Most businesses have two sides. What the public thinks and what the employees KNOW. These are usually far different from each other and a lot of businesses go to great lengths to keep their behind the scenes stuff a secret. Disney is no different and they even go to further extremes to keep secrets than most businesses do. For a guest visiting one of their parks it may be the Happiest Place on Earth, but for the people that work there, it can be a horrible place to be.
There have been countless former employees that have spilled the beans once no longer working at a park. This is because they are not permitted to discuss anything while they work there. A lot of the things that are revealed to the public are truly shocking and very disturbing. Like if you come into danger during a visit there is no guarantee that someone will help you. You may just be left behind, ON PURPOSE.
A few other things you’ll learn about here today are that if you steal something, no matter how small, you will be prosecuted, and that “magic band” that you wear that is supposed to make your stay easier, well that thing is actually used to track your movements and keep track of your attitude toward park employees. Read on and you’ll learn a lot more things that you had no idea about when it comes to Disney and its parks.
15. Disney Employees Have Their Own Language
You may not notice it upon a visit because it doesn’t really sound out of place, but employees at Disney have their own language. They have to learn to use certain words while never using others. Some of it sounds nice when it actually isn’t. A good example is if a Disney worker tells you to “Have a Disney day!” you shouldn’t feel all warm and fuzzy inside. That’s their private way of telling you to “Go f**k yourself!”
The employees must also know as much as possible and can never say “I don’t know.” They have to do everything they can to find an answer that is acceptable to the visitor, but they can never use those three words. Doing so is ground for termination. They can make phone calls to other employees for help but those three words must never be used.
The same goes with an employee’s character. They have to know as much as they possibly can about that character so they can move and talk as closely to the role they are playing as possible. It certainly sounds like a lot of work before you even get started if you ever get a job at a Disney park.
14. The Mask Can Never Come Off
If you ever get a job at a Disney park as one of the characters there is one basic thing to always remember. The mask, or head, may NEVER come off. That means never. It can get so hot inside those heavy, fur covered costumes that some people get nauseated easily. If the person feels that they are going to get sick they have to do so inside of the head, if they are in a public area.
Once they start to not feel well they do have a signal among employees that is a call for help. They cover up one eye with their hand and raise their other arm high in the air. This will alert nearby maintenance crews that there may be an eruption inside the costume and these guys can be of service in getting the performer to a closed off area. This way the head can be taken off and business can be handled.
So keep that in mind the next time you visit one of Disney’s wonderful parks. If a costumed character has one hand over an eye and another hand in the air get away quickly. You probably wouldn’t be in danger of getting hit but who would want to smell that on a hot day?
13. Death and Disney Go Hand in Hand
Disney has been around for so long and has had so many guests pass through its gates that there are bound to be some issues. Death is something that happens quite often at the Disney parks but in the overall picture, when you consider the number of deaths in comparison to the number of guests, it’s a pretty small number. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen a lot.
Remember the guests that contracted the amoeba Naegleria fowleri? That’s the brain eating bacteria that comes with a 95% fatality rate. Only one person died but it was the main reason that Disney’s River Country was closed (seen in the above photo).
There was another high-profile incident in 1998 on Christmas Eve when a heavy piece of metal that was securing a ride tore loose. It hit several people in the head and one of them died. There were several fines that resulted from the incident and Disney settled with that victim’s family for $25 million.
Those are different, more extreme cases to go along with the normal deaths that come from riding on the rides. Strokes, heart attacks, standing up on rides and jumping off of rides are more common occurrences that happen quite often.
Several people that die, but don’t do it in a Disney park also request to have their ashes spread somewhere in some of the parks. The employees have actually all been trained in how to do this. So think about that before you take your next deep breath in a Disney park.
12. Employees Can’t Go Near The Same Character
If an employee is in character as Mickey Mouse they are forbidden from going near another Mickey Mouse character. Yes, there are several running around any Disney park on any given day. The parks are so large and they want everyone to see all of the characters. So employee work areas are carefully chosen.
Each character also has several different nationalities associated with them. This is to bring diversity to a character and not to offend anyone. For example, there may be a white, black, Mexican and Chinese Cinderella in a park at the same time on any given day. But you’ll never see them talking to each other or hanging out together. If you do see it you can be assured that one or both of them won’t be reporting to work the next day. Anyone that does that is immediately fired. Disney is very strict on every one of their rules.
One time a character looked through a curtain to find the person they were supposed to replace on the new shift. She did this without thinking and when she realized what she had done she ran into a room and almost got sick. She was so worried about being fired that she almost lost her lunch right then and there. Thankfully she made it through the day!
11. Song of the South
One of the things that Disney doesn’t want you to know about their parks is that the company one time made a movie called Song of the South. It was an animated movie that was released in 1946 and just like any other movie they have released, for a time there were characters from that film running around the parks.
The movie was highly criticized for being racist because it’s about former slaves from the south after the Civil War. The characters, their language, and their movements were all considered highly racist and to this day it’s the only Disney animated film to not be released on US home video in a full and unedited state. It can be found in secondary markets but it’s much different from the original. It’s been reworked and the worst racist parts have been removed.
It’s very obvious that they eventually realized what they had done and Disney goes to great lengths to act like the movie never existed. You won’t ever see any of the characters running around the parks anymore, there won’t be any merchandise sales and there certainly won’t be any rides bearing the name of the movie. According to Disney, it’s something that never happened.
10. Characters Must Stay A Secret
A former Disney worker once shed light on how secretive they have to be about the character they portray. A person can NEVER tell anyone who they play. They can say “I’m friends with Mickey” or “I hang out every day with Cinderella” but if they ever say who they portray, they won’t be portraying them any longer. Another thing that can never be done is posting photos of a person inside their costume on social media or anywhere else. Do that and you kiss your job bye-bye.
Social media is something that Disney watches very carefully. They do not allow their employees to discuss what role they play ever on social media. Employees aren’t allowed to use Twitter at all but they can use Facebook and the others. That is as long as they don’t say anything about who they play. If they do they will be fired when they report for their next shift.
In the world of Disney, there is no outside world, and that includes social media. No other universe exists outside of Disney. So nothing else matters and employees can’t talk about the fictional world in the outside, real world, that doesn’t exist according to Disney. In other words, if an employee is “off the clock,” they really aren’t as they are still bound by the rules. That may be a bit confusing so in short Disney says that its fictional world is the only world and it can’t be discussed in the real world. And the real world never bleeds over into the fictional world.
9. Disney Sued A Day Care
If you want to talk about a true David vs. Goliath event you don’t have to look any further than back in 1989 when Disney sued three day care centers in Hallandale, Florida. You might wonder why they brought suit against day cares that make a micro fraction of the money that Disney makes. Prepare yourself for the ultra-stupid. The day cares had murals painted on their walls of Disney characters and they had not sought out permission to do so from Disney itself. Yes, they painted a mural of Disney characters, because that’s what kids like, and they got sued by Disney because they didn’t ask for permission to do so.
Even though the media came down hard on them Disney refused to back down and they eventually won and the murals had to be painted over.
The good news is that Universal Studios, Disney’s main competition, stepped up and told the daycares that they could use any of their characters that they wanted, for absolutely free. So shortly thereafter Yogi Bear, The Flintstones, and Scooby Doo made their way to the walls that once housed Mickey Mouse and his friends. It was a classless move made by Disney that people haven’t forgotten. There are some things in life that you should just turn a blind eye to.
8. Disney Gives Free Passes For Death
A former Disney employee once remembered an incident that happened while he was working the cash register in Tomorrowland at Disney. He said that one time a man suffered a heart attack and died while waiting in line at the register. The family was obviously horrified at what happened and the people from Disney broke the very strict rules about not allowing people to go behind closed doors.
They took the family “backstage” so they could deal with things in private. Or maybe it was done so they didn’t hold up the line at the register. From what we know about Disney it seems as if it could be a viable thought. The “backstage” area is completely off limits to guests and it’s one of the rules that Disney is very strict about. While they were in that back room area the family was given lifetime passes to the park. Sure, I’ll bet that made things better. “Mom it sure is sad that Uncle Harry died a few minutes ago but at least we got lifetime passes for free out of it! WooHoo!” Somehow I don’t think that’s how the conversation went.
As far as moving the family to a private area so as to not hold up the lines to the register? With everything else that has been learned about Disney for this piece, I’m going to go with that was the reason for doing it.
7. Pinocchio’s First Public Appearance Was A Drunken One
In 1940, Walt Disney had an idea of how he wanted to present Pinocchio to the general public for the very first time. He scheduled an event at the Center Theatre and hired eleven midgets to play eleven Pinocchios. As with anything else that Walt Disney did, he put a lot of thought into this event and it was carefully planned. He would accept nothing short of perfection.
All eleven people were dressed up like Pinocchio and then brought to lunch before the event. They were scheduled to perform on the theater’s marquee and their first appearance was highly anticipated. However, at lunch all of the Pinocchio’s got very drunk, throwing a very large wrench into Disney’s plans.
During the performance, the little people were obviously very intoxicated and they eventually got out of control. Not only did they break character, they broke everything! They all disrobed and made quite the naked scene. I’m fairly certain that eleven drunk, naked Pinocchio’s wasn’t what Walt Disney had in mind.
6. Disney Doesn’t Like Theft
The Happiest Place on Earth isn’t so happy if you steal from them. They don’t hide the fact that they WILL press charges against you and it doesn’t matter what you stole. One time a high school band made a visit to the Magic Kingdom and one of its members stole a couple of keychains. Keychains. He thought that he had gotten away with the crime but just a few moments after leaving the store he was approached by a couple of security officers. They made it clear that he was to go with them quietly back to a “cast members only” area. The criminal had to pay a fine and also do community service. For a couple of keychains. It shows you that crime is stupid and Disney doesn’t care what the value of the item is. If you steal it they will prosecute!
The fact of the matter is that the Disney grounds are blanketed with security personnel at all times. They wear regular clothes and blend in with the rest of the guests but if you pay attention you can find them. All you have to do is look for the ear piece on each person and you can tell who is who.
5. There Is A Real Human Skull
Yes, it is reported that this is actually very true. However, it isn’t known who it belongs to, how it got there or how long it has been there. But it is there. You can find it on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at the California park. I personally have never been to that park but I’m fairly certain that there are a whole bunch of skulls on that ride. So it may be a bit hard to pick out which is the actual real one.
Maybe it’s one of those people that want to be buried at or have their ashes spread over the parks. That would seem to make some sense. But as tight-lipped as Disney is about so many things, they just may not want to share the information. If they did it might bump up attendance for the ride but on the other hand, it could hurt it. Everyone is different and has their own level of freak in them.
4. You Are Being Watched and Tracked
Anyone that has one of Disney’s “magic bands” knows that it makes gaining entrance to certain areas a little bit easier. With a simple wave of a wand, you can move right on through. It also makes the adventures in stores or concession stands a little easier. But just like all other computer systems, this one takes a lot more information than you think.
The system can be accessed and notes can be added to your file. So if you have ever given a cast member a hard time or got out of line with one, rest assured that everyone will know about it. Every Disney park has the exact same system in place so make sure you pick your battles wisely. If you are rude to the wrong person other cast members might give it back to you, or you might hear “Have a Disney day!” several times throughout the day.
But if you are nice to people everyone will know that as well. If you have a “good record” some cast members might actually go out of their way to help you or treat you just a little better than others. One former employee once revealed that if a guest had a “good record” she would send up fast passes or other treats to them in their hotel rooms. Nice touch! Sometimes being nice actually does pay off!
3. There Is An Underground Tunnel System
At each Disney park, there is an underground tunnel system that is just as elaborate as what you see above the ground. But it’s not always as clean. Former employees say that the tunnels are often very hot and dirty to the point that they smell horrible.
The tunnels are used by cast members to get from one area of the park to another without being seen by the general public. It makes perfect sense to do since Disney is so secretive about everything. But it’s said that while the cast members are encouraged to clean up after themselves, not many actually do. This leaves garbage like hot dog or burger wrappers along with a host of all kinds of other garbage just piling up. There are some reports that say there are always a bunch of used diapers in the tunnels too, although I’m not really sure how they would get there. But you can imagine the stink that must come with that.
The employee cafeteria is down in the tunnels as well and it’s reported that the employees pay much less to eat down there than the public does up at ground level.
2. Disney Expects Perfection
When you get on any type of ride at any Disney park there is someone that talks to you. They either give you instructions on the proper way to enjoy the ride or they might share with you the background story behind the ride. These announcements are never ad-libbed by the presenter. They are carefully practiced and memorized exactly how Disney wants them to be presented.
Operators are given three days to learn everything to perfection and that includes not only learning the lines but operating the ride as well. That sounds like a lot of pressure! They have to learn the monologue EXACTLY as Disney wants it delivered. Everything must be said to the exact letter and with the proper inflection.
The training consists of time spent with a trainer repeating the script over and over again until it’s 100% correct. 99% correct is unacceptable. When the three days is up if a cast member doesn’t have it perfectly memorized they will either start the training over again or just be fired.
I’m not sure what cast members are paid at the Disney parks but there certainly sounds like there is a ton of pressure on each cast member to learn and follow every single rule. It sounds to me that it might be the Happiest Place on Earth for its guests but not so much for the people who work there.
1. Don’t Fall Off The Ride Or You’ll Be Left Behind!
This has been confirmed by more than one former cast member. A guest needs to stay seated and follow the rules that are given. The results that come from a failure to obey can be life threatening.
At Disney World when guests go on the Kilimanjaro Safari ride they are told to remain seated at all times. This is stressed very strongly at the beginning of the ride, but what isn’t shared is what can happen if you don’t.
At a certain point on the ride, it goes right over a bridge that has a lot of real-life crocodiles under it. The employee that is operating the ride is given very strict instructions on what to do if someone doesn’t listen to them. If someone stands up and accidentally falls out of the truck, into the croc pit, the driver MUST speed up and drive away from the scene as fast as possible. This is so that the other guests can’t see what happens to the person that fell out. It doesn’t take much thought to figure out what happens to them.
Every day the crocs are fed right from that bridge so anything that comes off they think is food. And they eat it without giving anything a second thought. Get it? That’s one ride you want to make sure you stay in your seat, or you might just want to skip it altogether. Knowing that the operator will not try to help a person in need, is enough of a reason for me to never get on it.