“Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy”
Who doesn’t want to meet Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Belle and Winnie the Pooh? It’s almost every child’s dream to visit Disneyland or Walt Disney World. Plus, now that Disney owns the Star Wars franchise, even more of our favorite films are coming to life at Disney theme parks. Darth Vadar and Mufasa, in the same place? That’s a lot of voice work for James Earl Jones…
Anyway, these intricately-designed parks have a history that stretches back over 60 years. So if you believe in magic, do your best Scrooge McDuck and dive headfirst into these 48 facts about Disneyland and Walt Disney World.
48. The Day The Magic Began
Disneyland’s Magic Kingdom opened in Anaheim California on June 17th, 1955. The park will celebrate its 63rd birthday in 2018.
47. It’s My First Day
Construction for the Magic Kingdom took only one year. And it was a big job. The park’s opening was a joyful and historic occasion—and a huge success financially—but not everything went smoothly. Disney referred to the day as “Black Sunday” because of all the problems that they experienced with the park.
46. Bumpy Ride
Due to the flurry of construction before the Magic Kingdom’s grand opening, some details were left til the last minute. The asphalt on Main Street had just been poured the night before, and hadn’t quite set yet in the California heat. Which left women’s high-heels sticking into the pavement.
45. High Turnout
28,000 happy revelers showed up for opening of California’s Magic Kingdom in 1955—about twice the expected number.
Many attendees had (either knowingly or unknowingly) purchased counterfeit tickets… so the park twice as crowded than Disney planned for.
44. No Gum Allowed
You won’t find chewing gum at any of Disneyland’s shops, and that’s on purpose. Visitors don’t have to worry about getting gum stuck to their shoes, and Disney saves cleanup time as gum doesn’t need to be scraped off the sidewalks or rides. Like most things at Disney, everybody wins!
43. A Short Walk
If you do smuggle in your own gum (you wouldn’t do that… would you?) make sure to throw it in a trash can. That shouldn’t be a problem… at Disney there’s a trashcan every 30 paces so that park visitors always have a chance to properly dispose of their garbage.
42. Hidden Symbols
There are literally thousands of hidden Mickey Mouse heads throughout Disney World and the surrounding resorts. Look for tiny mouse ears on picture frames and in decorative details like wallpaper—but also in details that seem random: cobblestone paths, the arrangement of piles of horseshoes, machinery, even cracks in the pavement.
41. Attention To Detail
Cast members dressed as Toy Story characters used to drop to the ground when guests yelled, “Andy’s coming!,” a clever tip of the hat to the toys-come-to-life in the movie. Unfortunately, the word got around and the practice became a little too popular, so it has been discontinued for safety reasons.
40. Disney Drawers
Disney’s costuming department is very serious about maintaining their “look” so that cast member costumes maintain continuity. Cast members wear costumes that are detailed down to socks, belts, and handkerchiefs, all of which are shared amongst the different cast members wearing those costumes. In 2001, cast members were required to wear issued underwear (also shared), and it took a union movement to change the rules allowing them to wear their own undies, and occasionally, to launder their own costumes.
Disneyland and Disney World also have rules about what park visitors can wear. In addition to banning torn, revealing, or otherwise “inappropriate” attire, if you’re over 14 you may not wear a costume. To avoid confusion between guests and actual costumed staff, Disney won’t let you in if you’re dressed as Cinderella. To get around this rule, fans have invented “Disneybounding:” paying tribute to their favorite characters by wearing outfits inspired by Disney. By using color blocking, decorative jewellery, and hairstyles, fans mimic the outfits of Disney characters in regular clothing, meaning they’re not technically in costume.
38. Iconic Ears
What better souvenir from a trip to Disneyland than a pair of Mickey Mouse ears? The ears can be personalized with embroidery and come in tons of styles with different colors, fabrics, some even in the style of other Disney characters. Over 84 million pairs of Mickey Mouse ears have been sold since Disneyland opened—by far the most popular Disney souvenir of all time.
37. Magical Path
The colored concrete walkways in the Magic Kingdom seem to correspond to each section—but one story suggets they’re actually colored because Kodak and Disney did a study and found that light reflecting off red-colored concrete creates more vivid photographs as it enhances the green of the grass.
36. Historic Carousels
Disneyland’s King Arthur Carrousel is older than the park itself. Originally built in 1875, it was located at Sunnyside Beach Park in Toronto from 1922 until it was relocated to Disneyland for the opening in 1955. Disneyworld’s Prince Charming Regal Carrousel is also an antique: it was built in 1917 in Belle Isle Park in Detroit, Michigan. Both carousels are located in Fantasyland in their respective parks.
35. Great Place To Start
According to reports, there have been four babies born at Disneyland as of 2012. The first was Teresa Salcedo, who was born near Main Street U.S.A to Rosa and Elias Salcedo on July 4th, 1979. Baby Teresa was presented with “Disneyland Birth Certificate #1” by Mickey Mouse.
34. Why Mess With Perfection?
Many of the rides present on opening day at Disneyland in 1955 are still around today. These include the Country Bear Jamboree, Jungle Cruise, Mad Tea Party, Dumbo The Flying Elephant, Swiss Family Treehouse, Tomorrowland Speedway, It’s A Small World, The Hall of Presidents, The Haunted Mansion, and more.
33. Eastward Expansion
Walt Disney World opened in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, near Kissimmee and Orlando, on October 1st, 1971. The massive park, which occupies 27,258 acres (an area roughly the size of metro San Francisco, or two Manhattans), boasts 30 on-site resorts and six Disney theme parks and water parks, plus Disney Springs, a shopping, dining, and entertainment complex, and the ESPN Wide World of Sports. Disney runs bus transportation and water taxis throughout Disney World.
32. Never A Dull Moment
In addition to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, Walt Disney World in Florida includes Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and two water parks: Disney’s Typhoon Lagon and Disney’s Blizzard Beach.
31. City of Tomorrow
Disney’s EPCOT Center opened on October 1st, 1982. A giant geodesic sphere, aka “Spaceship Earth,” rises up over the World Showcase—several national pavilions on the banks of a man-made lake. Epcot (aka “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow”) was originally intended to be a living, working city of the future, and many of its rides focus on environmental sustainability and progress.
30. Choo Choo!
The Walt Disney World Railroad carries 3.7 million passengers each year on a 1.5 mile loop around Disney World. Instead of building a locomotive from scratch, Disney engineers located and refurbished five 1920s-era steam-powered trains.
29. Magical Castle
Walt Disney World’s Cinderella Castle is the centerpiece of the Magic Kingdom, towering over the park at a height of 189 feet. The castle is home to the “Bibbiti Bobbiti Boutique” and Cinderella’s Royal Table restaurant, plus a secret suite intended to be the apartment of Walt Disney. The royal suite is decorated in a style befitting the Disney princess, and is used for promotional giveaways and invited guests only.
28. Care For A Snack?
Disney’s Tomorrowland area is intended to be a look into the future of technology. According to Disney, “the visionary landscaping doubles as a potential farm, projecting an ecologically astute future, where humanity makes the most of its resources.” All of the plants in Tomorrowland are edible.
27. Underground Network
There are tunnels under Disney World that allow employees and cast members to move between the different areas. The tunnels help costumed cast members avoid incongruities. That’s why you never see Tomorrowland cast members in Frontierland, and vice versa. The 392,040 square feet of tunnels also allow for discrete trash collection and maintenance. “Tunnels” is a bit of a misnomer—the underground network is actually built at ground level, and the park sits on top as the second floor.
26. Transport of Tomorrow
Disneyland Resort in Anaheim California features a monorail system transporting guests from the Disneyland Resort to the park itself. Originally opened as a ride in Tomorrowland, the monorail was the first daily operating monorail not only in the United States, but in the entire Western Hemisphere.
25. Southwest Adventure
Disneyland’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad opened in 1981 after 15 years of planning and 18 months of construction. Its construction required 650 tons of steel, 4,675 tons of specially-formulated “mud,” and more than 9,000 gallons of paint. The ride cost $17 million to build—the same amount it took to open Disneyland in 1955!
24. Tree Of Life
At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, part of Walt Disney World in Florida, the Tree of Life stands 14 stories high, is 50 feet wide, and features more than 300 intricate animal carvings in its gnarled trunk. The tree was crafted onto a retrofitted oil rig platform, and is intended to resemble an African baobab tree.
23. Smells Like Magic
Devices called “Air Smellitizers” can be found all over Disney parks, and they emit scents in certain areas to match the surroundings. You’ll notice the scents of freshly-baked bread and vanilla around Main Street, U.S.A., salty sea air in line for Pirates of the Caribbean, fresh citrus on Soarin’ and honey at Pooh’s Adventure.
22. Mickey’s Natural Enemy
At night, after all the park guests have left, custodial and maintenance crews set to work making sure Disneyland is clean and functional for the next day’s visitors. According to the Los Angeles Times, dozens of feral cats roam the grounds hunting for mice and rodents. Good thing it happens after Mickey and Minnie have gone to bed!
21. Not A Pet Sematary, However
Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion has its own pet cemetery. It’s hidden on the mansion’s side lawn—a place that guests rarely see. The cemetery is fake; pets aren’t actually buried there, and the inscriptions on the grave stones are meant to be funny. You know, as funny as a dead pet can be.
20. Disney Park Legend
In September of 2017, Disney’s longest-serving cast member retired. Oscar Martinez had been staffing the Carnation Cafe since December 1956.
19. Hometown Pride
The design of Main Street, U.S.A. was loosely based on Walt Disney’s hometown of Marceline, Missouri. The attraction is located at the entrance of both Disneyland and Florida’s Magic Kingdom. Said Disney, “For those of us who remember the carefree time it recreates, Main Street will bring back happy memories. For younger visitors, it is an adventure in turning back the calendar to the days of their grandfather’s youth.”
18. Home Away From Home
Walt Disney maintained a small apartment in Disneyland’s Main Street, U.S.A., located over the firehouse. The apartment is still there today, and the light in the window is meant to symbolize Walt’s presence.
17. Glowing Splendor
Main Street, U.S.A. was designed to evoke the charms of turn-of-the-century America. The attraction boasts soda shops, boutiques, an operational barber shop, and glows with the lights of 40,000-100,000 bulbs (now replaced with energy-efficient LEDs). The gas lamps in the California park are over 200 years old, and were purchased as scrap metal by Disney for 3 cents a pound.
16. Technological Advances
Disney’s Imagineers have often pushed technology forward in their quest to make dreams into reality at Disney parks. The Matterhorn Bobsleds attraction opened in 1959 featuring an indoor roller coaster inside a giant replica of iconic Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps. At the time, the ride was the first known tubular steel continuous track roller coaster in the world.
15. Real Life Lion King?
Walt Disney apparently wanted to use live animals in the Jungle Cruise attraction when the park was first built. He changed his mind after a zoologist told him that most of the animals are nocturnal and would be asleep during park hours. The ride instead was built to feature a live human guide touring passengers down a river past animatronic animals. The ride did feature live crocodiles for a time.
14. An Autonomous Kingdom
The massive tract of land in Florida that comprises Walt Disney World is governed by the Reedy Creek Improvement District. Disney felt that the huge area would be overseen easier with almost total independence, so the State of Florida granted the area an autonomous tax district. The RCID takes care of building permits, water services, waste treatment, utilities, roads, fire protection, and emergency medical services. The only areas overseen by the state are property taxes and elevator inspections.
13. Cause For Celebration
In the 1990s, the Walt Disney Company conceived of a housing development within the borders of Walt Disney World. Celebration, Florida was built as a planned community intended to emulate the feeling of “small town America”—the same intent as Disney World’s Main Street, U.S.A. Celebration’s 7,500 residents enjoy a small walkable town with shops and restaurants, plus numerous public events like the Posh Pooch Festival and the Great American Apple Pie Festival. Celebration was named the “New Community of the Year” by the Urban Land Institute when it opened in 2001.
12. Parade Of Lights
In June of 1974, Disney debuted one of its most beloved events—the Main Street Electrical Parade. Every evening, floats with 25-foot-tall electrical displays depicting beloved Disney characters travelled in two lines down Main Street, accompanied by dancers and costumed cast members. Disney created a new system wherein floats would play different music depending on where in the parade route they were located. The parade continues to this day, but be careful—if you have the chance to watch it, you won’t be able to get the music out of your head!
11. Club 33
Disneyland is dry—alcohol isn’t permitted or sold anywhere in the park. Unless, of course, you’re a member of Disney’s exclusive Club 33. Located in Disneyland at 33 Royal Street in New Orleans Square, the club features an ornately decorated steakhouse-style restaurant, complete with props from Disney movies. A microphone system installed in the light fixtures was designed to listen in on guests’ conversations, so that animatronic characters nearby could respond (thankfully this creepy system was never implemented, but is still installed). As of 2011, there’s a 14-year waiting list to join, plus an initial membership fee of a whopping $50,000.
10. Real or Fake?
Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean ride opened at Disneyland in 1967, 12 years after the park opened. According to the book Pirates of the Caribbean: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies by Jason Surrell, the synthetic skeletons made to decorate the ride were “just too unconvincing,” so real human skeletons were sourced from the UCLA Medical Center. Eventually, as fake skeleton technology advanced, the real bones were replaced with fake bones.
9. Cast of Thousands
Walt Disney World employs over 70,000 Cast Members at their Florida parks and resorts. This makes Walt Disney World the largest single-site employer in the United States. Through the Walt Disney World International Program, they sponsor year-long internships where people from all over the world can take part in a cultural exchange and work at Disney theme parks. So the staff at Epcot’s national pavilions are often real citizens of the “nations” they work in.
8. Be Our Guest!
Approximately 48 million people visit Walt Disney World Resort—including Disney’s Magic Kingdom Park, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park and Downtown Disney Area—annually. That’s twice the entire population of Australia.
7. End Of An Era
One of the world’s great rock bands officially ended at a Disney World hotel—no, not the Three Caballeros. John Lennon signed the paperwork that officially disbanded The Beatles while staying at Disney’s Polynesian Village Hotel on December 29th, 1974.
6. Permanent Guest
Besides the unauthorized ashes of loved ones sprinkled in Disney parks, Disneyland does boast one deceased human resident. An anonymous cast member verified a rumour that had been circling amongst Disneyland fans for years: there is a human skull located in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride—it sits atop the headboard of a bedroom scene in the ride.
5. Always Magical
Besides the original Disneyland Park in Anaheim and Walt Disney World in Florida, Disney has opened theme parks in Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Shanghai. This means that the sun never sets on Disney World. It’s always time for magic somewhere!
Due to a plumbers’ strike during the construction of Disneyland, Walt Disney had to choose between having working bathrooms or working water fountains on opening day. Walt chose bathrooms, which was probably a good choice; however, the temperature that day reached over 100 degrees, leaving guests hot and thirsty—especially after food and beverages sold out to the higher-than-expected crowds.
3. Really Haunted Mansion
Despite the fact that it’s illegal (not to mention against park rules and rather disturbing), several people attempt to spread the ashes of the deceased on Disney rides every year. Such a crowded park would hardly be a very peaceful resting place, but that hasn’t stopped parkgoers from trying to deposit their departed loved ones at the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, or more commonly, the Haunted Mansion.
2. Dining Around The World
National Pavilions at Epcot include Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Morocco, Japan, Norway, Italy, Germany, China, and Mexico, plus the American Adventure. Each area boasts regional decor, shopping, and dining options from the different countries. You can enjoy a baguette sandwich and a glass of wine in France for lunch, then have sushi and sake in Japan for dinner, followed by aquavit and a pastry in Norway for dessert. Epcot allows guests to bring their alcoholic drinks with them throughout the park, which spawned the frowned-upon practice of “Drinking Around the World”—sampling a libation from each country in a single day.
1. Secret Language
Disneyland staff, or “cast members” as they’re known, spare no expense of time nor effort to make the experience magical for park visitors. When unavoidable accidents happen of a biological nature, they are discreet: Employees use the phrase “Code V” to refer to someone throwing up in the park. The previous phrase used was the more graphic “protein spill.”
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