Nine Shocking Disney Secrets That Will Surprise You
Much of what goes on at Disney theme parks remains a mystery even to many cast members. Hidden facts and anecdotes get doled out at a slow drip over the years. When you piece them all together, they paint a picture of a spectacular series of theme parks, each of which harbors its share of confidential facts. Here are nine Disney secrets you may not know.
The 25 Steps
Trash can placement is an exact science at Disney theme parks. Imagineers employ big data to choose the “hot spots” where guests are most likely to hold trash.
Past a certain point, cast members know that guests will grow frustrated and throw their garbage on the ground. To reduce littering, trash cans are at these locations.
In the earliest days of Disneyland, however, the boss lacked such pertinent information. Walt Disney chose a more straightforward way to position his trash cans. He took a hot dog and ate it while he walked.
When the hot dog was finished, he’d traveled 25 steps. Based on this odd hot dog test, Disneyland trash cans were placed 25 steps from the hot dog booth.
Something I deeply admire about Uncle Walt was his profound ability to think about business matters from the customer’s perspective.
A Castle without Bricks
Here’s a secret about Cinderella Castle that you’ll never believe. None of the structure contains any bricks. Some of Disney’s finest architectural Imagineers came up with a unique strategy for building this iconic building.
Disney’s construction team built a core infrastructure with 600 tons of steel. Then, they added a 10-inch concrete wall filled with tons of concrete.
Finally, these visionary designers introduced uniquely styled fiberglass. They did it in such a way that it looks like brick, even though it’s not.
So, that Lego Cinderella Castle that you (and I) bought is a lie! It shouldn’t have any bricks at all!
The Department of Defense and…Disney?
What do the United States Department of Defense (DoD) and Disney have in common? Your first inclination is probably “nothing.” Since it’s on this list, you know that it has to be something, though.
Here’s one of the strangest Disney secrets of all. They are the second-largest buyer of explosive devices in the world!
While the DoD uses their bombs for bombing, Disney’s explosives serve a different purpose. They’re the fireworks that light up the nighttime sky during the various presentations at Disney parks around the world.
As anyone who has watched Stranger Things season three knows, fireworks can pack a wallop. And Disney buys more fireworks than anyone else on the planet. They’re the number one buyer across all industries.
Disney Music Is Everywhere But…
It’s a Small World, after all. And you’ll know this because Disney tunes like this one follow you around the parks. There’s one place where some people can escape the continuously looping choruses, though. It’s just not for park guests.
Disney’s underground pathways aka the Utilidor system is where cast members congregate. They can follow these labyrinthine passages to their destinations and, as a kindness, they can do so while listening to non-Disney music.
Park officials do this so that their employees stay sane during break time. You can hear this for yourself when you are participating in one of Disney’s tours that include a walk through the Utilidors.
The Epcot Monorail Doesn’t Work Quite Right
No, I’m not talking about engine malfunctions are anything technical like that. So, please don’t worry. What I’m referencing is the fact that Imagineers had to change the original plans for the Epcot monorail system. Disney intended it to have two stops, one at each themed land.
The World Showcase station had to be dropped because the Florida swampland proved too difficult. Park officials couldn’t safely build a monorail station there and so only added the one at the front of the park. If you’ve ever wondered why you circle Epcot before coming to your final stop, that’s why.
Everyone Welcome…Except for Hippies!
For many years, one of the oddest rules about Disney theme parks involved hair. The laws have evolved over the decades, but Walt Disney was quite stringent about hair length.
Up until his death, Disneyland discouraged long-haired men from entering the park. This concept may sound ridiculous, but Snopes confirms it with this statement:
“Up until the late 1960s, long-haired male visitors to Disneyland were stopped at the park gates by cast members who politely informed the hirsute guests that they did not meet the standards of Disneyland’s (“unwritten”) dress code and therefore would not be allowed to enter the park.”
Disney’s dislike of long hair for men extended to cast members until a much later date. Even into the 21st century, the company discouraged its male employees from having flowing locks.
They softened on the policy in the early 2000s. And cast members weren’t (officially) allowed to have beards until 2012!
The Oldest Rides Are Older Than Magic Kingdom
Park planners at Walt Disney World stole an idea from their cohorts at Disneyland. They acquired a couple of rides to transfer over to Magic Kingdom. It leads to an odd secret about the ages of the park and attractions.
The Magic Kingdom will turn 50 in 2021. Two of its attractions are already more than a century old! Yes, the Prince Charming Regal Carousel first opened in 1917 as the Liberty Carousel. Disney bought it 60 years later with plans to use it as part of the Florida Project.
Interestingly, this carousel may not be the oldest attraction. The Lilly Belle is one of the four trains that comprise the Walt Disney World Railroad. Some sites, including Wikipedia, list its build year as 1928.
However, according to Disney’s Parks Blog and other sources, it ran as part of an actual train system, the United Railways of Yucatan. That makes it two years older than the carousel at the venerable age of 104.
Pay Attention to the Pavement!
When you walk around various Disney theme parks, your eyes naturally focus on all of the sights at eye level and above. Imagineers expect this behavior, and that’s why wienies, various Disney landmarks like man-made mountains, are there. They intend to attract attention.
You should remember to look down sometimes, though. Even the pavement tells a story or has a purpose. For example, Frontierland’s flooring is brownish-red in color, thematic for the Wild West era.
At Epcot, the ground is a rare shade of pink. This color is for scientific reasons. It literally tires part of your eye receptacles, thereby causing the grass to literally seem greener.
Finally, Liberty Square’s pavement is a brownish color for…reasons I’d rather not say. Let’s just say that it involves historical aspects of, ahem, street sewage.
Tinker Bell Is Tiny!
Do you feel like a giant when you stand next to Tinker Bell in character greetings? There’s a perfectly good reason why.
Back in the late 1950s, Walt Disney grew enamored of the idea of one of his favorites from Peter Pan actually flying. He wanted Tinker Bell to soar out from the castle during fireworks presentations.
Starting in 1961, Ms. Bell did precisely this, only safety parameters led to oddly specific casting. Disney needs its Tinker Bell-costumed cast members to be under five feet tall and 105 pounds. Otherwise, the employee might struggle down the wire, a safety issue Disney’s thankfully unwilling to risk.