Disney Land/World has been described as the ‘most magical place on Earth.” Discover how the “magic” happens from Disney employees as they reveal what goes on behind the scenes at your favourite disney locations.
1. No Fun At All
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 by local 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 damned 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.
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. 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 shit 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.
Most people don’t understand just how much Disney owns. They own ABC. They own Touchstone Pictures. They own companies you would never think that Disney would own. I worked for the “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” attraction, back when that was still a thing. Every tourist who sits in on the show panel or in the hot seat is filmed. They must all sign a contract before entering the stage. I had to read and sign those same contracts. The actual wording states that Disney has the right to use your likeness “throughout the universe.
2. And The Speakers Are Well Hidden…
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.
3. Probably Not Worth It, But…
I worked a cash register in Tomorrowland. 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.
4. Catty Princesses
My first day as a CP (College Program Intern) working at the Magic Kingdom in Jan. 2005. 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 talking about someone 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 F’ING CINDERELLA! WHY WOULDN’T SHE COME FIND ME!?” Oh man, good times, good times.
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5. If You Steal, You’re Going To Have A Bad Time
I don’t work there, but had a relevant experience. 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 someone gave me a flat tire and we stop. 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 threw the book at him, they don’t tolerate that shit 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 with the whole flat tire thing, and how they 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.
6. Like Magic
I have an autistic cousin and once 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.
7. Hotel Hell…
I am a former Disney World resort employee, I worked as a concierge at a deluxe resort but sometimes had shifts at a value/moderate level resort. I came across a lot of famous, and crazy, people.
-Government officials, including POTUS, normally stay at the Contemporary because it is the most secure resort. Celebrities want to stay in Cinderella’s castle but Disney has denied some of them based on how messy they have left hotel rooms before.
-Cast members see lots of famous people everyday, all the time-bragging about who you know to try to get free stuff from people getting paid minimum wage won’t get you too far.
-On the flip side-Disney gives out a lot of money. If you complain enough to the right cast member at your resort, especially when staying at a deluxe resort, there is a good chance you will get money back. Disney has a huge budget for this. When the Polynesian was under major construction [just coming off this now] they give out a lot of money to angry guests who didn’t do research ahead of time.
-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 fastpasses 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.
-As for craziest stories-I have been asked where to get drugs, where to go to get prostitutes, and I also had a guest that ended up being a con woman. I have also had guests pass me their phone number. I can only imagine how bad it is for the princesses…
You definitely learn a lot about people and grow thick skin working for Disney. I think that experience helped me get my current job, but also allowed me to have newfound respect in what may be the most difficult customer service industry around.
8. Never Break Character!
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.
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9. “I’m Going In!”
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. I have a photographic memory of the ride layout and even I wouldn’t be able to avoid being detected out of the log.
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.
We always had parents trying to sneak kids who didn’t mean the height requirement. I do remember we had one family who kept trying for hours, thinking that the cast don’t talk to each other about problematic parents.
Ride evacuations were always interesting. But as long as you were strong and confident with the guests, they always listened. It’s real important to walk them through what’s going to happen, and let them know you’ve done this more than enough times. I also teased them that they were going to get a backstage tour, but it was gonna be real brief. And as long as they didn’t take pictures, they’d get a fastpass for their troubles.
Every day was an event but I loved every minute of it.
10. Piglet’s On The Loose!
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.”
11. 10 Second Rule
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.
12. Some Of The Craziest
Former WDW Cast Member. I swear most of my crazy stories come from working there. Things I’ve seen…
1. (more than once) Adult drop trouser and take a dump next to a line of people and walk off laughing.
2. A mother climb a tree and swing down in the middle of another family’s meet and greet with Beast. She didn’t want to wait in line.
3. Three people in wheelchairs in the same tree at another time. I have no idea.
4. A man try to swim in Cinderella’s moat during fireworks. I was guarding the ropes, I tackled him.
5. Snow White being thrown over the shoulder of a drunk man in EPCOT in an attempts to carry her away.
6. A brazilian tour group beat the crap out of Donald Duck.
Nights Of Joy- is Hell on earth. The park is open to Christian youth groups and has Christian rock bands preform. During these nights extra staff is put on and extra security because there is sex and drugs and theft happening around every corner. My managers were preparing us for it. They said if you see a bush rustle kids ARE having sex behind it. The bathrooms have to be checked every 5 mins, and Any ride that goes dark for more that 3 seconds will have randy teenagers whipping their junk out. Those nights…those terrifying nights.
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14. Not Very Spontaneous
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.
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 thought nothing of it. I called my manager over and said “look an alligator! How cool.” Sweet jesus 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.
16. Cotton FTL!
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.
17. Not Very Polite…
A friend of mine told me that the rules for workers at the European Disneyland were so so strict that they took to calling it Mouseshwitz. When management got wind of this they were told that anyone found using that name again would be fired. Apparently, it was only a couple of hours before they were calling it Duckau.
18. Swing And A Miss!
I work at WDW as a Cast Member. There are a lot of crazy things I’d rather not get in to, but the worst was one night during the fireworks exit. A bunch of teens start punching each other in the arms, being the usual pricks to each other. One of them ended up missing his friend and cold-cocking a 12 year old girl. 12 year old girls dad had to be 6′ 4″ and 320 pounds. And built. I mean really built.
It took 4 security guards and 2 orange county deputies to pull the guy off the bloody pulp that remained of the kid. His friend ended up jumping into the bushes to get away from one seriously angry father.
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19. Florida Water
We had a water cooler so we could all fill up our bottles before we went on stage. One of my managers says at one point that the water tastes a little stale, and maybe he forgot to wash out his bottle the night before. But he keeps drinking anyway. Cut to an hour or two later and one of my coworkers walks in, takes a sip of water, and spit-takes all over the room.
Turns out one of those giant bullfrogs had gotten into the tank of the water cooler and died in there. My manager flips out and starts dry heaving. In the meantime, men in full on HAZMAT SUITS show up and carry the water cooler away. We had a shiny new water cooler the next morning.
We also had a cast member trip over a tree root in a backstage area and there was an alpha unit (ambulance) there in three minutes and landscaping was there in four.
20. Mean Girls
Not a cast member, but I witnessed a cast member do this: I was in line at Disney Land California with a group of Japanese teenage tourists were ahead of me in line. I speak Japanese, so I could understand that they were making fun of Americans. They were mostly saying things to the effect of “On TV they seem so cool, but all of these Americans are so fat and ugly.” They were laughing and even occasionally pointing at people. I was just staying quiet but then one of the cast members who evidently also spoke Japanese walked up to them and told them in perfect Japanese “You guys should really be careful, most Americans can speak Japanese.” They all froze up and looked around at people, many of whom were giving them dirty looks. I nodded at them like I was backing him up, and they were horrified. They all left the line promptly afterward.
21. Underground Kingdom
You’re not going to get anything super amazing. It requires a bus to get to the park as a cast member, the main entrance for CMs is under Its a Small World and the Mousqueteria is right there, too.
There’s also a salon down below. I got my hair cut there a few times just because. The lady was nice even if she sliced her hand open real bad once and bled all over herself.
The tunnels are in a pentagon kinda formation with a single line going from Fantasy Land to Main Street. Main Street has a rectangle square under it and is decorated for guests because that’s the portion of the tunnels the Keys to the Kingdom tour are taken.
There’s a few cafes in the tunnels, nothing amazing, Aramark food. Closed early ALWAYS.
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.
Toward the back behind Splash Mountain I found the old Mike Fink Keel Boats including the sign (I gave it to a friend of mine because he loved it and I had no idea how to smuggle a giant wooden sign out of the park).
The stairs going up into the park aren’t labeled well at all. You learn your way by friends and trial and error. I used to use them all the time to pop up wherever I wanted, but I made a mistake once and ended up in the Hall of Presidents without realizing it.
The Adventureland Restuarant? Yeah, it’s still there. Just walled off. They use it for a few special events. I was taken in by a friend once.
I’ve also 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.
I’ve been ontop of Main Street to watch fireworks a dozen times, and I’ve been inside the suite in the castle. It’s pretty but nothing amazing.
If you want juicy stories you don’t really get those unless a group is using the park. The christian groups were always the worst, always rounding the bases or trying to.
Oh yeah, in the back of City Hall there’s a hidden room with plush furniture that looks like its from the 19th century. It’s a quiet room they take VIPs to when they need some silence, or if they need to give someone bad news.
Just moved back from doing a Disney college program. If you see someone working at Disney has a name tag with their college on it, they are doing it also. I was an international rep, as are about one third of the people living there, adding to the orgy context (we learnt that a lot of the American girls there liked foreign guys).
The things that go on in the housing complexes are astonishing. So. Much. Sex. So many drugs. So much alcohol. Hell, 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.
I know a guy who was goofy. He used to do cocaine all the time. It’s like a typical college campus, except four complexes of people who all work for Disney.
My best story is the day I was working and managed to give a girl who was a guest in the park that day my number, and met up with her that night and got up to… Stuff.
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23. Deep State Disney
I was an intern in a few of the engineering departments at the WDW resorts. I bounced around areas like park operations, warehouse operations, as well as engineering design. Nothing too crazy in my past experience, but some cool things I recall:
The tunnels under the Magic Kingdom stink like trash and old food.
There’s a room in the tunnels where teams of people literally sit and watch attractions, restaurants, and crowded areas. They help support operations with things like estimating wait times, but also act as an over watch for any other important information.
While working in that room, we definitely poked fun at the tourists getting caught in the rain, especially the ones on Tom Sawyer’s island. Since you can only get on/off by using a raft that would shut down during storms, large groups of people would get stuck on the island getting drenched.
I was always dressed in a business casual attire. If I was out in the park collecting data or something, guests would assume that I was important since I was dressed up. Most of the time I was approached to get yelled at for waiting too long in lines.
None of the control systems for the attractions are accessible remotely (or via LAN)… for security reasons.
None of the attraction music turns off at night. It’s real dark and creepy once everyone leaves the park.
24. She Had It Coming
My brother-in-law worked there in the student program. Two things he told me were the worst.
1) This couple were trying to ride Space Mountain, and had a black duffelbag. He 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.
2) I don’t remember what attraction it was for, but he said a little boy from Make-a-Wish got to go to the front of every line. This one lady saw it, and complained so loud about how this little trash kid didn’t deserve to cut in lines. He described the look on the boy’s parent’s faces as nothing but nightmarish heartbreaking. He told the lady to get out of line, and explained that the kid was with Make-A-Wish. She apparently didn’t care, and asked for a manager. She is banned from WDW. My brother-in-law almost lost his job right there due to all of the commotion that was caused. Luckily he didn’t.
25. Crikey Is Yikes In Australian, Right?!
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.
26. Out Of Sync
I’m a 6 foot tall girl so I did all of the tall characters like Goofy, Tigger, Captain Hook and like 10 other characters.
I did a lot of the breakfast meet and greets as Tigger. My head had a small hole where the mouth was, so I would go from table to table drinking orange juice from the kids. The kids were amazed, and It helped me get over my hangovers from the night before.
I was stuck in an elevator for 45 minutes backstage as Tigger.
Doing this job was awesome because I used to do a lot of partying and would get home at 6am and have to be at work around 8am, so because I didn’t have to show face or do much work, it was perfect.
As Goofy I snuck on rides. One day I went on one of the kiddie roller coasters and almost lost my head. I was eventually disapproved to play Goofy because he was starting to get a “Ghetto Booty” exact words from my supervisors.
When you play the characters, you’re 30 minutes on (set) 30 minutes off. So in an 8 hour day you really worked 4 hours but you got paid for 8.
If you talked in costume you’d get in serious trouble. The underground tunnel is real.
Oh, and I eventually got fired for asking Joey Fatone (back when NSYNC was on FIRE) for a picture before my shift off the clock.