Infamously known as the “happiest place on Earth”, Walt Disney worked overtime to ensure its reputation preceded itself. Even long after his death, the Walt Disney Corporation has continued to achieve great success with its theme parks, animation, and entertainment empire. But like all great things, it appears to ring true that looks can in fact be deceiving. As much as the Disney corporation tried to keeps its skeletons in the closet, many secrets involving the company has emerged.
Whether or not people deem to perceive these facts in a negative light, the prestige of Disney will continue to shine brightly. When it comes to family entertainment, Disney will always wear the crown despite all the blemishes it strives to keep hidden. The appeal of Disney derives from the fact that an entire world is devoted to the creativity of imagination. As children we believed that every character we encountered at Disneyland were the real deal, but as we grew up we learned a single zipper along the back of costume separates fantasy from reality. We continued to identify Disney as wholesome and make-believe even after knowing the truth
Airing Disney’s dirty laundry is entertaining and entices us to except the company at face value. Life at Disney isn’t always pristine, but it’s the realness bursting at the seams that human beings find so captivating.
So buckle up and keep your arms and legs inside the article at all times, as you discover 15 disturbing facts that Disney doesn’t want you to know.
15. Fried Ducks
Fans of Disney not only love the roller-coasters and interaction with their beloved characters, they rave about the nightly shows that wrap up a magical day at the park. The “Fantasmic” show that occurs after the sun goes down pleases the crowd with its burst of colored lights and a fire-breathing dragon. A part of the infamous show consists of the dragon from “Sleeping Beauty” breathing fire across the water on the Rivers of America as its final highlight. Essentially, the dragon roars and catches the river on fire. Guests get a kick out of the moment, but when it debuted in the early 1990s at Disneyland, there was a disturbing consequence. Park employees discovered that the family of ducks who enjoyed hanging out on the river were ultimately fried by the burst of fire night after night. To ensure that that this wouldn’t occur again, Disney altered the show. Now a bubbling water effect is set off before the fire to create turbulent waves on the water that scare away the ducks. While people believe the new addition is to create more interest in the show, it is actually there to prevent any more duck deaths.
14. Underground Society
Despite attracting millions of guests each year, many of those visitors would be surprised to know that a hidden underground compound is directly below their feet. With the success of Disneyland in California, Walt had an idea for another project in Florida. Today it is an additional park, but the original plan was to create an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT): namely, an underground utopian society. The project consisted of a model society, a futuristic airport, and an industrial park. Although it was an ingenious vision by Walt, the idea of a “perfect” town is perceived to express slightly uncomfortable vibes. The town would be a completely planned and controlled community that would be inhabited by twenty thousand residents with no voting freedom. While the concept illustrated a strong promise, it only survived a few years until it was ultimately killed off in the mid ’70s. Today, however, some of the elements have been incorporated into the design of Disney World, with the creation of the “Utilidors” that span over 392,040 square feet. The tunnels make getting from one end of the park to the other more efficient for staff and crew members.
13. They Control Your Senses
When visiting a Disney park, the company has no shame in having a hold on your emotions. Whether you are five or 50, the theme park elicits a sense of happiness by seeing your current favorite characters or remembering the best moments from your childhood. But Disney takes it a step further by controlling your sense of smell. Ever wonder why the air around a specific ride or area smells surprisingly authentic to the attraction? It’s because Disney uses a patented scent generator, Smellitzer, to ensure that your senses are associating with this aesthetic approach. The devices are located in various locations deemed acceptable by Disney in order to literally blow aromas toward park guests. That means that all the delicious fragrances you smell as you approach a restaurant or shop isn’t coming from the actual food, it’s being delivered from the Smellitzers. Disney’s plan is to attract visitors with the pleasantly pungent essence so they can entice guests to buy a snack or two to nibble on throughout the day. In other words, the direct correlation from your nose to your wallet is quite powerful.
12. Rigged Games
It’s no secret that Disney manipulates time in regards to the wait time of attractions, but they also control your winning ability at their carnival-style games located throughout the parks. Disney is notorious for their overpriced admission, food, and accessories- yet they continue to pickpocket oblivious guests attempting to win an over-sized stuffed animal as a souvenir. Workers have constantly been accused of performing distracting tricks in order to waste the hard-earned cash of visitors on petty games that are impossible to win. They control the game by gluing cans in place that will hinder them from being knocked down and by waxing props to make the surfaces of the games increase with fiction. While these scams are practiced all over by traveling carnivals, it’s quite disappointing that Disney stoops so low and uses such dirty tricks. It’s one thing to expect that form of treatment at pop up fairs and carnivals, but not at a prominent theme park that has already sucked park goers’ wallets dry.
11. Shadow Of Death
To an innocent child enjoying a classic Disney movie, the film only illustrates fluff and “happily ever afters.” But older viewers don’t miss the innuendos and the sinister elements, especially when it pertains to a character’s death. Villains in Disney movies typically receive terrible fates and Clayton’s (from Tarzan) end was no different. Clayton enters Tarzan’s home by hunting unsuspecting prey and winds up killing Tarzan’s adopted father, who is a gorilla. During his fight to end Tarzan’s life as well, Clayton ends up tangled up in vines while suspended over a cliff. The vines wrapped around his neck can’t support his weight, strangling him to death. While his end should have been sufficient, Disney takes its further by including his body in the shadows of an additional scene. The picture shows his lower torso hanging from a tree while blended into the vines and dark light. Most children wouldn’t be able to recognize Clayton’s body, but it sure didn’t get overlooked by the older audience.
10. Restricting Snow White
As one of Disney’s favorite classic films, Snow White continues to hold an everlasting place in the hearts of all Disney fans. Prior to the movie, Adriana Caselotti was a singing sensation who worked as a chorus girl at MGM. When she was cast as Snow White her future looked bright, but what should have been just the beginning turned into the end. Disney expressed a strong reservation to Adriana appearing in any other films and television shows. They argued that her portrayal of additional characters would take away the distinct illusion that Snow White created. Adding more fuel to the devastation, Adriana’s anonymity to Snow White’s success meant she was only paid $970, which today is equivalent to just shy of $16,000. There’s no question that Disney clearly disrespected and manipulated the promising career that Adriana could have had in the entertainment industry. Her iconic role as the voice of Snow White awarded her the “Disney Legend” honor, but lingering concerns surrounding the treatment she received from Disney still remain.
9. Character Lawsuits
For young children, being able to snap a picture with their favorite Disney princess is a dream come true. However, many times those beloved characters trapped in overheating costumes take their interaction too far. There have been numerous occasions in which Donald Duck and Winnie-the-Pooh have had to make appearances in the courtroom. A woman visiting Epcot in 2008 ended her day by filing a lawsuit against the park with the claims that an employee outfitted as Donald Duck exhibited inappropriate behavior toward her. Determined to save face, Disney was able to settle the lawsuit outside of court. This incident was not the first and would definitely not be the last. In fact, these situations occur more often than we are aware of because Disney does all it can to avoid disclosing the scandals to the media. Disney instructs its cast members to treat all guests with a high intensity level of friendliness, but its seems that some of its employees push the boundaries on their interactions.
8. The Fate Of Mating
Now this disturbing fact is bound to ruin your childhood. Finding Nemo is easily one of Pixar’s best animated work, but once the truth of mating practices is exposed, lines are blurred. The beginning of the film illustrates Marlin and his wife tending to their eggs at their anemone right before a barracuda eats the mother. As the only surviving egg, Nemo is then raised solely by his father. Now, most people wouldn’t even question this storyline because it appears to make sense, but it is in fact biologically incorrect. Clownfish all hatch as undifferentiated hermaphrodites that then develop as one sex until they change into the other sex during a different part of their life. Based on this fact, it means that Marlin would have transformed into a female since his mate died. Now this is where things get complicated. Since Nemo was the only Clownfish around in their part of the ocean, he would have then remained a male who mated with his father who had changed to a female. The cycle would once again continue following the death of Marlin. After learning this fact, it makes sense as to why Disney would choose to ignore this storyline…
7. Scattered Ashes
One of Disney’s popular attractions is the Haunted Mansion. It doesn’t matter which park you visit; this ride delivers a thrilling encounter with the dead. Disney does its best with advanced technology to make the mansion appear haunted, but its authenticity derives from the actual ghosts that could be among the props. No, seriously. Disney employees who are stationed at the Haunted Mansion ride have been told to be on the lookout for riders spreading human ashes as they board and throughout the mansion. Disney has caught several parkgoers in the act who claim that the deceased requested to have their ashes scattered throughout the ride. In 2007, Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean ride was shut down due to health and safety concerns after a woman was caught dumping ashes into the water. Disney officials state that they often receive requests to scatter ashes on the property, but they always stop the act from occurring. However, it’s clear to see that not everyone listens to the Mouse.
6. Matterhorn Deaths
With the enchanting atmosphere that the Disney parks provide, people ignore the thought of the risks they face when being strapped into metal contraptions for a half-minute thrill. Millions of guests flock to Disney throughout the year and leave the park without encountering any danger. However, that isn’t always the case. At Disneyland alone, there have been two deaths caused by the Matterhorn ride. In 1964, a 15-year-old boy died after sustaining injuries to his torso and head due to being thrown from his seat and down onto the tracks. It is unknown if he or his friend unbuckled his seatbelt as he attempted to stand close to the peak of the mountain – an act that resulted in his death three days later. A similar event occurred twenty years later, when a 48-year-old woman was also tossed from the car after her seat belt was unfastened. Not many Disney visitors have knowledge of these tragedies, but since those deaths Disney has redesigned the car to provide more safety features for its passengers.
5. Real Is The New Fake
For any theme park fan, the Pirates of the Caribbean ride is ranked highly in regard to the best attraction. While enjoying a boat ride, passengers are suddenly thrown straight into an exhilarating fight as a pack of pirates take over the ride. The animation makes it a blockbuster attraction, very similar to Universal Studios’ Jurassic Park adventure. However, there is one contrasting element between these two coasters: real human remains. Built in 1967, the ride was set to be a hit among guests but the design team was dissatisfied with fake skeletons used to represent that period. Feeling that the skeletons were not convincing enough, the team contacted the UCLA Media Center and were able to collect props from the anatomy department. Over time, with newer technologies, fake skeletons have been reintroduced to the design. Despite the change, at least two known authentic human skulls still reside at the Disneyland location. It’s been determined that the skull and crossbones adorned over the bed is in fact a real human skull.
4. Toy Story Stole Material
As one of the most popular trilogies in the history of film, Toy Story still continues to pull at our heartstrings. The adventures Andy’s beloved toys experienced were a thrilling addition to many childhoods. The success that the franchise received, didn’t stop many critics from claiming that the plot was stolen from a 1986 television special titled The Christmas Toy. The movie featured toys who would personify human behaviors when no one was around and create mischief. This element could easily be written off as coincidence, but there are more parallels. Much like Woody, the main toy worried about being replaced after its owner received a new toy for Christmas. The new toy possessed the same qualities Buzz expressed, as both were from outer space and their ego hindered their ability to understand reality from fantasy. While nine years separated the films, it’s hard to ignore the resemblances the storylines share.
3. The Live-Action Monsters Inc. Movie
Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. showed what it would be really like if monsters did exist under beds and in closets. However, before this animated film reached praise from all generations, an ’80s live-action movie depicted a shockingly similar approach. Little Monsters told the story of a kid, portrayed by Fred Savage, who befriends a friendly monster named Maurice. Much like Sully, Maurice was a blue and purple monster who had plastic horns on his head. Both movies used the angle that all kids’ rooms contain a portal that leads to a world ruled by monsters. Not surprisingly, the idea of scaring their human friends and questioning their true intentions was included in both movies. Their mirroring plots has led many to believe that Disney plagiarized the Little Monsters story in order to produce their own animated version – one that would make the company millions and millions of dollars.
2. Woman Denied Work
With today’s strong emphasis placed on feminism in the workplace, it’s clear that the following type of behavior would never be tolerated. In 1938, Mary Ford applied to Walt Disney Productions seeking an opportunity for employment as an animator, but was ultimately rejected because she was a woman. During the height of the animation “Golden Era,” women had aspirations to join the animation industry, but Disney disagreed, stating: “Women do not do any of the creative work in connection with preparing the cartoons for the screen, as that task is performed entirely by young men. For this reason, girls are not considered for the training school.” Ironically enough, the letter was signed by a female and the stationary featured one of Disney’s most iconic women, Snow White. While it’s unclear as to whether or not Mary Ford agreed with Disney’s policy regarding female employees, it emphasizes that while Disney had no desire to hire women in animation, they still employed women for other positions.
1. Toy Story’s Obsession With The Shining
Disney is known for their ingenious work when it comes to creating animated films that tell light-hearted stories that the whole family can enjoy together. But whether you’ve noticed or not, animators have no shame when it comes to including various entertainment and pop-culture references. In Toy Story there are numerous references to the horror film, The Shining. The most noticeable allusion is the carpet used in Sid’s house; it’s the exact same pattern as the Overlook Hotel featured in The Shining film. Less noticeable references include the appearance of the number 237, which was the most haunted room at Overlook Hotel. The number appeared all throughout Toy Story: it was first shown on the garbage truck with the plate number “RM237.” It appeared again when Woody chatted with someone with the username “Veloicstar237” in a chat room. The Easter eggs in Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3 were personally placed in the Disney trilogy by director Lee Unkrich, who is a massive fan of the horror film. Hauntingly enough, Lee had no part of the references included in the first film since he was not connected to the project during that time.