Strange Disneyland Facts You Never Knew
Last time, we discussed the random quirks of various rides at Walt Disney World. Today, we’re switching coasts to talk about similar unheralded facts about the Happiest Place on Earth. The world’s first theme park is an amazing place full of history, and its oddities may surprise you. Here are six strange but true facts about Disneyland.
A Feline Armada
I’m a cat person, but even I shake in fear at the thought of the secret army that controls the night at Disneyland. These felines live out the dream of every human. They get to live at the Happiest Place on Earth. More than 100 feral cats claim the theme park as their home or territory, if you will.
Disney doesn’t mind the presence of this furry strike force. To the contrary, they know what you try not think about. Cats are natural predators. While yours may be domesticated and the subject of many of your best Instagram posts, these creatures live for the hunt. With enough cats roaming the grounds of Disneyland, mice and other rodents are effectively told to stay out of Anaheim. And they do!
According to Vice, Disney even takes their feral friends to the vet. Okay, that’s not quite true. The vets come to Disneyland instead. There, they perform basic veterinary tasks such as neutering and vaccinating the feral fur beasts. And the cats love their home. People are always dropping savory treats on the ground at Disney. Should you ever see one of the secret residents of Disneyland, don’t be surprised by their size. It’s Fat Cat Central.
That’s Too Much Authenticity, Right?
Where do you stand on the subject of human anatomy? Would you freak out if you saw a dead body? How about an aging skeleton? Most importantly, could you spot the real thing if it were stacked in a large group of fake props?
Okay, that’s a lot of creepy for one paragraph, and I apologize for it. The questions have relevance, though. During the early days of Imagineering, workers at WED Enterprises felt frustration whenever they couldn’t get the look of something just right. At times, they found solutions in unlikely places. The story I’m about to tell you about Pirates of the Caribbean is one of them. Don’t hate me for it.
Back in the 1960s, Pirates of the Caribbean was almost complete, only cast members weren’t satisfied. They felt that the bones that they were using for the skeletons lacked authenticity. Since UCLA was close and its lab had several cadavers readily available, Imagineers hatched a plan.
According to Atlas Obscura, Disney swapped out fake skeletons for the real deal. Over the years, skeleton mimicry technology improved, and so Imagineers gradually replaced the creepy corpses. Legends persist that three skulls are still on display at Pirates of the Caribbean. I really don’t want to believe that, but various cast members and Disney observers have verified it over the years.
What’s the weirdest thing that you’d expect to see at the Matterhorn? Weird is relative, after all. We’re talking about a man-made mountain that Disney pretends isn’t fake. They’ve hired real mountain climbers to traverse the artificial landscape, thereby entertaining confused onlookers down below.
The Matterhorn is a toboggan ride that led to invention of the modern roller coaster. It’s also the first ride ever to offer twin tracks, one of which is notoriously faster than the other. The history of this attraction is well-chronicled and much-deserved. And oh, by the way, there’s always a basketball court.
You just did a double take, didn’t you?
The thing about a giant man-made structure like the Matterhorn is that it has a lot of wasted space. Since the ride is the only thing that matters, most of that space isn’t useful in any other productive way. Disney constructed a section roughly two-thirds of the way up the mountain as a working space for the aforementioned climbers. It was the only utility they could find for the area.
At some point, an enterprising cast member decided to add something more interactive to this attic space. They put in a basketball goal complete with backboard and rim. Over the half-century that followed, thousands of cast members have shot hoops as oblivious Matterhorn riders zoomed by this space on the way down the hill. You’re never going to think of the ride the same way again now, are you?
Casa de Fritos
Sure, everyone knows what Doritos are. They’re one of the most famous brands on the planet. The bags are memorably distinct, and the company’s Super Bowl commercials are often among the most popular each year. They’re also delicious treats that leave your fingers yellow and your breath foul. I love them so. (Don’t worry, I always brush after eating them.)
Do you know the origin story of Doritos? If you’re not already nodding your head, I’m about to blow your mind. During the 1960s, Disneyland was home to a restaurant named Casa de Fritos. The garden patio restaurant is still open today, although it’s since changed names to Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante. To this day, they serve the most delicious flavors from south of the border. Their claim to fame is no longer on the menu, though.
Back in 1964, Casa de Fritos created a signature tortilla chip with an unforgettable flavor. It packed a wallop in every bite, and it was easy to make. Enterprising cast members took extra tortillas that they had from the day, effectively leftovers, and added a distinctive chilaquile-style flavor to the mix. Then, they fried the chips. Voila! The world had the first iteration of Doritos!
What happened next is where the story takes a twist. An executive at Frito-Lay observed the popularity of Doritos. He spoke to someone about selling them under his umbrella, but that someone wasn’t Disney. Instead, he skipped straight to the supplier for Casa de Fritos, Alex Foods. They quickly came to an agreement, and California residents suddenly had the opportunity to buy Doritos outside of Disneyland. Less than two years later, they were available at stores across America. Since they’d lost their uniqueness at the Happiest Place on Earth, Disney stopped selling them, though.
Yes, the inventors of Doritos never got credit for their work. Disney didn’t get any of the profits from the billions of dollars that the product has earned over the years. And Disneyland doesn’t sell the tortilla chip that was invented there.
Living with the (Disney) Land
You’re familiar with The Land at Epcot, right? You know that the entire pavilion is an extended exercise in sustainable foods. The resources there are also the ingredients for many of the meals served onsite. It’s a continuous demonstration of the innovation of Disney Imagineering. It’s also not the only place where you can eat some of the stuff you see at a Disney theme park.
I’m about to blow your mind.
Tomorrowland is supposed to embody a better future where humankind has conquered its problems. Hunger and famine are a regular part of these problems. Imagineers forecasted a solution when they constructed what they call the “Agrifuture.” They built a themed land that has edible plants.
No, I’m not pranking you.
The colored plants in Tomorrowland all have a purpose. Their goal is to show that a better tomorrow will include foliage that you can snack on whenever you have the munchies. Kale, sage, and oranges are all available here. While I wouldn’t recommend your picking anything and eating (I have no idea whether Disney frowns on this), you can rest safe in the knowledge that you won’t die from it.
Well, that’s theoretical. There’s no accounting for what other park guests have done to the edible plants while Imagineers weren’t looking. Let’s call this strange fact theoretical rather than one you should try for yourself.
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