are behind us and quietly tell Jack that he needs to go with them, and tell the rest of us to let our band director know he needs to get in touch with security.
They walk Jack over behind one of the stores where there’s a “cast members only” door, and disappear behind it. Later Jack told us they took him underground, where he sat in a security room for the rest of the day where he was charged with shoplifting. They charged him to the fullest extent of the law, they don’t tolerate that stuff at all. He got a huge fine and had to do community service in Florida (we lived in the Northeast).
In retrospect, I have a huge amount of respect (and a small amount of terror) for how Disney handled the situation. They were incredibly subtle and quietly avoided making a scene. People walking past us had no idea what was going on. I know it sounds silly, but that experience alone probably helped me understand how terrifying and effective “secret police” in places like the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany were better than anything we ever learned in class.
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14/24. I worked on The Great Movie Ride in Hollywood Studies for a while and I can tell you all 22 minutes of your friendly tour guide’s speech is scripted to the very last letter. You get three days to learn your whole monologue (AND all of the speeds/controls/stops/gos of the actual ride) before going “live” as a tour guide. Most of those three days is spent in a room with your trainer reciting your script until you get every word right. If you accidentally say the word “okay” instead of “alright” you start over from the beginning. Most tedious 3 days of my life. There’s also one button on ever car that, despite being really close to buttons you have to touch all the time, if pushed gets you fired immediately.
15/24. Everyone in the call centers is given a “stage name,” so no two agents have the same name to the guests. Most, er, unique stage names I can remember: Cotton, Casper, Arizona, Lucinda… When you’re in training they give you a selection of like 20 names to choose from so you better hope you’re one of the first ones to pick so you can get a normal name and not get stuck with Cotton.
16/24. I was an intern once for Disney. Around Jan, May, Aug, the housing department does a “purge”. They will over accept people into the program, knowing that they will terminate “bad kids”. The term “bad kids” is very vague. It can be anything between a kid who’s roommate doesn’t like them to an actual bad kid who is underage drinking. They really just look at the numbers and terminate interns where they please.
They only give you 24 hours to be off their property. Leaving someone who doesn’t have a way home on the street.
17/24. The things that go on in the housing complexes are astonishing. Every Monday night us internationals have a happy Monday’s event, where we get in our countries teams and go to bars to play other countries teams in drinking games.
18/24. Another tiny behind the scenes thing that you might look for next time you’re there is the phrase “Have a Disney day.” It will typically be said as politely as possible. That’s Disney speak for “Go screw yourself.” I let that slip to a couple of tourists once while hanging out at Pleasure Island. Nearly all Disney employees hang out there on Thursday nights after getting paid. These people had been treated like complete crap by nearly everyone they had come into contact with. When I told them what the phrase meant, I was almost IMMEDIATELY approached by a stereotypical Florida tourist-type in a Tommy Bahama shirt and sandals, wearing sunglasses. It was the higher ups. They are EVERYWHERE and they was listening and watching everything. I was warned that I would be fired if I ever said anything like that to a tourist again.
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19/24. If you are nice to the cast members they will go out of their way to make magic. I often sent up chocolates or gave extra fast passes to nice guests.
If you are mean to cast members you better believe we are putting notes on your reservation. Disney has a lot of computer systems and they track crazy guest’s behavior. When you come up to the desk and scan your magic band, I will be warned if you have yelled or been out of line to another cast member. And that is across the board, all the Disney resorts use the same system.
20/24. I was leaning over a railing looking down into some water. a few unreachable feet below I spot a tiny (1.5ft to 2ft) alligator. Being from Africa and relatively unfazed with a slightly sharp swimming lizard, I thought nothing of it. I called my mother over and said “Look an alligator! How cool.” Sweet heavens was this a mistake. Not 2 seconds later (ears everywhere man) a staff member was looking over the railing whispering on the radio. All hell broke loose in the most hushed professional way ever. We were escorted away on a golf cart and a huge section of the park was cordoned off. We were taken to a room where they were very apologetic for our negative experience and offered us a free VIP day pass. So we said very a big thank you and took what was offered.
In future I will be smuggling other small harmless creatures in for free stuff.
21/24. A guy had a heart attack and died about 10 feet from me. I called it in as soon as I saw, but they already knew about it. I went on break shortly afterward and saw the family, literally ‘behind the scenes’, crying their eyes out. That never happens. Guests are never allowed behind the scenes, except when somebody dies, I guess. Really kind of heartbreaking.
On a positive note, they all got lifetime passes.
22/24. In Exposition Hall (when I was there) that big theatre that used to show movies was still there, just closed off to guests. We had meetings and parties in there all the time. That amazing mural of all the (then) Disney characters is there, hidden away by curtains.
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23/24. I was with my cousin and while we were riding the Pirates of the Caribbean ride it broke down. My cousin flipped out and Disney security literally appeared out of the walls. They took us into the back tunnels and into a freight elevator. Before we knew it were back outside . They were awesome in helping calm him as well.
24/24. If you talked in costume you’d get in serious trouble.
BONUS: I’ve been up in the windows of Main Street. The facade is about as wide as a gangway and hot as hell. When they’re recording for the parades that’s where the cameras are.