The Walt Disney Company was founded in 1923 by Walt Disney and his brother Roy O. Disney. Since then, it’s become one of the largest most well known brand names in history. Disney started from the concept of family and throughout its existence it has-largely kept this root – its first priority is always to be family-friendly. Disney is an incredibly diverse company boasting theme parks around the world, some of the most popular animated and children’s films in the world and beloved characters that have formed an essential part of practically everyone’s childhood.
These days, it seems like we know just about all there is to know about this pervasive brand. People have studied all the different hidden messages that can be found in Disney movies, have observed the incredible business strategy behind the company and have just plain marvelled at the sheer entertainment, happiness and magic it has succeeded in bringing to families and children. With such a large multinational company, though, there’s of course an incredible amount of information – even secrets – that we don’t know about Walt Disney the man, and the Disney franchise. Here, we’re about to reveal ten tidbits that you might not yet know about your favourite childhood brand.
10. Mickey Mouse Hall of Fame
In 1978, Mickey Mouse became the first fictional and animated character to land a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The year 1978 was the 50-year anniversary of the beloved character and he was honoured for his roles in films, such as Plane Crazy, Steamboat Willie and The Band Concert, with a star at 6925 Hollywood Boulevard. After this, many fictional and/or animated characters started to appear on the Hollywood Walk of Fame – most notably other Disney characters – such as Donald Duck and Tinker Bell.
The Disney family’s original last name was actually D’Isigny, which is a Norman French derivation. Their ancestors originally came from the commune Isigny-sur-Mer in northwestern France. The Disneys descended from Normans who settled in Normandy in the 11th century and the last name eventually evolved into Disney in the 1800s – and thankfully so. Disney World has a much better ring than D’Isigny World.
8. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Oscars
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was produced by Walt Disney Productions and was released in 1937. It was the first ever full-length animated feature film and the first in what would become a long, successful list of Disney animations. It’s the tenth highest-grossing film of all time (accounting for inflation since the time) and is considered to be one of Walt Disney’s most important achievements. Walt Disney won an Honorary Academy Award in 1938 for the innovation of Snow White – they gave him one regular-sized Oscar statue, along with seven other little statues to represent the seven dwarfs.
7. Lilo & Stitch – Voice of Lilo
Lilo & Stitch is a Disney movie released in 2002 – which then became a short-lived TV series – about a Hawaiian girl who adopts a pet which happens to be an extraterrestrial fugitive. The lovable Lilo is voiced by actress Daveigh Chase when she was 12 years old who, in the same year, also played the possessed creepy young character of Samara in the popular horror film The Ring. Now, try watching Lilo & Stitch again without picturing Samara covered by her long hair, crawling towards you…
6. The Little Mermaid Storm
The Little Mermaid, released in 1989, is one of Disney’s most important films because it launched the “Disney Renaissance” that brought back to life the enthusiasm of animated film. It grossed over $111 million in the United States, and luckily so because it is one of Disney’s longest efforts. The two-minute storm sequence in The Little Mermaid, in which Ariel is thrown off the boat but eventually manages to make it to shore, took a team of 10 animators an entire year to complete. Water movement technologies were not very advanced at the time, so the scene was a costly and time-consuming 120 seconds.
Walt Disney World is the second largest purchaser of explosives in the United States, after the U.S military – but clearly for very different reasons. There are firework shows every single night at the Disney theme parks and many of the rides and shows in the parks use pyrotechnics.
4. Disney Park Deaths
Disney is very quick to downplay deaths that happen on their sites – which makes perfect sense since the idea of death pretty much entirely opposes the ideal of the Happiest Place on Earth. However, fatal incidents do happen from time to time. The death of a 14-year-old girl who lost consciousness on a “Rock n Roll” roller coaster ride at Disneyland Paris made worldwide headlines in 2007 and in the following year, a 14-year old boy died after riding the same roller coaster at the Orlando Disney Park. The boy was then found to have a congenital heart defect, while the cause of the girl’s death remains unclear. However, in both cases, no mechanical problems were found with either ride. Seems it was just a very strange and unfortunate coincidence.
3. Newborn Baby Abandoned at Disney World
In 1977, an abandoned newborn baby girl was found late on a Saturday night in a bathroom at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. A doctor from Cleveland who was vacationing there that day attended to the baby and estimated that she was born about 5 minutes before being found – the placenta and umbilical cord were still attached to her. Rescue workers arrived at the scene and quickly got an ambulance to take the baby to the nearest hospital, where she was deemed perfectly healthy and was given over to authorities to be placed with foster parents. No witnesses spotted the possible mother of the infant and it still remains a mystery.
2. Steve Martin’s First Job
Steve Martin is many things – he is a comedian, actor, author, playwright, musician and producer – but you might not know that much of his formative influence came from Disney.
At 10 years old, Martin got his first job selling guidebooks around Disneyland, which he did for three years until he discovered the Main Street Magic shop. Main Street is the first of the many themed parks found in Disneyland parks around the world and workers at the magic shop would demonstrate tricks to visitors. Martin spent most of his free time there, eventually learning all the tricks and landing a job there. He was working under Wally Boag, a performer famous for his role in Disney’s stage show The Golden Horseshoe Revue, and Martin says this was his first comedic role model.
1. Steve Jobs’ Death
Steve Jobs was Disney’s largest single shareholder with seven per cent of the company and he was also on the Board of Directors. He was the executive producer of the Disney/Pixar film Toy Story in 1995 and one of the racing cars in 2006’s Cars is branded with the Apple logo and the number ’84, to represent the year the first Macintosh computer was released.
On the day of Jobs’ death on October 5, 2011, Disney World flew its flags at half-mast in his honour. The following year, the Disney/Pixar film Brave was dedicated to him and the two main characters were named Lord Macintosh and Young Macintosh.