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"The Dark Side of Disney" reveals the pleasures & perils of being naughty at WDW

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"The Dark Side of Disney" reveals the pleasures & perils of being naughty at WDW

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It's that classic Christmas-time question: Have you been naughty or nice this year?

Well, Leonard Kinsey - at least as far as Walt Disney World is concerned - has been very, very naughty. He and his merry band of Mouse-obsessed miscreants (Wait a minute. Would that then make Kinsey and his crew mouse-creants?) have ventured into all sorts of Cast-Member-Only areas.  Places like the Utilidors under the Magic Kingdom and - more recently - the long-closed upstairs portion of the ImageWorks at Epcot's Imagination Pavilion.

And Leonard has taken a number of these illicit adventures - plus an account of urban explorer Shane Perez's late-night swim over to Disney World's long-closed Discovery Island zoological park as well as Hoot Gibson's after-hours explorations of Epcot's Horizons pavilion - and collected them in a 172-page paperback that Kinsey has called "The Dark Side of Disney."

Copyright Bamboo Publishing. All rights reserved

So does "Dark Side" live up to the hype on its cover (which states that this collection of stories is "The Anarchist Cookbook of Disney Travel Guides")? Well, after paging through the review copy which I got sent last week, I'd have to say that that largely depends on whether you actually know any longtime Cast Members or not.

Because if you don't have anyone like that in your immediate circle of friends / extended family, some of the anecdotes collected here about on-property drinking, drugging and other adult behaviors will no doubt shock you. On the other hand, if you already know a Cast Member or two, you've probably heard some stories that are just as bad - if not worse - as the tales that you'll find in "The Dark Side of Disney."

So what makes this book better than - say - hanging out at the Perkins at the Crossroads Shopping Center near Downtown Disney and listening to some of your old Cast Member friends tell tales out of school? Leonard's rather adult writing style, for starters. Which attempts to blend Tucker Max's debauched frat boy adventures with Hunter S. Thompson's gonzo journalism.

Copyright Bamboo Publishing. All rights reserved

More to the point, Kinsey is quick to acknowledge that the " ... utterly unauthorized tips, tricks, & scams" which "The Dark Side of Disney" promotes often don't work. Take - for example - what happens when Leonard tries to use a used ticket that he purchased out on 192 to gain entrance to one of WDWs' theme parks.

It used to be that if you bought a phony or used ticket that didn't work you could go to Guest Services and they'd be really understanding and nice about it and give you a new one. But now they're wise to the whole underground reseller racket and are completely unsympathetic to the plight of scammed tourists.  How do I know this? Because I took one for the team and bought such a ticket.

The buying part was easy: I went into a gas station, made sure that there weren't any cops around, and paid cash for a Two-Day (Magic Your Way) base ticket. Using the ticket at the parks was where the whole thing fell apart. Here's how it went down:

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

The crowds are light as I approach the turnstile at The Magic Kingdom, put my used ticket through the slot, and place my finger on the scanner. It doesn't work. The (Cast Member) tells me to do it again, with the other hand. Still doesn't work.

Me: "Huh, that's weird."
"Are you sure that this is your ticket?"
"Uhhh ... "
"Sir, you'll need to go to Guest Services to get this resolved. Have a magical day!"
   "Okay. Thanks."

So I go to Guest Relations and hand over my ticket.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Me: "It doesn't work when I put my finger on the thingy."
CM: "Did you use the same finger you used the first time you went through the gate with this ticket?"
Me: "Not exactly."
CM: "Sir, where did you purchase this ticket?"
Me: "From a gas station."
CM: "We're sorry, but we're not able to accept tickets purchased from unauthorized resellers. Unfortunately you'll need to buy a new ticket. I can help you with that now, if you'd like."
Me: "So I just lost a bunch of money, right? And there's nothing you can do about it?"
CM: "That is our policy, sir."
Me: "Bummer. Can I get my ticket back, so I can at least sell back to the gas station?"
CM: "Unfortunately since it was resold illegally I will need to confiscate it. However, here is a collectible 'What Will You Celebrate' pin. Have a magical day!"

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

So - as you can see - while being naughty can sometimes be fun, it will often cost you.

Another reason that you should probably steer clear of using any of the "tricks & scams" described in "The Dark Side of Disney" that I've recently been told by someone with ties to upper management at the WDW Resort actually purchased a couple of copies of Kinsey's book. Not because they're big fans of Leonard's work, mind you. But rather because this Mouse House manager want the frontline employees at the Parks to be aware of the sort of scams that "The Dark Side of Disney" suggests people should try during their next trip to Disney World.

To be fair here, Kinsey explicitly states in his book's epilogue that ...

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

... I don't advocate anyone engaging in illegal activities inside WDW. If you break the law and get caught, it's all on you. So before attempting anything in this book that might be potentially illegal, ask yourself "Is the fun and excitement of participating in this illegal activity worth the potential negatives that would come with getting caught, landing in jail, and having a misdemeanor / felony charge on my record?"

So taking that into consideration, I guess - when you get right down to it - Leonard Kinsey's "The Dark Side of Disney" is really a literary exercise in another type of adult activity: voyeurism. In that we get to watch Kinsey and his crew attempt to do bad things while they're on vacation at Walt Disney World (EX: Newmeyer jumps the gate at Epcot and then give McGeorge & Kinsey a thumbs up, thrilled that he managed to make it into a Disney theme park without paying for a ticket) and then snort as this allegedly bad-ass behavior gets an entirely predictable reaction from the people who actually run that Park (i.e. "Ten seconds later two security officers wearing Hawaiian shirts walk up alongside Newmeyer and casually take his arms, leading him backstage. He looks back at us in panic before he disappears behind a façade of manicured plants").

Don't get me wrong, Leonard and his league do get away with just enough stuff that "The Dark Side of Disney" does give you a sense of how much fun it can be to behave badly at Walt Disney World. But at the same time, Kinsey makes it clear that being naughty really does have its consequences when it comes to this Resort.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

So bearing that in mind, I'm far less inclined to buy into the hype on the back on this book, which states that "The Dark Side of Disney" is " ... unabashedly unafraid of offending the family-oriented audiences (that is) catered to by other Disney travel guides." Especially since so many of the "tricks & scams" listed in this book are either already well-known and being used/abused by the public (EX: renting a wheelchair for a member of your party so that you can then avoid waiting in line by using the handicap entrance for many of the rides, shows and attractions at the Parks) or they're now out-of-date (EX: Kinsey's suggestion that you make a dinner reservation at the Poly or the Contemporary so that you can then score free, up-close parking while visiting the Magic Kingdom has effectively been negated by Food & Beverage's recent decision to institute a $10-per-person cancellation fee at many WDW eateries).

So rather than thinking of "The Dark Side of Disney" as a guide book to the myriad ways you can misbehave the next time you visit the Mouse, perhaps the smarter way of thinking of Leonard's collection of sordid behind-the-scenes stories is that it's the literary equivalent of "Jackass." In that you get the pleasure of reading about how Kinsey and Co. broke the rules without then having to deal with any of the consequences of breaking the rules yourself.

Which - when you really think about it - is a pretty nice (Well, if not exactly nice, at least trouble-free) way of being naughty.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

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  • I read this book a few months ago and must agree with you. Interesting and funny stories but not exactly a guide per se.

  • Sounds like a fun read - "We did the stupid and illegal stuff at Disney so you don't have to".

  • Lots of sadness here seeing how old Imageworks is now for all intents and purposes a seminar room/broom closet.  I actually am more upset over the fate of Imageworks than I am over the whole "Imagination Institute" theme.

  • I've enjoyed Hoot and Chief's Blog "Mesa Verde Times" where they all but lived inside Horizons. The constant fear of getting caught was what seemed to produce the most adrenaline and whether I agree with it or not, it was a fun read! This publication is much the same I'm sure and I will most likely give it a gander. You know this kind of stuff happens at all public entertainment venues but sticking it to the Mouse is kind of like mooning your grandpa! He may be the oldest and wisest person you know, but you showed him something he'll never forget!

  • As said before on the show, it's more of an enjoyable read than a guidebook. I had a feeling WDW would be grabbing a book, but never thought it'd be used as employee training. Way to go Len-yan!

    btw - At the DSoD bash last month, I thought that was you when I walked in, but it was Ron Shneider, the original Dreamfinder.

  • I liked the book.  I agree about the naughty CM's being able to tell you the same stories, but I still found myself fascinated by the book.

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