Can You Film At Walt Disney World and Get Paid?

With the recent announcement of the new movie “The Further Adventures of Walt’s Frozen Head,” there has been a lot of chatter online lately about who can film at Walt Disney World. For those unfamiliar, this small budget movie is set to be released in 2017 and was partially shot on Disney property using a small crew that looked like tourists (including the actors) with filming equipment that didn’t raise any eyebrows.

Walt's Frozen Head

Many people are infuriated that a group of people can break the rules like that and are waiting on the Mouse to pounce on them, suing them for all they’re worth. Let’s slow down and take a look at what the Walt Disney World website says under general rules. Indeed it lists under prohibited activities: “Photography, videotaping of any kind for commercial purposes.”

Walt Disney World Policy

Indeed the production company behind “Walt’s Frozen Head” definitely violated that rule. Filming at Walt Disney World for commercial purposes definitely happens, but this is only when permission is given in advance through their media relations department. There are restrictions given on when and where you can film, how large your camera crew can be, who is in the shot and even how the final edit turns out.

Escape From Tomorrow

“Escape From Tomorrow” was another film shot at Walt Disney World in a nearly identical manner as “Walt’s Frozen Head.” It also had a minimal crew and zero permission. It created a small firestorm with social media around the world and made a modest amount of money through selling it on iTunes, Amazon and eventually Netflix bought the streaming rights.

Escape From Tomorrow

To date, Disney has not taken legal action against “Escape From Tomorrow” even though they clearly violated Walt Disney World policy. Possibly because the lawsuit would create very little money. To date, the film has only made $172,000. Who knows if you could actually squeeze that out of the production company? By the time Disney justifies spending money on their lawyers and court fees, they might break even at best. Perhaps there is a bigger part of this puzzle people are missing.


Thanks to YouTube, thousands of people commercially film at Walt Disney World every year. By simply signing up for an account and choosing to monetize a video, you too can “commercially” film on Disney property and make anywhere from pennies to hundreds of dollars.

Missing in the Mansion

In addition, there are plenty of other theme park fan sites out there that use that monetization to make a living. Some will even add sponsorships from other travel related businesses to sweeten the pot. Others will make a DVD of rides, shows and attractions and sell it directly to the consumer via their website. While I am sure to piss off several well known websites by pointing this out, believe me, Disney knows this is happening.

Walt's Frozen Head

More importantly, Disney has yet to pursue legal action against anyone who has monetized any sort of filming on their property without permission. So why would another small budget movie start that trend? It’s entirely possible, but highly unlikely at this point. By not taking action against any other forms of commercial filming listed above, they have set the precedent on how they handle these situations. Your thoughts?

Dark Side of Disney Documentary


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Images Copyright: Walt’s Frozen Head, Walt Disney World, Escape From Tomorrow, Missing in the Mansion

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  1. fan51
    Posted November 9, 2015 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    I assume this is not about suing for damages. The legal liability is using Disney’s obvious landmarks as staging. Disney has the lawyers and the political connections to stop it if it wants to. You have to wonder if Disney should be surveying their guests when it appears they are actually filming to make a case. Where there is some blurring is the issue of fair use and parody. The production company could make a fair use claim when filming on property. They can say the film is a parody. The thing is Disney could claim a copyright to the property that’s wasn’t allowed commercial filming. The fact that they haven’t tied any production to their rules means they opened themselves up to more abuse.

    cease and desist order

    an order of a court or government agency to a person, business or organization to stop doing something upon a strong showing that the activity is harmful and/or contrary to law. The order may be permanent or hold until a final judicial determination of legality occurs. In many instances the activity is believed to cause irreparable damage such as receipt of funds illegally, felling of timber contrary to regulation, selling of shares of stock without a proper permit, or oil drilling which would damage the ecology.

    fair use.

    1.(in US copyright law) the doctrine that brief excerpts of copyright material may, under certain circumstances, be quoted verbatim for purposes such as criticism, news reporting, teaching, and research, without the need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder.


    n. the humorous use of an existing song, play, speaker or writing which changes the words to give farcical and ironic meaning. Parodies have been challenged as copyright infringements on the original works, particularly since some have reaped terrific profits. Recent decisions favor the parodies and say they have an originality of their own and, thus, are not infringements. There is a free speech issue involved in these decisions since parodies traditionally have social and political significance.

    cop·y·right. NOUN
    1.the exclusive legal right, given to an originator or an assignee to print, publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic, or musical material, and to authorize others to do the same:

  2. mark_h
    Posted November 9, 2015 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    Whilst Disney could start legal action against the filmmakers doing so would create a lot of negative publicity (and positive publicity for the film). If they did take it to court it would be to set a precedent and discourage others rather than to recover any costs. The Disney legal department has probably already spent a lot of time/money on the case deciding what action, if any, to take.

    I am a bit reminded of the McLibel case, Britain’s longest running court case, which cost McDonalds £10 million and created lots of negative publicity.

    Disney won’t want to go against the youtube videos and fan-sites as most of them are acting as free publicity for the parks, potentially increasing visitor numbers.

    They will want to stop activities that disrupts the park operations or disturbs other guests. Filmmaking can be disruptive, especially for drama. People trying to photograph or film non-public areas of the park are also an issue as there are safety and security issues. Banning commercial film and photography may make it easier for security to eject people from the parks if they are being a bit disruptive.

    For dramatic content Disney will want to control what is filmed within their parks, a family having “the happiest week of their life” is not what most filmmakers would want to make. Almost any film, except where the Disney scenes only last a few seconds, will be negative towards the park , potentially causing reputational damage.

    Filming other guests is problematic as they will not have given consent.

    Since last year in the UK parody can now legally include copyrighted material, this gave rise to Banksy’s Dismaland art exhibit/experience.

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