Walt Disney opened Disneyland in 1955, in Anaheim, California. In 1965, the year before he died, he announced that he was planning a second theme park near Orlando, Florida. What was originally called Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom opened in 1971.
This evolved into a vast resort and entertainment complex, popularly known simply as Disney World, that encompasses four theme parks – Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios – as well as two water parks, 31 resort hotels, and numerous other entertainment and recreation facilities. (Disney-owned and otherwise, see stunning photos of America’s largest attractions.)
Other Disney parks were subsequently opened in Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and outside Paris. In the second quarter of this year, the division called Disney Parks, Experiences and Products brought in $6.7 billion, more than doubling its revenue of $3.2 billion in the prior-year quarter – a period during which the parks were intermittently shuttered because of COVID.
Admission to the parks is expensive – a one-day standard ticket to Disneyland starts at $76; base ticket price at Disney World is $109 per day for adults, $104 for children under 10 – and Disney hotel rooms can easily cost $700 a night. (No Disney operations, however, are on our list of amusement parks with the biggest price increases.)
Yet visitors young and old stream into the parks constantly. Estimates of visitor capacity for Disneyland alone range as high as 85,000 a day. The four Disney World parks averaged 160,000 daily visitors between them in 2021.
Not all the things that go on at Disney theme parks are fun, however. Some are odd and troubling. For the most part, Disney management never discusses them.
To find troubling facts about Disney’s theme parks around the world, 24/7 Tempo reviewed over 50 sources, including those in which Disney employees were interviewed and where facts about the theme parks were confirmed. We also consulted Disney documents which include SEC filings.
Feral cats roam Disneyland at night
The excuse for this is that these cats kill rodents, Disney told the Los Angeles Times.
Real skeletons found on Disney ride
The book “Pirates of the Caribbean” claims skeletons from the UCLA medical center were used as part of the ride by the same name.
Disney has secret codes to describe visitors
Disney uses codes to communicate among employees about problems in the parks. Code V means someone is vomiting, for instance.
The attractions can be dangerous
In 1974, Deborah Stone, an 18-year-old hostess at Disneyland’s America Sings attraction, was crushed to death by a rotating wall. At last half a dozen other employees and visitors have been killed at Disney World.
Many of the American flags at Disneyland are fake
They may have too few stars or stripes. The parks do this intentionally so they won’t have to raise and lower the flags every day as they would with real ones.
Disney World sells tickets for VIP tours for a lot of money
The tours offer visitors an official guide, transportation between parks, and priority for rides, leaving people with regular tickets to wait. The bad news? The tours cost $425 to $750 per hour for one to ten people, with a seven hour minimum. That doesn’t include admission to the park – and a 15%-20% tip is customary.
Visitors sometimes spit at characters
According to the Orlando Sentinel, cast members are sometimes subject to spitting and screaming customers.
Some Disney employees have been homeless
According to a report titled “Working for the Mouse,” in 2018, 11% of Disney workers had been homeless at some time in the previous two years.
Disneyland was sued for low wages
Last year, some 25,000 Disneyland employees sued the company for paying them less than the local minimum wage. A judge dismissed the case.
Disney laid off thousands but reinstated executive pay
Disney thinks so little of the job security of its theme park workers that when it laid off more than 30,000 of them in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, management continued to be compensated and Disney had billions of dollars in the bank.
The CEO makes nearly 650 times more than the average employee
Disney CEO Bob Chapek makes 644 times more than the median pay of Disney employees. (The ratio to theme park worker compensation is probably worse.) The Disney board renewed Chapek’s contract this June for another three years.
Building a Disney park in China came at a cost for local residents
China evicted hundreds of residents and businesses to build the Disney theme park in Shanghai, which opened in 2016.