Skip to comments.50 things you didn't know about Disneyland
Posted on 11/25/2005 9:46:46 PM PST by Nasty McPhilthy
In honor of Disneylands 50th anniversary, we present 50 cool, obscure and simply odd things you probably didnt know about the self-proclaimed Happiest Place on Earth. Many were culled from Mouse Tales by David Koenig (Bonaventure, $19.95). Some were provided by Disney archivist Dave Smith, and others came from 101 Things You Never Knew About Disneyland by former park employee Kevin Yee and lifelong fan Jason Schultz (Zauberreich, $14.95).
1. Disneylands original Tinker Bell was a 71-year-old Hungarian circus performer named Tiny Kline. The first to fly off the top of the Matterhorn on a zip line, she previously worked as a stunt aerialist, hanging from a flying airplane by her teeth.
2. High inside the hollow Matterhorn is a basketball court. Its part of an employee break room. Los Angeles Lakers center Vlade Divac has been up there to shoot hoops.
3. Many of the faces of the pirates in Pirates of the Caribbean are modeled on those of the Imagineers (Disneyspeak for the parks artists and engineers) who created the ride. Theres evidence one face was modeled on Walt Disneys.
4. Ron Ziegler, Richard Nixons press secretary during the Watergate scandal, once worked as a skipper on the Jungle Cruise ride.
5. The spooky voice that narrates the Haunted Mansion ride is that of the Pillsbury Doughboy. An actor named Paul Frees, who was to Disney what Mel Blanc was to Warner Brothers, supplied the voices for both, as well as many of the pirates in Pirates of the Caribbean and most of the characters in Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln (except Abe himself). He was also the voice of John Lennon in the old Beatles cartoons and Boris Badenov in the Rocky & Bullwinkle Show.
6. The sailing ship Columbia, which is supposed to be a replica of the first U.S. ship to circumvent the globe, actually was built in large part from the plans for the HMS Bounty, of mutiny fame. Disneys shipbuilders couldnt find plans for the original Columbia, so they relied heavily on those of Capt. William Blighs ship, which had similar dimensions.
7. Childrens Fairyland in Oakland was one of the major inspirations for Disneyland. Walt Disney even hired Fairylands first director, Dorothy Manes, to work at his park.
8. From groundbreaking to opening, Disneyland was built in just 365 days.
9. Perhaps inevitably, opening day - July 17, 1955 - was a disaster. Asphalt poured just hours before guests arrived hadnt fully dried, and womens spike heels sank into Main Street. VIP passes were widely counterfeited, and double the expected number of people showed up. Rides broke down. Because of a plumbers strike, Walt Disney had to choose between drinking fountains and bathrooms. He opted for the latter, telling a reporter, People can buy Pepsi-Cola, but they cant pee in the street.
10. Fittingly, one of the original Tomorrowland attractions was Cranes Bathroom of Tomorrow.
11. Frank Sinatra showed up on opening day and took a spin around Autopia.
12. Disneyland cost $17 million to build in 1955, about $116 million in todays dollars. The Space Mountain ride, which opened in 1977, cost more than half that amount (in constant dollars).
13. ABC was one of the original financial backers and for years owned a share of the park. Now, of course, the Walt Disney Co. owns ABC.
14. On opening day, Walt Disney had his gardeners cover bare patches of dirt by replanting weeds from the parking lot and labeling them with long, horticultural-sounding names.
15. Disneyland is home to feral cats - nobody knows how many - that come out at night, after visitors leave. Years ago, more than 100 were discovered living inside Sleeping Beauty Castle.
16. If the voice of the droid pilot in Star Tours sounds a little like Pee-wee Herman, its because both are voiced by comedian Paul Reubens.
17. At least three babies have been born at Disneyland.
18. Walt Disney kept a 600-square-foot studio apartment above the firehouse on Main Street. Its maintained as a shrine to the parks founder and kept just as he left it, with Victorian antiques, red velvet carpeting and a device for making grilled cheese sandwiches. Outsiders are rarely allowed inside. A light shines from the window at all times as a symbol of Disneys eternal presence.
19. Untold thousands of the old A, B, C, D and E tickets are still in circulation, moldering away in peoples drawers. From time to time, guests still show up at the park with them, and theyre given the face value of the ticket. (At their most expensive, individual E tickets went for 95 cents.) A better bet is to sell them on eBay, where they fetch many times that amount.
20. On Splash Mountain, high-spirited women sometimes lift their blouses for the cameras that snap souvenir pictures. These girls-gone-wild photos are usually destroyed by park employees, but more than a dozen were smuggled out and posted on an Internet site called Flash Mountain.
21. As a teenager, actor and comedian Steve Martin worked in Merlins Magic Shop in Fantasyland.
22. Walt Disney wanted to populate the Jungle Cruise with live animals, but zoologists convinced him theyd be asleep during most park hours. In the early days, though, live alligators were kept in a pen near the turnstiles; they occasionally escaped into the lagoon.
23. In New Orleans Square, near the Pirates of the Caribbean exit, a door marked 33 leads to an ultra-secret, ultra-exclusive private club. Club 33 is the only place in the park that serves alcohol (including a Chardonnay specially bottled for the club by Fess Davy Crockett Parker). Its 480 members pay an initiation fee of from $8,000 to $27,000, and yearly dues of $4,000 to $15,000. The current waiting list for membership is said to be seven years long.
24. An early Tomorrowland attraction was Monsantos House of the Future, made entirely of plastic. It had the requisite picture phone and other Jetsonsonian appliances, but the most-talked-about feature, according to Mouse Tales, was the microwave oven. Nobody believed you could bake a potato in three minutes, said attendant Dick Mahoney. Years later, when Disneyland tried to tear down the plastic house, the wrecking ball just bounced off.
25. On Star Tours, the short, squat robots you pass while waiting in line are the audio-animatronic ducks from the old America Sings attraction, with their feathers and skin yanked off. One still has webbed feet.
26. To create the illusion of size on Main Street, designers made the ground-floor buildings nine-tenths scale, the second floors seven-eighths and the third floors five-eighths.
27. Sleeping Beauty Castle is based largely on Mad King Ludwigs Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, but with one big difference: The top is on backward. Disney didnt want it to look too much like the real thing.
28. Originally, Mr. Toad did not appear in Mr. Toads Wild Ride, nor did Peter Pan or Snow White feature in their own rides. Disneys idea was that riders would view these attractions from the lead characters point of view. Hardly anyone understood this concept, and now each character makes a brief appearance.
29. If you buy a Mickey balloon and it pops or flies away while youre in the park, theyll give you a new one - as long as you have a receipt.
30. Late at night on rides such as Pirates of the Caribbean and Its a Small World, amorous couples regularly try to make the Happiest Place on Earth even a little happier. Theyre apparently unaware that virtually every inch of every ride is observed by security cameras or hidden employees. Sometimes theyre startled by a warning from a loudspeaker; occasionally theyre greeted at the exit by applauding employees.
31. In the early days, Walt Disney had an agreement with the city of Anaheim that no outside buildings could be tall enough to be visible from within the park.
32. At the end of the Star Tours ride, just as your Starspeeder is about to crash into a fuel truck, a man in the control booth ducks down, then stands up and picks up the phone. The man is George Lucas.
33. Ron Dominguez, the top executive from 1971 to 1994, grew up on one of the Anaheim orange groves purchased by Disney for the park. My house was right about where the grist mill on Tom Sawyers Island is now, he said. Mr. Dominguez spent his entire career at the park, starting as a ticket-taker on opening day and working his way up to the top spot.
34. The names painted in gold leaf on second-story windows along Main Street are Disneylands Hall of Fame. They honor important people in the parks history, usually with an inside joke. Mr. Dominguezs window, for example, reads, Orange Grove Property Mgt. - We Care For Your Property As If It Were Our Own.
35. Attractions that never made it off the drawing board: Lilliputian Land, a Monstro the Whale water slide and, according to Mouse Tales, a child-sized medieval torture chamber.
36. There were no A, B, C, etc., coupons when Disneyland opened. Instead, visitors bought carnival-style tickets from booths in front of each attraction. When the lettered coupons were introduced in late 1955, C was the highest level. D tickets didnt come until the following year, and E tickets until 1959.
37. Conspicuously missing on opening day: the Matterhorn. In its place was a two-story-tall pile of dirt from the excavation of the castle moat. It was billed as Lookout Mountain. The Matterhorn didnt open until 1959.
38. Tomorrowland was originally meant to represent the futuristic year of 1986, when Halleys comet was due to make its next appearance.
39. The soundtrack on Space Mountain, Aquarium from Saint-Saens Carnival Des Animaux, is played by 1960s surf guitar legend Dick Dale.
40. Nikita Krushchev was never turned away at the front gate by Walt Disney, as is popularly believed. Disney was eager to show the Soviet premier his submarine fleet, at the time the worlds sixth largest. It was the U.S. State Department that nixed the visit, saying security wasnt adequate.
41. Its a Small World was originally built for the 1964 New York Worlds Fair. It was later boxed up and shipped to Anaheim, where it reopened in 1967. People who rode it in New York, including this writer, have had that song stuck in their heads three years longer than everyone else. (Other New York Worlds Fair attractions that migrated west: Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln, the G.E. Carousel of Progress and the robotic dinosaurs you pass on the Disneyland Railroad.)
42. The telegraph in the New Orleans Square railroad station continually taps out part of Walt Disneys opening day speech in a variant of Morse code once used by railroads. For years it had it slightly wrong, until an amateur ham radio operator deciphered it and discovered the mistake. In the parks early days, according to 101 Things, the telegraph tapped out a ribald message. It was quickly changed after Disney casually mentioned that his wife knew Morse code.
43. Main Street is based in large part on the town of Marceline, Mo., where Walt Disney spent part of his childhood. A whistle stop on the old Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe rail line between Chicago and Kansas City, the town named a swimming pool and elementary school after its most famous son. The latter is the only place outside Disneyland authorized to fly the official Disneyland flag.
44. When it opened in 1967, Pirates of the Caribbean used real human skeletons as props. In an upcoming book, imagineer Jason Surrell writes, Because the original imagineering team felt that the faux skeletons of the period were just too unconvincing, the grotto sequence originally featured real human remains obtained from the UCLA Medical Center. The skeletons were later returned to their countries of origin and given a proper burial.
45. Its widely believed that the horse-drawn hearse parked outside the Haunted Mansion was the one used to carry Mormon leader Brigham Young to his burial place. But this is one of many urban legends associated with Disneyland. No hearse was used at Youngs funeral.
46. Designers frequently leave their signatures on attractions. On Star Tours, the lettering on the industrial pipes near the entrance are the initials and telephone extensions of the creators; on Its a Small World, one of the dolls wears the signature poncho of designer Mary Blair.
47. The Disneyland-Alweg Monorail was the first daily operating monorail in the Western Hemisphere.
48. The unforgettable - no matter how hard you try - theme song for Its a Small World was written by the same team, Richard and Robert Sherman, who wrote the Annette Funicello novelty hit Pineapple Princess. (They also penned many Oscar-nominated songs for Disney movies.)
49. When you enter the Star Tours ride, a voice over the loudspeaker asks for an Egroeg Sacul to come to the booth. Thats George Lucas spelled backward.
50. Once and for all, Walt Disney is not frozen cryogenically at Disneyland or anywhere else. He did have an interest in the technology, but he is in fact spending eternity at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, Calif.
Thanks for this informative thread. I just got done reading Disneywar, a crazy book about Disney in the Eisner years, its an excellent book and I definitely recommend it. The weirdest thing I did not know about Disneyland not mentioned here is that before one can become an executive, they work in a Disney costume in a park interacting with people to understand the "Disney Magic".
Since 1955, 3562 divorces were initiated in the Disneyland parking lot
I had dinner at Club 33 once....it was interesting...nice story about the mounted animal heads!
A basketball court can be found within the top of Matterhorn mountain at Disneyland. Status: True.
Origins: A small, attic-like space near the top of the Matterhorn structure does indeed contain a basketball rim, backboard, and floor markings. (This cramped area is smaller in size than a regulation half-court, so the term "basketball court" is used rather loosely here.) This common piece of Disney lore has it that Disneyland's Matterhorn house a basketball court because at the time it was built, an Anaheim city ordinance prohibited the building of structures exceeding a certain height with the single exception of sports facilities. In order to skirt this law, crafty ol' Walt Disney supposedly had a "basketball court" installed within the Matterhorn so that he could claim the structure to be a sports arena and thereby avoid the height restrictions. This legend is nothing more than a bit of fanciful fun: the Matterhorn was finished in 1959, but the city of Anaheim did not have regulations restricting the height of structures until the 1970s (and even if they had, they wouldn't have allowed Disney to get away with such a blatant violation of them based on semantic trickery). The small area atop the Matterhorn is used as a rest and preparation area for the costumed climbers who sometimes entertain park guests by scaling the mountain. According to the Disney Channel program "Inside Out," the basketball court came to be when one of these climbers brought in and installed a basketball hoop and backboard for use as an amusement to pass the time when inclement weather or other conditions prevented the climbers from working outside the mountain.
Anyone want to invite my wife and I to dinner at Club 33 ?
I'll tip you
51. The name of the song for the Electric Light Parade is Baroque Hoe-down.
52. There's lots of plain clothes Disney people present. Ond day in the California Adventure some girl got hurt from a fall, people with hidden walkie talkies were there immediately.
53. How much does that new fireworks display cost, anyway?
I went to college near disneyland. My biology lab partner, Trish, worked on the Matterhorn ride. I used to pay general admission, go the the Bobsled ride, and get Trish to take tickets. She once gave me over a hundred E coupons.
I wonder what ever happened to her....great lady.
Dang. I thought we had an original idea. We didn't start doing that until 1972.
Well, that's interesting. We had several friends who worked at Disneyland, and the ones who worked in costume were, for the most part, shall we say..."creative".
When I saw the Newschwanstein it was winter. The clouds obscured the castle. Suddenly they opened a bit, and there was the castle, looking like it was floating on clouds.
What a beautiful sight!
As seen in the movie CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG.
I too visited the Worlds Fair that year and was also age 9 the first year (for those that don't know, the NY Worlds Fair ran the summer of 64 and 65). My dad was an executive that dealt with almost all of the corporate sponsors and we got VIP tickets for most of the rides. For Carousel of Progress that included walking on a catwalk over the animatronnic characters on their stages. Did you know that they didn't bother making the parts of the bodies the audience couldn't see? Very disturbing to a 9 year old.
I think you're combining two rides in your memory. I'm pretty sure Small World, sponsored by Pepsi, always used boats. Either Ford or GM was right across the 'street' and it used cars. That's the ride that had the animatronic dinos, I think.
I always like to ask this question about Disney.
Why was he not given he proper credit for his OSWALD THE RABBIT creation?
Boop boop bedoop, boop boop bedoop, boopboop bedoop. That's Oswald!.....From the old cartoon song
Speaking of the "Disney magic", Mrs. Chandler and I once went to a Holloween costume party where most of the party goers were Disney parade workers. There was one beautiful young woman there dressed as a 'southern belle'. She came with a short black female servant, kind of an "Aunt Jemima" type. Well, the short black servant was really white and the girl friend of the southern belle, who was really a man!
If you ever get invited to a party with Disney costumed personnel, don't pass it up!
In 1965 my family took a road trip from Chicago of Calif. and spent the Fourth of July At Disneyland. I was vividly remember a street performer doing a Banjo-Comedy act on Main Street. 20 years later I found out that it was a young Steve Martin.
One definition of Hell that keeps me somewhat good is that Hell is being stuck for eternity on the "It's a Small, Small World" ride at Disneyland with no exit...