Former Disney Theme Park Employees Are Sharing Dirty Secrets About Working There, And They’re Quite Dark
There are 12 Disney Parks, located at six different resorts, and many visitors call these locations the happiest places on Earth. But Reddit user u/memezdankton wanted to learn whether the employees agree with this description.
A few weeks ago, they submitted this question to the platform: “Former Disney theme park employees of Reddit, what are some dirty secrets or stories you can tell us about your time there?”
With 4.2K upvotes and 1.7K comments, it has people sharing really juicy, dark, and surprising secrets about what is happening behind the sparkling facade. Here are some of the most memorable ones.
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.
Image credits: jennyrob669
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.
Image credits: leopoldisacat
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.”
Image credits: onearmedmonkey
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.
Image credits: case_sensitive
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.
Image credits: fishmom5
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.
Image credits: honeybunhitta
Ever heard about people spreading ashes of their loved ones in the POTC or Haunted Mansion ride? Its goddamn true!
Image credits: gnomzy123
Disney Employees started referring to Disneyland as Mousechwitz due to working conditions.
Management told them to stop, so they used Duckau instead
Image credits: WimbleWimble
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.
Image credits: PropofolPopsicles
There’s a real human skull in the Disneyland Pirates of the Caribbean ride.
Image credits: OhbabyDontStopBuryMe
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.
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.
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.
Image credits: diego2757
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.
Image credits: jcwagner1001
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.
Image credits: nerdmoot
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.
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.
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.
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.
Image credits: Lrehcsa1926
Not the theme parks, but I worked at the Disney Store back when they first started popping up at all the malls. They made us sing the M-I-C-K-E-Y song at the end of every staff meeting and about half of the staff would cry when they sang it, because they just loved Disney so much. They would send you home if you didn’t have the ‘Disney Spirit’ (if you were in a visibly bad mood or unhappy.) If you got sent home for this more than three times they would fire you. This was back when the female employees wore what was basically a 50s style cheerleader costume and we were constantly harassed. We were not allowed to be rude or dismissive when being harassed unless someone aggressively groped us. It was a super weird job.
Image credits: Basicpseudonym
Third hand story here: my brother told me that the costume characters (I.e Mikey Mouse) could be sued if they took off their costume heads in any circumstance- including if they fell into the fake lake, because that would destroy the magic of Disneyland.
He also said that there is a massive network of tunnels underneath the entire park.
Image credits: SillyMathematician77
When someone pukes on a ride, it’s referred to as a “protein spill” so that it doesn’t sound as gross.
Image credits: KP_525
Former cast member from the early ’90s here. There was a central ‘bank’ near the Magic Kingdom tunnel entrance where all the park gift shops, restaurants, etc., would deposit the day’s cash. Each day an armored truck would drive into the tunnel to haul away the loot. I can only imagine how much cash they took outta there!
Image credits: Aware_Masterpiece_23
If you worked at the diners or food service places where someone was at a register that you walked past to order/ charge your food, you didn’t get to drink anything or go to the bathroom for your full 8-10hr shift. That’s when I lost all respect for them; not even 5minutes to go to the bathroom.
You can usually convince a cast member to bend the rules for you early on a Friday morning.
Thursday is pay day and there is, or at least was when I was there in the late 90s-early 00s, plenty of trouble to get into Thursday night so CMs are more likely to be hungover, still drunk, stoned, or a combo early Friday morning.
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.
Image credits: Witty-Message-2852
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
Image credits: RecoverFar801
Not a WDW cast member, but I’m married to someone who was. The guest-inaccessible parts of the Haunted Mansion are gross. Think asbestos, dust, grease, cobwebs, and all kinds of other crap that has accumulated over literally decades. Every time wifey had to work there, she came home and bolted for the shower.
Image credits: Opheltes
Worked on the cruise ships back in ’87 or so. Characters were party animals. Mickey always was female due to height. I had a fling with Goofy for a few weeks. She was gorgeous. Snow White was uptight in or out of costume. The parties we would have…
They issue black T-shirts and black shorts for the costumed characters to wear underneath and sweat in. One day there was an uproar because in the breakroom there was a sign “No Blacks Allowed” (meaning the undergarments). They started calling them “basics” after that.
Image credits: redeyeofbull
Never worked for disney but the employees used to share underwear. Disney didnt want regular underwear to be visible so they made their own underwear and instead of giving everyone their own pair, they were traded around until people started noticing stains and getting pubic lice.. Each character has their own pair now but its still really weird lol
Image credits: New_Metal9534
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.
Image credits: uhsorrybro
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.
Image credits: hashtagdisposible
I was on the TTC Resort Platform working the night of the Monorail crash. It will be 13 years this July and I still wake up screaming from time to time. There is no amount of therapy that will or can erase that memory from my mind.
Image credits: driver_dylan
Worked at Disneyland for almost 5 years. I personally haven’t gone to see the “Disney” doctor for cast members but I know friends who have an heard the doctor doesn’t give a s**t about the CM’s coming in for injuries.
The time I was there, photographers and other departments weren’t allowed to drink water from the water fountains because we are “on stage”. It was a big issue the last year I worked there and some of the leads were fighting for umbrellas for photographers. It gets really brutal in Carsland where it’s 5x hotter. Almost past out from the heat and dehydration.
Image credits: ohshtitsausername
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.
You are being watched everywhere.
I’ve never worked there, but once, in a professional capacity, I was given a 6am walking tour of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. What I was most struck by was the pirate characters up on bridges or seen in windows or on the attacking ship, none of them have any legs. They’re top-half only, mounted onto poles. If the boat riders can’t see a part of an animatronic character, then it doesn’t need to exist.
Image credits: Egheaumaen
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.
Worked on the Jungle Cruise at Disney World. Lots of women would love to “fall” when getting off the boat and use my crotch or butt to catch themselves.
Disney cruise line here, I used to go in to the complaint system and read all the guest complaints from previous cruises. The amount of complaints that were because of sheer stupidity on the guests part is staggering. People seem to think because they’re paying lots of money they’re allowed to do or say whatever they want, which of course can be unsafe on a ship.
In disneyland, in the peter pan ride, i was always in awe with the floating stars that you zoom by in the ride.
Turns out they are just LEDs on the end of wire hangars (attached to the walls, mostly) that are wrapped in electrical tape.
Image credits: Amazingawesomator
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.
My favorite part was getting screamed at everyday but my upper management and telling me I don’t deserve to be here. I was still training and learning when this happened lmao.
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.
Had to maintain “the Disney look”
No facial hair with exception of groomed mustache (picture Walt Disney).
Clean looking haircut that couldn’t hang over the ears or neck (male).
Before I started a shift I was given a razor and asked to shave because of stubble/5 o’clock shadow.
This was 2007-2010ish, lifeguard at resort pools.
Disney will give VIP treatments to wealthy people & celebrities. Including being chauffeured from backstage between attractions, surrounded by a circle of cast members. I walked right past Justin Bieber & his family behind the Imagination Pavilion at Epcot without realizing it.
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.
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…
Former Disneyland employee here. We see everything in the rides, there are cameras everywhere and we have night vision. Yes, I saw you cop a feel on your girl when you thought no one was watching.
Image credits: ragingduck
I was a cast member at Walt Disney World. I wasn’t a costume character, but was forced to wear a wig all year in the sweltering humidity of Florida because they felt my highlights and lowlights looked unnatural lol.
Not a former employee, but I remember hearing about the Disney College Program. Basically, college kids work at the theme parks for an hourly wage (like ~$11 an hour.)
The interesting thing is the college program offers housing, which costs like $110 – $200 a week. And there’s a $400 “admin fee” when you first start (and you have to pay this fee every time you extend your contract.) And they try to keep the workers on “campus” and in the Disney properties, spending money.
The whole thing ends up sounding like a revolving door of cash where the college students work and get paid but most of the money stays inside of Disney.
Disney is pretty upfront with these various fees and any program with a bunch of other college kids is probably a blast but it doesn’t seem to be the best way to actually make and save money.
I continued to use the backstage passages and the tunnels long after I quit. Nobody ever challenged me. As long as you met the grooming standards and looked like you knew where you were going, it was easy. I don’t recommend trying this unless you are looking for a lifetime ban.
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”.
The Mickey and friends parking structure has so much trash hidden in all the crevices. You’ll find dirty diapers, used condoms, and anything you can think off; just look at the glass panel crevices.
I’ve always heard Disney will put on spontaneous parades to block foot traffic and manage crowds/congestion. Like if too many people are crowding magic mountain, boom. Instant parade blocking additional people from getting to magic mountain.
When I was 12 – my grandparents took me to Disney World and we stayed at the brand new “Contemporary” with all access cards. This hotel was 5 star, lobster dinner, steak dinner, amazingness. It also had a monorail go straight through it which was awesome as a kid. My all access card got us high end meals, nice tables, the works. The rooms were amazing. This is how I remember it anyway.
30 years later I took my 12 year old son to the same hotel. I, foolishly, did not do any research other than seeing the price was $700 a night and so assumed it would be exactly the same. I show up and the place is along the same lines as Motel 8 or a Days Inn. There were no real restaurants, fast food only. The rooms were absolutely disgusting. I did not feel safe. There was no Disney Magic. I do not know if any of the other Disney hotels are grand, magical, and amazing like I remember, but this was not. I feel dirty having gone to Disney World as an adult.
Not a CM but knew a guy and his son who both worked at Disneyland. He said his son was playing Buzz Lightyear in one of the shows where they dance on the riverboat. Apparently he was feeling very sick and actually threw up in the costume while they were dancing. He then had to finish the show with throw up in his Buzz Lightyear head
My mom was a nurse at the Anaheim Disneyland in the ‘80’s. She said the cast member who played Goofy was a hypochondriac. He was in the nurse’s office all the time complaining. She also said the cast member for Mickey Mouse was a “dirty old man.” I thought this kind of fit the characters.