Beheaded mickey.

It’s hard not to wonder what happens behind those “Cast Members Only” doors scattered around the Disney parks. We’ve all spotted them, perched away in unimportant corners or placed on fences blocking an attraction refurbishment, these barriers represent an invisible separation between the “magic” and the mechanism. Sure, we know that anything behind those doors is infinitely less interesting than the fun of being inside a Disney park, but still, we wonder— what goes on back there?

A duck walking into a Cast Members Only area. What a daredevil!
Image: u/Collinhead, reddit.com/r/disneyland

Most people would prefer to visit the Magic Kingdom without the risk of being banned from the parks-– and Disney wants to keep it that way. Disney parks make billions of dollars annually operating their parks while maintaining this boundary. For most parkgoers, there is no reason to enter these backstages and risk a lifetime ban from the resort.

NOTE: Theme Park Tourist does not condone the act of Urban Exploring at Walt Disney World in any way. 

Urban Explorers at Walt Disney World

For a small handful of urban explorers (or U.E.’s), the risk of a lifetime ban is not only a worthwhile stunt but one worth sharing online. Matt Sonswa, the Youtuber, shoots behind-the-scenes footage of the parks and tells stories of escaping law enforcement on Disney property.

Sonswa’s website, promises to “... serve as ground zero for the unique community of theme park enthusiasts interested in seeing the parks from a completely different perspective.” 

Matt Sonswa.
Image: Matt Sonswa

Whether dumb or daring, these efforts satisfy our curiosity. Anyone on the Internet can discover what goes on in “Cast Members Only” zones. We can view the Yeti in Expedition Everest up close, wander Discovery Island, and visit the static remains of Disney Quest, Body Wars, and Cranium Command.

Recruiting photo from BackdoorDisney.
Image: @BackdoorDisney

Sonswa is not alone in making these daring expeditions. Patrick Spikes, the owner of @backdoordisney, used his standing as a Walt Disney World employee to photograph these areas. Spikes’ account, regularly posts footage of everything from the top of Pandora’s floating rocks to the backside of Expedition Everest. 

The backside of Expedition Everest.
Image: @BackdoorDisney

Sure, it seems harmless enough for web users to see and share these photos; after all, we aren’t the ones trespassing. We don’t bear the risk of being found out by the authorities, nor would we face the legal consequences of these actions. Disney is a large enough corporate entity to recover from its losses (if any exist) from these uploads. If explorers don’t get hurt and Disney’s magic remains as strong as ever, what could be wrong with Disney urban exploration?

The Ethics of Urban Exploration

Make no mistake that these explorers are breaking the law. Rather than abide by the law, U.E.s live by their own “pirates’ code.” These U.E.s justify their actions by declaring their motivations as coming out of curiosity– they simply want to document forbidden spaces. Although U.E.s trespass onto private property, they are not vandals, arsonists, or thieves– they carry far more respect for the places they visit than “real” criminals. 

Urban explorers are not a unified movement bound by a political creed or underlying beliefs, but carry a similar sentiment behind their actions. There is no one concrete reason that U.E.s do what they do, but their activities question if the boundaries between public and private spaces are sometimes imaginary.

Inside the Pepper's Ghost Effect in Haunted Mansion.
Image: @BackdoorDisney

By hopping fences, U.E.s tend to believe that “… many of [these] boundaries are self-imposed, voluntary and, ultimately, illusory,” as noted in “All Access Areas: A User’s Guide to the Ethics of Urban Exploration.”  Most U.E.s claim the ethical authority to wander off-limits spaces through this logic.

But Why Walt Disney World and Is It Worth It?...


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