Home » 8 Things That Happen Behind the Scenes When a Disney Ride Breaks Down

    8 Things That Happen Behind the Scenes When a Disney Ride Breaks Down

    Haunted Mansion

    Have you ever been on a ride at Disney, kicking back and enjoying yourself, when it suddenly screeched to a halt? Have you ever had the dubious fun of being stuck in the middle of It’s a Small World, debating whether to swim to shore after 45 straight minutes of listening to that song?

    Although it might seem chaotic, everything that happens during a ride breakdown is a carefully choreographed dance that Cast Members must be proficient in before they are allowed to operate their ride. Here’s a look at the 8 basic steps of a Disney ride breakdown.

    1. Announcements

    Haunted Mansion

    The Four Keys to Disney guest service are Safety, Courtesy, Show, and Efficiency, in that order. When something happens, the top priority is to make sure guests remain safe at all times. The second priority is to treat guests with respect by communicating what to expect. The announcements that you hear during a ride breakdown  might seem repetitive, but they are crucial to maintaining the first two Keys to guest service.

    Different recorded announcements are played according to exactly what the situation is. For example, you have probably heard some variation of, “Please remain seated. Your ride vehicle will begin moving momentarily.” This is the most commonly heard announcement, and is often used when a ride is stopped for a disabled person to board, as well as when there is a very short delay in normal operation. If the delay will be longer, cast members have other recorded announcements that let the guests know they will need to wait. If the breakdown is complicated or will take a long time to fix, Cast Members might replace the recorded announcements with their own situation-specific updates.

    2. Reset


    Most of the time, a ride breakdown can be fixed with a simple reset. Like your home computer, the computers that control the complex ride systems sometimes have minor glitches. In addition, there are safety systems all along the tracks. If the computer sees something potentially dangerous, such as an unlocked vehicle door or something in the space immediately around a ride vehicle, it will automatically stop the ride. In these cases, removing the offending object or opening and reclosing the door will allow the ride to resume. Cast Members are trained to understand all the information that their computers provide, and they know how to fix most problems with minimal disruptions to the guests.

    3. Element shutdowns

    Sometimes a particular part of the ride experience has technical difficulties that cannot be easily fixed, but the ride can operate without that element. An example is the Yeti in Expedition Everest. When it moves, it is truly spectacular, but the ride storyline works even when the Yeti is not moving. If an element breaks down while guests are on the ride, however, cast members might need to do a reset for the ride to start functioning again. At other times, they might need to turn on the lights, shut off the music, or stop the audio-animatronics in order to perform a necessary fix. Cast Members will turn off only those things that must be turned off to fix the problem, but will generally leave everything else running to entertain guests who are stuck on the ride.

    4. Cycling with guests

    Kali River Rapids

    After a reset, it is sometimes necessary to cycle all the ride vehicles through the rest of the attraction before turning all of the effects back on. In this case, you  might experience an unusual version of the ride, like finishing Space Mountain with the lights on or flying with Peter Pan with no sound effects. If you receive an incomplete ride experience, you will be offered the chance to ride again immediately, with everything working properly, unless the ride has to be evacuated.

    5. Evacuation

    Splash Mountain

    If a repair will take a long time, or if it cannot be completed properly with guests on board, you might be evacuated. Every ride has emergency exits along the tracks, which are sometimes accessed via stairs or even ladders. Cast Members will make an announcement that the ride is being evacuated and give you instructions on what to do—which is normally to remain seated until assistance arrives. Cast members will approach your ride vehicle and give you specific instructions on how to get out and where to go next. EMTs and other professionals are on call if needed, but evacuation is usually a fairly simple procedure even from roller coasters. The emergency exit might lead to a backstage area, where you will be instructed that photos are prohibited. In any case, cast members will guide you through the entire process and lead you back out into the park.

    6. Guest recovery

    Rock N Roller Coaster

    Guest recovery is the term for turning a negative guest experience into a positive one. For most ride breakdowns, guest recovery involves ensuring that you get a complete ride experience. For example, if you are evacuated from a ride, you might receive an Anytime FastPass to come back to that attraction and use the FastPass line when it is up and running again. If the situation was particularly trying, such as a lengthy wait in an uncomfortable position, you might be offered something extra such as an additional FastPass to another attraction.

    Guest recovery also occurs outside a temporarily closed attraction. Once all guests are safely evacuated and the ride is closed, several cast members are stationed outside the ride entrance to explain the situation to those who want to ride. While they cannot tell you exactly why it broke down or when it will reopen, they can suggest other rides, answer general questions, and generally make life more pleasant for those who decide to wait for the attraction to reopen.

    In addition, the Greeters stationed outside every attraction can find out the status of another attraction in the same park by radio. For example, if Big Thunder Mountain Railroad has been temporarily closed, you can ask the Greeter at Space Mountain to find out if Big Thunder is open yet. This saves you the trouble of walking back and forth or waiting outside the ride.

    7. Cycling without guests

    Expedition Everest

    When a ride has been closed down for a repair, cast members want to ensure that the problem is completely fixed. The best way to do that is what is known as “cycling,” or running ride vehicles empty while monitoring for any issues. This is why you will sometimes see or hear a closed ride running. Unless they find a problem, they typically need to do only a few cycles before reopening.

    8. Restarting normal operations

    Toy Story Midway Mania

    Each attraction has its own procedures for restarting normal operations after a breakdown. In some cases, the Greeter will get instructions to reopen the queue before cycling finishes. This allows the cast members to quickly fill the first available ride vehicles and get operations running smoothly. At other times, cast members will completely finish cycling, make sure that the lights and sound effects are set for normal operations, and generally get everything ready for guests before reopening the queue. Either way, once the ride reopens, you can be confident that the issue is fixed and the ride should begin operating as normal.