20 Things You Didn’t Know About Disney Theme Parks


One of the Disney parks’ themed lands, Tomorrowland depicts a unique view of the future. “Tomorrow can be a wonderful age. Our scientists today are opening the doors of the Space Age to achievements that will benefit our children and generations to come,” Walt Disney once remarked. “The Tomorrowland attractions have been designed to give you an opportunity to participate in adventures that are a living blueprint of our future.” The Brad Bird-directed film adaptation of the attraction opened in theaters this weekend. A movie based on a Disney theme park attraction could only be possible due to the level of detail Walt insisted upon when building his fantasy worlds. Here are just a few fun facts about the Disney theme parks that you might not know.

Disney “cast members” (what all employees are called) use secret codes to communicate issues around the park and maintain that magical facade. “Code V” means someone has vomited.

Every Disney character has a unique autograph. Cast members are required to practice writing it to perfection.

Cast members playing Disney princesses are between 5’4″ and 5’8″.

There are a number of scrapped Disney rides that never made the cut. When the Haunted Mansion was still a walk-through and not a ride-through attraction, there was a planned Museum of the Weird. This attraction was set to feature a talking chair and other strange objects collected from around the world. Some of the Museum of the Weird designs were incorporated into the Haunted Mansion, like the wallpaper featured in the corridor of doors scene.

Disney “jail” is the happiest prison on Earth — at least until you get your park pass revoked. This is a holding area for disruptive guests and other troublemakers.

Several celebs started their career at Disney. Michelle Pfeiffer played Alice from Alice in Wonderland. Steve Martin performed magic tricks at the Main Street Magic shop. And Terri Garr was a non-character parade dancer.

Stay at Disney long enough, and you’ll probably spot one of the 200 feral cats that live at Disneyland. They reportedly help control the rodent population and generally only come out at night.

When Disneyland opened in 1955, there was a lingerie shop called the Hollywood-Maxwell Brassiere Co. of Los Angeles. Guests could visit the “corseteria” to see exhibits about undergarments, emceed by a mechanical “Wizard of Bras.” The shop was closed after six months. In 1990, Disney opened another intimate apparel store, Jessica, selling Jessica Rabbit-themed unmentionables. The shop lasted three years.

The Pirates of the Caribbean attraction features real human bones. From blog Disneyland Report: “The UCLA medical school provided cadaver skeletons to Disneyland, which were positioned in the classic poses we see today. A pair playing chess, one atop a mountain of gold coins, a dead captain with a sabre in his ribs… While this may seem grotesque, they remained for quite some time. It hasn’t been officially stated exactly when the skeletons were replaced with dummies, but they were. Perhaps technology provided more realistic-looking skeletons, or some Imagineer simply couldn’t stand it anymore. All we know is, when they were taking out the bones from the ride, there were a couple they didn’t remove. Although the skeleton in bed looking through a magnifying glass is no longer the remains of a deceased man, the bones on the headboard behind him are. That is a genuine skull and crossbones.”

Doritos were invented at Disneyland. From OC Weekly: “Just months after Disneyland opened in 1955, Frito-Lay founder Elmer Doolin convinced Walt Disney to let him open Casa de Fritos, a Mexican restaurant, in Frontierland. The food was straightforward Tex-Mex—a combo plate, tamales, chile, Frito pie, enchiladas and the “Ta-Cup,” the standard fast-food taco about to colonize America but in a Fritos shell, the ancestor of the modern-day taco salad. Fritos came complimentary with every purchase.”

You won’t find gum at any of the Disney theme parks. Walt didn’t want guests to accidentally step in it.

Walt’s Disneyland private apartment is located above the Fire House on Main Street. He stayed there when visiting the park overnight and used it to entertain guests. A small lamp in the window is kept on in his memory.

Most of the plants in Tomorrowland are meant to be edible. “The visionary landscaping doubles as a potential farm, projecting an ecologically astute future, where humanity makes the most of its resources.”

Mickey Mouse ear hats are the most popular Disney theme park souvenirs. More than 84 million hats have been sold since 1955.

Several of the Disney attractions feature real gold trim to maintain durability and sparkling beauty. Look for 22 karat gold leaf decorating the outside of the It’s a Small World ride, for example.

Disney World was built on top of a huge series of tunnels called utility corridors (or Utilidors) and rooms. Walt thought it looked odd to see characters walking through worlds they didn’t belong to and wanted to maintain the fantasy illusion.

Disney theme parks use what’s called a “smellitzer” to pump specific smells into the air and heighten the experience of various worlds and attractions. “Some smells you can quickly notice are the smell of cookies on Main Street and the smell of sea salt on Disney’s Pirates Of The Caribbean ride.”

Disney World is the size of San Francisco or twice the size of Manhattan.

Walt designed the theme parks so when you pass from land to land, you can’t see the others due to trees, buildings, and distractions (like the noise of the water wheel walking from Liberty Square to Fantasyland). Changes in the pavement also help the transition from world to world.

The Magic Kingdom walkways are red, because Walt wanted guests to feel like the red carpet had been rolled out for them. The color also helps cast members in costumes stay in character until the walkway turns into a different color.