In an effort to crack down on those who choose not to wear masks, Disney World has opted for a rather more magical approach.
Like many places, the Walt Disney World theme parks in Florida require masks as a condition for entry. And just like many places, not everyone is complying. But Disney World isn’t letting anyone get away with it—even during photo ops.
While impossible to patrol mask-wearing on rides, Disney is taking an eccentric approach to the enforcement: editing a digital mask onto visitors’ faces in photos. First spotted on social media by industry blog Walt Disney World News Today, the bizarre tactic has left guests confused as to why the park is doing ‘something’ about the masks but not actually enforcing them.
— WDW News Today (@WDWNT) December 9, 2020
As of now, the digital face mask method is being carried out on Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin at the Magic Kingdom and aboard DINOSAUR in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. According to WDWNT, it is expected it be rolled out to all on-ride PhotoPass opportunities in the coming months.
Disney was harsher before, barring those who took their mask off during the ride from accessing whatever pictures the ride’s mounted cameras took of them. They’ve since compromised, allowing such rule-breakers to access the photo but only after a short delay, during which either an employee or algorithm slaps a digital mask over their face akin to a choppy AR face filter.
However, according to The Verge, after public backlash, Mickey’s Empire have suspended the practice. Walt Disney World offered the following statement: “In response to guest requests, we tested modifying some ride photos. We are no longer doing this and continue to expect guests to wear face coverings except when actively eating or drinking while stationary.”
The original idea was a trifle goofy, as the Magic Kingdom decided to digitally place masks on parkgoers’ photos to remind guests that they are in fact supposed to keep their masks on, supposedly reducing the “monkey see, monkey do” thought process that encourages people to take off their masks.
However, between the lax mask enforcement and the situation the coronavirus has imposed onto Florida and the rest of the U.S., it begs the questions: why are guests these guests allowed to stay in the park at all?
Well, the answer is Walt’s house, Walt’s rules. The Magic Kingdom has governance over its domain. As Popular Mechanics noted, “Disney petitioned the Florida legislature for a special district that would allow the corporation control over sewage, roads, building permits, and many other facets of municipal control in the area. They got it, and in 1967, the Reedy Creek Improvement District was created. This district, including the two municipalities inside it, Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista, give the corporation an unprecedented level of control. Only landowners in the district can vote too on governance for the district, thus giving Disney the upper hand in decision making. The powers granted are far-reaching–for example, Disney can issue their own liquor licenses to themselves. They largely do not use surrounding counties infrastructure, instead, they build their own water, fire departments, transportation, and emergency services. Disney World is what it looks like if you give a corporation full control over an area of land as big as San Francisco.”
While the mask has literally slipped over the years, with one notable incident involving the artist Banksy, who, after a stunt, had an accomplice who allegedly spent hours without legal representation in the world’s happiest interrogation cell.
In 2016, the local Anaheim Police Department (who also have jurisdiction over Disneyland) were caught using a small military-grade aircraft, surveilling subjects below, one that can apparently drag the personal data from our phones from a great height.
As Gizmodo noted, “The department had access to spying tools called dirtboxes, the same spying tools sought by the Air Force.”
Per the article, “Anaheim Police requested a Homeland Security grant to fund its dirtbox purchase, it claimed that ‘every city in Orange County has benefited from the DRT device.’ Unless the police lied on this request, this means that Anaheim’s secret spy tool had a wide-enough range to reach people in other cities. It also means that the millions of tourists passing through Disneyland would’ve been within reach.”
It’s a small world after all, huh?