For people looking to spread the ashes of a loved one, it’s important to choose somewhere meaningful. This is often part of someone’s specific funeral wishes when they die.
While some of the most popular spots include the ocean, beaches, parks, and cemeteries, did you know Disney World is also top on this list?
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Why Do People Choose to Spread Ashes at Disney?
- Does Disney Allow Spreading of Human Ashes?
- Alternatives for Spreading a Disney Fan’s Ashes
It should come as no surprise that a place known as the Most Magical Place on Earth that’s also home to the Haunted Mansion with 999 happy haunts is one of the biggest destinations for scattering a loved one’s ashes. However, there are a surprising number of scattering ashes laws, not to mention Disney World’s own rules that make this a complicated choice.
Though it’s undoubtedly a favorite spot for leaving the ashes of loved ones gone too soon, are you allowed to spread cremated ashes at Disney? Let’s find out, as well as share some “magical” alternatives.
Why Do People Choose to Spread Ashes at Disney?
First, let’s get to the heart of the issue. Why is it that people choose to spread loved one’s ashes at Disney World of all the places? Home to millions of visitors each year, is this really the best place to leave grandma or grandpa’s ashes when they pass?
For most, it comes down to nostalgia. Disney is a popular vacation destination across the globe. Many people visit yearly or more frequently, and it’s common for families to come together in these theme parks. Existing for decades, Disney holds a lot of memories for many families across the world. It makes sense to want to plan a scattering ceremony somewhere full of so many happy moments.
In addition, Disney brands itself as a world outside of reality. It’s somewhere magical where it’s okay to be a kid again, no matter your age. It’s home to the Haunted Mansion, a home specifically for happy ghosts to spend the rest of their days. With attractions and fan-favorites like Space Mountain, the Jungle Cruise, and Cinderella’s Castle, who wouldn’t want their remains to rest here for all of eternity?
However, there’s also the fact that Disney is a theme park, not a cemetery. The Happy Haunts in the Haunted Mansion are fictional animatronics, and even the Jungle Cruise closes up at the end of the night. Thousands of guests step through those magical gates each day, and it’s not safe or practical to scatter remains within these walls.
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Does Disney Allow Spreading of Human Ashes?
Though it’s been proven that guests frequently release human ashes within the Disney parks, this is strictly prohibited. Cast members at the parks have identified numerous guests using the parks as a way to memorialize their loved ones despite these rules.
While Disney understands that this could be a cathartic process for those grieving, it’s important to realize that this violates Disney’s rules and also local laws about scattering remains.
The urban legend
There’s a very popular urban legend that Disney World is full of scattered human ashes, particularly in certain parts of the park. What are these locations that are home to the most ashes? These are thought to be the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, and It’s a Small World.
While it’s true that families do bring loved ones’ ashes to these attractions (and others), Disney isn’t overflowing with human ashes. In reality, these attractions and other areas of the park are deep cleaned on a daily basis. Their regular cleaning schedules quickly remove any ashes that might linger in the area.
Families might think they’re leaving their loved one’s ashes in Cinderella’s garden, but really they’re just swept up with the nightly cleaning. Cast members report that they catch guests releasing ashes an average of once per month, if that, though it’s not unlikely that many people go unnoticed. Still, the ashes still go to the same place with the rest of the night’s cleanup.
Disney’s official statement
Disney has specifically spoken out about this type of action at its parks in the United States. In response, they told The Wall Street Journal that “this type of behavior is strictly prohibited and unlawful.”
Not only is this against park policy, but any guest caught spreading ashes will be escorted off the property. This is taken very seriously, and it’s referred to by cast members as a “HEPA cleanup incident” since it requires a special cleaning protocol to remove the ash residue.
When guests do succeed in scattering ashes on attractions, there are a lot of repercussions. Not only could they be banned from future entry, but it’s also disruptive to others enjoying the park. These attractions and areas need to be shut down for “technical difficulties,” and it delays other people’s experiences. Overall, it’s not a magical experience.
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Local laws about ash scattering
In addition, you might be surprised to learn that there are a number of local laws that affect the way ashes are to be scattered. Both Anaheim and Orlando have local laws relating to ash scattering.
It’s always important to check local laws before you spread any ashes, especially if you plan to release them into nature or private property. If you’re caught, you could face fines or other penalties.
Alternatives for Spreading a Disney Fan’s Ashes
If you’re wondering what to do with cremation ashes, you’re not alone. Scattering ashes on private property like a theme park is not permitted, and this is only to be done in designated areas.
However, there are a lot of other ways to honor a loved one’s memory without resorting to this option.
Host a family trip to Disney
One of the best ways to respect a Disney fan’s wishes is also the most fun. Instead of scattering a loved one’s ashes at the park, honor their favorite place with a family trip. Close family and friends can visit Disneyland or Disney World in their honor, riding their favorite things and keeping their memory alive.
Disney brings people together, and this is true even after death. By visiting and paying homage to this nostalgia, the family honors their passion for this magical place.
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Include Disney elements in the funeral
If you’re hosting a funeral or memorial service for the deceased, this is also an opportunity to honor their love for Disney. You can easily include Disney elements with:
- Music: Disney music is quite memorable, and many of the most well-loved Disney songs are perfect for a funeral or memorial service.
- Decor: Disney elements can also be incorporated into the decorations, whether it’s in the funeral program, table settings, or memorial video.
- Food: Disney food earned a beloved place in the hearts of many. From Mickey-shaped ice cream to churros and Dole Whip, Disney-themed food is often the best tribute to any Disney fan.
- Photos: Highlight some of the deceased’s favorite Disney trips with a collage of their best trip photos.
- Dress code: Invite guests to wear their best Mickey ears or Disney-themed outfits to the funeral. As more people move away from traditional color schemes, this is a really fun choice.
- Quotes: Finally, incorporate Disney quotes within the funeral service.
Symbolically scatter or store ashes
Since you can’t scatter the loved one’s ashes in Disney itself, you can still scatter them symbolically somewhere legally permitted. This takes a bit of creativity, but it’s just as meaningful and memorable.
For example, for a lover of Alice in Wonderland, scatter the loved one’s ashes in a loved one’s garden. If they were a fan of Cinderella’s story, create an urn out of an old storybook. These small actions have big meaning for family members.
If you're looking for something very unique, you can custom order an urn from a store like Foreverence or have a memorial diamond created from ashes with a company like Eterneva. You can even turn your loved one's ashes into beautiful cremation stones with Parting Stone.
Hold a Disney movie night
The most inexpensive and simple option is to simply host a Disney movie night in honor of the deceased. This could include a showing of all of their favorite Disney flicks.
Take things up a notch by inviting guests to bring their own Disney-inspired food and outfits. Share memories, enjoy the magic of Disney storytelling, and just let these familiar stories offer much-needed comfort.
Finding Comfort in the Magic and Nostalgia
Disney is a form of comfort and peace to many. It’s the place where they first met their favorite characters, enjoyed family vacations, and experienced magic coming to life. With so much nostalgia associated with a single place, it’s not surprising that so many people choose to scatter their loved one’s ashes in Disney World.
That being said, this practice is strictly prohibited and could get guests removed from the park. Luckily, there are endless other ways to honor a Disney fan’s favorite place in the world that doesn’t involve breaking local laws.
It’s easy to see how this place holds such a special part of so many people’s hearts. As is heard while riding the Haunted Mansion, “We have 999 happy haunts, but there’s room for a thousand. Any volunteers?”
- Schwartzel, Erich. “Disney World’s Big Secret: It’s a Favorite Spot to Scatter Family Ashes.” The Wall Street Journal. 24 October 2018. WSJ.com.