Disneyland, Our Favorite Place

You will want to dazzel your friends with these facts

Fun Facts About Disneyland

1. Disneyland’s original Tinker Bell was a 71-year-old Hungarian circus performer named Tiny Kline. The first to fly off the top of the Matterhorn on a zip line, she previously worked as a stunt aerialist, hanging from a flying airplane by her teeth.

2. High inside the hollow Matterhorn is a basketball court. It’s part of an employee break room. Los Angeles Lakers’ center Vlade Divac has been up there to shoot hoops.

3. Many of the faces of the pirates in Pirates of the Caribbean are modeled on those of the “Imagineers” (Disneyspeak for the park’s artists and engineers) who created the ride. There’s evidence one face was modeled on Walt Disney’s.

4. Ron Ziegler, Richard Nixon’s press secretary during the Watergate scandal, once worked as a skipper on the Jungle Cruise ride.

5. The spooky voice that narrates the Haunted Mansion ride is that of the Pillsbury Doughboy. An actor named Paul Frees, who was to Disney what Mel Blanc was to Warner Brothers, supplied the voices for both, as well as many of the pirates in Pirates of the Caribbean and most of the characters in “Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln” (except Abe himself). He was also the voice of John Lennon in the old Beatles cartoons and Boris Badenov in the Rocky & Bullwinkle Show.

6. The sailing ship Columbia, which is supposed to be a replica of the first U.S. ship to circumnavigate the globe, actually was built in large part from the plans for the HMS Bounty, of mutiny fame. Disney’s shipbuilders couldn’t find plans for the original Columbia, so they relied heavily on those of Capt. William Bligh’s ship, which had similar dimensions.

7. Children’s Fairyland in Oakland was one of the major inspirations for Disneyland. Walt Disney even hired Fairyland’s first director, Dorothy Manes, to work at his park.

8. From groundbreaking to opening, Disneyland was built in just 365 days.

9. Perhaps inevitably, opening day – July 17, 1955 – was a disaster. Asphalt poured just hours before guests arrived hadn’t fully dried, and women’s spike heels sank into Main Street. VIP passes were widely counterfeited, and double the expected number of people showed up. Rides broke down. Because of a plumber’s strike, Walt Disney had to choose between drinking fountains and bathrooms. He opted for the latter, telling a reporter, “People can buy Pepsi-Cola, but they can’t pee in the street.”

10. Fittingly, one of the original Tomorrowland attractions was Crane’s Bathroom of Tomorrow.

11. Frank Sinatra showed up on opening day and took a spin around Autopia.

12. Disneyland cost $17 million to build in 1955, about $116 million in today’s dollars. The Space Mountain ride, which opened in 1977, cost more than half that amount (in constant dollars).

13. ABC was one of the original financial backers and for years owned a share of the park. Now, of course, the Walt Disney Co. owns ABC.

14. On opening day, Walt Disney had his gardeners cover bare patches of dirt by replanting weeds from the parking lot and labeling them with long, horticultural-sounding names.

15. Disneyland is home to feral cats – nobody knows how many – that come out at night, after visitors leave. Years ago, more than 100 were discovered living inside Sleeping Beauty Castle.

16. If the voice of the droid pilot in Star Tours sounds a little like Pee-wee Herman, it’s because both are voiced by comedian Paul Reubens.

17. At least three babies have been born at Disneyland.

disneyland firestation18. Walt Disney kept a 600-square-foot studio apartment above the firehouse on Main Street. It’s maintained as a shrine to the park’s founder and kept just as he left it, with Victorian antiques, red velvet carpeting and a device for making grilled cheese sandwiches. Outsiders are rarely allowed inside. A light shines from the window at all times as a symbol of Disney’s eternal presence.

19. Untold thousands of the old A, B, C, D and E tickets are still in circulation, moldering away in people’s drawers. From time to time, guests still show up at the park with them, and they’re given the face value of the ticket. (At their most expensive, individual E tickets went for 95 cents.) A better bet is to sell them on eBay, where they fetch many times that amount.

20. On Splash Mountain, high-spirited women sometimes lift their blouses for the cameras that snap souvenir pictures. These girls-gone-wild photos are usually destroyed by park employees, but more than a dozen were smuggled out and posted on an Internet site called “Flash Mountain.”

21. As a teenager, actor and comedian Steve Martin worked in Merlin’s Magic Shop in Fantasyland.

22. Walt Disney wanted to populate the Jungle Cruise with live animals, but zoologists convinced him they’d be asleep during most park hours. In the early days, though, live alligators were kept in a pen near the turnstiles; they occasionally escaped into the lagoon.

23. In New Orleans Square, near the Pirates of the Caribbean exit, a door marked “33” leads to an ultra-secret, ultra-exclusive private club. Club 33 is the only place in the park that serves alcohol (including a Chardonnay specially bottled for the club by Fess “Davy Crockett” Parker). Its 480 members pay an initiation fee of from $8,000 to $27,000, and yearly dues of $4,000 to $15,000. The current waiting list for membership is said to be seven years long.

Monsanto’s House of the Future24. An early Tomorrowland attraction was Monsanto’s House of the Future, made entirely of plastic. It had the requisite picture phone and other Jetsonsonian appliances, but the most-talked-about feature, according to “Mouse Tales,” was the microwave oven. “Nobody believed you could bake a potato in three minutes,” said attendant Dick Mahoney. Years later, when Disneyland tried to tear down the plastic house, the wrecking ball just bounced off.

25. On Star Tours, the short, squat robots you pass while waiting in line are the audio-animatronic ducks from the old “America Sings” attraction, with their feathers and skin yanked off. One still has webbed feet.

26. To create the illusion of size on Main Street, designers made the ground-floor buildings nine-tenths scale, the second floors seven-eighths and the third floors five-eighths.

27. Sleeping Beauty Castle is based largely on “Mad King” Ludwig’s Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, but with one big difference: The top is on backward. Disney didn’t want it to look too much like the real thing.

28. Originally, Mr. Toad did not appear in Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, nor did Peter Pan or Snow White feature in their own rides. Disney’s idea was that riders would view these attractions from the lead character’s point of view. Hardly anyone understood this concept, and now each character makes a brief appearance.

29. If you buy a Mickey balloon and it pops or flies away while you’re in the park, they’ll give you a new one – as long as you have a receipt.

30. Late at night on rides such as Pirates of the Caribbean and It’s a Small World, amorous couples regularly try to make the Happiest Place on Earth even a little happier. They’re apparently unaware that virtually every inch of every ride is observed by security cameras or hidden employees. Sometimes they’re startled by a warning from a loudspeaker; occasionally they’re greeted at the exit by applauding employees.

31. In the early days, Walt Disney had an agreement with the city of Anaheim that no outside buildings could be tall enough to be visible from within the park.

32. At the end of the Star Tours ride, just as your Starspeeder is about to crash into a fuel truck, a man in the control booth ducks down, then stands up and picks up the phone. The man is George Lucas.

33. Ron Dominguez, the top executive from 1971 to 1994, grew up on one of the Anaheim orange groves purchased by Disney for the park. “My house was right about where the grist mill on Tom Sawyer’s Island is now,” he said. Mr. Dominguez spent his entire career at the park, starting as a ticket-taker on opening day and working his way up to the top spot.

34. The names painted in gold leaf on second-story windows along Main Street are Disneyland’s Hall of Fame. They honor important people in the park’s history, usually with an inside joke. Mr. Dominguez’s window, for example, reads, “Orange Grove Property Mgt. – We Care For Your Property As If It Were Our Own.”

35. Attractions that never made it off the drawing board: Lilliputian Land, a Monstro the Whale water slide and, according to Mouse Tales, a “child-sized medieval torture chamber.”

36. There were no A, B, C, etc., coupons when Disneyland opened. Instead, visitors bought carnival-style tickets from booths in front of each attraction. When the lettered coupons were introduced in late 1955, C was the highest level. D tickets didn’t come until the following year, and E tickets until 1959.

37. Conspicuously missing on opening day: the Matterhorn. In its place was a two-story-tall pile of dirt from the excavation of the castle moat. It was billed as “Lookout Mountain.” The Matterhorn didn’t open until 1959.

38. Tomorrowland was originally meant to represent the futuristic year of 1986, when Halley’s comet was due to make its next appearance.

39. The soundtrack on Space Mountain, “Aquarium” from Saint-Saens’ “Carnival Des Animaux,” is played by 1960s surf guitar legend Dick Dale.

40. Nikita Krushchev was never turned away at the front gate by Walt Disney, as is popularly believed. Disney was eager to show the Soviet premier his submarine fleet, at the time the world’s sixth largest. It was the U.S. State Department that nixed the visit, saying security wasn’t adequate.

disneyland small world41. It’s a Small World was originally built for the 1964 New York World’s Fair. It was later boxed up and shipped to Anaheim, where it reopened in 1967. People who rode it in New York, including this writer, have had that song stuck in their heads three years longer than everyone else. (Other New York World’s Fair attractions that migrated west: “Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln,” the G.E. Carousel of Progress and the robotic dinosaurs you pass on the Disneyland Railroad.)

42. The telegraph in the New Orleans Square railroad station continually taps out part of Walt Disney’s opening day speech in a variant of Morse code once used by railroads. For years it had it slightly wrong, until an amateur ham radio operator deciphered it and discovered the mistake. In the park’s early days, according to “101 Things,” the telegraph tapped out a “ribald message.” It was quickly changed after Disney casually mentioned that his wife knew Morse code.

43. Main Street is based in large part on the town of Marceline, Mo., where Walt Disney spent part of his childhood. A whistle stop on the old Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe rail line between Chicago and Kansas City, the town named a swimming pool and elementary school after its most famous son. The latter is the only place outside Disneyland authorized to fly the official Disneyland flag.

44. When it opened in 1967, Pirates of the Caribbean used real human skeletons as props. In an upcoming book, imagineer Jason Surrell writes, “Because the original imagineering team felt that the faux skeletons of the period were just too unconvincing, the grotto sequence originally featured real human remains obtained from the UCLA Medical Center. The skeletons were later returned to their countries of origin and given a proper burial.”

45. It’s widely believed that the horse-drawn hearse parked outside the Haunted Mansion was the one used to carry Mormon leader Brigham Young to his burial place. But this is one of many urban legends associated with Disneyland. No hearse was used at Young’s funeral.

46. Designers frequently leave their signatures on attractions. On Star Tours, the lettering on the industrial pipes near the entrance are the initials and telephone extensions of the creators; on It’s a Small World, one of the dolls wears the signature poncho of designer Mary Blair.

47. The Disneyland-Alweg Monorail was the first daily operating monorail in the Western Hemisphere.

48. The unforgettable – no matter how hard you try – theme song for It’s a Small World was written by the same team, Richard and Robert Sherman, who wrote the Annette Funicello novelty hit “Pineapple Princess.” (They also penned many Oscar-nominated songs for Disney movies.)

49. When you enter the Star Tours ride, a voice over the loudspeaker asks for an “Egroeg Sacul” to come to the booth. That’s “George Lucas” spelled backward.

50. Once and for all, Walt Disney is not frozen cryogenically at Disneyland or anywhere else. He did have an interest in the technology, but he is in fact spending eternity at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, Calif.