35 Disney Facts That Will Bring Out Your Inner Kid
This Disney trivia will surprise even the biggest Disney fans.
You probably have friends who are total Disney diehards—or maybe you're one of those superfans yourself. These devotees visit one of the parks at least once a year, can quote the entirety of their favorite Disney movies, breeze through games of Disney trivia, and might even have an impressively accurate character costume. But no matter how strong someone's Disney love is, it's impossible for any one person to know everything. After all, the parks alone boast over 65 years of history (Disneyland opened its gates in 1955), and the first Walt Disney Studios full-length feature film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, came out in 1937. That's a lot of Disney trivia to catch up on! To get you up to speed on some of the finer points of Disney history—or to help you quiz your friend who thinks they know it all—we've rounded up all the Disney facts even experts haven't heard before.
What's the story behind the original Minnie and Mickey? Which famous name auditioned for the role of Princess Tiana? And who does Eeyore share a voice with? Read on for answers to these questions and many more!
1. Walter Elias Disney was born in Chicago in 1901.
Better known as "Walt," the inventor of the Disney universe came from humble beginnings, having grown up in the Hermosa section of Chicago along with three brothers and one sister. He spent a year in France with the Red Cross before he got into cartoons.
2. The actors who played Mickey and Minnie Mouse were married.
Wayne Allwine, the actor who gave Mickey Mouse his voice for more than 30 years, was married to Russi Taylor, the actor who voiced Minnie. In an interview with Variety, Taylor said they met in a hallway when she was on her way to work on the 1988 TV special Totally Minnie. Years later, they began dating. The pair were married for almost 20 years until Allwine died in 2009.
3. Dumbo almost made the cover of Time in 1941.
Dumbo was such a hit in 1941 that Time magazine wanted to honor the beloved elephant as "Mammal of the Year," in a nod to the magazine's traditional honor of "Person of the Year." However, world events prevented this. After the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, the magazine quickly shifted its strategy. Although Dumbo didn't make the cover, he was still appointed "Mammal of the Year" in the issue's "Cinema" section.
4. Walt Disney kept live animals on the set of some of his productions.
Part of the reason why Walt Disney's films were so successful was that the animator was incredibly dedicated to getting things right. To make the cuddly characters in his films as realistic as possible, he often brought live animals into the studio. During production for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, live rabbits, skunks, and horses were brought in for the animators to study. Similarly, two fawns roamed around during the production of Bambi.
5. Walt Disney's first original character was a rabbit.
Mickey Mouse might be his most famous character, but the animator's first creation was Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Walt Disney created 27 one-reelers about the anthropomorphic bunny in 1927, but just one year later, Universal Studios claimed the rights to the cartoon. After losing the character, Disney created Mickey Mouse. You might notice Mickey and Oswald bear a striking resemblance to each other—but hey, when you've got a vision, you've got a vision.
6. The Walt Disney World Resort is almost the same size as San Francisco.
The Florida resort, which covers over 40 square miles, is only 10 square miles smaller than the bustling city of San Francisco. That's also the size of two Manhattan islands. For comparison, Disneyland in Anaheim, California, is only 85 acres or 0.13 square miles.
7. Disney's Hollywood Studios was meant to be a production studio.
The movie-themed park was originally introduced as Disney-MGM Studios in 1989 with the intention of becoming a fully functional television and movie production studio. In fact, Ernest Saves Christmas, among other Disney films, was produced at the studio—now called Disney's Hollywood Studios—before it opened as a theme park.
8. Walt Disney originally planned for Epcot to be a model community.
It sounds a bit creepy, but a Walt Disney documentary revealed that Epcot—which stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow—was actually intended to be a "planned environment demonstrating to the world what American communities can accomplish through proper control of planning and design."
The original plan was to select around 20,000 people to live in the city, which would have had shopping areas, residential properties, theaters, restaurants, and more. The community was also meant to be built in a climate-controlled setting. After Walt died, the project was determined to be unrealistic, and Epcot instead became what it is today.
9. Some of the food served at Epcot is grown inside the park.
The Land, a 2.5 million-square-foot pavilion dedicated to human interaction with the earth, is home to one of Epcot's most popular rides, Soarin' Around the World. But surprisingly, it's also the place where much of the park's produce and seafood is grown and harvested. On the Living with the Land boat ride, guests can learn about agriculture and see where Disney horticulturalists use growing techniques to harvest foods that are later served at the Sunshine Seasons and Garden Grill restaurants.
10. You can order treats off of a secret menu at Disney theme parks.
Theme park food can certainly be expensive, but some treats are worth the cost. At Disney parks, there are secret menu items Disney fans can enjoy—but stay on your toes, because the menu is constantly changing. Past treats included poutine with gravy and cheese curds and a cinnamon bun and candied bacon cheeseburger at the All-Star Movies Resort World Premiere Food Court. D-Luxe Burger at Disney Springs also has a secret menu that can only be accessed through your phone on the Walt Disney World app.
11. Disney held a "Sister Summit" for the movie Frozen.
As part of a brainstorm for Frozen, Disney Animation held a "Sister Summit" for women at the company to share stories about what it's like to have sisters. In an interview at the Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program, Jennifer Lee, the film's director and the current chief creative officer of Disney Animation Studios, said the summit "really helped the movie."
12. The daughter of the Frozen songwriters got to sing in the movie.
Married songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez are the masterminds behind the stunning music for Frozen. They credit part of their success to being the parents of two daughters and seeing the magic of a sisterly bond firsthand. One of their daughters, Katie, can be heard singing the first verse of "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" as young Anna.
13. Walt Disney received a customized Oscar for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
In 1939, Walt Disney received an honorary Oscar for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs that featured a full-sized Oscar statuette with seven smaller ones in a row. The Oscar was presented by child star Shirley Temple. Years later, Temple told historian John Culhane that, at age 11, she had an issue with the trophy: "I thought that the big statue was for Walt and that the Seven Dwarfs were the little ones going down the side and that Snow White herself hadn't gotten anything."
14. You can have your own fairytale wedding at the Cinderella Castle.
Who says you need to be a princess to get married in a castle? Although you can get married at several locations at Disney parks and resorts, the most picturesque spot might be in front of the Cinderella Castle. A Cinderella wedding can include riding on Cinderella's horse-drawn glass coach, fireworks, Disney characters, and more. Another popular wedding location is the Wedding Pavilion, which was designed by Disney Imagineers so guests can see the Cinderella Castle through the stained-glass window behind the altar.
15. Pocahontas was the only Disney princess to be based on a real person.
While many princesses realistically capture the life and times of their respective stories, only one has been based on a real person. Pocahontas was in fact a real princess: the daughter of the Great Powhatan. And yes, she did really save John Smith from men with clubs ready to do the worst, though the rest of her story bears little resemblance to the Disney depiction.
16. The actor who played Bambi grew up to be a United States Marine Corps drill instructor.
It's hard to imagine the voice of Bambi as anything but a sweet little deer navigating the woods without his mother. But it turns out child actor Donnie Dunagan, who aced the part in 1942, grew up to serve his country for 25 years in the Marine Corps, at one point as a drill instructor. Dunagan managed to keep his career as a child actor quiet during his military career but has since proudly come forward as the voice of young Bambi.
17. Mickey Mouse became the first animated character to get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Mickey's 50th anniversary was celebrated in 1978 with the addition of his very own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Four decades later, in 2018, Minnie joined Mickey on the strip with her own bronze star.
18. The Lady and the Tramp spaghetti scene almost didn't happen.
Walt Disney wasn't a fan of the now iconic scene in which the two dogs share a piece of spaghetti. In fact, he cut it from the first storyboards entirely. As Steven Vagnini, a former studio archivist and a curator for the official Disney fan club D23, told Yahoo! Entertainment, Disney thought that the idea of two house pets sharing a fine-dining experience would be too difficult to understand. He changed his mind once directing animator Frank Thomas created a rough version of the scene.
19. What you see at the Magic Kingdom is actually the second floor of the park.
It's no secret that underneath Disney World's Magic Kingdom is a series of tunnels called "utilidors" for cast members and maintenance crew to navigate the park. But what seems like a whole other world below is actually a system built on ground level. Due to Florida's high water table, the Magic Kingdom was built as a second floor on top of the utilidors.
20. Disney's Animal Kingdom doesn't allow balloons or plastic straws inside.
There are many items that are not permitted inside Disney parks, but straws and balloons are strictly prohibited from the Animal Kingdom for the safety of the animals. In addition to making sure the animals steer clear of potential hazards, the Walt Disney Company also announced its plans to eliminate single-use plastic straws and stirrers at all of its locations to help reduce its environmental footprint.
21. Disney theme parks are popular places to scatter human ashes.
Disney World has been dubbed the happiest place on Earth—so it's no wonder many people have requested it as their final resting place. Current and former custodians say that of all the places human ashes have been spread, the Haunted Mansion is likely the most popular.
22. The vultures in The Jungle Book were meant to be voiced by the Beatles.
During production, the filmmakers envisioned the Beatles making a cameo appearance as the vultures in The Jungle Book. The characters were even created to share similar hairstyles with the bandmates. Unfortunately, the Beatles were reportedly unavailable due to scheduling issues, though it's also rumored that John Lennon refused to take part in the film.
23. Disneyland has its very own colony of feral cats.
The California park has become home to up to 100 feral cats (nicknamed "cats members" by fans) that help control pests, as reported by Vice's Kyle Jaeger. To keep the cat population in check, Disney brought in veterinarians to neuter, vaccinate, and tag all the cats in the Magic Kingdom.
24. The Aristocats was the last film to be approved by Walt Disney himself.
The film was the last Disney film to include "A Walt Disney Production" at the end. It's also the first movie to be completed after Disney died in 1966.
25. Walt Disney collaborated with surrealist artist Salvador Dalí on a short film.
Disney and artist Salvador Dalí teamed up in 1945 to create a six-minute project called Destino that combined animation and live dance. In the film, Chronos, a personification of time, falls in love with a mortal woman. The pair travels through works of art created by Dalí. Destino was discovered by Disney's nephew, Roy E. Disney, in 1999 while Roy was working on Fantasia 2000. It was later nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 2004.
26. The voice of Optimus Prime is also the voice of Eeyore.
Who would have thought that a robot and a donkey would have so much in common? Turns out actor Peter Cullen played both Optimus Prime from the original '80s Transformers cartoon and Eeyore in Winnie the Pooh.
27. The parks use a scent machine to fully engage your senses.
Your sense of smell is so closely tied to your emotions that the Imagineers at Disney decided no experience would be complete without an olfactory element. That's why you shouldn't be alarmed if you pick up the distinct smell of popcorn on Main Street—even when there's no popcorn truck to be found. Blame it on Disneyland's Smellitzer, a machine that emits a range of scents at different park attractions.
28. The Cinderella fountain at Fantasyland looks different to children and adults.
Disney World loves to give children the upper hand, and that's definitely the case at the Cinderella Fountain in Fantasyland. When adults look straight ahead at the fountain, they see an almost sullen depiction of the Disney princess looking down. But when children look up at the fountain, they see a crown resting atop her head. Next time you're there, crouch down and take a look.
29. You'll never hear a Disney cast member say "I don't know."
Disney cast members go through extensive training to provide quality customer service and keep the Disney magic alive, according to Travel + Leisure's Stacey Leasca. In addition to always using two fingers to point when giving directions, cast members are also never allowed to say "I don't know" when a park-goer asks a question—even if they actually don't know the answer. Instead, they are instructed to reach out to other cast members at the park to find an answer.
30. You could chat with the creatives at Disney World over lunch.
Everyone who's been to Disney has had some questions about how the magic happens. And, in the past, if you were willing to shell out a few extra bucks, you could have totally asked them. Disney World's Dine With an Imagineer lunch was the perfect opportunity to get the inside scoop on everything that goes on behind the scenes. Unfortunately, the experience is not currently available, but diehards are encouraged to keep an eye out for when it returns.
31. Alicia Keys auditioned for the role of Princess Tiana three times.
There were quite a few famous actors who wanted the role of Princess Tiana in The Princess and the Frog, including Tyra Banks, Jennifer Hudson, and Beyoncé. But in an interview with Page Six, casting director Jen Rudin revealed it was Alicia Keys who proved to be the most persistent, auditioning for the role three times. The job ultimately went to Broadway performer Anika Noni Rose.
32. The drawbridge at Sleeping Beauty's Castle actually works
Not all of Disneyland's architecture is just for show. The drawbridge at Sleeping Beauty's Castle, for example, is fully functional. Unfortunately, it's only been used twice: Once when the park opened in 1955, and once again for the opening ceremony of a redesigned Fantasyland in 1983.
33. Jasmine is the only Disney princess who wasn't the main character in her film.
While we all cherish her on-screen moments, it's Aladdin—not Jasmine—who really steals the show here. Just consider the film's title for further confirmation. That's not to say that Jasmine hasn't made significant contributions to the Disney Universe—she has. Jasmine was not only the first Middle Eastern princess to join the franchise but the first non-white one as well.
34. There are 12 Disney theme parks worldwide.
These vacation hotspots are located around the world across six different resorts (Disneyland Paris, California, Florida, Tokyo, Shanghai, and Hong Kong). Walt Disney World also has two water parks (Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach) but we'll save those for another list.
35. There was no Disney Pixar movie released in 2014.
Disney Pixar began a pretty solid streak back in 2006, coming out with at least one movie per year—until 2014, that is. Due to production delays, The Good Dinosaur wasn't released until 2015. Though the studio has since made up for it, having returned to its annual release slate.
That's it for our list of Disney facts, but be sure to check back with us soon for even more trivia. You can also sign up for our newsletter so you don't miss out!