It’s the most magical place on Earth…except when it isn’t. Here are a few things that Disney World probably wants to keep under wraps.
1. Disney World cast members can never take off their masks.
It’s right in the cast member guidelines: under no circumstances can Disney performers remove their masks (or other identifying parts of their costumes) in front of guests.
This goes to hilarious extremes; one cast member on Reddit noted that when he became sick, he vomited in his mask rather than break character. Gross, right?
There are also strict regulations about visiting different parts of the park, since Disney doesn’t want any character to run into an identical character (e.g., West Side Goofy meeting East Side Goofy). If two identical characters are seen together, they can be fired.
Think that sounds extreme? It gets worse…
2. Disney cast members can never tell friends and family that they play certain characters.
Of course, this one’s a bit more difficult to police, but management takes it seriously.
If you’re able to get a job as a Disney cast member, you can never post pictures of yourself in character on social media—that means that you don’t get the considerable Facebook bragging rights that come with playing Mickey Mouse.
The bright side? You can say something like, “I’m really good friends with Donald Duck,” or “I hang out with Cinderella a lot.” That’s just about the only workaround.
These might seem like ridiculous rules, but they make sense; Disneyland and Disney World bill themselves as magical places, and to maintain control over the sizable Disney brand, they need to keep up appearances.
Cast members are expected to do everything they can to help guests make memories. Of course, that has its limits.
3. Part of being a Disney cast member means dealing with heavy situations.
Cast members regularly interact with terminally sick children, and they say that the job takes an enormous emotional toll. They’ll often go out of their way to spend time with these special kids, although, again, they’re not allowed to break character.
Kids love it; one cast member says that he’d even seen disabled children take their first steps to reach their favorite characters.
Disney cast members also deal with a strict attendance policy, however, so they’re sometimes compelled to work when dealing with their own difficult life circumstances. Disney management has reportedly become more sensitive to staff concerns in recent years, however.
Perhaps due to Disney World’s magical reputation, guests also go to the park to pay tribute to their loved ones. As one Reddit user notes, that means bringing cremated remains to Disney parks—a practice which Disney strongly discourages, of course.
4. You can get free Disney Dollars by complaining.
Obviously, this is something that Disney doesn’t want to promote, but employees are told to do everything possible to make guests comfortable. If a guest complains, the first response is often to offer free money—Disney Dollars, of course, which aren’t useful outside of the park.
Still, they’re useful for rides and food, and they’re pretty handy keepsakes, too, since each bears the image of a different Disney character.
Former employees suggest that Disney has a large budget for these types of giveaways, but they also recommend staying civil. Rude guests don’t usually get the freebies.
Oh, and be sure to make your (relevant) complaints to a non-character employee. Remember, Pluto can’t break character, so he can’t pull out his wallet to hand you a couple of bills (where would he even keep it?).
If money’s not doing it for you, you can ask for just about anything else. Former employees recount stories of running across the park with plush dolls and even driving to nearby grocery stores to appease guests.
5. By the way, if you complain, you’re on a list.
No, seriously. If you’re mean to a cast member, it’s going on your permanent record.
If you have a MagicBand (you get them for staying at a Disney resort, and they can be used for food and at stores), the cast member at the computer will be warned about your attitude.
If you left your last Disney hotel room a total mess, don’t be surprised if your next room has a much worse view. Oh, and every Disney resort uses the same MagicBand system, so don’t think that you can get away from your bad reputation by fleeing the state.
Of course, it works both ways. Employees can also make notes about nice guests, who are often rewarded with upgrades and a better overall experience.
If you really think about it, this is consistent with Disney’s brand: fairytales do come true, provided that you’re a relatively nice person.
6. Cast members have extremely difficult jobs.
Getting back to the cast members, they’re held to rigorous standards.
They must be able to write their characters’ signatures perfectly before they’re allowed to work, and if they work in rides that require spoken monologues (for instance, the Great Movie Ride in Hollywood Studios), they have three days to memorize their lines.
Those three days are spent in a room with a trainer going over the script until they get it right. One word wrong? Start over! Disney insists on perfection.
If you think that life is easier for costumed characters, think again. Those costumes have little ventilation, and water breaks are limited. Cast members must be in excellent shape to handle the work.
Even so, there’s strong competition for these low-paying jobs—many cast members have fond memories of the park, and they’re excited to help guests enjoy similar experiences.
7. Guests don’t always appreciate the effort. And they rarely follow instructions.
On Reddit, several cast members gave this compelling piece of advice: if you’re on the Kilimanjaro Safari ride at Disney World, you need to stay in your seat. At one point, the ride goes over a bridge with crocodiles underneath.
The cast member driving the truck is told that if anyone stands up and falls in the crocodile pit, the truck must leave the scene immediately so that other guests won’t see what happens to the person who’s fallen.
The crocodiles are fed from that bridge. Cast members must also deal with guests who try to get them to break character. They can be rude, obnoxious, and sometimes violent—or they can be romantic.
Costumed cast members often receive phone numbers and hotel room numbers from guests, but keep this in mind if you’re considering a similarly suave move: the gender of the character doesn’t always match the gender of the cast member.
8. Disney cast members can’t point.
In many cultures, pointing is rude, so Disney employees never point with a single finger. Instead, they’ll use two fingers or an entire hand.
They’re also not allowed to say “I don’t know.” Granted, they go through extremely rigorous training before interacting with guests, so they’re walking Disney dictionaries, but if you manage to stump an employee with a Disney question, they’ll direct you to another resource rather than admit ignorance.
Oh, and one more thing: employees must pick up trash, but they can’t stop and bend over. Instead, they’re trained to scoop up trash while walking; it’s a difficult skill to acquire, but it quickly becomes second nature.
Given all of these bizarre requirements, you’d think that Disney employees would hate their jobs.
That’s not the case; in fact, many ex-employees wish that they’d never had to leave, despite the sometimes harsh conditions.
It’s a testament to the power of the Disney brand—people are willing to do just about anything for a little bit of magic.