People from all over travel to Disney World and Disneyland to experience the most magical place one earth. But it's not always magical for those that work there. From character issues, and meet and greets, to awkward or traumatic situations, people who've worked for Disney share their craziest behind the scenes stories from working there, and how not all dreams come true.
"My wife was Goofy for a semester in college. One time, she accidentally ripped the feeding tube out of a make-a-wish kid in a wheelchair going in for a hug with poor visibility from the costume. Luckily all wandering costumed characters have uniformed handlers to assist, but it's kind of hard to 'stay in character' as Goofy after something like that happens.
She felt terrible and was traumatized for weeks. The kid was fine (from that incident at least). It was a hassle to mitigate, but no medical damage resulted from it."
"Back in the day, I used to work Space Mountain in the Magic Kingdom. You would have your typical stuff to deal with - vomit, food, shoes falling off, etc. One day, we put a group of kids - one of which was admittedly too small to be on the ride, but we let him on because his bigger sister said she'd hold onto him. We got them in their seats, let them go, and got back to chatting.
When they finally came back, two of them were missing - the boy and his sister. So, naturally, we just completely lost it. We all let a kid too small get on the ride. We could lose our freaking jobs for that. We could go to prison for that. We shut down the ride, told everyone someone vomited all over the seats, and went looking for this kid and his sister.
We literally had to climb around Space Mountain looking for these two, using the carts as something to hold onto. A huge, huge pain in the butt, by the way.
When we finally see them, it's bad. The boy is face down on the tracks, dead as far as we could tell. And his sister is leaning on a pole connecting to the tracks, looking completely shot and dejected. My two other employees and I literally just broke down and started crying for a solid 15 seconds or so, before the girl bursts out laughing and her apparently-not-dead little brother follows suit.
One of the most unbelievable experiences of my life. The worst part was we couldn't really tell anyone about it because we let a kid on that was too short. So they basically just messed around, climbed around on a roller coaster and got away with it. So incredibly dangerous. We were so lucky. To this day, none of us know how those kids got off the coaster. I mean, clearly, something malfunctioned - they shouldn't have been able to get out in the first place. But somehow those idiots managed to do it without killing themselves.
Mind-blowing and utterly horrifying."
"My mom was a costumed character for a couple of years at Disneyland. She was very committed to keeping character, but there was one instance where she broke character.
Two teens jumped her when she was playing Piglet and started beating her. At first, she just tried to block and defend herself, but at one point she knocked one of the boys to the ground and pinned him. Considering my mom's only 4'10 and was wearing 50 pounds of costume, I consider that fairly impressive. The other kid continued to assault her and I think she may have yelped or cried out because the kid she had pinned heard her and said 'oh wow it's a chick!' Like, no way? Idiot. Most of the shorter characters are women because, well, they're shorter.
Cast members came to help her and the kids were banned from the park. My mom got in a lot of trouble for that too, though, because she broke character. And unfortunately, she was suspended for a couple days."
"Grad night 2007: I was walking out of the Space Mountain break room and saw one of my guy friends at the then 'Honey, I Shrunk The Audience' attraction. He straight up looked like he was about to vomit and one of my other friends was laughing hysterically. Apparently, in the dark of the theater, some girl decided this would be a good time to go down on her boyfriend. Little did she know, about halfway through the show, one of the effects is this little tube that comes wiggling out of the seat to simulate mice running by your legs. This hit her in the throat, so she bit down, and he was bleeding pretty profusely. A grad night to remember!"
"One day, Goofy’s shift was over, and he was trying to walk to the back area to cool off, when a very angry mom started yelling at him because he 'ignored her son.' In reality, he couldn’t see them as he was turning to walk away.
The lady then called him racist, and said that Goofy was ignoring them because they were black. Goofy turned around to greet the child and signed his autograph book, and then turned to the mom, and slipped up his sleeve to quickly point at his own black skin underneath before walking away."
"I have a close friend who was Woody for a while at Disneyland. He said that one time a float caught on fire during a show, and they had to play it off completely in character. They danced around it and had to quickly get it backstage to deal with the problem. He said they played it off well enough that no one seemed to notice/there wasn’t any panic.
He said he had never seen an instance of anyone breaking character because everyone was very well-trained and there’s always at least six or so cameras that can see you at all times."
"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 kid without any clothes running around.' So I just called, 'I have a code Pooh situation in the play area and Piglet's on the loose.'
"I have a story of someone I know who used to do the mascot stuff at Disneyland.
Back a couple years ago he had to dress up as Nick from 'Zootopia' for his shift. Now the thing about this costume is that the tail is massive metal spring to help give the illusion that it can move on its own.
One day he was doing his rounds with his partner (Judy) and they had a bit of a trouble maker (11-year-old boy) who was being a little rough and pulling on his tail. Keep in mind this tail is pretty heavy at around 40 lbs and is attached to his back pretty firmly. With no real proper field of vision other than the tunnel vision they get, no breaking character, and no security nearby to stop to issue, he was in a bit of a pickle.
Fortunately for Nick, the father of said trouble maker told him to stop and apologize. He did so with a sour disposition that gave the impression he really didn't care. After said apology, a young girl behind him goes 'Hey Nick!' and without missing a beat he does a complete 180 attempting to hit the trouble maker with his tail. He gets purchase and smacks the kid with a good thud and knocks the kid on his butt.
While he was giving attention to the little girl his mind was racing that he was going get fired for this little stunt, but luckily for him, the dad pulls through by laughing at his kid's misfortune telling him something along of the lines of 'you know you deserved that right?'"
"I also was a Jungle Cruise skipper during my time at Disneyland, and lots of crazy things happen in the jungle.
I wasn't actually in the boat for this one, but I was working the attraction that day. They loaded a boat and sent it out into the jungle, as normal. The skipper got about half-way through the trip and out of nowhere, this Korean lady started screaming at the poor guy sitting in front of her. The skipper tried to calm the lady down, but she kept screaming and yelling at him (in Korean).
Then, she full on attacks him. She lunged at him with claw hands and started scratching at his face and kicking him. He was doing his best to fend her off, but she was on him.
When things like this happen, it's what we called a 'four shot.' The skipper loads four rounds in the weapon, fires them all (to alert the other boats in the jungle, and hopefully the people on the dock), then radios into the dock that they are having a medical/security issue. Then they just book it as fast as that boat can go back into the dock. The dock stops loading and just sends everyone ahead of the boat into the jungle so that the emergency boat can come right in.
So skipper gets the boat into the dock, and when she rounded the corner, basically half the people on her boat were trying to hold this lady down while the guy she attacked was cowering in the back bleeding. Luckily, security had arrived and medical shortly after.
It took three security officers to eventually subdue the lady, while medical services strapped her down to a gurney. After they had her secured, they walked her backstage behind Tomorrowland to an ambulance.
Eventually, they got a translator and tried to talk to her and her family, and it turns out that the lady was schizophrenic and had decided that she wasn't taking her medication that day so she could try to better enjoy the park. She just happened to have an episode in the middle of the jungle, and the poor dude sitting in front of her got all the wrath.
I don't remember what the compensation was for everyone on the boat, but I know it was definitely more than a re-ad.
"We had a lady try to smuggle an infant onto Indy at Disneyland one time. She put a huge jacket on (in the summer) and stuffed her child down near the bottom in an attempt to look pregnant.
Several cast members warned her that it is not recommended that pregnant women go on the ride, but she insisted, and we couldn't stop her. So she manages to get on the Jeep, and puts the seat belt on, and that was when her stomach started screaming and crying."
"One day, a kid had eaten a bunch of pasta with marinara and then promptly threw it all up right in front of the entrance to Big Thunder Mountain. It was a huge pile of watery barf, easily two feet wide and three feet long.
So we called custodial, and set up a couple of trash cans to do our best to block the area off so people couldn't step in it.
This dude, wearing all white (white shirt, shorts, shoes) comes running down the path from the exit of the ride to try to get back into the line as soon as he can. We tried to yell at him to stop running, but it was too late.
He thought he would be a super cool guy and jump between the trash cans. He didn't count on there being a river of barf. So he jumps, lands in the barf and his legs slip out from under him, and he falls/rolls into all the red marinara barf. It took him a few seconds to comprehend what had just happened, but he eventually let out a blood-curdling scream.
Thankfully a manager was walking by when all this happened, so my fellow greeter and I didn't have to actually deal with him. We did have to write a quick report on what we had witnessed, in case the guy tried to sue or something though. As far as I know, nothing came of it though."
"I just remembered my actual favorite/craziest story. Someone had left an abandoned bag at the base of Space Mountain for more than 15 minutes, so we followed the normal security procedures, and they brought a bomb dog out to sniff it. When our Pluto came to check the bag, he sniffed it and then sat down, which signals there is something wrong with this bag. So we had to evacuate all of Tomorrowland, literally all of the attractions/stores/restaurants, and all the cast members were standing at all the entrances freaking out because now of course we were sure a bomb was going to go off, and we would all die.
Turned out that the backpack was just forgotten, full of carne asada burritos, and Pluto sat down because he thought he was getting a treat."
"I never worked for Disney, however my first job I ever had was working at a park/museum that was completely designed by Disney Imagineers and in the beginning high level Disneyworld people spent time with the founders/managers of our park to instill a similar culture they had at Disney.
For us, finding ways to have fun was what kept us sane — destruction of mannequins (I was 18, give me a break) and completely messing with people on the radio. My department was channel 3 on the radio, attractions was channel 2, etc. I would change my channel to another department, and mess with them - call in spills that didn't exist (poop in the food court!), call in thunder/lightning warnings on a clear and sunny day (sounds innocuous, but it can delay/cancel rides if management believed it).
The radio-tampering had to stop when this dude in our department called security about a 'Suspicious looking person.' As you might imagine, security went nuts looking for this guy and even called local police. Because of this, they started a witch hunt and this one dude finally fessed up - he was fired on the spot, and was nearly charged with a crime."
"I work at Disney World as a Cast Member. And there are a lot of crazy things I'd rather not get in to, but the worst was one night during the fireworks exit, we had a bunch of twenty year olds being dumb idiots on the resort platform.
They start punching each other in the arms, being the usual pricks to each other. One of them ended up missing his friend and cold clocking a 12-year-old girl. The girl's dad had to be 6'4 and 320 pounds. And built. I mean really built.
It took four security guards and two 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."
"Sooo. Story time. I have three cousins who have been Disney princesses, two of which are still at it. About a year ago my grandparents decided to go visit one of my cousins out at Disneyland Tokyo. My grandpa had (has) relatively advanced Alzheimer’s, but he is generally easy to handle. Somehow he got separated from my grandma and started to panic a little—looking for anyone he knew.
Turns out the first person he found that he recognized was my cousin in full Cinderella character (They allow the characters to come out and walk around the park in Tokyo because the Japanese are super respectful). He started to talk to my cousin, calling her by her real name and quite directly asking her where his wife/her parents were. He started to get pretty angry and frustrated when she wouldn’t give him a straight answer. She kept character as best she could but her 'handlers' whisked her away pretty rapidly. He was reunited with the rest of the group soon after but it was quite the scene.
Disney could/should show a little more leniency. My extended family just tries to remember it as a ridiculous chain of events and not as a traumatic one. It ended up being relatively ok in the end. Alzheimer’s is a disease, and I guess we think that it’s still better to include my grandpa in family events."
"My brother-in-law worked at Disney as part of the student program. Two things he told me were the worst.
1. This couple were trying to ride Space Mountain, and had a black duffel bag. He heard something come from the bag, so he asked them to open it. But they refused. So, security comes, forces them to open it. It was their six-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 and a bunch of other bull. He described the look on the boy's parents' faces as nothing but nightmarish heartbreaking expressions.
He told the lady to get out of line and stop being such a nag, and explained that the kid was with Make-A-Wish. She apparently didn't care, and asked for a manager. And just nagged to the manager.
She is banned from Walt Disney World. But my brother-in-law almost lost his job right there due to all the commotion that was caused. Luckily he didn't."
"I was a lifeguard at the Contemporary Resort about a decade ago. It was a pretty small pool for Disney, but in the summer it was packed wall-to-wall with kids, and it seemed like every single one of them would play dead man's float so we had to constantly watch them see who was actually drowning. On average, we did about two rescues a day, mostly just pulling kids out who started struggling or if they started to pull other nearby kids under because their parents were off sipping tropical drinks. Occasionally, wasted adults would pass out, but they usually floated on their backs so we'd fish them out while staying dry.
One time, I was at a position where my back is to the jacuzzi (which we did not guard), I happened to take my eyes off my zone for a second because of a noise behind me, and there was this little girl, about 7 or 8, in there by herself. Signs are posted saying 'No Unattended Children,' so I called for another guard to watch my zone and then I knelt down and politely told her she wasn't allowed to use the 'hot water tub.' She ran off to her mom.
About 5 minutes later, this angry, heavyset woman was standing about a foot away from me, yelling in my ear that I kicked her daughter out of the pool. I apologized for not making eye contact, but I had to watch my zone, then explained that children cannot be unattended in the jacuzzi and that we don't guard that area, so it's not safe for her. She immediately turned red and started screaming (louder) that I had let 'that other child use it' and she pointed to a boy that looked about 16 (I was only 18 at the time). I said, 'Ma'am, I'm sorry but the rule is for children under 12 and we can't check everyone's ID so we have to use some discretion. If you'd please excuse me, I have to continue guarding this area pool.' The rationale actually had more to do with height and body weight than age, but rational arguments won't work with someone that angry anyway, so I didn't try.
I thought it was over, but, while standing right next to me, she turned to her daughter and said, 'Honey, you can go ahead and use that, and don't listen to him if he tells you to get out,' then she started to walk off.
I signaled for another guard to watch my zone again, then turned and said to her back, 'Ma'am, if you do that we will have no choice but to ask you to leave the property.' Technically a lifeguard doesn't have that authority, but they will back us up on that.
At 18 years old, you might legally be an adult, but you still feel like a kid, and it's hard not to instinctively defer to 'adults,' particularly where their kids are concerned. But dang...this woman was going to leave this little girl in a jacuzzi by herself while she got wasted on $8 daiquiris. At least it got her attention, but she turned back and I really thought she was about to slap me. But she just went on this tirade about how 'we paid our money here' and 'you're supposed to be watching our kids, that's what your paycheck is for,' etc.
The other three guards were getting overwhelmed, this was creating a scene, and I couldn't leave the area. So I called a Code 3 which alerts Control (WDW's security, they're constantly watching us and the pool on camera), and before she was finished with her rant, there was a uniformed guard standing next to her. Unfortunately, the Code 3 also means that the pool has to be cleared, so about 200 guests were lined up on the sides of the pool watching all this go down.
Two things I learned from that day:
People can be unbelievably bad parents when they go on vacation. I mean, you think you prepare yourself for just how horrible people can be, but this woman was completely indifferent to the fact that her kid was in a hot tub that has steam coming off of it in the summer and absolutely no one was watching her. She'd rather let it keep happening after she became aware of it just to make the point.
You do not mess with Control. This was a decade ago, so if this happened now, they probably would have already sent someone to intervene and had a full background check on the woman before she even raised her voice at me."