Are Selfie Sticks Banned in Theme Parks?

April 6, 2015, 10:24 PM · Twitter was abuzz with reports this evening that Walt Disney World had banned the use of selfie sticks inside its theme parks. A few readers added that Universal Orlando was banning use of the devices, too. So I reached out to both Disney and Universal for clarification on their policies.

Selfie stick

A Disney attractions cast member confirmed that Walt Disney World is restricting the use of selfie sticks on attractions, insisting that they be stowed within the ride vehicle and not extended or otherwise used on the ride. But the cast member also said that this has been the policy for several months, and is not new. The cast member also denied that Disney is confiscating selfie sticks — cast members simply are asking guests to put them away.

A Universal spokesperson confirmed that selfie sticks, along with all other loose items, are not permitted on rides at the Universal Orlando Resort.

Of course, parks also ban flash photography on rides and anyone who's sat behind someone shining a spotlight throughout the Pirates of the Caribbean or Haunted Mansion rides knows how people ignore those rules. Another Disney cast member said that ride operators will shut down an attraction if they see a selfie stick in use, as it is a potential safety hazard, unlike the use of flash photos, which is most often simply an annoyance and "bad show."

Universal's traditionally been tougher on enforcing a ban on the use of loose articles on its rides, as anyone who's been through the metal detectors on Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit can attest.

Earlier this year, Theme Park Insider readers voted by a margin of almost four to one that they wanted parks to ban the use of selfie sticks. Some tourist attractions around the world, including the Smithsonian, the Palace of Versailles, and the Colosseum in Rome have banned selfie sticks on their grounds.

Will theme parks do the same? If attractions operators have to shut down rides more frequently in response to guests using the sticks, parks might just find it easier to ban their entry into the park. If guests continue to complain that others' use of selfie sticks on pathways is interfering with or harming them, that also might prompt a park-wide ban. But for now, selfie sticks remain permitted in major theme parks in the United States, though not while you are riding.

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Replies (23)

April 6, 2015 at 11:09 PM · If they're going to pass a rule like this, I hope they will actually enforce it. I'm sick of self righteous theme park guests flouting the rules, as if they don't apply to them.
April 7, 2015 at 4:18 AM · Could banning the use of IPads during fireworks shows be next? We shall see.
April 7, 2015 at 5:25 AM · Of course it's quite possible that like any fad or fashion the selfie-stick will be huge for a few months and then disappear into total obscurity. I suspect the selfie itself might do the same as Fashion decides that they are narcissistic or selfish or simply not cool... If that does prove to be the case then theme parks won't need to legislate against them as they'll simply disappear.

Personally I think they're selfish, dangerous, and anti-social things and the sooner they are banned the better!

April 7, 2015 at 8:47 AM · From a photographer's perspective, selfie sticks are a clever invention since it allows you to capture images "above the crowd" or from angles that would otherwise be extremely awkward to capture. However, their proliferation in public areas has become annoying as people are too busy taking pictures of themselves to enjoy where they are and what they're doing along with being courteous to those around them. I can appreciate some of that since I fall into that trap from time to time trying to take dozens of pictures when I first see something new. Selfie sticks also seem to have introduced a new level of brashness from people that feel it is their right to stop in the middle of the busiest spot they can find, extend their pole, and grab some photos that maybe 10 other people in the world will appreciate. They are slowly becoming a menace, because they are emboldening tourists to take pictures anywhere, regardless of what's going on around them.

Photography is as much about decorum and etiquette as it is about exposure, framing, and light, and selfie sticks are encouraging people to throw out the former two. As far as being on rides, they should absolutely be banned, and any person observed on a ride with one that has an explicit prohibition against photography and/or photographic lighting should be immediately ejected from the park.

April 7, 2015 at 9:15 AM · Every time I see someone getting in the way of everyone else just to take selfie, I want to grab their device and throw it in the nearest pond, it is that annoying to me.

You can imagine my response to selfie sticks...LOL

Seriously though, how can a person enjoy themselves doing something if all they are doing is taking endless pictures of themeselves everywhere. Do they even appreciate the parks? This whole selfie thing is a fad that I hope goes away very soon.

April 7, 2015 at 11:21 AM · Russell's out to a strong lead in the "comment of the year" race.
April 7, 2015 at 12:21 PM · Russell, that's what I was talking about. Personally, I don't mind if someone uses them outside of rides, unless they block walkways. But if someone repeatedly flouts a rule intended for safety, the way to enforce it is to eject them from the park. But how often do people break the rules and just get away with it? It's as if theme park security was helpless, and CMs reduced to asking "pretty please", while entitled jerks just keep doing whatever they want.
April 7, 2015 at 2:02 PM · Selfie sticks are fadish. They will go away soon as it falls out of favor. The theme parks should tell guests they are intrusive and not allow guests to use them on rides and shows.

Flash photography are still a remnant of point and shoot cameras that have poor low light capabilities. If you want flash to go away, encourage the use of phone cameras. My iPhone 6 takes very good photos in low light that I transitioned to using my iPhone for most of my photography. Theme parks should also adjust to camera phones too. The dark rides could be better lighted so no flash is needed. Small World and The Little Mermaid rides are bright enough to take good photos. Even the indoor meet and greets have better lighting so no flash is needed. Flash photography is slow. Some older cameras takes 1 to 3 seconds to recharge.

Be glad that people stopped carrying around camcorders around even though they got quite lightweight. No one needs to carry around an extra camera case around. You can easily pocket the iPhones and cameras.

I guess the other annoyance is iPad photography, but I seen less of that lately as the iPad boom has slowed. People migrated to the newer iPhone 6 Plus or the Samsung Note that have screen sizes up to 6 inches.

Nothing is perfect and people definitely aren't. I'm sure the tripod manufacturers found a new niche. That's the way things work.

April 7, 2015 at 4:16 PM · I worked at Disney last year, The Haunted Mansion to be more specific, and the selfie sticks would be extended and in use on attractions, in which would e-stop the ride, either manually by a cast member, or cause it detects an intrusion. Highly annoying. Hate them all.
April 7, 2015 at 5:10 PM · I don't really see this being a new rule for either park because I am pretty sure you really can't hold a camera on most attractions either. Plus, keeping your hands and feet inside a vehicle is required anyway.

I have a selfie stick (though not very long). I would like to bring it into the parks, but I think I have enough sense to know when they are getting annoying and NOT bring them out on rides. That is just uncool.

April 7, 2015 at 5:47 PM · Whatever happened to just asking someone to take your picture?
April 7, 2015 at 6:11 PM · Now if we can only get people to stop from halting in the middle of a crowded walkway to take selfies, but that's gonna happen regardless of what people are doing.
April 8, 2015 at 5:22 AM · I've only ever seen selfie-sticks used by groups of Asians. Lo and behold, the image accompanying this article...Asians.

My solution is to swat the stick out of their hands and watch their phone break into a hundred pieces and then say "you deserved it".

Not really, but that's what I do in my imagination.

But seriously, aren't 90% of selfie-stick-users Asian?

April 8, 2015 at 8:45 AM · I'm going to have to disagree with you Anon. Parks should not be encouraging guests to take pictures with phones while on rides, period, except where they deliberately want them to (Jungle Cruise, Kilimanjaro Safaris and The Land are the only ones that come to mind). They especially should not be changing lighting conditions to make it easier to take photos of their attraction while on the ride. Part of the magic of many attractions like Pirates, Haunted Mansion, and the Living Seas with Nemo is that the lighting helps to make the characters appear more real and lifelike. If you light up these attractions, you ruin their aesthetic and expose many of the minor flaws that would otherwise go unnoticed.

Also, aside from those "guided" attractions, ride designers don't want guests looking through a viewfinder or staring at a screen showing just a portion of the ride. They want guests taking in the attraction and experiencing the look and feel of what's around them, which is nearly impossible to do through the aperture of a camera. It's also bothersome to other guests, particularly with cameras/phones with bright screens in dark spaces.

I disagree with your statement regarding photo quality of phone cameras. Certainly technology and quality of digital photography has changed immensely in recent years, and the camera on an iPhone 6 takes some good pictures. However, I would put my nearly 10-year old Nikon D-70 up against it any day. I have an iPhone 5S, and was forced to take photos inside the Gringott's lobby with it since you're not allowed to bring bags/cameras inside, and those photos pale in comparison to even the ones I took in Knockturn Alley with my digital SLRs with high ISO settings due to the extremely low lighting conditions. My Fuji Finepix waterproof digital (my default pocket camera when needed) also takes better quality pictures with more user flexibility than the iPhone camera. Camera phones have come a long way, but they are no replacement for a good digital camera, particularly an SLR.

BTW, I still carry around a camcorder too (use it primarily for shows where there is no video prohibition).

Gabriel - You make a good observation, but it's a bit stereotypical. I did notice a number of South Americans and Europeans with selfie sticks on our last trip in October, so while I think the fad probably started in Japan/Asia, it has infected just about everywhere. Also, remember, the Japanese/Chinese (and some Europeans) tend to be about a year ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to technology because so much of it is invented and/or sourced on that side of the world.

April 8, 2015 at 10:04 AM · @Russell: Back to your detailed responses again. Whether or not parks should be discouraging guests to do anything, people are going to do it. I was addressing whether flash photography should be minimized. It certainly can be decreased with the use of low light cameras and you'll find more of them with the excellent iPhone 6 cameras. You have an iPhone 5S. Let me tell you, the iPhone 6 is even better.

I don't own an SLR. Funny, I never referenced an SLR in my response. I was referring to point and shoot cameras that are not suited for low light and thus, you see a lot of flash photography from them. I would suggest that SLR is not a solution. While fixed 50mm lenses for SLRs have large apertures for indoor photography without flash, many zoom lenses have small apertures (3.5 or smaller), thus the user will put on a very powerful flash, which is even worse than a point and shoot camera.

Use the camera you wish, but you missed the point.

April 8, 2015 at 10:56 AM · You also seemed to miss my point, which was that parks should not be actively encouraging guests to take photos on rides, whether that be with a phone, a point and shoot, or any other type of camera, unless the park thinks it's a good idea. They also should not be catering to those attempting to take on-ride photos by changing existing lighting on attractions as you have suggested..."The dark rides could be better lighted so no flash is needed."

In the end it comes down to how people use their cameras on rides, and there are far too many morons out there that use iPhones that don't know how to turn off the flash or lower the brightness on their screen, which degrades the experience for every other person on the ride. If the park wants to allow photography on rides, then fine, but they shouldn't encourage it, especially if allowing on-ride photography degrades the experience for other guests. Parks should ultimately want all guests to have an enjoyable experience on the ride, and if people who cannot respect others around them by turning on their bright phone screen, strobe, or other distracting lights, then parks should take steps to limit it whenever possible, not embrace the technology and expect guests to simply deal with it. It's like people who feel the need to text or check e-mail in the middle of a movie in a darkened theater. It's incredibly distracting, and is something movie theaters have taken a strong stance against (primarily for piracy reasons, but also for guest enjoyment). Theme parks should take the same stance, except for those rides where taking photos is something specific attractions openly welcome and additional lighting does not disturb others. The selfie stick in part represents this "me-first" culture that has infested our world, and it's disturbing to see how little people care about what's going on around them because they're so focused on themselves. People need to keep their phones and cameras in their pockets, and just sit back and enjoy the ride!!

I have seen and taken photos with the iPhone 6 camera (albeit at an Apple Store), and it is an improvement on the 5s, but not a quantum leap that makes it better than a decent stand-alone camera, even a point and shoot (my 3-year old waterproof digital camera is point and shoot, and has better control and a better sensor than what is in the iPhone 6). Also, there are plenty of point and shoot cameras from Nikon, Canon, and Leica that will run circles around anything embedded in a phone, not just SLRs, with many of them under $300.

April 8, 2015 at 1:36 PM · You sound hesitant on parks that allow photographs on rides. The only restriction I've heard is no flash. So I advise using cameras suitable for low light photography without flash. Then you advocate point and shoots, which are not suitable at all. They might take good pictures for typical situations, but their low light capability is not optimal. Only a few P&S cameras are designed for low light and they usually cost over $400. Most cheap P&S are designed for novices and they will auto-flash in most low light situations since the cameras have smaller apertures.

I am a convert on phone cameras, but I save my accolade for iPhone 6. The photo quality and speed has clearly improved. The idea that you should still buy a P&S after the arrival of the best camera phone on the market is counter intuitive. I do own a Nikon Coolpix P330. This is a fine camera and expensive two years ago. It does have an annoying feature. To focus, it sends out an orange light that is sometimes mistaken for flash. This is not a good camera for quick shots in a ride even if the flash is disabled. The response is slow since it needs time to focus. My iPhone doesn't have this focusing requirement.

I just went to Disneyland and I compared my PhotoPass pictures to my iPhone 6 photos. They are about the same in quality. Plus, I have some excellent ride photos with no flash at Small World.

April 9, 2015 at 6:45 AM · "You sound hesitant on parks that allow photographs on rides. The only restriction I've heard is no flash. So I advise using cameras suitable for low light photography without flash."

I am hesitant, because I think it's a slippery slope, and could become just as much of a menace as selfie sticks have become. The biggest problem with cell phone cameras is not the idiots who forget the flash is still enabled, it's that the screen, required to be on while taking a picture, is bright and distracting to others, particularly in dark spaces. I don't care how good a camera phone is, it will never eliminate the fact that the use has to have the screen on in order to take a photo. It drives me nuts to be on a ride like Pirates of the Caribbean and seeing an idiot trying to take photos or video during the ride distracting everyone else in the boat, particularly children who seem to be naturally drawn to any backlit screen regardless of what's on it.

I also think it's a dangerous precedent to set by doing anything additional to make it seem to guests that it's okay to take pictures on attractions. You're right Anon in that most slow moving omni-mover style dark rides typically only specifically prohibit flash and video lighting, but the way that prohibition is presented is interpreted by some as a complete photo ban, and I'm all for that. Not only is it a guest enjoyment issue but it is a safety issue, because having something in your hand during these rides, no matter how gentle, could inadvertently get dropped outside of the ride vehicle, which may cause a ride system malfunction. It also makes guests feel that if they can take photos during those slow moving rides, that they can take them during more intense attractions like Splash Mountain, 7DMT, and others. So I say that unless a park specifically wants people taking photos during the ride like Jungle Cruise, Kilimanjaro Safaris, Small World, and The Land, and is willing to take on the liability if a camera/phone is inadvertently ejected from those ride vehicle, then parks should actively prohibit guests from holding anything in their hands during a ride.

Universal has actually prohibited all photography during the ride portion of Disaster, which didn't used to be the case.

April 9, 2015 at 8:14 AM · I don't understand the whole concept of selfies anyway. Lots of people are ugly. Why would they want to take a picture of themselves? Narcissism? Get a load of how bad I look in shorts! Doesn't anyone want to go on a ride to relax and enjoy themselves, or admire the beauty of a well-done dark ride? If people don't stop using selfie sticks, someone is bound to lose an eye.
April 9, 2015 at 9:24 AM · I think you're exaggerating the extent of how distracting a camera is. In a larger boat like Small World or Pirates, a person with a camera might bother people sitting behind, but this depends on how high they are carrying the device and where they are sitting in the row. I don't often notice on some rides. Some rides like Haunted Mansion is more personal. The next car isn't affected.

I didn't know that dropping a camera will cause a system malfunction. This is never occurred any time I went to a theme park. Everyone that goes on a ride will risk things flying out of a pocket or their hands. I just don't know it happens on a regular basis for cameras.

We were on the topic of selfie sticks. Did you know a vendor sells selfie stickers at Downtown Disney?

"In fact, a Downtown Disney kiosk sells the sticks."

April 9, 2015 at 12:45 PM · I find it incredibly distracting, even on an attraction like Haunted Mansion. I've seen people hanging out the front of their Doom Buggie trying to get a closeup shot or attempting to steady their hands on the lab bar. The Seance Room is the absolute worst, and sometimes the lights from camera phones are so bright that it gives away the secret behind the effects. People don't need to be taking photos on a ride, period. It's just simple courtesy. Even in shows I see people whipping out their cameras (and tablets, the absolute WORST) to take pictures or video of the performance, and they don't think twice about how that affects the enjoyment of those around them. When I take photos, I'm always trying to be mindful of those around me, to the point that when I'm in a dark area, I turn off or flip over the LCD screen (depending on which camera I'm using) so that the lights don't turn on. I also turn off all of my metering/focus auxiliary lighting so it does not distract those around me. It really irks me when people can't think of others when they're in public, and are simply too busy thinking about themselves and how they can best "capture the moment". It's becoming a real problem, and I would totally support any park that would put strict rules into place to police this inconsiderate behavior.
April 10, 2015 at 5:12 AM · Last year I was at California Adventure and at the end of the night, of course, I went to watch the 'World of Color' water/light show. Suffice to say, I was 1 of maybe 5, not watching the entire thing through a "lens/screen", so it's sad to say that so many are no longer experiencing these attractions the way they were meant.
April 10, 2015 at 1:13 PM · Maybe taking photos IS their choice for fun?

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