Disney theme parks may be known as the happiest places on earth, but did you know that they’re also some of the strictest? Whether you’re there to marvel at the magical world of Mickey and co., or you’ve landed what you thought was a dream job at the world’s most famous theme parks, there are rules you must follow if you don’t want to be kicked out or fired.
Disney parks span the globe and attracted 150 million visitors in 2017. They are touted as a place where anything, including magic, can happen, and anyone - visitor or employee - who is seen to be shattering the illusion will be quickly shown the door by the parks’ uniformed and many undercover security officers.
While anyone with half a brain cell could probably guess that bad behaviour can get you booted out, they might not realise that something as seemingly innocuous as sneaking in a selfie stick or choice of clothing can also result in being turned away.
In Florida alone, there are 70,000 "cast members"— the term the company uses to refer to all World Disney World employees - but wherever the park, be it Paris, Orlando, or California, staff see a side of the magic that guests aren’t privy to, including some seriously strict rules about staying in character, no matter what.
Whether you love it or hate it, the underlining rules at a Disney park are a big eye-opener. If you don’t want to get kicked out, read on.
25 25. Guests: Don’t Sneak In A Loved One's Ashes
A lot of people love Disney. Like, really, really, love Disney. They love Disney so much that they want their earthly remains to stay there forever. But while this should go without saying, we'll say it anyway: don’t use Disney as a burial ground.
As reported by the Washington Journal, numerous employees have reported catching guests dumping ashes on Disney property, particularly in the Haunted Mansion, which is bizarre. Other popular ash-magnets are Pirates of the Caribbean and It’s a Small World.
And if you do decide to spread your loved ones’ ashes in Disney, don’t expect to ever be let back in. For this offence, you’ll get banned for life.
24 24. Guests: Don’t Be That Person Who Cuts In Line
If you want to ride the seven dwarfs mine ride, then you need to wait the 90 minutes for it, just like everyone else. You need to use the bathroom? Go before you get in the queue. You’re hungry? Don’t pop out for a snack and come back in line expecting everyone to be generous enough to let you by without a comment or dirty look.
Cutting in line isn’t just considered rude at Disney, it’s strictly prohibited. If you get called out for queue-jumping and causing a scene, a cast member could call security and have you escorted out. You’ll also get tossed out for trying to climb over fences and gates to sneak to the front.
23 23. Guests: Don’t Jump Out Of A Ride
Mickey’s got eyes and ears everywhere, and on slower rides without lapbars, guests have been known to jump out to explore the scenery. So if you think you can sneak out of your car on a ride like Pirates of the Caribbean to snap a selfie, think again.
According to the site How To Disney, rides like these have floor sensors that trigger as soon as feet hit the ground, promptly alerting staff and immediately stopping the ride. The perpetrators will promptly be kicked out.
22 22. Guests: Don’t Dress Up
Disney is all about make-believe, so you can’t have visitors rocking up dressed as Woody, Buzz, Cinderella or whatever because where does that leave the “real” official characters? There is only one Mickey Mouse, after all.
If you’re over the age of 14, dressing up as any costumed character is strictly prohibited by park rules. If a child confuses you for a character and you take a picture with them or sign an autograph, that’s against the rules and anything that can be construed as impersonating a character, will get you kicked out.
This has inspired the practice of Disneybounding, which is wearing casual outfits inspired by Disney characters that can’t be construed as costumes.
21 21. Guests: Leave That Selfie Stick At Home
A trip to Disney is a goldmine for Instagram content, so packing a selfie stick seems like a no-brainer, right? Wrong. It could bring your big day out to a premature end.
Selfie sticks have been prohibited at Disney parks since 2015 because they interfere with other guests’ experience and are a safety concern. Don’t even think about trying to sneak one in, either. Getting caught with any banned item and refusing to hand it over will result in you getting kicked out of the park.
20 20. Guests: Don’t Annoy Cast Members (Or Anyone Else, Duh)
Disney authorities don’t have a lot of patience for people annoying poor defenceless folk in costume who are merely trying to make a living and bring a little magic to children’s lives - and we’re totally behind them on this one.
Sadly, cast members have called in being threatened, jostled, pushed around, and have even had drinks thrown in their faces. Disney is very clear on the point: profanity, offensive or disruptive behaviour will not be tolerated.
19 19. Guests: Don’t Sneak “Backstage”
Beneath the Magic Kingdom lies a secret network of tunnels spanning an incredible 392,040 square feet. Known as the Utilidor, these tunnels allow employees, deliveries and even rubbish to be unknowingly transported below guests’ feet.
This area, and all other areas out of bounds to the public, are known as “backstage” areas and include offices, break rooms, a cafeteria, costuming and prop areas and more. If a guest is caught sneaking backstage, they will likely get kicked out.
If you are desperate to see the facilities behind the fairytale, however, Walt Disney World offers a five-hour backstage tour called "Keys to the Kingdom.”
18 18. Guests: Think Before You Wear
The Mouse House is surprisingly picky about what guests can and cannot wear and inappropriate attire could get you the boot.
Oversized clothing, such as items that drag on the ground, is considered hazardous, and while Orlando can be sweltering, too little clothing is against the rules, as is clothing with offensive words or images.
Disney can “deny admission to or remove any person wearing attire that we consider inappropriate or attire that could detract from the experience of other guests.”
17 17. Guests: Don’t Take Videos On Rides
According to the Mail Online, attempting to take video on rides is considered unsafe behaviour for both you as well as the people around you. It makes sense when you think about it, because if you drop your device, it could hit wind up hitting the face of another guest.
So whether you’re on It’s a Small World or Splash Mountain, don’t attempt to film your experience, unless you want to be thrown out; just enjoy the ride.
16 16. Guest: Don’t Bring A Balloon Into Animal Kingdom
Disney is a happy place and balloons are happy things, right? Not if you’re a wild animal, however. Disney is understandably protective of the wild animals housed at Animal Kingdom, and items that might be okay in other parts of Disney World might be a problem if you try to bring them in here.
Balloons, plastic straws and drink lids are not permitted for the safety of the animals, and throwing a fit over disposing of them could mean you get shown the exit.
15 15. Guests: Don’t Go Swimming
If you want swimming to be a part of your Disney experience, head to Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach, the only two Disney two parks, where it is permitted. The weather might be sweltering in Florida or California, but taking a dip in a fountain, pool or moat will not only get you kicked out, but could also get you banned.
It’s a policy Disney takes extremely seriously because people have perished while swimming where they weren’t supposed to.
14 14. Guests: Don’t Feed The Ducks…Or Any Other Animal
This isn’t just an Animal Kingdom rule, but applies to all Disney parks - don’t feed the animals. It could lead to employees intervening.
The animals in the parks, even the ducks swimming in ponds, are on a strict feeding schedule and feeding them in undesignated places or at random times could create swarming. Refusal to comply will get you kicked out of the park.
13 13. Guests: Don’t Be A Jerk
Belligerence, aggression, rowdy and inconsiderate behaviour are the easiest way to get yourself tossed out, and fast.
Just ask Olympian and pro soccer player Alex Morgan, who made headlines for getting kicked out of Epcot in 2017 for behaving in an “impaired and verbally aggressive" manner.
Don’t have too many drinks, don't be antisocial, and don’t act like an idiot. It’s that simple. Also be warned, Disney does have its own jail.
12 12. Staff: Tardiness Won’t Be Tolerated
Disney employees are subject to a point system. If you are late, even only by a minute , you get half a point. Three points in a row within 30 days, you get a reprimand. If you manage to get four reprimands, you are terminated. The points system isn’t just for time keeping, either. You can get points and reprimands for leaning or slouching and bad attitudes.
11 11. Staff: Don’t Point With One Finger
Disney cast members are not allowed to point with one finger, but instead must use the two-fingered “Disney Point” when pointing guests in a direction, or simply guide them in a direction with an open palm instead.
The official theory as to why is that Walt Disney absolutely hated when people used a single finger to point because he found it rude. Another, less savoury theory, is that it’s a tribute to Walt Disney’s smoking habits, according to The Huffington Post. Of course, Disney would never admit to the latter.
10 10. Staff: You Have To Look A Certain Way
When cast members are first recruited they are given an actual book called the Disney Look Book, which details all of the guidelines on their appearance.
Beards have to be kept to a maximum length of one-quarter-of-an-inch. Man-buns are also out, and men’s hair can’t touch their ears or be below their collar, according to the Disney website.
"Unnatural" hair colours are out, and anything other than small ear piercings are not allowed. Nail polish must be from a pre-selected set of colours.
9 9. Staff: Never Ever Break Character
Competition is fierce for character roles, especially “face” roles, which don’t require hours spent underneath a bulging fluffy suit. So if an employee messes up, there's another hungry cast member waiting to take their place.
Under no circumstance are cast members allowed to break character while in costume. It’s all about upholding the magic, after all. Each character has his or her own personality, voice, likes, interests and background story, and deviating from this in any small way is a big no-no.
Details are so important to Disney that they actually provide training for all cast members to help them get their character's personalities, and even signatures, spot-on.
8 8. Staff: Strictly No ‘Backstage’ Photographs
If you hadn’t noticed by now, Disney are big on keeping the fairytale alive. Nothing would shatter the illusion more than a “backstage” selfie from a messy staff room, with Goofy sprawled sound asleep on the sofa.
Cast members can be instantly be reprimanded or worse, terminated, if they post pictures backstage on social media, or if they’re caught taking them at all. But that doesn’t mean that all employees have respected this rule, and there are plenty of hilarious backstage staff pics that can be found online. Don’t look, if you believe in magic.
7 7. Staff: Do Not Break Strict Housing Curfews
Those in training on the Disney College Program to become fully fledged cast members often live in Disney housing, which is more utilitarian than Magic Kingdom. Housing complex rules specify that employees cannot be in another complex between 2am-7am. If you get caught in a complex you don't live in between that time period, you are terminated and sent home the next morning.
It sounds extreme, but Disney is very big on safety, not to mention rules. If trainees can’t stick to these basic regulations, then they’re simply not Disney material.
6 6. Staff: Never Reveal Your Character
So here’s the tee: Mickey Mouse isn’t real. We’re sorry to break it you so bluntly. Like all of the parks’ characters, Mickey is a person in a suit, and he is probably a she under that costume.
But the actors who play these parts are banned from telling people which character they play, according to Business Insider. Again, it’s all about maintaining the magic. Instead, if a cast member is asked, they have to say they are “good friends” with their character, which is a much more diplomatic and Disney-esque way of going about it.