Walter Disney’s original moniker was d’Isigny, showing his French roots. While d’Isignyland might not have such a ring to it, Walt d’Isigny might have lent Paris-set animations like The Aristocats and Ratatouille a certain je ne sais quoi.
Everyone’s favourite rubbish-compactor, Wall-E, was named after Walter Elias Disney
The voice of Lilo, from Lilo and Stitch, is Daveigh Chase – the same girl who haunts our dreams as Samara Morgan in The Ring.
If you thought Ariel and Belle’s perfect proportions were too good to be true, think again, because they’re based on real-life model Sherri Stoner. The diminutive inspiration for two of Disney’s hottest chicks was also a writer and producer for animations including Animaniacs and Caspar the Friendly Ghost.
Lots of early Disney films are a mother-free zone: The Jungle Book, Pinocchio and – sob – Bambi. It’s been suggested that this was because of their creator’s guilt over the death of his own mother in 1938. Fresh from the success of Snow White, he had bought a home for his parents, but tragically a faulty heating system led to Flora Disney’s death from carbon monoxide poisoning.
Those Disney animators are tricksy folk, and love to hide classic characters in the background for newer films. For example, in the opening scenes of the Little Mermaid the eagle-eyed may spot Goofy, Mickey and Donald Duck in the audience at King Triton’s concert.
Also, the sorcerer in Fantasia is called ‘Yen Sid’, which may ring a bell if read backwards.
For a couple of years Disney held the patent for Technicolor, making him the only animator allowed to make colour films.
Disneyland, California, was built in the early 1950s, opening in 1955. Anxious to be on site as much as possible, Walt built an apartment for his family above the ‘Fire Department’ on Main Street. A lamp in the window signalled to staff that he was in residence, and this is now always alight in his honour. Awww.
Disney World, Florida, opened in 1971, long after after the original Disneyland in California. Walt was unsettled by the sight of costumed characters having to run through the ‘wrong’ lands to get to their allotted spots, spoiling the magic at the first site. He came up with an elaborate tunnel system which runs beneath Disney World, and allows actors to put on their costumes and appear in the appropriate land without shattering the illusion. The entire park is built on a gentle incline to accommodate these.
The rules for those playing theme park characters include never using the word ‘no’ (not sure that would stand up in court), never breaking character or sitting down and never pointing out a direction with a single finger, which is considered rude.
The theme parks use a patented ‘Smellitzer’ device designed to pump certain scents around. Whether it’s a waft of sea salt in Pirates of the Caribbean, or vanilla in Main Street, your senses are constantly being played.
While staff weren’t allowed to grow a beard until last year, when it was first opened guests at Disney World weren’t granted admission if they had facial hair! It’s rich when you consider that Walt rocked a moustache from the age of 25 onwards.
Main Street is based on 1910 America, while Tomorrowland was designed to represent 1986 – both were chosen because they were Halley’s Comet years.
Like an action star in Cuban heels, some of the architecture at Disneyland has had a helping hand to appear taller. Its design uses ‘forced perspective’, so while Sleeping Beauty’s castle may seem to rise up into the clouds, thanks to painted bricks that get smaller towards the top, it’s actually a relatively titchy 189ft tall.
‘It’s a Small World After All’ is enough to drive anyone to drink, but you won’t have much luck getting one at Disneyland, which is dry. That is, unless you happen to have access to the exclusive Club 33. This plush, secret cocktail lounge, opened in 1967, is hidden above the Blue Bayou in New Orleans Square, and has a strict list of 487 members, with a waiting list of around 14 years.
If you’re in to exclusivity, and already a paid-up Club 33 member, why not try a night in Cinderella’s castle in Florida? A swish 650ft apartment can be accessed by a secret lift, but unless you’re Hollywood royalty it’s unlikely you’ll be given directions, and no amount of money can buy your way in.
Steve Martin used to work in the magic shop at Disneyland.
Dumbo is an elephant of few words – none, in fact – which makes him the quietest central character of them all. Hot on his heels is Aurora from Sleeping Beauty, who gets a mere 18 whole lines of dialogue, and just 18 minutes of screen time in her own film. Well, that’s what you get for laziness.
Joss Whedon was part of a team of writers brought in to perk up the Toy Story script, and came up with the character of Rex, the cowardly dinosaur (Rex was voiced by Wallace Shawn, who you’ll know from The Princess Bride and Clueless. What a CV.) and the line, “You are a sad, strange little man”.
Sulley from Monsters Inc has more than 2.3 million individual hairs, which are all carefully animated. This explains why a single frame of the big blue fella took an average of 12 hours to produce.
Clarence Nash, aka the voice of Donald Duck, created the dog barks for 101 Dalmations. While we’re on the subject of animal noise, tiger roars were used for the Lion King, as lions weren’t deemed loud enough.
While we know him as Prince Charming, the dapper chap who steals Cinderella’s heart (and slipper) is never actually named during the film.
Peter Cullen is another Disney voice with a varied CV, having voiced both Eeyore and Optimus Prime.
Simba is Swahili for ‘lion’, while Bhalu (Baloo) is Hindi for ‘bear’.
Bruce, the ‘vegetarian’ great white shark of Finding Nemo, was named after the mechanical shark used in Jaws, which, in turn, was named after Steven Spielberg’s lawyer!
Blogger Jon Negroni has a unified theory of Pixar films and how they all connect, from Brave through to the frightening, sci-fi world of Wall-E, and finally to a freakish future when animals and humans have inter-bred, to create the monsters of Monsters Inc/University. Strange but fascinating.
Wayne Anthony Allwine, who was the voice of Mickey Mouse for 32 years, got hitched to Russi Taylor, who played Minnie, in 1991. The two remained happily married until his death in 2009.
Apparently, if you send Mickey and Minnie Mouse an invitation to your wedding they’ll send you back an autographed photo and a ‘Just Married’ badge. If you send Cinderella and Prince Charming an invitation, you’ll get an autographed congratulatory certificate.
It’s rumoured that Walt Disney had a phobia of mice. While this is hard to prove, it is a fact that his big-eared creation was named ‘Mortimer’, until his wife persuaded him that ‘Mickey’ had a better ring to it…
Each year, several families ask to scatter a loved one’s ashes into the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland. The answer is always no, but a family has been caught in the act before.
Christian Bale played the role of young Thomas – a clumsy member of John Smith’s crew – in Pocahontas. His shooting skills have come on since then.
Walt Disney was presented with one normal sized honorary Oscar and seven little Oscars for Snow White and the Seven Dwarves in 1938.
In Monsters Inc, Boo’s real name is Mary, after her voice actress Mary Gibbs. You can see it written on a drawing in her room.
While a million and one kids have lost their minds at Disney World, adults have misplaced an estimated 1.65 million pairs of glasses since 1971. Every year, the park finds an average of 6,000 cellphones, 3,500 digital cameras and 18,000 hats.
Disney World was evacuated on September 11, 2001 in just 30 minutes, as staff feared it might become another terrorist target. They then worked through the night to erect the Fourth of July decorations, so it could reopen the following day with an air of national solidarity.
The Disney World resort is about the same size as San Francisco.
It would take 68 years to sleep in every single room at Disney World. That’s a lot of pillow mints.
‘Man is in the forest’ was a code used by animators to warn colleagues to get back to work when Walt Disney was coming down the hallway.
Disney is always quick to downplay deaths on site, but the 2007 death of a teenager who lost consciousness on a rollercoaster at Disneyland Paris made headlines world-wide.
Walt’s final words – written rather than spoken – were, rather cryptically ‘Kurt Russell’. No one, including the actor himself, has any idea why.
Disney World flew its flags at half-mast on the day Apple co-founder Steve Jobs died. Jobs was Disney’s largest single shareholder (7 percent) and was on the board of directors. Cars features a white racing car with the Apple logo, and the number ’84’, which refers to the year the first Apple computer was released.
Mickey Mouse was the first animated character to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. We imagine he’d rather have had a cheese wheel, but you can’t always get what you want.
The two minute storm in The Little Mermaid took 10 special effects artists over a year to finish.
Walt Disney once played Peter Pan in a school play.
Mickey was also the first animated character to talk. His first words, in 1929 cartoon The Karnival Kid, were ‘Hot dog!’
Lilo and Stitch features more Elvis Presley songs than any of his own films. Talk about treading on his blue suede shoes.
Jodi Benson (the voice of Ariel), Paige O’Hara (the voice of Belle), and Judy Kuhn (the voice of Pocahontas) all had cameos in Enchanted.
Tasked with creating the Beast, supervising animator Glen Keane took inspiration from the zoo, blending the mane of a lion, the horns and head of a buffalo, the eyebrows of a gorilla, the tusks of a wild boar, the upper body of a bear, and the legs and tail of a wolf to create the rather likeable Beast.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame features tiny ‘cameos’ from Belle, Aladdin’s magic carpet and even Pumbaa, who is trussed up ready for cooking.
Disneyland is home to numerous feral cats. While the park doesn’t encourage them, neither does it boot them out, as they provide a nifty pest control service.
Walt Disney’s personal favourite character was tie-wearing dog Goofy.
Contrary to rumours, Disney’s daughter has assured the press he wasn’t cryogenically frozen.
Walt Disney’s attention to detail was legendary. He placed the bins at Disney World 25 steps away from the hot dog stall, as this was how long it took him to eat a hot dog.
Disney built a miniature railroad in his backyard called the Carolwood Pacific Railroad. It had 2,615 feet of track, including trestles, loops, overpasses, and even a tunnel (after his wife vetoed his suggestion that he put a train through her flower beds).
To capture the movement of Aladdin’s low-cut baggy pants, animator Glen Keane watched M.C. Hammer videos. That was his excuse, anyway.
People have often claimed to spot hidden messages in Disney films. One of the better known is when Simba flops down onto the ground and clouds of dust appear to spell ‘SEX’ in the sky. The story goes that it actually reads ‘SFX’ and was put there by the effects team like a signature.
A much saucier titbit was hidden in the Rescuers, where a photo of a nude lady was sneaked into the background. Disney actually admitted to this one, and had to recall 3.4 million videos!
Billy Crystal may be immortalised in the Disney cannon as Mike Wazowski, but prior to that he turned down the role of Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story, a role that eventually went to Tim Allen. After watching the finished film, he described his decision as one of his biggest regrets, but has said that Mike is his favourite ever role.
Like air stewardesses, Disney Princesses have to fit a certain body type to work at the parks. While princesses are between 5’4″ and 5’7″, Tinkerbell, Alice and Wendy must be more petite – between 4’11” to 5’2″. Oh, and you need to be a real spring chicken: 27 is considered over the hill.
The final film Walt personally oversaw was The Jungle Book, before his death from lung cancer in 1966.
Pogo sticks are forbidden at Disneyland. Not so magical now, is it?
As of 2012, there have been three babies born at Disneyland. Sadly we don’t know how many of them were named Mickey.
Aged 16, Walt signed up for the army, but was rejected because he was too young. Instead he became an ambulance driver in World War I France.
On a trip to Disneyland Paris, George Lucas decided to film the Star Wars attraction during a ride – something that is against the rules. An oblivious member of staff (or perhaps a Star Wars hater) tried to have him removed.
With about 78 million sold, Mickey Mouse ears are one of the most popular souvenirs from Disneyland. Names can be embroidered on the back, but you can’t get the name of a famous person, sports team, corporation, or personal business.
Several doggy characters from Lady and the Tramp appear in a pet shop window in 101 Dalmatians. According to someone with waaay too much time on their hands, the film also contains 6,469,952 black spots.
The Ken doll in Toy Story 3 is based on ‘Animal Lovin’ Ken, from 1988.
In 1957, President Harry Truman (a Democrat) took a trip to Disneyland and refused to ride the Dumbo ride because elephants are the symbol of the Republican party.
The Matterhorn rollercoaster at Disneyland has a secret basketball court inside it for Disneyland staff to use.
Disneyland employees only have their first names featured on workplace badges, because Walt hated being called ‘Mr Disney’.
Back in 2004, the company auctioned (for charity) the chance to name a gravestone at the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland. The winner, Cary Sharp, paid $37,400 on eBay to become the attraction’s 1,000th ghost. Each to their own.
The ideas for Wall-E, Monsters Inc, A Bug’s Life and Finding Nemo came from a single lunchtime brainstorming session in 1994, before the first Toy Story film was even finished. What did you accomplish over sandwiches today?
Though commonly referred to as seven ‘dwarves’, the films actual title is Snow White and the Seven ‘Dwarfs’. This is because in 1938 when the film was released, ‘dwarfs’ was the accepted plural. Blame JRR Tolkien for the change.
Mickey only has four fingers on each hand because animators thought he looked strange with five. The fact that he’s a clothed mouse apparently didn’t seem strange to them at all.
Disney theme parks don’t allow staff to date one another, a fact that came to light when a ‘Jack Sparrow’ spilt the doubloons to the press.
When the Pirates of the Caribbean ride opened in 1967, the only fake skeletons available to Disneyland designers were rather naff, so they used real skeletons (previously employed for medical research) from UCLA’s Medical Center.
Bully boy Sid from Toy Story has a hallway carpet which has the same design as the nightmarish corridors of The Shining. Chalk this one up to Toy Story editor (and Toy Story 3 director) Lee Unkrich, who adores the Kubrick film.
Animal Kingdom scientists at the Disney World safari park have carried out pioneering studies into elephant vocalisations. Some of them travelled to Kenya to see Dumbo in the wild, and were involved in the discovery of a brand new call: an alert related to bees.
To achieve a natural skin tone for Snow White, real rouge was applied to the animated cells.
The horses that pull the streetcars along Main Street in Disneyland have rubber-soled shoes, officially to protect their legs, but with the added benefit of lending a distinct ‘clip clop’ sound to carriage-based jaunts.
Slightly sinisterly, Disney World is second only to the US Military when it comes to purchasing explosives in the United States. We’re pretty sure it’s for the nightly fireworks rather than a plot to take over the world though.
Aurora is the only ‘true’ blonde in the princess team, as Cinderella is somewhat strawberry, and Rapunzel is a natural brunette, turned blonde by magic (or a bottle?)
Until Brave, Ariel was the only Disney princess to have siblings – the rest are all only children.
If sections of classic films give you a sense of dèjá vu, you’re not alone. The company recycled much of its early animation in a technique called rotoscoping, invented in 1915, in order to cut costs. Large parts of the 1973 film Robin Hood were taken from Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs (1937), The Jungle Book (1967) and The Aristocats (1970).
While there’s an urban legend that curvaceous fairy Tinkerbell was based on Marilyn Monroe, in fact the tempestuous blonde was modelled after actress Margaret Kerry, who had to pantomime around a soundstage for the role.
The Lion King was originally called ‘King of the Jungle’, before some bright spark noted that lions don’t tend to inhabit jungles.
The white dress that Amy Adams dons in Enchanted weighed in at a hefty 45lbs, which even the ever-perky actress described as ‘gruelling’.
Thanks to its swamp-land setting, Disney World frequently attracts alligators, which have previously been found swimming around Splash Mountain, and even in one of the public toilet blocks.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was make-or-break for Disney, costing his studios $1.4m to make. It was widely derided as Disney’s Ruin, by people subsequently proved non-psychic. Adjusted for inflation, it’s one of the ten highest-grossing films of all time.