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Credit: YouTube/MattSonswa

Banned from Disney: “Urban Explorer” breaks into Disney property regularly & urges others to do the same

Disney World fans visit the Most Magical Place on Earth for thousands of reasons.

Some Guests love Disney World’s beautiful resort hotels. Others love the fabulous Broadway-style shows. Other Guests come for the exciting attractions. And some are, by their own admission, thrill-seekers who visit the parks to enjoy the heart-pounding attractions because they love the excitement of an 80-foot drop like the one at the Expedition Everest attraction at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. No matter the reason Guests visit, all are welcome at Disney Parks. There’s truly something for everyone.

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Credit: Disney Parks

But one group of visitors to the Walt Disney World Resort aren’t so welcome. That’s because they usually visit the parks illegally–often after the parks are closed to Guests. They call themselves “urban explorers,” and they do exactly what their title says: they explore parts of the urban scene–and often when areas are closed for the day (and sometimes when those areas are closed for good and abandoned).

Credit: YouTube/MattSonswa

One of these so-called “urban explorers” named Matt Sonswa has trespassed onto Disney World property multiple times. He breaks into areas of the Resort and shoots videos of himself “exploring” different attractions and locations on Disney property. Often, he trespasses after the park closes to Guests. But he has even broken into backstage areas during park operating hours. If caught by Disney Cast Members, he often pretends to be lost, not knowing how he ended up in that location.

His Disney trespassing resume includes climbing through the Big Thunder Mountain attraction at Magic Kingdom and even trespassing onto the area where Walt Disney’s private plane was located.

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Credit: YouTube/MattSonswa

Walt's plane

Credit: YouTube/MattSonswa

Credit: YouTube/MattSonswa

inside Walt's plane

Credit: YouTube/MattSonswa

(The plane has since been moved and is being completed restored. It will be on exhibit at the D23 Expo in Anaheim, California, this September.)

Sonswa makes no attempt to conceal his face in his videos. He has trespassed in backstage areas inside the parks, like EPCOT’s now-defunct attractions, Body Wars and Cranium Command. The footage he captures is creepy, as it often shows once-popular attractions seemingly frozen in time. Below, you can see a screenshot from one of Sonswa’s videos that shows Buzzy, the animatronic from the Cranium Command attraction.

inside cranium command

Credit: YouTube/MattSonswa

These may be some of the last photos of Buzzy, as the animatronic robot was reported missing months later by Cast Members at EPCOT in 2018, and currently, the case is considered unsolved, but all available leads in the case have been exhausted, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. (Sonswa is not involved in that case.)

Orange county sheriff's office statement report of theft

Statement regarding the theft of Buzzy, the Cranium Command animatronic/Credit: ThemeParkTribune

 

According to CNN, During Disney World’s closure related to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, Sonswa was arrested for trespassing on Disney World’s 12-acre Discovery Island.  When authorities found him, he was attempting to camp out on the island property owned by Disney. Once upon a time, Guests could visit the island as an attraction, but the area has been closed to Guests for more than 20 years.

map of Disney's Discovery Island

Credit: Disney Parks

But its closure didn’t keep Sonswa away. If anything, the fact that Discovery Island is now a restricted area for Guests probably makes Sonswa’s antics all the more exciting for him. He was apprehended and arrested by officers with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office in late April 2020 after having been on the island for a few days. Sonswa was charged with a misdemeanor offense of trespassing.

According to the arrest report, Sonswa was spotted by Orange County Marine deputies who warned him that he was not allowed on the island. Deputies were forced to begin searching for him using a boat and helicopter with some deputies on the island searching for Sonswa on foot. He claimed he didn’t know he was trespassing on what he called a “tropical paradise.” When he appeared in court in October 2020, he pleaded no contest.

Sonswa has even broken into the Expedition Everest attraction at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, hiked up to the topmost part of the elements inside the building made to look like Mt. Everest, and gotten face-to-face with the animatronic Yeti, famous for having been out of order for almost the entire life of the attraction.

expedition everest inside

Credit: YouTube/Matt Sonswa

the yeti expedition everest

Credit: YouTube/Matt Sonswa

For years, Guests have wondered if the Yeti will ever be repaired, and one of the responses that has circulated is that the animatronic abominable monster is located in a spot within the attraction that is almost impossible to access, making repairs difficult–maybe impossible. But Sonswa had no trouble getting to him and even recording footage of the Yeti.

Credit: YouTube/Matt Sonswa

Sonswa has been banned from Disney Parks. But we’re not so sure that will stop his efforts. On Sonswa’s YouTube channel where he posts footage from his (unauthorized) visits to Disney World, his videos begin with a disclaimer–and even a call to action, welcoming other urban explorers to send in videos of themselves doing similar things, and always with the promise of anonymity.

Credit: YouTube/MattSonswa

The so-called disclaimer on his videos reads: “All videos are sent in anonymously. We are now accepting all backstage theme park content. You will remain 100% anonymous,” prompting other “urban explorers” to follow in Sonswa’s footsteps, breaking into restricted areas, whether on Disney property or otherwise.

Viewers often post comments on Sonswa’s videos, some saying to let him be and let him climb, and others pointing out the dangers of Sonswa’s antics. How do you feel about these “urban explorers?” Should they face stiffer penalties if caught? Let us know in the comments!

About Becky Burkett

I'm an enthusiastic writer who finds joy in random things like cold weather, snow, "I Love Lucy," "The Andy Griffith Show," journals full of blank paper, countdowns to Christmas, the month of December, "Toy Story," "Sleeping Beauty," my 4 kids, my 4 shih tsus, Disney Parks history, Imagineering and visiting the parks. I think Walt Disney is the standard against which genius should be measured. I love to write about Disney Parks, Disney history, all things Imagineering and PIXAR. I adore the colors, story and art direction of Disney's "Sleeping Beauty" (Team Make it Blue!), and "Toy Story" is life (minus "Toy Story 4"). I believe Walt Disney was so much more than an entertainment and theme park tycoon; I believe he was a savant with a vision for life and how it could be if happiness and kindness are strived for. I love Biergarten at EPCOT and 1900 Park Fare at Disney's Grand Floridian. You can find me croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room, chillin' on the PeopleMover or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. I'm always looking for Imagineers in the parks, and I'd rather meet Joe Rohde and Tony Baxter than anyone in Hollywood! Hey, if you dream it, you really can do it!