One day while planning our trip to Disneyland, my friend and I had this crazy idea: what if we went to the Disneyland Resort in costume? Well, earlier this month, our idea came to fruition when I visited Disneyland and California Adventure dressed as Marty McFly from Back to the Future, accompanied by several friends who were in and out of costume.
After hearing horror stories about costumed guests being kicked out of the park or denied entry, I was understandably as nervous as I was excited about jumping on Space Mountain as my favorite DeLorean-driving time traveler.
But once we got in the park, I discovered that I had nothing to fear, and was in fact complimented by both park guests and employees (my favorite was the cast member running Star Tours who quoted Back to the Future over the ride’s intercom).
If you’re planning to cosplay in The Happiest Place on Earth, you might want to plan carefully how you go about doing so, as it isn’t always smooth sailing Peter Pan-style.
Many people assume that because Disney parks feature costumed characters, they are quick to accept costumed guests. However, many sources point to the opposite being the case. On the official Disneyland website, “adult costumes or clothing that can be viewed as representative of an actual Disney character” are not permissible, and technically, no one above the age of nine is allowed to enter the parks in costume.
This doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to dress up, although you would do well to follow some basic guidelines to minimize your chances of being sent to the proverbial Disney Jail.
Don’t Dress Up As Disney Characters
It seems a bit hypocritical that Disney doesn’t allow guests to dress up as the characters on which their parks are based. But it’s understandable that they might be leery of visitors dressed in accurate costumes, as other guests might confuse them with costumed Disney employees.
Last year, a young woman dressed as Tinkerbell was denied entry into Disney World after having spent hours preparing, because her costume was deemed too accurate and elaborate. There are ways to get around this, such as those utilized by the popular blog “Disneybound,” that creates Disney character-inspired outfits while staying within the park’s dress code guidelines.
I have also heard of people dressing up as Kingdom Hearts characters (which is a brilliant idea) and getting away with it, so perhaps Disney knows that these characters will not be recognized by enough people to be worth prohibiting.
But if you want to play it safe, plan to dress as a character that isn’t associated with the multi-billion dollar corporation.
Ditch the Masks and Face Paint
The reason I don’t think we had a problem was because even though we were recognizable, there was nothing about our costumes that would qualify as “costume” material. All of my clothes could be deemed as “normal” clothes, and even though I probably looked strange dressed in five layers in 90-degree weather, it was only the combination of the clothes that made me look like Marty.
Had I, for example, dressed as a character who dons horns, wings, a tail, or any other accessories that would make it immediately recognizable as a costume, my luck may not have been so good.
In addition, Disney explicitly prohibits any kind of masks or significant face paint, so keep that in mind when planning your costume.
Limit the Self-Advertising
If a cast member sees you taking pictures and posing with other guests, or partaking in any kind of behavior that might make others associate you with Disneyland (or take away from its business and the “Disney” experience), chances are you’ll be talked to (unless you pull an Aladdin and hightail it out of there).
Disneyland is not a convention, and most visitors just want to mind their own business and go about their vacation. Play it cool and be casual. Be in character, but keep it reined in.
If People Do Recognize You, Make Their Day
My friends and I went to the “Pacific Wharf” area in California Adventure for lunch, and as I was ordering my soup, the employee at the counter stared at me for a second before he started geeking out over my costume. So I had a bit of fun with it, and broke into my best Marty McFly impression, asking if he’d seen Doc or my DeLorean around.
Surprisingly enough, I received several passing comments from cast members (“Come with me, Marty!”), as well as compliments from park guests, although most of them were directed toward Lauren’s Punk!Eleventh Doctor and Ashley as her accompanying TARDIS (“Bowties are cool, and so are you.”).
When it’s all said and done, dressing up at Disneyland was an incredibly fun and rewarding experience, and I ran into significantly fewer problems than I had originally expected to face. Given the reaction I received from the park’s employees and the amount of fun I had with my friends, I would absolutely do it again (Kingdom Hearts, anyone?).
As long as you play it safe and have a positive attitude, you will undoubtedly have the time of your life. In Disneyland, how can you not?
Have you ever cosplayed in a Disney park? Are you planning to dress up during your next trip to the Magic Kingdom? Share your thoughts and experiences in a comment below!