Disney may have all started with a mouse, but it’s gone to some dark places since then. From the heyday of Walt Disney himself and the early films to the construction of the Disney parks and the modern era of films—and the controversy that’s accompanied them, it’s been a rocky (and profitable) ride for Disney. It’s now an all-powerful force in Hollywood, but it’s taken a lot for Disney to get there. Cross your fingers and pray we don’t ruin your childhood with these surprisingly dark facts about Disney.
1. What’s in a Name?
Mickey Mouse was named by Walt Disney’s wife. Walt originally named him Mortimer Mouse, but his wife Lily said that the name was “pompous.” She suggested “Mickey,” because it was cuter.
2. It’s My First Day
Surprisingly, construction for the Disneyland’s Magic Kingdom took only one year. And this was despite the fact that 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. Walt Disney referred to the day as “Black Sunday” because of all the problems that they experienced with the park.
3. Bumpy Ride
Due to the flurry of construction before the Magic Kingdom’s grand opening, some details were left till 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.
4. A Little Less Graphic
In the original Brother’s Grimm version of Cinderella, the stepsisters mutilate their feet by cutting off their toes and heels to make the glass slipper fit. The Disney version, of course, isn’t quite so gruesome.
5. First Word
The first character to actually speak in a full-length Disney cartoon was the Evil Queen in Snow White. Not first villain, or first female character: first voice ever. Her first wicked words were “Slave in the magic mirror, come from the farthest space, through wind and darkness I summon thee. Speak! Let me see thy face.”
6. Through a Different Set of Eyes
Fantasia flopped when it was released in 1940, but would gain popularity when the movie was re-released in the 60s. Somehow, it’s psychedelic visual effects found a better audience in the era of the flower child. Hmm, I wonder why that was? The movie would get a sequel in 1999, with new segments added to the most popular scenes.
7. High Turnout
28,000 happy revelers showed up for opening of California’s Magic Kingdom in 1955—about twice the expected number. Why so many? Many attendees had (either knowingly or unknowingly) purchased counterfeit tickets, so the park was twice as crowded than had been planned for.
8. Uncredited & Underpaid
Adriana Caselotti, the 18-year-old actress who voiced Snow White, was paid less than $1,000 to do the film. She was uncredited and was forbidden by Disney from taking any other roles. In a 1993 interview, she admitted that until she saw the film, she had no idea that it was a full-length movie.
9. A Dentally Damned Performance
Actress Lucille LaVerne pulled double duty during the production of Snow White, playing both the Evil Queen and her alter-ego, the Evil Witch. How did LaVerne achieve her vocal transformation? She simply removed her false teeth.
Robin Williams ad-libbed so much during the recording sessions for the Genie in Aladdin (1992), that the producers ended up with 16 hours of recordings. Because of the many off-script lines, the movie was rejected for the Best Adapted Screenplay nomination at the Academy Awards.
11. 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!
12. 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.
13. Updated Look
In 2013, Disney made waves when they redesigned their line of princesses. In particular, Disney designers trimmed Merida’s waist, lightened her dress, and added volume to her hair; the change was met with criticism. Mulan and Pocahontas’s skin tones were also lightened, which critics believed cemented the idea that girls have to have light skin to be princess-worthy.
14. Frosty Labor
The production of the blockbuster Frozen (2013) took 600 people and 2.5 years of production, resulting in a total of more than 300 million hours to complete the movie.
15. 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, and even cracks in the pavement.
16. Don’t Make Eye Contact
There is a specific marketing strategy behind the general lack of eye contact between the Disney Princesses on official posters. According to Disney Consumer Products chairman Andy Mooney, they never make eye contact to keep their individual mythologies intact. By staring off in different directions, it creates the impression that they are unaware of each other’s presence.
The production of The Lion King (1994) was regarded as a B-film to keep the animators that weren’t working on Pocahontas (1995) occupied. Disney put their best animators on Pocahontas, but in the end, its box office performance didn’t even come close to that of The Lion King, which made $968.5 million. Pocahontas only made $346.1 million.
18. Attention to Detail
Disney Parks cast members dressed as Toy Story characters used to drop to the ground when guests yelled, “Andy’s coming!” It was 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.
19. Magic Carpet Ride
Disney faced allegations of promoting promiscuity in their films because, during the balcony scene of Aladdin, he allegedly says, “Good teenagers take off your clothes” when he encounters Rajah, the tiger. Moral conservatives tried to use that as proof against Disney. The film’s directors insisted that Aladdin actually said, “Nice kitty, take off and go, go on.”
They also added that the two animators working on that sequence were very religious and would never have deliberately tried to add racy humor like that. So, the moral of the story is: People really have their minds in the gutter.
20. Mouse Whispers
From the time that Mickey Mouse was created until 1947, Walt Disney provided the voice for the iconic mouse. Eventually, running the studio made him too busy to keep doing the voice, and he handed over the reins to veteran Disney actor Jimmy MacDonald.
21. Silent Partner
101 Dalmatians was based on Dodie Smith’s novel, The Hundred and One Dalmatians. In this written version, Cruella de Vil is not living the sweet single life, as in the movie, but has a henpecked husband. His clearly didn’t matter that much though, because the novel doesn’t even give him a name—he’s never referred to as anything but “Mr. De Vil.”
We can guess who wore the pants in that relationship.
22. Beast or Bust
Former Disney CEO Michael Eisner threatened to close the animation studio if Beauty and the Beast (1991) wasn’t a success.
23. Disney Drawers
The costuming department at Disney Parks is very serious about maintaining their “look” so that cast member costumes maintain continuity—and it’s gone to some dark places. 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.
24. The Iconic Dress
The inspiration for Belle’s yellow ball gown in Beauty and the Beast came from another famous princess movie. The dress shares a number of details with Audrey Hepburn’s dress in Roman Holiday. Although the film is in black and white, the publicity photos show that it’s a yellow dress.
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 actually won’t let you in if you’re dressed as, for example, 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 jewelry, and hairstyles, fans mimic the outfits of Disney characters in regular clothing, meaning they’re not technically in costume.
26. Pink or Blue?
The scene in Sleeping Beauty where the fairies argue about what color Aurora’s dress should be stems from a real-life argument in the studio over whether her dress should be pink or blue.
27. Red Scare
In the 1940s, Disney played a big part in the hysteria over communism that gripped Hollywood during the Cold War. He was a founder of the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of Americans Ideals, and he gave witness statements condemning the communist influence on the film industry.
28. Blood is Thicker Than Water
King Triton and Ursula from The Little Mermaid are supposed to be brother and sister, which makes Ariel the tentacled witch’s niece. These familial connections did not make the final cut, but it just goes the show that it’s a small world under the sea.
29. Big Mistake, Huge
The song “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid offers the audience some important insight into Ariel’s mind and her fascination with the world above the ocean. Amazingly, the song was nearly cut from the film because Jeffery Katzenberg, the chair of Walt Disney Studios, was afraid kids would find the song boring.
When the rest of the staff questioned his decision to cut it, the scene was added back into the movie.
30. A Little Recognition
Between 1932 and 1969, Walt Disney won 22 Academy awards and was nominated 59 times. This is more than any other person has ever received in the history of the awards. There’s a fact for your next trivia night.
31. Godfather, Who?
The Queen from Snow White was ranked #10 on the “Villains” portion of the AFI’s 100 Greatest Heroes & Villains list. To give you a sense of how wicked that is, she beat Michael Corleone from The Godfather by one spot.
Rapunzel and Flynn from the movie Tangled (2010) visit Arendelle to be guests at Elsa’s coronation in Frozen (2013).
33. 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.
34. More Strands Than Rapunzel
Rapunzel has the longest hair of any Disney princess, but Elsa has 15 times as many CGI strands as Rapunzel, with around 420,000 in total.
35. Golden Dwarves
At the 1938 Oscars, Walt Disney’s Snow White won an honorary award for being “a significant screen innovation which has charmed millions and pioneered a great new entertainment field.” Walt Disney was presented with one full-sized statuette, and seven miniature ones for each of the Dwarves.
36. Secret Hideaway
Walt Disney loved spending time at Disneyland. He would visit the park a few times a week, and even had an apartment there. The apartment is still there above the fire station but typically isn’t open to the public. A lamp in the window that’s visible to the outside is always kept on for a heartwarming reason: it’s to signify that Walt Disney is always in the park.
37. Boys First
Gaston from Beauty and the Beast is the first male Disney villain in any Disney Princess feature—it had been all evil queens, sea witches and stepmothers before that. We can’t believe it took until 1995 for Disney to admit guys can Be Like That.
38. 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 4, 1979. Baby Teresa was presented with “Disneyland Birth Certificate #1” by Mickey Mouse.
Tiana and Mulan are the only left-handed princesses. Despite being a lefty, Mulan is seen brandishing her sword in her right hand, so she may technically be ambidextrous.
40. Ain’t Got No Aunt
Gaston was not originally supposed to be the lead villain in Beauty and the Beast. Instead, Belle’s evil Aunt Marguerite was meant to have occupied that dastardly role. Unfortunately for her, Maggie did not have what it takes to make the film’s final cut, and so it’s Gaston that we all remember hating so much.
41. Third Time’s the Charm
Walt Disney attempted to adapt Beauty and the Beast (1991, 2017) in the 1930s and 1950s, but failed to find a good way to translate the story into film. Decades after Walt Disney’s passing, the company tried again and found the right story to make the film a success twice over.
42. Eighteen and Eighteen
Aurora from Sleeping Beauty is one of Disney’s most silent princesses. She only has 18 minutes of screen time and 18 lines of dialogue in the entire film, and doesn’t even speak when she’s woken up.
43. That John Hancock
Walt Disney’s signature also wasn’t “created” by Disney. The well-known signature is a stylized version of the real thing, and the version seen on legal documents wasn’t that intricate. Disney reportedly couldn’t even reproduce the trademark version.
44. Little King Trashmouth
As per The Lion King canon, Scar’s birth name was “Taka.” He changed it to “Scar” after a buffalo attack left him with the signature mark on his eye. And to give you some perspective on the piece of work that is the Lion King family, “taka” can mean “want” in Swahili, but it is also commonly used to mean “garbage” or “dirt.”
To sum up, Scar and Mufasa’s parents named their older kid after the Swahili word for “King” and then turned around called the other kid “trash.”
45. Tlaw Yensid
The Sorcerers’ Apprentice segment in Fantasia (1940) was inspired by Walt Disney himself. The animators put a lot of his facial features in the old wizard and even named him Yen Sid, which is Disney spelled backward.
46. The Reason for Red
Ariel’s hair in The Little Mermaid was deliberately made red to distinguish her from another popular movie mermaid. In the 1984 movie Splash, actress Daryl Hannah played a blonde mermaid named Madison.
47. Feed the Birds
Walt Disney’s films have produced a number of hit songs over the years, but Disney’s personal favorite was the ballad “Feed the Birds” from Mary Poppins. According to songwriter Richard Sherman, Disney used to stop by his and his brother’s office on Friday afternoons and request a personal performance of the song. Sherman said, “He loved that song, and knew it was the heartbeat of the whole movie”.
48. The Stars Just Didn’t Line Up
Patrick Stewart had to turn down the role of Jafar in Aladdin because he was too busy filming Star Trek: The Next Generation.
49. Everybody Wants to Be a Fat Cat
The story of The Aristocats (1970) was inspired by the true story that took place at the beginning of the 20th century. A Parisian family of cats inherited their owner’s fortune.
50. 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.
51. Physically Imperfect
The Golden Era princesses have been criticized for being too perfect. With Beauty and the Beast‘s Belle, Disney set out to break that mold and took pains to make sure that she remained relatable to young girls by being imperfect. According to screenwriter Linda Woolverton, as part of her imperfection, it was important that not every hair be in place on Belle.
As a result, she has a wisp of hair that keeps falling in her face.
52. In Solemn Memory
After becoming successful, Walt Disney purchased a new house for his parents and would send repairmen from his studio to fix things around the house. Tragically, this had devastating consequences. His team failed to properly take care of a problem with their furnace, and Disney’s mother died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
It affected him so deeply that even years later, his daughter said he still found the subject nearly impossible to talk about.
53. It’s Vintage
Tangled takes place in the 1780s, but Mother Gothel’s dress is from the Renaissance. Some people might think this was just a design mistake, but her costume was actually deliberate—it signifies how old she actually is.
54. An Unprecedented Expiration
Technically speaking, Mother Gothel is the first Disney villain to die on-screen of old age.
55. The Bigger They Get, the Cuter They Are
In the early stages of development, the large snow monster in Frozen (2013) was designed to be a bigger version of Olaf and was written as his brother. The producers deemed the monster too cute and not scary at all, so they opted for a real monstrosity.
56. 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.
57. Castle of Many Colors
Elsa’s ice palace in Frozen changes color with her moods. When she is happy, the castle is blue. When she’s angry it’s yellow, when she’s scared it’s red, and when she’s sad it’s purple.
58. Absentee Mothers
Absentee mothers are a trend in Disney’s animated movies—all for a heartbreaking reason. Many believe that this was a result of his torment over his mother’s untimely death. The trend has continued with modern films such as Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Little Mermaid, which all lack a mother character.
59. A Scare Too Far
Tim Curry auditioned to play Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but the former Dr. Frank N. Furter was considered just too terrifying for Disney. This was just two years before he played Pennywise the Clown on It, so clearly it was a frightening time for Curry.
60. A Rocky Sense of Humor
Two of the Gargoyles in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) were named after the writer of the original novel, Victor Hugo. The third gargoyle, Laverne, was named after the director’s wife.
61. 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!
62. Diverse Princesses
In the Golden Era of Disney Princesses and into the early Renaissance, there wasn’t much diversity, but that changed with Aladdin. Jasmine is of Arabian descent and was Disney’s first non-white princess. Since then, Disney has continued its trend of creating ethnically and culturally diverse princesses. Mulan is Chinese, Pocahontas is Native American, and Tiana is African American.
Moana, though not officially inducted into the Disney Princess canon, is Polynesian.
63. Disney’s Folly
When Disney wanted to produce an animated feature-length Snow White film, many people in Hollywood doubted him and some even called it “Disney’s Folly.” The film earned $184.9 million worldwide in 1938 and is still one of the highest-grossing animated films of all time.
64. Wunderkind Baddie
Hans from Frozen is canonically 23 years old. This makes him the youngest ever Disney villain. That is, if you don’t count Sid from Toy Story. I personally don’t; he was just a kid, and no one told him that toys were alive!
65. 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 gravestones are meant to be funny. You know, as funny as a dead pet can be.
66. Katharine Connection
While Beauty and the Beast is loosely inspired by the classic French fairy tale “La Belle et la Bete,” the inspiration for Belle’s character is drawn from somewhere completely different. Belle is based on Katharine Hepburn’s portrayal of Jo March in Little Women.
67. Stock in Her Stocking
Walt Disney hired his housekeeper and cook Thelma Howard in 1951, and she worked for his family for three decades. As part of her annual Christmas gift, Disney gave her stock in the company. That stock made her a multi-millionaire by the time she died in 1994.
68. Keep Hook on the Hooks
Walt Disney himself specifically ordered that Captain Hook not die at the end of Peter Pan. The iconic animator had an eye for hot intellectual property; he predicted fans would like this bumbling buccaneer, and that means Hook’s here to stay.
69. Sleeping Who?
The Disneyland castle was modeled after the castle in the movie Sleeping Beauty, although the park opened four years prior to the release of the movie. How is that possible? Well, the Imagineers worked with the designs that were used during production. Visitors hadn’t seen the movie yet and the people who were not familiar with the fairy tale were left in the dark to the castles’ origins.
70. 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.
71. A Princess Evolution
The princesses included in the Disney Princess lineup are generally divided into three eras. The first is the Golden Era, and includes Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty. These princesses were soft and warm-hearted and embodied the image of the ideal princess. The second era, known as the Renaissance Era, includes Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, and Mulan. These princesses are smart, quirky, and self-reliant. The heart of their stories is not the search for true love, but finding adventure.
The Modern Era of Princesses begins with Tiana and includes Rapunzel, Merida, and, unofficially, Anna and Elsa. In this era, none of the characters’ objectives is to fall in love, and for the first time, the films highlight the bonds between women.
72. Code Red
“Man is in the forest” was the code name given to Disney by his animators. They would use the phrase as a warning that Disney was approaching and they had to get back to work. It’s made all the more creepy when you know the name given to Bambi’s mother’s killer, but more on that later…
73. Evil Interior
In The Lion King, Zazu snips that Scar would make an excellent throw rug. Technically, this actually comes true, as Scar can be seen as a throw rug in a scene from Hercules. How many of you noticed that?
74. Growing Pains
Bambi (1942) was supposed to be Walt Disney’s second animated feature film, but his quest for perfection resulted in Pinocchio (1940), Fantasia (1940) and Dumbo (1941) being finished and released before Bambi.
75. 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.
76. Lucky Star
In 1978, on Mickey Mouse’s 50th birthday, Snow White was given her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She is the first animated and fictional character to be inducted into the Walk of Fame. Since then, Snoopy, Shrek, and Bugs Bunny have also been given stars, but she is still the only Disney Princess with her own star.
77. No Women Allowed
Walt Disney did not allow women to apply for spots in his animation training school. He firmly believed that “women do not do creative work.”
78. Realistically Wretched
Lady Tremaine, AKA Cinderella’s stepmother, was deliberately drawn to be more realistic than the film’s other antagonists. Filmmakers wanted her to embody a more chilling and “out of this world” demeanor by drawing, ironically, from our world.
79. Little Orphan Ali
Composer Howard Ashman originally developed the story of Aladdin (1992) as a fast-paced action-adventure film about a boy trying to prove his worth to his mother. After Ashman passed away, the story was reworked, cutting out the family and the songs that were written for that version of the story.
80. 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.
81. Playing Favorites
According to Ilene Woods, who was the voice of Cinderella, Cinderella was Walt Disney’s favorite princess. The actress remembered Disney telling her that there was something about the story that he associated with. The transformation scene in Cinderella (where her dress goes from rags to ball gown) was also rumored to be his favorite piece of animation.
82. Hot Dog Standard
Trash cans at Disney World were placed 25 steps away from hot dog stands. Walt Disney arrived at this measurement because that was how long it took him to eat a hot dog.
83. The Chorus Line
Among the all-stars who lined up to voice Ursula the Sea Witch were Bea Arthur, Roseanne Bar, and Elaine Stritch. The role ultimately went to Pat Carroll.
84. The Video King
The Lion King (1994) is the best-selling home video of all time, having sold over 55 million copies worldwide.
85. 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, and an utterly chilling extra feature. 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.
86. Based on Legend
While Mulan isn’t technically based on a real person, it is possible she really existed. Her story is based on the ancient Chinese Legend of Hua Mulan, who was a female warrior described in the poem “The Ballad of Mulan.”
87. The Disney Dress Code
Walt Disney enforced a number of strict policies at Disney World. Until 1970, men could get kicked out of the park for beards, mustaches, and long hair. Jim McGuinn, the future founder of the Byrds, was refused entry to the park for having a Beatles style mop-top.
88. Gaston 2.0
Gaston was based on Beauty and the Beast co-screenwriter Linda Wollverton’s ex-boyfriends. However, he was also based on the character of Avenant, a very similar bro-type from Jean Cocteau’s 1946 adaptation of the same fairy tale. Of course, Disney transformed him from Cocteau’s more foppish aristocrat suitor to the jock we know and hate.
89. 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 the ride’s designers came up with a disturbing substitute.
They sourced real human skeletons from the UCLA Medical Center. Eventually, as fake skeleton technology advanced, the real bones were replaced with fake bones.
90. Child Princesses
Snow White is the youngest of all the Disney Princesses at 14 years old. Next youngest is Jasmine from Aladdin, who is 15, and Aurora, Mulan, and Ariel, who are 16. Tiana is the oldest Disney Princess at the ripe old age of 19.
91. Let Him Go (Get It?)
For years, disturbing rumors have circulated about what happened to Walt Disney after his death. It’s often been whispered that he was cryogenically frozen. This is entirely false. They myth might have originated with a couple of animators who said that he froze himself as a joke. Two days after his death, as per his wishes, Disney was cremated.
There is a burial plot with a garden and his ashes at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale California.
92. Leave the Church Out of This
In Victor Hugo’s novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Frollo is a Catholic priest. For the Disney adaptation, screenwriters made him into “Judge Claude Frollo” the Minister of Peace, as not to offend any religious sensibilities. Because Catholic priests generally get a lot of good press…
The first trailer that was released for The Lion King (1994) showed the complete opening scene of the movie, featuring the song The Circle of Life. This was the first trailer to ever show the complete first scene.
94. 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 Parks.
So the staff at Epcot’s national pavilions are often real citizens of the “nations” that they work in.
95. Ariel’s Inspiration
Ariel’s face in The Little Mermaid was based on Alyssa Milano.
96. The Meeting
In 1938, German filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl arrived in the US to meet with studio executives and to find an audience for her 1936 film about the Berlin Games, called Olympia. The problem? She was a known Nazi. While other studios hesitated, Walt Disney took her in and gave her a tour of Disney Studios. She offered him a private showing of the film in exchange, but he refused, fearing others would find out that he’d hosted her.
When she returned to Germany, she praised Disney for seeing her.
97. From Big Boss to Bad Bad
Ratigan from The Great Mouse Detective was modeled after the CEO of Disney, Ron Miller. You can’t blame them: Miller was 6’6” and happed to be a former player for the Los Angeles Rams football team, so he cut a pretty imposing figure.
98. The Price We Pay
The original design for Ratigan was originally more “thin, weasely, and ratlike.” However, the casting of Vincent Price as the voice actor inspired the animators to rework the character to better fit the famously sleek, expressive actor.
99. Spice Up Your Life
At one point during the development of Hercules, the Spice Girls were considered for the roles of the muses.
100. 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 29, 1974.
101. Native American Royalty
Pocahontas is not a traditional princess in that she wasn’t technically born one, and she didn’t marry a Prince. She was, however, the daughter of a Native chieftain, which makes her Native American royalty and qualifies her as a princess.
102. Magical Moving Robots
The World’s Fair was always a place to debut exciting new technologies and inventions, and the 1964 World’s Fair was no exception. That year, Disney debuted his Audio-Animatronics robots with words or pre-recorded audio coming out of their mouths. He set up two exhibits. The first was “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln” and the other was the “It’s a Small World” boat ride, which promoted international unity.
To this date, Lincoln is part of the Disney World attraction “Hall of Presidents,” and “It’s a Small World” is a featured ride in the park.
103. Out of the History Books and Into Your Nightmares
To date, John Ratcliffe from Pocahontas is the only animated Disney villain to be based directly on a real historical person. That’s it, unless Ursula really is hiding beneath the waves and we’ve just never managed to find her.
104. Kung-Fu Beast
The speaking and singing parts of the Beast in the Mandarin language dub of the original Beauty and the Beast (1991) movie were performed by none other than Jackie Chan.
105. Permanent Guest
Disneyland boasts one deceased human resident. An anonymous cast member verified a rumor 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. It must be leftover from the era when the ride used real skeletons.
106. Sequence 8
The most iconic scene in Sleeping Beauty is the “Once Upon a Dream” sequence (called “Sequence 8” in development) where Aurora meets Prince Phillip for the first time. Walt Disney rejected the scene over and over again and nearly bankrupted the studio trying to get it right.
The Robot from Wall-E was named for Walt Disney. Wall-E is a modified version of his full name Walter Elias Disney. The character of Wall-E, like Disney himself, is loved and adored by children and families around the world.
108. Evil Lineage
Doctor Facilier of The Princess and the Frog was imagined by his supervisor animator, Bruce W. Smith, as the “lovechild” between Cruella de Vil and Captain Hook. I ship it!
109. What Would Walt Do?
The Jungle Book was the last movie Walt Disney worked on before he passed away in 1966. After his passing, a lot of studio employees were wondering if the studio would survive, but when The Jungle Book performed well at the box office, its future was secured.
110. 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!
111. They Married Into It
Belle, Cinderella, and Tiana all married royalty to become princesses, and they share a unique feature. The three princesses all wear opera gloves, whereas the princesses by birth do not.
112. Don’t Call Me That
Walt Disney disliked being called “Mr.” and insisted that his employees refer to him by his first name. On rare occasions when someone did call him “Mr. Disney,” he’d supposedly say “Please, call me Walt. The only Mr. at the Disney Studios is our lawyer, Mr. Lessing”.
113. Got to Get Gottfried
Iago was originally to be a serious, dignified British parrot. But then Aladdin animators got seduced by the smooth and sultry sounds of Gilbert Gottfried in Beverly Hills Cop II. Gottfried was promptly cast, and animation even changed the parrot’s design to give him a semblance of his actor’s half-lidded eyes and omnipresent teeth.
114. The Lion’s Share
Until Frozen (2013) was released, The Lion King (1994) was the highest-grossing Disney animated movie of all time.
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.
116. A Little Nicotine
Walt Disney went through three packs of unfiltered smokes a day and never made any effort to quit. When the Surgeon General reported on the dangers of tobacco, his daughter Dianne made him promise to smoke filters. He did, but only after tearing off them off. He rationalized it by saying: “I promised her I’d use them, but I didn’t tell her how I would use them.”
In 1966, Disney died of complications from lung cancer.
117. Dastardly Daycare
In the live-action Maleficent movie, three of Angelina Jolie’s children (Pax, Zahara, and Vivienne) make cameo appearances.
118. Box Office Down Under
In 1990, The Rescuers became the first Disney animated movie to inspire a sequel. The Rescuers Down Under did not perform nearly as well as the original with the viewers.
119. 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.
120. Outsider Appearance
In Beauty and the Beast, Belle is the only person in her town to wear blue. Her physical appearance was partly inspired by Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music and Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz, but the blue dress is also meant to symbolize her outsider status.
121. Magnum Opus
Mary Poppins is considered by many to be Walt Disney’s magnum opus. The film was a musical fantasy that mixed live-action and animation. Disney spent 14 years trying to convince author P.L. Travers to sign over the film rights to the book, which she finally did, with the provision that she could retain script approval rights.
122. Good Point
A Bug’s Life was inspired by Aesop’s fable, The Ant and The Grasshopper. In this story, a grasshopper spends the harvest months having fun instead of collecting food. Come winter, the grasshopper is starving and begs the ants for food but is turned away. Andrew Stanton and Joe Ranft wondered why the grasshopper doesn’t just take the ants’ food.
Thus, the antagonist Hopper and A Bug’s Life were born.
Early on in the development of Zootopia, the story revolved around Nick Wilde instead of Judy Hopps. Early audiences reacted better to her story, convincing the writers to expand on her story. This happened in November 2014, less than a year and a half before release.
124. 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 an extremely frowned-up activity. The practice is called “Drinking Around the World,” and it involves sampling a libation from each country in a single day.
125. Queen B’s Almost Role
Beyonce was almost cast in the role of Tiana in The Princess and the Frog, but when she refused to audition, she lost out to Anika Noni Rose. I guess no one’s too big to audition for Disney.
126. Famous Last Words
Shortly after his death, a mysterious note was found in Walt’s desk that simply read “Kurt Russell.” Nobody had any idea what it meant—not even Kurt Russell.
127. You Talking to Me?
Robert De Niro was John Lasseter’s first choice to play Hopper in A Bug’s Life. Unfortunately, De Niro repeatedly turned the part down. At the 1995 Oscars, Lasseter met Kevin Spacey, who enthusiastically signed on to the animated flick.
Over one million bubbles were hand-inked and painted for The Little Mermaid. This workload was so big, that it resulted in the inking and painting of the bubbles to be outsourced to a studio in China, called Pacific Rim.
129. 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.”
130. First in 30 Years
When The Little Mermaid was released in 1989, Ariel became the first Disney Princess in 30 years. The last princess before her was Aurora from Sleeping Beauty in 1959; Aurora was the last Disney Princess made while Walt Disney was still alive.
131. Grim Name
The Evil Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves actually has a name: She goes by “Grimhilde.”
132. Big Ears, Short Film
Although Dumbo is considered a Disney feature, it’s running length is only 64 minutes, a lot shorter than a regular feature film.
133. Blue Is Their Color
You may have noticed that many Disney Princesses, from Snow White to Cinderella to Elsa, wear blue. Some theorize that this color helps empower the princesses; blue isn’t just for boys, and princesses don’t have to wear pink.
134. An Expensive Name
Bomb Voyage, the French mime villain at the beginning of The Incredibles, was originally called Bomb Perignon. Unfortunately, they were forced to change the name after the company that makes the champagne Dom Perignon refused to give the filmmakers the rights to use the name. Who knew people that make champagne could be such killjoys?
135. Repeat Offender
Eleanor Audley did the voices for Lady Tremaine in Cinderella, Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty, and even Madame Leota in the famous Disneyland ride, The Haunted Mansion. That’s a pretty good resume!
136. OBEYWalt Disney Pictures
They added the “applause” sign at the end of the Aladdin song “Friend Like Me” because they found that test audiences weren’t reacting sufficiently. There’s nothing like a big glowing sign to tell people to enjoy themselves harder.
137. A Non-Animated Princess?
Disney has an official rule that to join the Disney Princess lineup, the princess must be animated. Star Wars fans disagree, and a petition to make Princess Leia a Disney Princess has passed 100k signatures. The campaign was launched after the death of Carrie Fisher in 2016 and asks for Disney to not only break its rule but to hold a full induction ceremony alongside a memorial or Fisher.
138. Who You Calling a Baboon?
The song that Rafiki sings, “Asante sana, squash banana, wewe nugu mimi hapana,” is often said to be Swahili for “Thank you very much, squash banana, you’re a baboon and I’m not.”
139. Under the Horns
The horns on Angelina Jolie’s costume in Maleficent were designed by professional fetishware makers. Seems obvious, now that I know.
140. Controversial Love? Come On, It’s 2020
Russian officials tried to ban the 2017 live-action remake of the 1991 classic Beauty and the Beast, and some American theatres threatened to boycott the film after Disney stated that the film will feature an openly gay character, Gaston’s sidekick Le Fou. Most fans feel this is the right step for Disney, but the vocal minority always finds a way to drag us back 100 years.
141. The Fabulous Fowl
The vultures in The Jungle Book (1967) were based upon The Beatles. Brian Epstein, the manager of The Beatles, approached Disney to have the band featured in a movie. The story department modeled the vultures to the members of the band, but when John Lennon saw the designs, he vetoed the idea. The vultures still have mop-top haircuts and a Liverpool accent as a homage to the band.
142. Rated “R” For Arrrgh
If you’re “lucky,” you might come across the grittier ending of Beauty of the Beast, in which Gaston’s death is much less ambiguous and a little more graphic. Some cuts of the ending feature a shot of skulls in Gaston’s baby blue eyes as he plummets to his end at the film’s climax. In the script, the playboy also screams “Time to die!” at the Beast, instead of “Belle is mine!”
This was also cut, for being too intense.
143. A King of a Meal
Gaston was supposed to die like Scar from The Lion King. In the original drafts for Beauty and the Beast, Gaston was meant to initially survive his fall off the cliff, only to be devoured by wolves. Disney deemed this death too gruesome for a human being. For fratricidal lions, though? Bon appetit.
144. The Ice Queen Cometh
In the early development of the movie Frozen (2013), Elsa was intended to be the villain, with a design inspired by Bette Midler.
145. Shave That Beard!
Walt Disney had a strict no facial hair policy. Disney employees weren’t allowed to grow facial hair until 2012. Even now, they must keep their facial hair shorter than a quarter inch. The policy used to extend even to guests. Until 1970, you could actually get kicked out of Disneyland Park for having a beard, mustache, or long hair.
Even stranger? Walt himself had a mustache since the age of 25.
146. What a Drag
Ursula from The Little Mermaid was inspired by the iconic drag queen, and John Waters’ muse, Divine. Unfortunately, Divine did not live to bring Ursula to life himself, as she passed away in 1988.
147. A Rose By Any Other Name
Moana (2016) was released under the name Vaiana in some countries, for varying (and occasionally scandalous) reasons. In the Netherlands, the name “Moana” is a registered trademark, while in Italy, the name had a bad connotation because of a famous Italian adult film actress.
148. Trouble in the Kingdom
This may seem silly now, given how great the film turned out, but originally Disney planned The Lion King to focus on a conflict between lions and baboons. Scar was planned as the leader of the baboons, and Rafiki was going to be a cheetah.
149. Chip Ahoy
Chip originally had just one line in Beauty and the Beast (1991), but the producers deemed actor Bradley Pierce’s voice so cute that they expanded his part in the script.
150. I Don’t Ship This
“The Madness of King Scar” was a deleted song in The Lion King. With Nala singing, it was centered around a creepy deleted encounter between her and Scar. According to leftover storyboards, Scar was thinking about his need for a mate and cubs to continue his line. He comes across Nala, who spurns his advances. At her rejection, Scar sends his hyenas to chase Nala off.
Although it was eventually reworked and included in Lion King: The Musical with Scar, Zazu, the hyenas, and Nala all singing, let’s be thankful for our childhoods’ sakes that this cinematic courtship was left on the cutting room floor.
151. Bambi Killer
The hunter who kills Bambi’s mother was originally credited simply as “Man.” A man in the woods, if you think about it—but wait, wasn’t the animators’ nickname for Walt Disney? Whoops. On top of that, an early draft of Who Framed Roger Rabbit was going to reveal that her killer was in fact none other than Judge Doom!
152. All Ears
Robin Williams got into a feud with Disney after he discovered they were using his voice as the genie to sell Aladdin merchandise, something that had broken with his contract, as he said, “I don’t want to sell stuff. It’s the one thing I won’t do.” To placate him, Disney sent him a Picasso painting, worth a hefty sum, where Picasso painted his self-portrait as Vincent Van Gogh.
Because when Disney apologizes, they apologize hard.
153. A Touching Tribute
After the death of Robin Williams, Disney made a heartbreaking tribute to everyone’s favorite genie. Eric Goldberg, the supervising animator of the genie in Aladdin, drew an image of the genie alongside a heartfelt message after Williams’ passing. Disney CEO Robert Iger wrote on the illustration, which read as follows.
“We’re deeply saddened by the loss of Robin Williams, a wonderfully gifted man who touched our hearts and never failed to make us laugh. An incredible actor and a comedic genius, Robin will always be remembered for bringing some of the world’s favorite characters to life, from his zany alien on ABC’s Mork & Mindy to the irascible genie in Disney’s Aladdin. He was a true Disney Legend, a beloved member of our family, and he will be sorely missed. We join Robin’s friends and fans everywhere in mourning, and offer our thoughts and condolences to his family during this difficult time.”
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