What's the story behind fighting at Disneyland?

October 21, 2023, 4:23 PM · Is fighting becoming more common at Disney and other theme parks?

That's the question that I got asked this past week by a Los Angeles radio station. Producers there were reacting to the latest viral video of a brawl at Disneyland. This time, park guests went at it in front of the Storybook Land Canal Boats.

Frequent Disneyland visitors know that narrow pathway between Storybook Land and the Mad Tea Party as one of the park's more notorious pinch-points. It's pretty much impossible to walk through there without at least bumping shoulders with someone on many days. Throw parked strollers into the mix there, and the crowding gets even worse.

Is that enough to spark a fight? Ultimately, none of us ever knows all the reasons why another person decides that this is the moment of their Disney visit when it's time to throw hands. But it does happen, as TikTok and Instagram are so eager to show us. Anyway, you can hear my response to the crew at KNX Radio below:

It's so much easier for people to see Disney fights these days, thanks to the proliferation of mobile devices and Internet connections. Since Disney parks are such popular destinations, videos from the parks have a much higher likelihood of going viral, thanks to the large number of people who have the parks in their location histories. And the old TV news adage, "it it bleeds, it leads," continues to apply to social media algorithms, too.

But seeing real people fighting in public spaces such as Disneyland and Walt Disney World also normalizes that behavior for some viewers. They see people throwing down at Disney and think, "hey, that's something that I can do," as opposed to thinking, "what the hell?" The short, unedited format of IRL fight videos means we never see the aftermath for the participants - the hours spent in a windowless park security holding room, the park ban, and possibly the police arrest.

So are fights actually happening more often in the social media era, or are we just seeing more of the fights that always have been happening? I would like to get some data from Theme Park Insider readers, based on your first-hand experience. Forget what you have seen online or in the news. I am asking today about what you have seen with your own eyes, on your own park visits.

Stories and analysis welcomed in the comments, as always.

Replies (20)

October 21, 2023 at 6:29 PM

While the age of social media, it has made more fights visible to many eyes from all around the world. Remember, there has been numerous reports of fights happening on Disneyland’s opening day, the only difference was that there wasn’t any personal cameras around to capture them and share them to the world.

October 21, 2023 at 7:39 PM

I spend most days during the week at the parks, and the only fights/pushing/shoving I've ever seen has been at Disney.

Only last Friday there was a pushing and shouting/screaming match going on outside the Skyliner station at DHS.

I spend equal amounts of time at Universal and Disney thru any week.

October 21, 2023 at 10:36 PM

You never see any fighting in Philadelphia-area parks.

Just lots and lots of D batteries being thrown.

October 21, 2023 at 10:39 PM

Nice photo choice for the topic, haha!!

October 21, 2023 at 10:50 PM

@Jack: bwahahaha well played

October 22, 2023 at 1:26 AM

I'd say it is more common, in the same way as misbehaving on flights has become. There is a lot less tolerance in the community now and when you factor in the stress that a holiday to resort destination can endow it's going to happen. The flip side though is that everyone has a video camera in their pocket so if one happens we will see it on the net within a couple of days.

October 22, 2023 at 5:00 AM

I can't say that I've ever actually witnessed a fight at a park, so I can't say whether they've truly become more common or simply more visible. However, I have definitely seen an increase in rude and disrespectful behavior from guests in recent years, and could see how these sorts of actions may translate into an increase in physical altercations. I don't visit Disneyland nearly as much as I used to, but at Knott's and SeaWorld in particular I've noticed a major shift in the behavior of the clientele to the point that even moderately crowded days are unpleasant due to exposure to guests who feel rules don't apply to them. Surprisingly, SFMM has been pretty free of problem guests in more recent times despite having the reputation as a hangout for unruly teens.

October 22, 2023 at 8:21 AM

This is to be expected, when you put a choke point right in front Monstro….of course guests are gonna start whaling on and choking each other.

October 22, 2023 at 11:09 AM

Never seen any fight at a theme park and honestly not too many in public. When I worked at a movie theater back in 1996, a bit of a brawl on a Saturday night with one guy tossing another through one of the big glass windows at the front. Aside from that, guess just lucky not spotting them.

October 22, 2023 at 11:37 AM

Sadly the uptick in anti social behavior seems to have spiked since the Covid 19 lockdown. Humans are by nature, social creatures. We thrive on interaction and learn social cues through those interactions. The year and some change of being told to stay at home and not interact with others has done a number on some people’s ability to coexist. Will these trends continue? I don’t think long term but short term absolutely.
In response to TwoBits comment and the racial makeup of the fight’s participants, my initial reaction was don’t generalize about people. I don’t generalize but it doesn’t help the greater minority communities when certain dumb-azzes make fools of themselves and makes it look to a lot of people that violence from those folks is the norm.

October 22, 2023 at 12:32 PM

I would say there is a trend now of unruly teenagers getting into fights at places like Six Flags and Cedar Fair (although not as much of a problem as the media has made it to be), however people getting into fights at Disneyland/WDW has always happened and always will. Its the worst mix of everything you can have in a situation: extremely hot, crowded, expensive, wife/kids are complaining and most dads don't want to be there, having to figure out Fastpass/Genie, waiting around for parades and shows and then people getting in their spot at the last minute, lines moving slow because of Genie, downtimes,etc. I'm not saying that justifies fights but visiting the Disney Parks with kids is enough to drive even the nicest family from Iowa angry...with all the crazy and mental illness out there its inevitable that its going to happen.

October 22, 2023 at 12:52 PM

I also should add the parks clientele and location (culture of the city the park is in) has a lot to do with it as well. I dealt with fights on a way more regular basis when I worked at Six Flags Great America than when I worked at Disneyland...and SFGAm would get real fights where people came out bloody, not the slap fest ones they get at Disneyland lol.

October 22, 2023 at 4:33 PM

This is not a new issue.

October 23, 2023 at 6:39 AM

I wonder how many of these fights are prearranged and staged just to get on social media. "Hey, wanna go viral? I got a new phone - wanna check out its video camera?"

October 23, 2023 at 8:56 AM

I've never seen a full-on brawl like those that typically go viral, but have seen plenty of disagreements between guests that have gotten physical.

Joseph noted a big reason for the recent increase in incidents (COVID lockdowns), but I think the biggest reason is the overall entitlement that guests feel like they have in theme parks. I think there is a general frustration from guests, and we are all on edge when visiting that one little bump in the road can cause those tensions to boil over.

I think Disney has always created that level of frustration because of how complicated and expensive it is to visit their parks, and regional amusement parks have created that frustration because of the mix of guests and general lack of training for staff. As an aside, we went to SFA yesterday, and I was utterly shocked by the amount of security personnel at the park (on a Sunday no less) - there were probably close to 100 or more security personnel (including uniformed police officers) roaming the park in groups of 4-5.

I think that even at regional parks, people are paying so much money that they don't want to get the perception that they are not valued or that others are getting a better experience. When you're in a pressurized, crowded environment, it doesn't take much for that tension and frustration to boil over. Plus so many people have become rude and me-focused and do some of the most outrageous and obviously forbidden things in theme parks, yet take exception when being pointed out by a fellow guest that what they're doing is wrong, even in a polite way.

October 23, 2023 at 11:16 AM

"Those fights as well as a large majority of the fights that are videoed and go viral are (and I’m prepared to take the hate by posting the truth) are by African-Americans and Hispanics."

What is this racist nonsense? Robert, surely this isn't an appropriate post for your site. This user interface doesn't give us the opportunity to flag hate posts, but this ridiculous racist and his post need to go.

Why are there more fights these days? Could it be because Trump trolled all the racists out of the closet and they now seem to believe that they can spout their hate in a public forum like this one? If we were at Disneyland and I heard some sad imbecile talking like this fool here, there probably would be a fight.

October 23, 2023 at 12:58 PM

Because I'm going to argue your racism with you, pathetic little man? Hateful little loser? I'll post some video evidence of me slapping you down a flight of stairs, grand wizard, knock your robes off. It is beyond time that Robert banned you.

October 23, 2023 at 5:39 PM

I'm not accusing you of being rude, I'm calling you out as a racist POS, and I'm telling you straight up that if I heard you spouting that racist nonsense in real life, I'd invite you to shut your ignorant mouth or I'd shut it for you. Think you're superior to Black and brown people? You're inferior the poop my dog just dropped, David Duke wannabee dipsh*t. .

I appreciate Robert hasn't seen these posts as yet, but when he does, you better be gone. Pathetic sorry imbecile and a sad excuse for a man.

October 23, 2023 at 11:07 PM

I youtubed "theme park fight" and literally the first result that came up was a bunch of white people beating the tar out of each other.


October 26, 2023 at 7:20 AM

@TwoBits And posting video evidence to the contrary of your opinion will prove you what exactly? There will never be enough evidence to sway your prejudice and bigotry, but your already aware of that.

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