Ignorance Is Forbidden
If you are employed at the Happiest Place On Earth, there are many rules that you have to follow. First of all, you are never allowed to say the words “I don’t know.” If a guest asks a stumper, you have to ask your boss.
Point It Out
Disney theme parks can be like mazes. In most instances, though, people are happy to get lost and enjoy the sights. However, suddenly, you may need a refreshment, and you need to ask someone for help. The Disney employee will always direct you the right way, but they do it in an interesting fashion. They never point with one finger, but always use two. This is because one finger is seen as offensive in some cultures. Also, pointing with two fingers makes it easier for young kids to see.
Abandoned Park Left To Rot
Hidden away is the original water park at Disney World that opened its doors in the mid-1970s. It was called Disney’s River Country, and was meant to have the sort of organic feel of an “old-fashioned swimming hole.” When they closed the park in 2001, they did not take it apart but decided to leave it to rot. Now, they have more of a natural, organic feel than they probably wanted. They banned a photographer who snuck into the abandoned park, presumably to keep this decaying park secret.
Disney employees are not simply employees. Saying they are “employees” paints the picture of a nondescript, gray corporation building where soulless folks slave away for a pointless cause. Disney prefers to refer to every employee as a “cast member,” as if they are part of one of Walt Disney’s productions. This is similar to how Subway refers to its staff as “sandwich artists.” This probably gives a bigger sense of meaning and reminds cast members to put on a show.
One surprising no-no when it comes to being a Disney cast member is a ban on social media! Today it hardly even seems possible to live if you are not documenting your life on social media, but cast members who work at the Magic Kingdom are strictly forbidden from posting while they are at work, and especially not while they are in character. In fact, they are so secretive, they are not even supposed to discuss which character they play.
Steve’s Old Job
There have been many actors who had taken their talents to Disney theme parks before they were famous. One of those people was Steve Martin, who worked at Disneyland back in 1955. Martin’s talent back then was not comedy, but magic. Steve used to do magic tricks as well as build balloon animals for kids who came by Merlin’s Magic Shop. Although he also spent some time selling guidebooks, he still got familiar with “every nook and cranny of” Merlin’s.
Although anyone can get into Disneyland, there is an inner circle club that you will not know about if you are not Johnny Depp, Jack Nicholson, or another celebrity. It’s called Club 33, and membership costs are steep, with a $25,000 upfront fee, plus $10,000 per year. It is almost like a speakeasy, with just a simple green door that you would miss if you were not in the know. This is also the only place to get alcohol in the whole park.
Facial Hair Ban
For a long time, Disney cast members were strictly forbidden from having facial hair. Having everyone be clean-shaven was not only neater, but probably made kids feel more at ease as they did not yet understand facial hair. The rule ever so slightly relaxed in 2000, when mustaches became allowed- with a restriction. The mustaches have to be grown over a break from work, so unsightly stubble and awkward, earlier phases of the facial hair are not seen by visitors.
In 2007, something odd happened. The Pirates of the Caribbean ride had to be shut down for almost an hour after a woman spilled a mysterious greyish powder while on the ride. Although she claimed it was baby powder, blogger Al Lutz believes this is one of a long string of people who decided to scatter the ashes of loved ones at Disney theme parks. “The craze seems to have gotten its start at the Haunted Mansion,” back in the 1990s, Lutz claimed.
Robin’s Old Job
Robin Williams was a unique comedian whose rapid-fire brain, hyperactive personality, and knack for silly voices made him beloved by everyone. When you think of Robin Williams and Disney, you think about him as the Genie’s voice in Aladdin. Fewer people know that Robin had an older connection with Disney: he was a cast member at Disneyland who led people through the Jungle Cruise. Williams must have done a good job, as the folks at Disney had no complaints when he was cast in Aladdin.
Although Disney famously spread the idea that “it’s a small world after all,” they are pretty discriminatory when it comes to body styling and types. First of all, they are meant to fit into the exact costume of a very well known character, so there is an implicit height requirement. Also, cast members cannot shave their eyebrows, and females are not allowed to have any beads in their hair. Male cast members cannot have hair that is long enough to cover their ears.
One of the most bizarre rules that must be followed by Disney cast members regards the trash on the ground. Say you are a cast member and are walking past one of the majestic castles that are all around Disney theme parks. If you spot a piece of litter, you are forbidden from bending over to pick it up. There is a specific Disney-approved swooping method that must be carried out, which is a swift and graceful way of picking up the trash.
New Shades Of Grey
Although Disney World feels like magic, it still is just a place in Florida. Therefore, the park has maintenance buildings, electrical rooms, and other functional fixtures that would take away from the overall aesthetic experience. To solve this issue, Disney made two kinds of paint, “No Seeum Grey” and “Go Away Green”, which are so dull that they disguise the buildings so they almost fade into the background. They are especially effective when there are so many shiny, loud buildings to gander at.
Inevitably, there will be one kid who had too much cotton candy, soda, and popcorn who decides to go on Space Mountain. Next thing you know, biology kicks in, and the kid ends up spending his time at the Happiest Place On Earth being sick. The cast members are strictly forbidden from saying the biologically-correct “vomit,” rather they prefer some code words. It used to be called a “protein spill,” but now this common situation is called a “Code V.”
Hidden in the Main Street Fire Station of Disneyland is what now would be considered by many a historical room. This is the apartment of none other than Walt Disney himself. This way an emotional Walt was able to watch the gates of the park open for the first time and watch the buzzing crowd rush in to his creation. The apartment, being in a firehouse, was complete with a pole that Walt would allegedly slide down to surprise those below.
One thing that is not seen as part of the Disney brand is any form of body modification. We certainly do not remember any Disney characters who decided to get some ink. It is no surprise then, that the cast members are not only forbidden to have tattoos, but also banned from other forms of body modification like belly rings. Earrings are technically allowed, but they must be small and not attention-grabbing. Also, glasses are only allowed if they are not brands or flashy colors.
One of the fun little games the cast members had to play was specific to those playing characters from Toy Story, like Woody or Buzz Lightyear. If a customer yelled out “Andy’s coming!” they would have to suddenly stop what they are doing, and lie on the ground lifeless. This nod to the movie was clever and fun, but was banned for safety reasons. After all, hitting the pavement that many times cannot be good for you, even with a thick costume to pad the fall.
Paint It Green
One thing Walt Disney was obsessed with was making all the attractions seem real, and moving anything that could be considered “backstage.” That is why it was so strange that all the water at Disney has a distinctive green hue. Why? On the water rides, the boats ran on a track, like a roller coaster, but aqueous. However, Disney “wanted you to believe you were on a 19th-century steamship or paddle wheeler,” David Koenig, Disney expert says. “By dyeing the water green, you can’t see the track.”
Although Walt was happy to finally see his dream of opening Disneyland, there were many problems on opening day in 1955. Perhaps too good of a job was done promoting it, as many people were determined to get inside, even if they did not have tickets. Press, Disney employees, and sponsors got some of the first 6000 tickets, but around 30,000 people showed up to the gates, some with fake tickets. Many got in, and the overcrowding caused there to be fewer resources and less fun for everyone.
One of the most famous rides is “It’s a Small World.” We all know the song, which is played on the water ride. People ride around in their boat, looking at people from all cultures enjoying each others’ company in peace. This idyllic exhibit started at the 1964 World Fair, and was a tribute to the United Nations Children’s Fund. In 1966, it was introduced to Disneyland, and Walt and the organizers had water from “seven seas and nine major lagoons” added to the ride.
Disney World was doing pretty well in 1980, but an incident that occurred in the late summer put a black stain on the record of the theme park forever. River Country, the water park in Disney World that has since been closed, had one boy sadly passed away. This is because a rare amoeba that was in the water swam up his nose, got to his brain, and invaded it. A spokesperson for Disney felt powerless, saying, “I don’t know of any action that could be taken.”
Discipline Of A Soldier
Becoming a Disney cast member is no easy feat. You have to pass a grueling audition, and when you finally make it, it does not get any easier, as there are many rules in place. The discipline you need it that of a soldier. You must always stand up straight, and never show a sour face. Checking your phone at work is strictly forbidden. Cast members must also learn to sign autographs as their character, which all follow a specific format since time immemorial.
Sweaty At Work
The costumes that the cast members have to wear all face one huge problem: they make the poor employee super hot. Disney theme park expert David Koenig comments that during summer, the temperature could reach 130 degrees in the costume! “You’d have characters fainting out in public view,” he said. Since the 1960s, “they changed the rules and the costumes so that the costumes are a little better ventilated than they were in the early years.” Also, on punishingly hot days, performance times may be reduced.
What’s That Smell?
One of the coolest attractions is the “Fantasmic!” show that is set on water. David Koenig, Disney expert, says that the highlight of the show is when a fire-breathing dragon goes ahead and does its thing, which “basically set[s] the river on fire.” One big problem soon emerged- the ducks in the area who called the waters home would be flame-broiled. To fix this unintentional cooking, “they have this … bubbling water effect that makes the water really turbulent and it scares away all the ducks.”
Living Up To The Tagline
Disney theme parks do not exactly live up to the tagline, “The Happiest Place On Earth,” as there are many disputes and unhappy folks there. Perhaps the stress of trying to have fun gets to them. Nobody has seen more people lose it than former cast member Ken Pellman, who said that “sometimes you would witness things, people getting really upset with each other. Domestic situations. And you kind of keep an eye out and maybe call security to make sure that nothing bad happened to anybody.”
Some of the cast members who suit up as Disney characters get in trouble, and they get dragged into court. In one case, someone dressed as Tigger from Winnie-the-Pooh was accused of 24 instances of inappropriate touching of guests. About half of the allegations were tenable enough to warrant a police investigation. One alleged victim said, “I don’t think it was a mistake,” and the fact that so many people complained against the same cartoon tiger adds further weight.
Tragedy At The Happiest Place
Sadly, there have been almost ten deaths that occurred at Disneyland. The first was early on in 1964, when a guest unbuckled his seatbelt on the Matterhorn Bobsleds and fell off the ride. Someone made the same fatal error in riding with an unbuckled seatbelt on the same ride in 1984. In 2003, due to a failure to properly maintain the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, the train cars derailed, resulting in the passing away of a 22-year-old visitor.
Sometimes dads’ eyes would wander at Disney World. A former Disney cast member who dressed as both Mulan and Pocahontas said that sometimes a dad or grandpa would get a picture alone with her and “they’d whisper how pretty [she] was or ask when [she] got off of work. [She]’d get slipped the occasional phone number on a napkin.” She also revealed that she “was hit on as Pocahontas more than Mulan,” which “definitely has to do with the amount of clothing she’s wearing.”
Breaking Is Bad
Cast members that are in character are strictly forbidden from breaking character in any way while on shift. This means doing the voice, and keeping the preferences and overall personality of whomever they are portraying. Also, visually, there are very tough rules on cast members regarding their nails. Forget about nail polish, as it is banned. Also, lengthwise, men cannot have any bit of their nails extend beyond their fingers. Women are allowed just a quarter of an inch, if they so choose.
Under The Surface
What almost nobody knows is that below Disneyland, there is a massive secret network of tunnels called the Utilidor. Early on, Walt saw a cowboy walking through Tomorrowland on his way to Frontierland. The mogul found this distracting, as the cowboy character did not belong there. They built these tunnels so cast members could travel from place to place avoiding this issue. These days, it is where cast members eat, take breaks, put on makeup and costumes, and even get haircuts.