The 11 Wildest Things To Happen at Disney Parks in 2023

in Disney Parks

Mickey shocked over images of things going wrong at Disney's theme parks

Credit: @saulbrandonreiter (left) and @wondersofmagic (right)

We’ve seen some weird and wonderful things happen at Disney parks over the years, and 2023 was no exception. This was the year that Disney World wrapped up “The World’s Most Magical Celebration,” debuted multiple new attractions worldwide, and the entire company celebrated its 100-year anniversary – but those aren’t the things we’ll remember most about the past 365 days.

From guests gone wild to character shenanigans, we’ve rounded up some of the most bizarre things to happen at Walt Disney World Resort, Disneyland Resort, and beyond over the course of 2023.

Cinderella walking toward Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom
Credit: Disney

1) Wild bear at Magic Kingdom

If this was on your 2023 predictions, we salute you. Downtime and closures are just another part of the Disney Park experience, but nobody visiting Walt Disney World Resort in September would have expected a wild bear to interrupt their magical vacation.

On September 18, parts of Magic Kingdom Park were closed off from guests after cast members spotted a black bear in a tree. The bear was reportedly roaming around Frontierland in the early hours of the morning. As the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission jumped on the case, three lands – Frontierland, Adventureland, and Liberty Square – were closed, which meant multiple rides were temporarily off limits to guests, including Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Haunted Mansion, the Frontierland Shootin’ Gallery, and (ironically) The Country Bear Jamboree.

Winnie the Pooh opens his arms wide in Fantasy Gardens at Hong Kong Disneyland, one of the smallest Disney Parks
Credit: Hong Kong Disneyland

It’s thought that the bear stumbled into the park while searching for food to prepare for its winter hibernation. However, this isn’t the first bear to lose its way in Central Florida en route to the Hundred Acre Woods. In June, another bear was spotted at Fort Wilderness.

While bears would normally be left to their own devices, it was only right that officials got to work removing the creature from the park ASAP for the sake of both itself and human guests. He was swiftly captured and later released into Ocala National Forest, where he’s sure to find more freedom (but less churros).

2) Naked guest on “it’s a small world”

For some people, “it’s a small world” is already pretty terrifying. In November, it reached a whole new level when a 26-year-old male guest stripped totally naked and began wading through the ride’s water and clambering over its iconic animatronics while “Jingle Bells” plays in the background.

"it's a small world" holiday overlay
Credit: Disney

Videos soon circulated social media showing other guests pleading with the man to stop and sit down. One guest later told Entertainment Weekly that “he just looked out of it” and that “he just didn’t look like he knew where he was. He looked worried.” Another video shows police officers carrying the man away as a guest says, “Idiot. In front of all these kids?”

According to the Anaheim Police Department, the man was arrested for indecent exposure and was found to be on drugs at the time of the incident. As a precaution, he was also taken to a local hospital.

3) Man risks it all for $60,000 at EPCOT

What would you do for $60,000? One man was willing to risk a lifetime ban from Walt Disney World to boost his fortunes in October. A video shared by TikTok user @saulbrandonreiter showed a man jumping off a bridge at EPCOT’s Italy Pavilion into World Showcase Lagoon, with another video showed him climbing out of the water while fellow guests shout: “You’re getting banned for life, homie!”

@saulbrandonreiter

Why did @Elit3Trainers jump in that freezing cold #disney #epcot water for 60k like that 😅 #disneyworld #foodnwine #halloween #bet #fyp

♬ original sound – Brandon Reiter

The original video claims that the guest did so as part of a bet. Disney hasn’t confirmed the guest’s fate, but it’s safe to assume he was at the very least removed from the Florida park. Those in attendance at the time have claimed that security was already on the man’s tail before he even hit the water. It may not be quite as iconic as the inebriated man who scaled a pyramid in the Mexico pavilion back in 2015 (again, not something we recommend doing while Drinking Around the World), but it was definitely a day to remember for other EPCOT guests.

4) Splash Mountain protests

So much has happened in 2023 that it’s hard to believe we started the year deep in pro-Splash Mountain protests. As both Disneyland and Walt Disney World prepared to permanently close the ride based on the controversial Song of the South (1946), Br’er Rabbit’s most passionate fans made moves to convince them otherwise.

Folks enjoying the now-defunct Splash Mountain
Credit: Disney

Related: Five Changes We Think Are Coming to Disney Parks in 2024

One #SaveSplashMountain enthusiast took to the streets outside The Walt Disney Company offices, armed with a sign demanding “Free Uncle Remus.” Other people made signs for a planned protest outside Disneyland Resort in April, although it’s unclear whether that protest ever actually went ahead.

Despite their best efforts, Splash Mountain ultimately closed at Magic Kingdom on January 23 and at Disneyland on May 31. Just one Splash Mountain remains at Tokyo Disneyland, although some have wondered whether its days are numbered, too. Both attractions at Disney’s American parks are now mid-redevelopment and will reopen as Tiana’s Bayou Adventure – inspired by The Princess and the Frog (2009) – in late 2024.

5) Bed bugs take over Disneyland Paris

A new epidemic swept through France this autumn. This time around, it was smaller, crawlier, and even more persistent: bed bugs.

Mickey Mouse in his 30th anniversary outfit at Disneyland Paris with Sleeping Beauty Castle in the background
Credit: Disney

While the bed bug fever has died down since October, news reports this fall implied that France was completely infested with the notoriously stubborn pests. Visitors and locals insisted that they lived in movie theaters, the metro, airports, and, of course, hotels.

With Disneyland Paris one of France’s premier attractions, the bed bug fever inevitably hit the parks, too. For a solid few months, Reddit’s r/DisneylandParis became a makeshift bed bug advice center. Park guests were warning others to keep their luggage in the bathrooms, flip the mattress before sleeping, and burn their clothes post-trip.

Crowds outside the theater at Walt Disney Studios Park, the smallest of all the Disney parks
Credit: MyFrozenLife via Flickr

Of course, the majority of hotels will be hit by bed bugs at some point. It has nothing to do with cleanliness and more to do with bad luck; even Walt Disney World and Disneyland guests have been accused their hotels of sending them home with an unwanted souvenir. Fortunately, there have been no more reports of bed bugs at Disneyland Paris than any other resort lately, meaning the hype has died down significantly. (We still recommend doing a quick check, though. Just in case).

6) Woman jumps off Gran Fiesta Tour

There’s a common theme with the craziest incidents at Disney parks in 2023. Guests seem to love jumping off things they’ve just waited in line to ride. In June, a female guest decided she’d had enough of Gran Fiesta Tour at EPCOT’s Mexico Pavilion and climbed out of her boat mid-ride.

@shianne_1995

Part two. She screamed. Tried to fight with the people in the boat behind her. Swung on two young workers. Scared kids and pissed everyone off. Then ran and had to be taken out by security #disney #epcot #fyp

♬ original sound – Shianne_1995

The woman in question refuse to get back into the boat after being told to do so by cast members. One employee is heard in the video declaring, “Ma’am, you have thirty seconds, or I’m coming back there, and I’m taking you down.” While the woman decides to do so, she then changes her mind and recommits to her life on the run at the Mexico Pavilion.

According to TikToker @shianne_1995 – who shared two videos documenting the incident – she also screamed, tried to fight people in the boat behind her, swung at two young cast members, then ran and had to be taken out by security.

EPCOT Mexico pavilion
Credit: Disney

This time around, the guest was confirmed to be intoxicated. Again, we don’t know exactly what happened to the guest (and we’re pretty confident her fate wasn’t as one TikToker claimed in the comments to “live out your sentence as on of the animatronics on pirates”), but we’ll go out on a limb and say that Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros was the last ride of her trip – and potentially her last Disney parks experience, ever.

7) The death of Murphy

A beautiful soul was lost at Disneyland in April.

Midway through a performance of “Fantasmic!”, the animatronic dragon – intended to represent Maleficent but affectionately known to guests as Murphy – went up in flames due to leaking flammable fluid.

Micke Mouse in his Sorcerer's Apprentice outfit battling Maleficent as a dragon on Fantasmic
Credit: Disney

Related: Disney Parks Under Fire for Serious Neglect

Fortunately, all guests or cast members were safely evacuated from the Rivers of America and nobody was harmed during the incident. Guests were also evacuated from nearby rides due to the smoke.

@wondersofmagic

Maleficent caught fire tonight during Disneyland Fantasmic show 😭

♬ original sound – Wonders of Magic

Murphy wasn’t so lucky. “Fantasmic!” was put on an indefinite hiatus and in July 2023 it was announced that while the show will return in 2024, it will do so without Maleficent. Fans have already mourned the dragon’s loss with makeshift memorials at Disneyland, but nobody will forget that burned out animatronic husk in a hurry.

8) Woody goes viral for all the wrong reasons

Characters at Disney parks go viral for all kinds of reasons – some of them heartwarming, some of them much more controversial. Woody fell into the latter camp earlier this month thanks to his performance in Disneyland’s A Christmas Fantasy parade which was far more, um, adult than usual.

@danielleonate

Is this allowed?! 😳 #achristmasfantasyparade #woody #toystory #disneyland #pixar #disney #pony

♬ Pony – Ginuwine

TikTok user @danielleonate shared a video of Woody during the Toy Story (1995) section of the Christmas parade at Disneyland Park. Riding a rocking horse as usual, it seems like Woody got far more into his performance than usual – pulling out a few moves that would be more appropriate in Magic Mike than a Disney production.

Unsurprisingly, Disney seems to have reigned Woody in pretty quickly. Videos of the parade just a few days later show Woody putting on a much tamer performance.

9) The rise (and fall) of @ill3gal_disn3y

For a short time in August, there was a TikTok user sharing some not-so-Disney-Look content from backstage. Videos shared on the now-inactive TikTok account show cast members dancing inappropriately in what appears to be a Disneyland break room while wearing pieces of costumes meant for Pluto and Nick Wilde from Zootopia (2018).

Other videos soon followed, this time showing Pluto twerking, Dale working out, and Chip performing a promiscuous dance. Nick Wilde is also shown undressing while Minnie Mouse twerks on Mickey.

Pluto, Goofy, Minnie, and Mickey by the water at Blizzard Beach, one of Disney's two water parks
Credit: Disney

Related: Multiple Disney Parks Hit Capacity, Guests Turned Away on Christmas

Cast members both past and present will be able to reel off the sins committed in the videos. First of all, there’s the fact that they were filming backstage in the first place. Doing so is strictly prohibited while working at any Disney Park. Doing so, violating the company’s ethics so openly, uploading it to the internet, and making your blue cast member ID visible is a combination that lands you in a whole other world of trouble.

Surely enough, The New York Post soon reported that Disney had launched an investigation into the leaks. “It looks silly but, for Disney, protecting the integrity of those characters is absolutely paramount,” an inside source told The Sun. “They’ve asked top investigators to shut down the feed and try to identify those responsible, who are in breach of their employment contracts.”

10) Guests film OnlyFans content at Disney

You won’t often hear “OnlyFans” and “Disney” in the same sentence. This year, however, it’s happened far more often than you’d expect.

In November, an OnlyFans creator produced several inappropriate advertisements for adult content at Disneyland Paris – including shots of her wearing a t-shirt that reads “she wants the D.” TikToker @luvie.boo shared four videos of herself at the French resort, boarding rides, eating, and meeting Disney characters, all while wearing the suggestive shirt.

@niivuh

someone say it aint jus me that thinks ts is jus tooooo far 😭😭 #disneyworld #disneyland

♬ Nothing Can Stop Us Now – Kyle Allen Music

That wasn’t the only incident in 2023. The previous month, an OnlyFans user allegedly created adult content during a visit to Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park.

“I just saw a TikTok of a girl making a… OF type of video at Disneyland and the comments was [just] a ton of girls hyping her up,” TikTok user @niivuh wrote. “As a female, get your bag girl. But at Disneyland? At a children’s place? Is this not extremely messed up??? This is where kids go to be kids?? Why is this normalized??? Is this not borderline [pedophilia]????? Am I the ONLY one who sees an issue with making that sort of content in a setting made for little children???”

11) Pickle milkshake

It may be relatively minor compared to other entries on this list, but we’ll never recover from the fact that a pickle milkshake exists. Over the summer, the powers that be decided that the refreshment guests truly needed to cool off in the Floridian humidity was a salty, dill-scented, milk-based drink – which, let’s be real, is pure madness.

The Pickle milkshake, available at EPCOT
Credit: Disney

Related: Disney Parks Need To Keep Their Exclusivity To Draw More Guests, Say Fans

The dessert (in the loosest sense of the word) was only a limited-time offering, on sale as part of EPCOT’s Food and Wine Festival. It was exclusively available at the Brew-Wing Lab, a Muppets-themed restaurant led by Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker. Those willing to hand over $5.75 were treated to a unique combo of pickle brine and vanilla flavoring.

Unsurprisingly, the pickle shake proved to be extremely divisive. Some were won over by its sweet and salty flavor palette, while others (the logical among us) denounced it as a crime against humanity. Wherever you sit on this spectrum, there’s no denying that Disney was out of pocket for this one.

What’s your favorite news story to emerge from Disney parks this year? Let us know in the comments!

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