Unless you were a child before the mid-30s, chances are you grew up under the influence of a company co-founded by one Walter “Walt” Disney. The empire started by this visionary cartoonist has flourished and expanded beyond “Steamboat Willie” into all forms of media from film to radio. And almost everyone knows the phrase uttered by winners around the world “I’m going to Disneyland.” Disneyland is just one of 11 theme parks all over the world, which continually rake in cash for this media empire that’s easily as well known as other world renowned brands like Coca-Cola and McDonald’s.
With an empire that big, there are bound to be some interesting, some notable and sometimes bizarre facts about the company. There are truly way too many ways to list all the “magic” found throughout the empire, but these 10 are just a few of the most interesting ones.
10. Hidden Ears
Whether you’re at Disneyland or any of the other theme parks, everywhere you look there are Mickey Mouse Ears. And no, not the merchandise ears. From the shape of the pizza to the hedges to the ears hidden in the tiles, Mickey’s iconic ears are everywhere thanks to Walt’s desire to add to the magic of the kingdom.
9. The first soundtrack
Long before “Saturday Night Fever” was the big hit of the 70s, an animated feature about a wooden puppet and its maker yielded the first soundtrack for sale to the general public. Since the start with “Steamboat Willie” and its use of music, Disney projects have made music an integral part of the process. So soundtracks, and consequently making money off of them, were only a natural extension.
By the 2008 Academy Awards, Walt Disney’s company had been nominated for more than 200 Oscars with more than 50 wins just in films under the Disney logo. Of those films, there are 51 nominations for animated features with 14 wins. With Pixar under the Ears, that amount close to doubles with 13 Oscar wins for Pixar. Disney will likely continue to tack on more wins since it has distributed all of the major film releases for Pixar and bought the company two years ago.
As for dear old Walt, he holds the record for most Oscars with 22 in regular categories and four honorary out of his 59 nominations.
7. Facial hair
Back in the 60s, long hair and facial hair was considered to be a sign of hippies, which the empire could not afford to be associated with. Hence a policy was born requiring all male employees to have short hair and no facial hair at the theme parks. It took until 2000 for the theme parks to renege on the policy. Now male employees are allowed to have neatly trimmed moustaches.
Talk about keeping quiet. Disney employees are expressly prohibited from dating other Disney employees – hence Don’t Date Disney. A former employee of Disneyland let the cat out of the bag on that policy years ago when he tattled to “LA Magazine” about his time as Jack Sparrow. Unfortunately, someone took a photo of him and his then girlfriend, an Ariel, and showed it to the higher ups, who were displeased. However, it was going to the premiere of “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,” doing an interview in costume, giving his full name, and the interview being posted online that got his Ears taken away.
At the same time, park employees are discouraged from trying to “excite” members of the opposite sex and to ignore any flirtation from guests. Tough luck, Jack, no lasses or goatee for you!
5. Rigid control of trademarks
Years ago, Disney promised that the corporation would sue three daycare centers in Florida for having five-foot tall painted depictions of Disney characters. The characters were replaced, but that is just one example of how Disney holds its trademarks close to the chest. In another case, a Florida couple was sued for a cool million when they advertised Eeyore, Tigger and Pooh outfits that they had available for parties. The couple sent the costumes back to the Peru ebay seller, which prompted Disney to say the couple acted in bad faith. No honey for you!
4. The Vault
Included in that rigid control of their trademarks is the vaunted Disney Vault. Disney started theatrically re-releasing movies seven years after they were originally released after “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.” Since then, the home movie craze hit and with the advent of DVDs, the Vault is only reopened once every 10 years. Supposedly this is a ploy to get new generations of children interested in the movies. Or like any business, it could just be a way to make more money.
3. It’s a big, big Walt Disney World
Located entirely within its own improvement district – the Reedy Creek Improvement District of Lake Buena Vista, Fla. – Walt Disney World with its main attractions and resorts is twice the size of Manhattan. Every day, the guests of the resorts use an amount of linens that would take a normal person 40 years to clean. Supposedly the landscaping crew puts over a half a million miles on the mowers covering the 47 miles of WDW throughout the year. In the last seven years, a water saving effort has taken place at the theme parks, which has meant a savings of about 2.5 billion gallons of water. Who said it was a “small, small world?”
2. Fatal Rides
There have been about a dozen deaths in Disneyland California since the park opened in 1955 while there have been at least as many at Disney World and at least one at the Paris Disneyland. Some of these fatalities were due to adverse reactions from the guests, but many of the deaths were the fault of the guests who were not heeding directions. When they say don’t stand up in a roller coaster, there’s a reason.
1. Walt’s Apartment
Because Walt wanted to ensure that everything would be as magical as possible when Disneyland was being built in the early 50s, he had an apartment built in the theme park, which was an hour from where he lived in California. Employees would know when he was in the apartment, above the fire station on Main Street USA, when the light was on in the window at night. To this day, more than 45 years after his death, a light is left on in the window in his memory and supposedly the room has been left untouched since he passed away. Perhaps Mickey’s Ears are not the only things you could ever see at Disneyland.