What The Mouse Doesn’t Want You To Know: Backstage Secrets About Working At Disney

Walt Disney World really is one of the most magical places on earth. From the thrilling rides to the incredible character encounters and the delicious food; a trip to Disney is certain to be remembered forever. But, all the special memories made there are made possible by a lot of behind-the-scenes rules and work.

Some cast members, after leaving, have shared some of the secrets they learned while working in the parks. These tidbits of information are sure to shock you, teach you something new and make you excited for your next vacation down to Orlando, Florida. Keep reading to learn more!

Here are some revealing secrets from Walt Disney World. You will never look at Disney World the same again after reading!

Strictly Business

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When you’re working at Disney World, you can’t have any visible tattoos, you have to have your long hair neatly pulled back (unless it’s part of a costume), and must wear neutral-colored nail polish. In addition, your costume must be kept immaculately clean!

Coming up: if you hear this phrase, you’ve definitely ticked off an employee!

Cast Members

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If you work at Walt Disney World, your job title will never be “Employee.” Instead, you’ll be known as a “Cast Member.” Because everything at Disney is a show, everyone who works there must always be in character. It’s just part of the magic!

Up next is another fun fact about the “Disney language!”

A Special Language

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Anytime a guest wanders into an area of the park that they aren’t supposed to see, the cast members refer to them as “going backstage.” This makes sense when you’re in a place where EVERYTHING is part of a theatrical production!

Another fun fact about language is coming up next!

A Sunken Jungle

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Disney’s Animal Kingdom is sunken several feet into the ground! Though some may think this is due to central Florida’s iconic sinkholes, it’s actually because the slight depression creates a better environment for the animals and guests. Whatever it takes to give the people a better experience, right?

There Are Size Requirements

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Disney is strict about who can play what role. In order to be a Disney Princess, its said that you must be between 5’4″ and 5″8″ tall. While that’s a pretty average height for an adult woman, it definitely leaves a huge amount of potential employees out of the running.

Breaking Character

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No matter what, Disney World cast members cannot break character while they’re in costume. Even if they become ill. This is to avoid “breaking the magic” that the guest feels while they’re in the park. That just means the cast members have to pull a Michael Jordan flu game if they become sick.

Stay tuned for a funny quip from cast members!

The Dress Code Is Strict, Even When You’re Not In Costume

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During training or any other hours when cast members are not required to be in full costume, they’re still expected to dress in business casual attire. The punishment for breaking these rules? Put on a costume. What can we say? Apparently, Disney wants his people looking sharp at all times.

The Costumes Run Really Small

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Supposedly a vestige of sizing from the 1970s, the Disney cast member costumes are rumored to run very, very small. Whether this is the real reason, or there is actually some implied judgment in the costume sizes, employees learn to expect this blow. If you get hired, now you know to order up in sizes.

You’ve completely annoyed a Disney employee if you’ve heard this phrase coming up…

The Parade Route

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The most common question asked of cast members at Walt Disney World is (try not to laugh) “What time is the 3 o’clock parade?” That’s funny, right? Cast members say that, even after quitting, they are NEVER able to forget what time that iconic parade is and its exact route.

All The Perks

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Working at Disney really does come with some great perks. You get free admission on your day off, discounts on food, beverages, and merchandise, and discount cards for your family and friends. That is, of course, only if you can follow this next golden rule of Walt Disney World! This next secret might ruin some of the magic for you.

The Cast Has To Share Underwear

Until 2001, Disney cast members had to share underwear. Many of the costumes require special undergarments, such as tights, bike shorts, or jock straps, and employees claimed that the items weren’t always clean when they were issued. Some cast members allegedly contracted lice or scabies from their skivvies. Disney did not comment on the situation other to say that they would accommodate their employees’ wishes, which they did. Cast members can now take their underwear home and wash it themselves.

“I Don’t Know” Isn’t An Answer

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If you don’t know the answer to a guest’s question, you better find out! Fortunately, Walt Disney World supplies its employees with extensive training so that they’re prepared to answer nearly any question. It’s almost like studying for a test. And if you don’t know, you can call a manager!

The Two-Finger Point

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Walt Disney himself HATED it when people who make hand signals or gestures using only one finger. So, he required all his cast members to use two fingers while pointing, or, more simply, guide guests using an open palm. Don’t even think about being caught using one finger.

Lost Children

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For safety reasons, Disney cast members never refer to missing children as “lost children.” Instead, they are called “lost adults” and referred to as that via the radio system. This is to prevent any opportunistic kidnappings from taking place while the child is located! That is a smart tactic that is sure to be used at other establishments as well.

Hidden Mickeys

All around Walt Disney World, there are countless hidden Mickey Mouse heads. Guests like to spend their time in the park searching for these secret symbols and keeping track of where they find them! It’s just another thing that makes Disney so special to visit. Do you think you can find them all?

Cast Members’ Code For “Go Screw Yourself”

If a cast member ever tells you to have “Have a Disney day”, you’ve probably really pissed them off. We can assume cast members made up this code in order to stay sane and let off some steam while also keeping their jobs. Just tell them to have the same.

Cast Members Are Banned from Talking about Work on Social Media

Disney cast members are welcome to use social media as much as they want… when they’re off the clock. Social media and personal electronics are strictly banned while at work, and cast members can NEVER discuss their jobs on social media. EVER! Another electronics-based fact is included in this list, too!

The Disney Scoop

Every cast member at Disney is responsible for picking up trash and placing it in one of the many trash cans (they are placed every 25 feet)! But, they aren’t allowed to stop or lean over. It has to be done in one swift movement. Cast members say this takes a while to master!

No Selfies Allowed!

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If you’re caught taking pictures in your costume, you will be fired immediately. Apparently, Disney executives are really strict about this rule! If they find out about any selfies you took backstage, you can expect to kiss the Magic Kingdom goodbye for good!

Code V

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Another interesting tidbit about the “Disney language” is that cast members aren’t allowed to say the word “vomit.” If a guest has an accident on or during a ride, they simply get on the radio and say “Code V,” as to not make any more guests sick.

Smellitizers

Have you ever wondered why certain parts of Disney World have specific smells? Well, wonder no further! Special machines called Smellitizers distribute scents throughout the park — like fresh baked cookies on Main Street. A tactic that surely makes you want to buy some of those delicious cookies!

A Secret Store?

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When a guest leaves an item behind at Walt Disney World, it is stored for a specified length of time. After that, though, any cast member who wants it has the opportunity to buy it in a special store. All the profits are donated to charity, proving that Disney really does make magic with everything they do.

Doing The Dirty

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And for a particularly shocking secret … Apparently, many of the cast members at Walt Disney World are romantically involved… Rumors of Peter Pan and Wendy hooking up in a supply closet are only made worse when you hear the rumors about Aladdin and Ariel!

Must Have The Perfect Signature

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Cast members not only have to personify the attitudes and appearances of the characters they’re playing (which let’s face it, can get unrealistic at times), but they also have to learn to write like them, too. In fact, Disney provides training for all cast members to help them perfect their character’s signature.

No Tweeting Allowed

In order to make the experience as real as possible for guests of Disney World, cast members are not allowed to talk about their roles at all on social media. So if you were hoping to catch some behind-the-scenes dirt on Peter Pan’s Instagram, think again because Peter Pan doesn’t want to get fired!

Cast Members Can’t Say Who They Play

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Cast members aren’t even allowed to say which character they play. If asked, they’re only allowed to say “I’m friends with [character]” or “I hang out with [character].” Anything to preserve the magic. Even if you try to trick them they will not fall for it.

The Music Stays On … Always

You know when you hear a song played one too many times on the radio and it stops being catchy and starts being annoying? For Disney employees, the music never stops. Even when the park’s closed, the music keeps going. Yet somehow they remain friendly!

Disney Hollywood Studios Store Walt’s Plane Backstage

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Cast members can pay homage to this history-soaked plane any time they’re backstage. Used by Walt to do things like scout spots in Florida for what is now Disney World, it must be said that being privy to this plane is a perk of the gig.

No Backstage Selfies

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Not only is sharing pictures or info on social media not allowed, cast members are not even allowed to take pictures backstage. We can assume that this is a newly adopted rule since only a few years ago, this probably wasn’t something that was even an issue. Even if a celebrity that you adore is in the premises, don’t take that picture.

Disney World Cast Members Wear Flair

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Cast members at Disney World, but apparently not Disneyland, are required to wear a lanyard with at least 12 pins on it at all times. The pins are to be traded, and we can assume that the more pins you have, the better. Talk about some strict flair rules!

No Patchy Beards

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If you’re still working on the ability to grown a full beard, you’ll have to go clean-shaven as a Disney employee. Their facial hair rules require hair to be fully grown in, it must be neatly trimmed, and there is no grooming allowed. In other words, no goatees.

No Long Hair (For Male Cast Members)

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Not only does Disney have rules for beards, they also have rules on the length of male cast members’ hair. For the guys who work at Disney, hair must not be so long that it extends over their ears or falls in their eyes. But apparently they allow Gaston to be an exception?

And No Shaved Eyebrows

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There are also some pretty strict rules when it comes to female cast members’ hair. Especially when it comes to the kinds of hairstyles cast members who are not in costume can wear. Female cast members may not shave their eyebrows, hair must be neatly brushed, and braids are allowed, but not beads.

Cast Members Like To Speed

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Sometimes it just feels good to catch some speed. It’s been reported that on Disney property, the Disney police pull over more cast members and other Disney employees than actual guests. Maybe they’re just really excited to get to work? Or maybe they’re usually running late. Or they know by working there they won’t get that bad of a punishment.

There’s No Crossover Between Worlds

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if Harry Potter and Peter Pan were friends? When in character, cast members are not allowed to talk about or acknowledge characters or brands outside the Disney universe. Even the king of pop was just another guy.

Disney Wants To Help You Spend

In order to make purchases even easier, Disney has a policy that anything you purchase can be delivered to your hotel if you’re staying at a Disney resort, or you can have them delivered to the front of the park for you to pick up on your way out.

Cast Members Can Make Purchases Easier, Too

It’s an insider secret that if you ask nicely, a cast member will bring your purchases to the front of the park for you so you can pick them up on your way out. You can’t say Disney doesn’t want all your shopping dreams to come true!

Even Princesses Take Out The Trash

It might not be the most glamorous job, but everyone is expected to pull their weight when it comes to keeping Disney parks clean. Even Snow White. Unless, of course, she has the dwarves around to help her. (It looks like Alice is less than thrilled by the task at hand.)

And When You Take Out The Trash, Do It Nicely

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Not only do cast members have to clean up whenever necessary, they’re expected to grab trash gracefully. So no squatting allowed. What that leaves is a mystery. Maybe an elegant dip followed by a twirl? Or perhaps some type of tag team trash taking out routine.

Disney Characters Don’t Frown

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When they’re on the clock, cast members have a slew of behaviors that are strictly prohibited. At the top of the list? Frowning. Disney not only wants to have control over what you look like, but they also want to control the emotions you portray. But we can’t blame them for this one. Because unless you’re Grumpy the dwarf, no one wants to visit Disney World to see an angry Prince Charming.

Or Slouch

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Tired, sad, or less-than-alert body language is not an acceptable behavior when you’re on the clock at Disney. Unless they’re bending down to sign a little visitor princess’ autograph book, Disney cast members must exhibit good posture at all times. This might be easy enough for characters like Ariel who don’t have any extra weight on their shoulders, but for the soldiers in the holiday parade, that hat can’t be easy to keep perfectly upright at all times.

Or Eat

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It’s hard work smiling at passers-by, handing out signatures, and posing for pictures with dozens upon dozens of sticky-fingered kids. In fact, that kind of work will make a person hungry. But for cast members, eating while on the clock and visible to guests is strictly forbidden. And this can’t be made any easier with all the smellitizers around.

Or Chew Gum

Even if they need a quick breath freshener or even a tiny sugar pick-me-up, a small infraction such as like chewing a piece gum can because for big trouble. They can’t slouch, eat or even chew gum. Essentially, cast members often have to act like the characters they’re portraying — a fictional cartoon character.

Or Smoke

This rule is quite a bit more understandable. As smoking laws get more and more strict, there are fewer places smokers can indulge in public. So unless a cast member was in a designated smoking section, we probably wouldn’t want them smoking anyways. But as it stands, they’re not allowed to smoke in character or on the clock at all. So put that hookah down, Mr. Caterpillar.

Walt’s Not Into Alt

If you’re into alternative body modifications, it might be hard to get a job as a Disney cast member. Things like visible tattoos and piercings (other than one ear piercing on each ear for women) are not allowed if you want to work for Disney. Your dreams of Disney went down the toilet when you get that tattoo of your birthdate in roman numerals on your forearm.

Disney Won’t Pay Until You Return Costumes

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If you’re leaving your role at Disney, they have a policy not to hand out your last paycheck until you’ve returned all costumes. However, it’s rumored that they don’t actually enforce this rule very strictly. So if you wanted to keep your costume for your next Halloween party, go right on ahead.

You’ll Never See Two Of One Character At Once

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If there’s one thing Disney is good at, it’s organization. Which and where characters are out in the park is something that’s organized to the very last minute. Plus, cast members have a schedule with them at all times. Looking for Ariel? Pooh or Buzz Lightyear might just know.

In Fact, If Two Are Seen Together, They’ll Be Fired

Disney wants to create the illusion that the Snow White you see is the only Snow White in the world. So if two Snow Whites accidentally cross paths in the park, it’s considered a dismissal-worthy infraction.

Learn why cast members cannot wear glasses in the next slide.

Can’t See? Wear Contacts.

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Surprise, surprise. Disney has some rules about eye wear. Glasses that have logos, are brightly colored, or are flashy in any way are not allowed when on the clock. And it’s probably safe to say that Cinderella can’t wear glasses at all. So if you work at Disney and you need help seeing, contacts might be easiest.

If You Need To Be Sick, Keep It Secret

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Disney cast members are never allowed to take off their costume heads when they’re on the clock, even if they’re feeling sick or faint. So who knows how many Donald Ducks, who are smiling on the outside, are actually throwing up inside their costumes. That’s a bit awkward because you have probably taken picture with a sickly character.

A Family Got Free Passes When A Man Died

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Legend has it that a man once had a fatal heart attack in a Disney World store, and cast members brought his grieving family backstage to give them privacy. Seeing “behind the scenes” is rare enough, but supposedly the family were given lifetime passes, too.

Disney Doesn’t Joke About Shoplifting

There are plenty of stories of kids stealing a couple things from a Disney World store, and later in the afternoon, being quietly approached by security guards who ask them to, “Come with me, please.” And from what we know about how strict they are, it can’t end well.

And Be Careful With That Flask

The security guards are on the lookout for undercover drinking, too. And they’re not always the guys in uniform either. There are plenty of undercover security guards watching your every move while you make your way throughout the park. Don’t risk it all just to get a day buzz from that whiskey you snuck in.

There Are Tunnels Below Disney World

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Beneath Disney World, there is a myriad of tunnels connecting different parts of the park that cast members use to travel around unseen. It’s convenient for sure, but it’s also been reported that these tunnels are often smelly, hot and full of trash. That is just something cast members have to deal with.

Cinderella’s Castle Has A Secret Suite

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Originally used as a place for Walt and his family to stay when they visited Disney World, this decadent suite is now occupied by winners of various Disney contests. Talk about a dream come true! This might be a perfect honeymoon spot for a wife who loves Disney!

If You Hear A Loudspeaker Announcement, It’s Important

Like we said before, Disney’s policy is to never, ever turn off the music. However, they do make an exception for emergencies, like when a kid is lost. So if you hear the music stop, listen up because something crucial is about to be said. Or it might be a Rick Roll moment.

The Kilimanjaro Safari Ride Could Be Killer

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When you’re on the safari ride and the driver says to stay in your seat, they mean it. There’s a spot where you drive on a bridge over crocodiles, and drivers are trained to drive away quickly if anyone falls in so that other guests don’t see the potentially gruesome outcome.

Cast Members Have To Learn Lines In Three Days

Not only does Disney demand perfection, but they demand it fast. The cast member onboarding process includes spending three days with a Disney trainer getting every pause, inflection, and smile exactly how the script states it. Sounds like an acting job prepping for filming. Don’t mess up!

Ratatouille?

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The Disney-Pixar animated film Ratatouille might have been a huge box-office hit, but one park visitor in October 2016 wasn’t thrilled to spot a real-life rat in a dining area of Disneyland. Twitter user @hannaahelisee took a photo of the rodent and posted for all the world to seem with the caption: “pay my college tuition and i’ll delete @Disneyland.”Sorry, lady, rats are an unfortunate part of life.

Drunk Man Drowns in Seven Seas Lagoon

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According to a server who worked at Disneyworld in Orlando, Florida for many years, a drunk man once got in a fight with his girlfriend. While arguing, “the man fell off a dock at the grand Floridian and drowned in seven seas lagoon. They had to have divers find his body.”

Keeping Pedophiles Out of the Park

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According to the same server, lifeguards and security staff in the park are instructed to keep an eye out for pedophiles who may be hanging around the water park just to scope out the young kids. This should be the standard for every establishment with pools.

A Top-Secret Club

There’s a secret gem right in the heart of New Orleans Square: an ultra-exclusive ($35,000/year!) members-only bar called Club 33. The club counts many celebrities as members, and it’s rumored that big names like Jack Nicholson and Tom Hanks are frequent visitors. That hefty price tag gets you more than entry into the club… it also includes behind-the-scenes tours, fast passes to all Disney attractions, and a private car on the Disneyland Railroad.

A Secret Disney Menu!

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Disney fans will no doubt be excited to learn that like many popular restaurants, the theme park also offers a secret menu just for visitors who are “in the know”. From Ice Cream Nachos to a Mac ‘n’ Cheese Bread Bowl, fans can stuff them silly with delicious Disney treats.

Homeless Disney Characters?

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Following the death of a Disneyland custodian who was found dead after living in her car, the company’s low wages have come under public scrutiny. One local protest organizer, Anaheim resident Jeanine Robbins, held signs reading “Disney, we feel, is a contributor to the homeless problem here in Anaheim. There are Disney employees who live on the street.” Disneyland is the largest employer in Orange County, which is one of the most costly housing markets in the country.

Plenty Of Perks

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Despite the low wages, lofty expectations, and often harsh conditions that the Disney cast members have to work with, their jobs do come with plenty of perks. In addition to getting sweet discounts on all merchandise, food, and Disney-owned locations, cast members also always get free entry to parks at any time and often times free entry for friends and family! They also get access to special events and cast member exclusive soft openings for new attractions!

Largest Amount Of Employees In The World

For Florida’s Walt Disney World, at least, you could take all its cast members and create a new city. There are reportedly over 70,000 cast members at Disney World alone and most of them are housed in Disney-owned accommodations. In order to run the Happiest Place on Earth, it really does take a village.

A Guest By Any Other Name

Disney cast members will make any effort to address you by your first name. Were you ever being checked out at the gift shop or buying a Dole Whip and thought it odd that the person giving you your change knew your name? Cast members are expected to use guest’s names whenever possible. They will either look for clues of your name on pins or hats, or they can catch your name real quick by glancing at your credit card.

They Expect You To Do The Same

Back in the ’50s, it was quite odd to address people by their first name if you didn’t know them very well. But Walt Disney hated being called “Mr. Disney” and would insist that everyone call him Walt. That is why cast members will have their first names on their name tags. But apparently, no two cast members can have the same name, so if your name is already taken, you have to use a different variation of your name or your middle name.

The Unsung Cast Members

It may be hard to be a cast member that runs the rides or plays a costume character, but the cast members who carry a lot of the weight in maintaining the parks are actually the custodial members. It was actually Lillian Disney (Walt’s wife) who suggested that custodial members wear all white to take extra care in the work in order to keep their “costumes” clean. As a result, they are the easiest spotted employees in the park and must also have the answers to all your questions since they’re more easily accessible.

It’s Not An Easy Job

Just like the other cast members, the custodial cast members must undergo extensive training as well. There are particular ways to sweep various objects, they must be trained on the correct chemicals to use for certain clean-ups, and there is even a long list of radio codes they must learn. Although custodial specific cast members take on most of the job, every Disney employee must remember that they are all custodial since everyone has their duty to keep the park clean.

Keeping Out The Pests

Speaking of cleaning up the park, there is a job that can only be done by special members of the Disney family: cats. The Disney parks have their own clowder of stray cats that roam the park at nights in order to prey on unwanted pests and rodents. These feral cats call Disney home but they only come out at night when all the visitors are gone.

Speaking Of Cats…

A lot of the cast members can get a little catty themselves. There are forums in which former Disney cast members talk about the rifts they get into with fellow cast members. People who play Disney princesses can be very unlike their characters in real life. One former cast member told the Internet that the cafeteria for the cast members was often like a scene from Mean Girls.

The Water Is Greener On The Inside?

Disney theme parks make an enormous effort to make their facades and world pretty realistic. But have you ever noticed that the color of the water is a little off? The water on the Jungle Cruise and in other bodies of water throughout the park is actually green on purpose. This is because Disney wanted guests to feel like they were actually floating in a boat on the water, as opposed to being moved on stationary tracks.

Disney Owns A Lot Of Land

When he was creating Walt Disney World in Florida, Walt didn’t want realtors to know that it was him buying up all the land around his park. This was so that realty prices wouldn’t go up just because it was owned by Disney. So in order to work around that, Walt used a lot of fake names and businesses to purchase the land, which is why you might actually be on Disney property even if it is unused. The names came from a lot of the businesses that are on Main Street U.S.A.

No Crying Kiddies

The Disney theme parks have a “No Sad Kids” rule that all cast members must adhere to. Kids get upset for a plethora of reasons, even if they are at the Happiest Place on Earth. To prevent a total meltdown, any cast members who see a distressed kid must make an effort to put a smile on their face. Whether replacing their dropped ice cream for free or giving them a small toy to keep after getting a boo-boo, cast members ensure that all kids are happy.

But It Doesn’t Always Work

Despite cast members’ efforts to maintain child happiness throughout the parks, there are some families who will go to great lengths to get their justice served one way or another. You won’t believe how often Disney’s costumed characters get sued. In one case from the ’80s, a performer who played Winnie-the-Pooh was sued after they were accused of slapping a little girl. They actually ended up winning the case, since the performer showed up in full costume at court to prove that the costume’s arms were not capable of making any slapping movements.

A Secret Bike Network

Back when Hollywood Studios was a newer attraction at Walt Disney World, there was supposedly a system of bikes that cast members used on the backlot in order to get around faster and with ease. However, this didn’t turn out so well after there were multiple bike thefts and damages that happened. Guess some people just can’t have nice things.

A Mickey With A Dark Purpose

Have you ever noticed the Mickey that waves and greets guests as they enter Crossroads of the World in Florida? While, of course, you need Disney’s number one mascot Mickey to greet you, that Mickey actually serves a higher purpose: lightning rod. Since Florida is more prone to storms and such, Mickey’s ears are made of copper to attract lightning in the event of such a disaster!