Are you an avid Disney fan? Do you love the theme parks, the movies, and all of those pretty Disney princesses? Well, you may be getting brainwashed by those films, or you could be riding those theme park attractions with ghosts or the ashes of dead people. We’ll explain all of this in our list of the 15 Most Shocking Disney Myths Ever. Walt Disney was all about entertaining people, and if they happened to learn something along the way, then great. These days, the Disney companies are absolutely thriving, and they show no signs of slowing down. Each year, the Walt Disney Company makes over $52 billion worldwide and spends over $2 billion annually on advertising efforts. The theme parks and attractions rake in over $16 billion each year, while entertainment and movies bring in over $7 billion annually. Even their merchandise exceeds almost everyone else’s: they take home over $2.5 billion in sales each year. Disney is ruling the world!
So it may come as a surprise to some people that “the happiest place on Earth” is holding some not-so-happy secrets. This list is filled with urban legends and myths about Disney that may shock some fans. You will be thinking twice about making a trip to Disney World or Disneyland, or even purchasing Disney merchandise. We don’t want to ruin anyone’s lives or childhoods, but these tidbits are pretty interesting – albeit disturbing. So without further ado, let’s go through this list and shock the pants off of you!
15. Disney Killed Hundreds of Lemmings
Back in 1958, Disney Studios produced a nature documentary called White Wilderness. It featured those adorable creatures called lemmings, which are known for voluntarily jumping off cliffs and to their deaths. It has been an established fact for so long that lemmings are suicidal creatures, yet are they really? Some people claim that Disney’s White Wilderness started this myth, and the documentary staged those deaths and forced those animals to jump to their deaths. Apparently White Wilderness was filmed in Canada, in a region where lemmings don’t even live. The scenes were staged and the lemmings were bought from Inuit kids. Animal biologists, conservationists, and researchers have stated that lemmings are not naturally suicidal animals, and that Disney made this up through their staged documentary and shoddy narration. Whether this was approved by Walt Disney or not is unknown, but lemmings don’t kill themselves, they migrate, and some of them die in the process.
14. Disney Death Restrictions
Apparently, Disneyland in Anaheim, California has legislation where no one can be declared dead while on their property. Yes, that’s right. It is said that Walt didn’t want there to be a death toll at Disneyland, because how bad would that make them look? If there were any park incidents, injuries, or deaths, the employees would call the paramedics to carry the ill-fated people outside of the park and then declare them dead there. Wow. Whether this story is true or not, there have been reported incidents and even deaths at Disneyland in California. One such instance was when an 18-year-old girl was crushed to death between a stationary and rotating wall at the America Sings attraction. In 2003, a small boy died from severe head trauma after riding the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad roller coaster. The attraction had been improperly maintained and injured 10 other people during that ride.
13. Disney Worker Abuse in China
Disney is another one of those companies that chooses to outsource cheap labor from China. In the province of Shenzhen, China, workers were subjected to three times the overtime limit per month, as well as unsafe working conditions. There was even one instance of child labor at this factory. Disturbingly, one of the employees at this Chinese factory took his own life. In another Shenzhen factory (Haowei Toys, which produces Disney merchandise), workers were exposed to chemical fumes in poorly ventilated work rooms. They were also forced to work 15 hours a day with only 2 days off each month, and their pay was half the minimum wage. Disney toys aren’t so happy now, are they? According to Disney, the worker’s suicide was an “Isolated event,” and the company is investigating the working conditions and requirements for the employees in China. One thing is certain: Disney isn’t the only guilty company.
12. People Scatter Ashes in the Parks
If you ever see people sprinkling powdery stuff around the park or attractions, it might be someone scattering the ashes of their loved ones. Apparently this is something that has happened repeatedly at the Disney theme parks. People have sprinkled the ashes of dead relatives on the Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion rides, and probably other ones too. In fact, it is said that this ash-scattering is such as problem that Disney employees need to be specially trained to clean up the remains promptly and safely. Crew members need to evacuate and close down the ride and then don special suits to vacuum up the ashes so that park guests don’t breathe them in. This practice started in the early 1990s, and a 2007 news story about a woman scattering ashes on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride was highly publicized. In a weird twist that lady claimed it was not ashes, but baby powder.
11. Post-Mortem Instructions
Walt Disney died back in 1966, but his memory still lives on. It is said that Walt prepared an instructional video for his employees to watch after his death. In the video, he addresses his employees by name and describes in detail what the plan is for the next 5 years at the Disney theme parks. This is just an urban legend though. What we do know is that after Walt’s death, his brother Roy took the reins for a bit and decided that Disney World would become more of an attraction than a region. Walt had different plans for EPCOT, which he was not able to see during his lifetime. After his passing, those plans were never realized, but now EPCOT is a thriving park in Disney World. Another rumor surrounding Walt’s death is that he wanted to always be close to his park. He’s said to be cryogenically frozen and laying in a tomb beneath Cinderella’s castle at Magic Kingdom.
10. Tower of Terror Ghost
Opening on July 22, 1994, the Tower of Terror was an attraction based off of the hit TV series The Twilight Zone. It features park guests climbing into a seemingly normal elevator, then hearing a story about visitors who vanished into thin air by some ghost or supernatural being. Then the elevator is transformed into the famous Tower of Terror. There is a rumor that an employee suffered a heart attack and died while working on one of the platforms of the Tower of Terror. His ghost is said to still frequent the attraction, and other employees have said that they’ve seen his ghost on maintenance cameras and footage. Other weird occurrences on the Tower of Terror include lights flickering on and off, the ride shutting down unexpectedly, and out-of-the-blue malfunctions. All of these are believed to be the doing of the ghost. Friend or foe? We don’t know.
9. Super Scary Attraction
The Haunted Mansion opened on August 9, 1969 and was a darker attraction for “The happiest place on Earth.” The original Haunted Mansion ride was much scarier than what exists now. In fact, there is a rumor that one of the first people to test ride the Haunted Mansion attraction was scared to death. The man was so frightened that he suffered a heart attack and died right there on the ride. Nowadays, Disney places a warning on the Haunted Mansion ride that people with pre-existing heart conditions should not participate in the attraction, what with the ghostly effects and all. The ride has been updated and revamped multiple times, and it was also recreated in other Disney parks abroad, such as in Hong Kong and Tokyo. The attraction even inspired movies and other productions and popular culture references. No one ever mentions that someone died on the ride though!
8. Playing Cat and Mouse
This is a weird Disney rumor about the theme park in Orlando, Florida. It is said that Walt Disney noticed that when they were building Cinderella’s Castle at Magic Kingdom in Disney World, there was a large number of stray cats roaming around the area. In fact, there were so many of them that it was impeding the construction of the attraction. Walt wanted to get rid of them, but he couldn’t just kill them off (thank goodness). Instead, he had the cats all rounded up and placed in a holding room. At night when the guests would leave, the cats were set loose so they could get rid of all the mice that were quickly inhabiting the park. Yup, Disney World had a huge mouse problem. We’re not sure if that’s the case today, or if this was even an actual occurrence, since it’s just a myth.
Walt Disney has been called many things, among them a member of the occult. He is said to have been part of the Illuminati, and that his favorite number, 33, signified the upper echelons of the occult group. Supporters of this theory say that Disney used his films to send subliminal messages to kids that they should break up the traditional family values and become more sexually liberated. It is also said that his films make Illuminati references and that Walt was related to at least 13 members of the Illuminati. It is fairly easy to see some subliminal sexual messages and innuendo in quite a number of Disney films. Just take the “Phallic Palace” on the cover of 1989’s The Little Mermaid or the topless woman in The Rescuers. Some go so far as to say that Walt Disney practiced mind control, and that explains why the Disney Princesses are so popular.
6. Racism and Anti-Semitism
Walt was a racist and anti-semitic. Usually people cite his work from the 1930s to the 1950s in movies like Dumbo, in which a black crow is stereotypically “black” and has the name Jim Crow. Really. There are other films that didn’t make it to the mainstream but featured the beloved Disney characters like Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse. There is even a movie in which Mickey appears to be wearing blackface, a blatantly racist move. Other examples of racism in Disney classics include Aladdin, depicting the Middle East as “barbaric” and primitive. Or how about Peter Pan and the Native Americans and the “red man”? Perhaps in jest, some disgruntled Disney employees have taken to calling their workplace “Mousewitz” (named after a Nazi concentration camp) or “The Unhappiest Place on Earth.”
5. It’s A Small World Dolls
Debuting at Disneyland’s Magic Kingdom on May 28, 1966, It’s a Small World is one of the most famous rides at the Disney theme parks. It has been replicated in Disney World, and the parks in Hong Kong, Paris, and Tokyo. The ride featured hundreds of doll animatronics that sing along to the song “It’s a Small World” while guests float along in boats. If the ride seems creepy to you, then you’re not alone. The dolls are said to move slightly and switch places from time to time. There was an incident in 1999 in which the It’s a Small World ride was closed for no apparent reason. As a woman was preparing to get off the ride, she snapped some last-minute photos. One of them turned out to reveal a doll hanging from the ceiling. Whether it was an actual child, one of the dolls, or just a strange apparition is unknown, it’s enough to keep us away.
4. No Female Animators
For all you feminists out there, you won’t like this one! Disney Studios used to have a regulation in which women were not permitted to work on Disney animations. There was a woman named Mary Ford who applied to be an animator at the studio in 1938, but she was promptly turned down because this was men’s work. All women could do in the animation studio at that time was trace the characters on celluloid sheets. The story of Mary Ford’s rejection letter is still talked about, and some people still say that the Disney company is biased against women to this day. Could that explain why the female characters in Disney films have a history of being submissive and sexualized? It has only been in recent years that changes have been taking place in Disney films, with stronger female leads like Merida from Brave. What do you think? Is Disney sexist?
3. Skellies in Pirates of the Caribbean
Many people don’t know that the Pirates of the Caribbean ride has actually been around for decades. It got revived with the Johnny Depp film franchise, but the original ride was from way back in 1967. Supposedly it used real skeletons too. The rumor says that Disney wanted the ride to look as authentic as possible, and the fake skellies were not convincing at all. This was Disney World; they had to pull out all the stops. So, they used real skeletons on the ride, without the park guests knowing. These days, there are still said to be real skellies on the ride. For instance, behind the skeleton in the bed, there is a skull and crossbones, which is said to be from a real dead person. Our main question is: how does one go about obtaining real skeletons? Is there an online database for that? The Skeleton Store? Do you rob a morgue?
2. Mickey And Minnie’s Tape
We’re pretty sure that Disney fans (or not) have thought about Mickey and Minnie Mouse getting it on. It may sound absolutely ridiculous or even disturbing to some people, but we would guess that there are people out there who would get turned on by it. Well, this urban legend about Disney involves a Disney-themed tape of sexual content. It is said that Walt Disney’s younger brother Roy decided to make a Mickey and Minnie Sex Tape for Walt for his 35th birthday. Roy enlisted two Disney animators to work on it, and once it was presented to Walt, he at first found it worth a chuckle. However, he quickly did a 180 and decided to fire the two animators who worked on the film and then have any evidence of the sex tape destroyed. Because of that, we may never know if a Mickey and Minnie sex tape actually happened or if this is just a myth.
1. The One Way Ghost
The famous Space Mountain roller coaster ride opened at Disney World on January 3, 1975. Nowadays if you go there and ride the coaster, you might see Mr. One Way. It turns out there is a ghost on the Space Mountain ride, and it was a park guest who died while riding on Space Mountain in the 1970s. The ghost is nicknamed “Mr. One Way” because he got on the ride but never made it off. Creepy! But maybe not, because some people say that Mr. One Way is a friendly ghost. He is described as being a portly man with red hair and a rosy complexion, and he usually starts out riding in an empty seat but leaving before the 3-minute ride is complete. The fatalities that have occurred on Space Mountain have also involved people who had pre-existing heart conditions. The last incident like this happened ten years ago to a 73-year-old man.