In 2017, The Walt Disney Company grossed roughly $95.79 billion dollars between their productions, parks, and cruise lines among other deals that they are a part of. The Disney 11 theme parks grossed $2.2 billion in just a single quarter of the year. At the time of his death, the mogul himself was worth an incredible $5 billion dollars in today’s estimate. While the company is a trailblazer in the industry, the company was just a dream for a young Walt Disney in 1923. Through his conception of the now iconic Mickey Mouse to his first large project, Disneyland, Walt Disney continuously showed the world what it meant to bring magic to life, right in front of our eyes. While most people can point out Disneyland on a map and sing the entire soundtrack of the Lion King frontwards and backwards, there are still many things fans don’t know about Disney. There are rumors that almost seem like facts that have been swirling around about the giant company since it’s creation back in the 20’s. The films, the parks, to the creator of the company himself, much of it is a mystery. Below are 25 Disney secrets that are completely true yet unbelievable.
25. Disney Characters Ariel And Belle Were Inspired By A Real Woman
Disney gets its fair share of criticism because of the way they represent the bodies of women. Most of the old school princesses have unrealistic proportions including barely there waists, full busts, and shapely curves. While the princesses may seem unrealistic, it turns out 2 of them were actually inspired by a real life woman. Sherri Stoner is a writer and actress that has worked on a number of Disney productions. She was used as inspiration for the 2 princesses and their films. In The Little Mermaid, Ariel bites her lip often and in Beauty and the Beast, Belle brushes her hair out of her face often, which are mannerisms attributed to Sherri.
24. Many Films Don’t Include Moms
Take a minute and try to think of all of the classic, or even more recent Disney films that include moms as main characters in a family dynamic. It will likely be difficult as Disney tends to exclude the mothers. Films like Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, Snow White, and more simply don’t have moms included. There are 2 theories that Disney Producer Don Hahn has spoken on as to why mothers are often times excluded or killed off in Disney films. The first is that the films are only about 90 minutes long and require their main character, usually a child, to grow up quickly or step up to the plate. It’s easier to move the story along when a parent or both parents are not included. The other theory is that back in the 1941, Walt Disney purchased a house for his parents which included a furnace that was not functioning properly. As a result, his mother died due to a gas leak and he’d been haunted by that ever since. Both theories make total sense.
23. Princesses Wear Gloves For A Specific Reason
The dresses and overall style of Disney princesses is what make them special and unique. Each princess has an iconic style that you can literally recognize instantly when you see it. As a little girl, those dresses, hairstyles, and overall aesthetic is what I dreamed of. I mean, who didn’t want to dress like a Disney princess every single day? But, there is a distinct difference why some princesses wear long gloves as opposed to the princesses that do not. Princess Tiana, Cinderella, and Belle wear opera gloves while Aurora, Ariel, and Rapunzel have bare hands and long sleeved dresses. The gloved princess were not born into royalty and married into the fold, whereas bare handed princess were born into the royal family from the start.
22. Ursula Was Inspired By A Well Known Queen
The evil villains of Disney movies are just as iconic as the heroes and Ursula is certainly among the most popular of them all. Her dark, opulent design is unmatched by any other Disney villain that I have ever seen. While Disney is certainly an innovative and creative company, they can’t take full credit for Ursula’s outstanding appearance. The evil sea queen herself was actually inspired by an Earthly drag queen, Divine. Well known for her roles in Hairspray and Pink Flamingos, Divine was a presence unlike any other. When you look at the two side by side, the similarities are unbelievable. Unfortunately, Divine passed away before the character of Ursula was revealed but I think she would have been quite flattered by the representation.
21. Beauty And The Beast And Sleeping Beauty Have Something Special In Common
Disney movies are known for hiding subtle details in plain sight. It is incredible when you hear these details and rewatch the films and notice how obvious it is. Well, the films Beauty and the Beast and Sleeping Beauty have a subtle similarity that is totally on purpose and painfully obvious. The dance scene at the end of each of the films is the moment where everything comes together. Each princess gets to dance with their prince and finally live happily ever after. The thing is that each of those dance scenes are identical. Disney wanted to save money and time when creating Beauty and the Beast so they recycled the dance scene from Sleeping Beauty. When you look at the scenes side by side, you will notice that their dance moves are the same.
20. Beyonce Passed On Voicing A Princess
Tiana was a groundbreaking princess for Disney as she was the first black princess. Her story was based in New Orleans and was brimming with culture, music, and the essence of the time period. When casting for the voice actress to play the iconic princess, Disney wanted Beyonce to audition for the role. She actually passed on the role because she thought it would be automatically offered to her. I mean, Beyonce is a queen in her own right but Disney has their choice of actors and actresses so it’s fair to assume that they’d expect potential choices to audition. The role was given to the actress Anika Rose, who just so happened to play alongside Beyonce in the film Dreamgirls. While I’m sure Beyonce would have done an amazing job as Tiana, Anika truly brought the princess to life.
19. The Hyenas In Lion King Had A Lawsuit Against Disney
One of my all time favorite Disney movies from childhood is Lion King. The music is unmatched by any other Disney movie, the characters are hilarious, and Mufasa being killed within the first 20 minutes was my first introduction to seeing a character die in a movie. Although the lions were the main characters in the film, the evil gang of hyenas were a part of the villainous crew and were an important part of the story line. Well, after the film was released, an animal researcher attempted to sue Disney because of the way hyenas were portrayed in the film. In the Lion King, the spotted hyenas were evil, scary, and predatory in an excessive way. The lawsuit didn’t make it far but the attempt was made in the name of Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed.
18. Princess Aurora Didn’t Say Much In Her Disney Film
Like any other film, the main character of Disney films typically say the most lines. The story is all about them so that would make sense. Princess Aurora, however, didn’t have too much to say in her film. The princess had a whopping 18 lines in the entire film which is not very much for a 90 minute movie. Even though Aurora is the main character and the film is named after her, she has very little to say throughout the film. In fact, princess Aurora doesn’t say a word after the 40 minute mark in the film. The evil witch actually has plenty to say throughout the movie and actually carries the dialogue. While it is an interesting fact that princess Aurora doesn’t say much in her movie, it makes sense as the movie is titled Sleeping Beauty and she is knocked out most of the time. Can’t say much after eating a poisoned apple that puts you to sleep.
17. The Parks Control What You Smell
Have you ever walked through the Disney Parks and noticed the different scents? Maybe you smell hints of vanilla near Main Street or a crisp scent of sea air in the Pirates of the Caribbean section. There is a noticeable, distinct scent that changes in each section of the park. It turns out that you aren’t losing your mind. The park has smellitizers throughout the park that pump specific scents into the air. These scents corresponds with the specific theme in each section of the park. The park developers wanted to tantalize visitors with interesting smells that bring the park to life. The smellitizer machine adds an aroma to everything from the rushing volcanoes to the flower gardens. It really adds an extra ambiance that transports visitors into the wondrous, creative mind of Walt Disney himself.
16. Disney Parks Sit On Top Of Tunnels
Back when the Disney park was first opened, Walt Disney was incredibly involved in every part of the process. He would spend time walking through the parks to ensure that everything was moving around as it should. While making his rounds, he noticed that employees dressed as Disney characters had to walk through the park, among guests, to get to their appropriate destination. It totally ruined the ambiance. Walt decided to create a maze of tunnels beneath the park for employees dressed as characters to move around and get to their destinations without ruining the magical experience for all of the guests. The tunnels were also used for employees to get from one end of the park to the other without having to bulldoze through all of the guests. Those tunnels are still in effect today at Disney theme parks and is a major part of keeping the magical spirit alive.
15. Facial Hair Was A Big NO For Guests And Employees
The first of the Disney Parks opened in 1955. While the rest of the country was all about free love and bell bottoms, Walt Disney was a bit less enthused about the hippie trend. One of the quintessential features of the hippy style for men was long, wild facial hair. Even though it was the style of the era, there was a rule at Disney parks that employees were not allowed to rock facial hair at all. Walt was all about the clean cut appearance. He didn’t stop there. Guests were also not permitted into the park if they had facial hair either, which eliminated quite a few people during that time. The most interesting part of that rule is that Walt Disney himself grew a bit of facial hair that was a part of his classic style. While it wasn’t a wild mane, it was the same facial hair he didn’t allow his guests or employees to wear.
14. Good Luck Finding Gum At Disney
Personally, I love chewing gum. It is a habit that I’ve had since I was a kid. However, for the Disney parks, gum chewing is not allowed. While you are probably allowed to come into the park while chewing gum or with a pack in your pocket, you will have no luck finding a pack in the actual park. The reason is that, as you can imagine, a park full of children chewing gum is likely to cause a sticky mess with wads of gum being stuck to every surface imaginable. To eliminate that issue, the park simply does not sell gum. Those that have worked with Walt Disney have said that he was very particular about the way he wanted the theme parks to look. Unlike other parks, he put a great amount of thought into every aspect of the Disney parks. This includes making sure the parks were clean and inviting at all times.
13. There’s A Secret Suite You Can’t Stay In
The Disney park is full of secrets, some we have yet to even discover. One of the secrets that’s hiding right in plain sight is the one and only hotel that is actually inside of the park. This hotel is inside of Cinderella’s Castle. Originally, the hotel in the park was created for Walt Disney and his family. However, Disney died before the park could be completely finished. The room sat, untouched and unfinished, for several decades until 2006 when the company decided to renovate it. Now, the onsite hotel is as magical as one could imagine. Every detail is tended to from pumpkin murals to a large clock that is always set to 11:59pm. The one catch, however, is that you can not actually stay in this room. The hotel is reserved for guests that are specifically invited to stay there or guests that have won a contest of some sort.
12. The Park Was Expected To Shut Down After A Few Months
In the summer of 1955, Walt Disney opened Disneyland for the first time for all of America to see. The creator dumped $17 million dollars into the project and about 2 decades and the opening day was finally happening. The opening day was broadcasted on television so every American could experience the magic. While viewers saw a wondrous park unveiled, the truth was not as glamorous. On opening day, many of the rides were not ready for operation, construction was rushed causing issues, and the grounds were far from the meticulous vision that Walt Disney had. The park anticipated about 15,000 guests that were personally invited but, due to fake tickets, the number of guests rose to about 30,000 which was way too much for the park to handle. The park was broken down, the guests were hungry and thirsty under the July sun, and the entire day felt like a flop. Many thought this was the worst failure for Disney and the park wouldn’t last more than a few months.
11. Disney And Kodak Want You To Have The Perfect Insta Photos
I cannot think of many photos taken in a Disney park that didn’t come out looking phenomenal. Whether you are using a DSLR or just your iPhone camera, pictures taken at Disney parks have a special spark about them. This is, of course, not by accident. Before heading to Disney, look up the Kodak picture spots. They should be available online and on the physical maps of the parks. Kodak and Disney partnered up to create these spots so that you can create the perfect Insta photos and keepsakes. There are 25 Kodak picture spots around the park that capture the magic of Disney beautifully. These locations are in front of iconic locations and attractions within the park that will capture your Disney trip in just a snap.
10. Scream “Andy’s Coming” And See What Happens
In the 1995 Pixar film, Toy Story, a little boy named Andy has toys that come alive when he is away. When he comes back home, the toys yell “Andy’s Coming!” to go back to their toy state quickly. Most people that grew up watching this classic film know this line as soon as they hear it. In the Disney parks, there are characters from every film walking around the park including Toy Story. Previously, if you yelled out “Andy’s Coming” the Toy Story characters in the park would drop to the ground, falling limp, like they were actual toys hiding from their 8 year old owner. Personally, I think it is absolutely genius and probably exhausting for the actors and actresses playing these characters. Unfortunately, Disney discontinued this demonstration because of safety and to prevent injury. You can still try saying it to see what happens.
9. Walt Disney Used To Live In Disneyland California
Walt Disney was a visionary that brought to life some of the most beloved characters from our childhood. When it came to building Disneyland, that was one of his largest projects that he threw his entire self into. Despite all of the critics, he continued on and created a theme park that is unlike any other up to this day. Since the construction of Disneyland was the project of his life, Walt Disney took it very seriously and wanted to be in the midst of it all of the time. He had an apartment constructed in the heart of Disneyland in California to watch all of the magic unfold. The apartment was a small, 500 sq ft place on the second level of the firehouse on Main Street. He and his family were able to privately enjoy the park in peace.
8. Mickey’s Name Didn’t Come Until Later
The most iconic character that is synonymous with the Disney brand is Mickey Mouse. The character is a major player for Disney and has been with him from the beginning. The most interesting part of Walt Disney choosing a mouse character is that he was actually terrified of mice but I can’t imagine another animal playing his role. During the creation of the mouse character, Walt Disney chose a name not nearly as kid friendly or fun for the him. The original name of the mouse was Mortimer. Walt Disney’s wife actually was the person that suggested the creative genius change the mouse’s name to Mickey Mouse. Mortimer Mouse later became another character in the Disney franchise but no other character has ever grown to the popularity of Mickey Mouse.
7. Walt Disney Won A Special Kind Of Oscar
Winning an award is an amazing honor for any creator. From the Grammy’s for performing artists to the SAG awards for actors and actresses, these awards can be the pinnacle of a person’s entire career. For Walt Disney, winning an Oscar was both warranted and an amazing achievement for him and his company. For most creators, winning an Oscar includes giving an acceptance speech and taking home an award statue. In 1939, Walt Disney won a special Oscar award unlike any other. At the ceremony, he won the award for the film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Instead of being given just a classic Oscar statue, he was awarded a regular Oscar statue and 7 smaller ones to represent the movie that he’d created. A special treat just for him.
6. Walt Served In The Armed Forces…Kind Of
Before Walt was even 18 years old, he set his sights on joining the armed forces. This was during the first World War and the young Walt Disney wanted to join the war efforts. Unfortunately, even back then, the joining age was still 18 and he wasn’t quite old enough yet. Even still, he was able to help out with the war efforts by joining the Red Cross. After officially joining, the organization shipped him out to France for him to work there as an ambulance driver. Not the exact action Walt Disney was looking for but close enough. However, when he actually arrived to his post in France, ready to roll his sleeves up and get to work, the war had concluded. The armistice agreement was signed and his services were no longer needed. Definitely a sign that he had another purpose to be served.
5. Walt Disney Had A Real Life Villain
Much of the films and animations that Walt Disney created were partly based on his own life, including the villains. During the formative days of Disney, Walt had an enemy that seemed like he jumped straight out of a story book. Charles Mintz was obsessed with bringing nothing but strife to the creative giant. He hired all of Disney’s employees in an attempt to cripple them. Sadly, many of those employees lacked loyalty and worked with Mintz, a choice I’m sure they later regretted. The joke ended up being on Mintz as Disney continued to pump out excellent content that lives on today while most people haven’t even heard of Mintz or anything that he has created. The villain in the film Up is also said to be inspired by Disney’s real life enemy.
4. Walt Dropped Out Of High School
Education is a major part of most people choosing to follow their dream careers. Even if that career choice is in the arts, school is still considered that foundation for that. I’d have to imagine this was the case even when Walt Disney was a young kid getting through the last few years of high school. However, when Walt Disney was just 16 years old, he had the feeling that his calling was out there and school was hindering the process. While I think finishing at least high school would have only helped him rather than stopped him from achieving his goals, Disney did not see it that way. Before he was even 17, Walt Disney decided he’d had enough of the school thing and decided to try and join the war efforts. While admirable, he was too young to join the war and ended up joining the Red Cross instead.
3. Mickey Was Once Voiced By Walt Himself
Mickey Mouse was created by Walt Disney in 1928. His debut performance was in a short titled Plane Crazy followed Steamboat Willie. Over the last 80 years, Mickey has been featured in shorts, movies, comic strips, and in 1955 his own show titled Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. From the time of his creation all the way to 1947, Walt Disney himself voiced the little mouse in films. This was the case until the acting was turned over to an English voice actor Jimmy MacDonald, because the job of being a voice actor as well as running Disney as a company became too much to do at once. He is the voice that most associate with the little mouse. However, Walt Disney made a come back to voicing for Mickey Mouse in 1955 for The Mickey Mouse Club. Walt Disney took great pride in voicing his creation when he was able to.
2. Before Death, Walt Had A Major Project In The Works
As many know, Disneyland and all of theme parks under the brand that were to follow is a major part of the company. Walt Disney created Disneyland from his heart and soul and to watch it come together was like a dream come true for him. Before his death in 1966, Walt Disney had started to put together the plans for his next big venture that he’d pour himself into. To be honest, I wish it would have come into fruition because it sounds pretty amazing. The project was going to be a Disney Ski Resort located in Mineral King Valley. The park would have a capacity of 20,000 and several ski areas with a village at the center. The plan was on it’s way to actually starting when Disney died. The company had to scrap the plans as handling the construction of Disney World and the resort would have been too much.
1. His Last Words Still Remain A Mystery
The last words on one’s deathbed can give their family extra insight, comfort, or understanding on how they felt about their life. For many people, they use those last moments to offer their family and friends something that they can hold on to like “I love you” or “I’m ready”. Walt Disney’s last words were neither comforting or clear. They were actually quite confusing and still are to this day. Shortly before Walt Disney died due to lung cancer, he said “Kurt Russell” and that was it. No one knew why he named the actor during his final moments, including the actor himself. During this time Kurt Russell was a young child actor working for the studio and he wasn’t exactly super famous. The mystery remains as to why he said the actors name during those final moments and it seems that it will stay that way.
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