Walt Disney left us with a lot of, for lack of a better word, magic: great, heartfelt movies, fun career options and even better job titles (who doesn't want to be an imagineer?) and exciting theme parks across the globe, so it's sad to say that it's been 47 years since his death on December 15, 1966. To celebrate the man behind the most magical place on earth, we're digging deep into the Disney parks to find out all their secrets:
1. THERE'S A BASKETBALL COURT IN THE TOP OF THE MATTERHORN
The top 1/3 of Disneyland's Matterhorn roller coaster contains a basketball court for the Matterhorn rock climbers to use on their breaks. Because who doesn't want to spend their free time playing a little HORSE at the tippity top of the happiest place on earth? (I do, I do!) Imagineer Tony Baxter said of the court:
"Walt Disney thought, 'What would be the strangest thing to put up there?' And he talked to the people that were both the climbers and the ride operators and [asked] 'What would you like to use that space for?' ... and they said, 'You know, we'd like to play basketball.'"
And Disney said:
You can watch this video to see what the court looks like today:
2. THERE ARE TUNNELS BENEATH DISNEY WORLD
When Walt built Disneyland, he took a number of measures to keep everything full of magic. He painted unnecessary buildings a camouflage green so as not to distract from rides, and secured an anti-skyline ordinance ensuring that tall buildings couldn't be seen within the park, allowing the visitor to be totally immersed in magic. When Disney World began construction, he took things even further, creating a wide net of tunnels beneath the park for cast and crew to travel between parks so no one ever had to see a Fantasyland worker in Tomorrowland and ruin the magical experience.
See the tunnels in this video:
3. THERE ARE REAL DEAD PEOPLE IN THE HAUNTED MANSION
Okay, full disclosure, I've always thought the Haunted Mansion would be a great place to hide a dead body because it would blend in just long enough for you to make your getaway. (What? You don't play the "where would you murder someone in Disneyland" game?)
Actually, the Mansion wouldn't be a good place to dispose of anything because operators watch every section of that ride from remote security cameras. That's how a family was caught sprinkling their son's ashes onto the ride. The park shut down the ride to clean as much of the remains out as possible, preferring it to be joke-scary, not actually terrifying.
4. THERE ARE ALSO DEAD BODIES IN PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN
When I set out to write this article, I had no idea that there was so much death in Disneyland. Maybe there is something to that whole "Walt Disney is cryogenically frozen somewhere in Disneyland" myth. (Just kidding.)
When the Pirates ride first opened in 1967, the park borrowed actual skeletons for their underground ambiance.
In his book Pirates of the Caribbean: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies, Imagineer Jason Surrell said:
"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."
One human skull still remains above the bed in the Captain's Quarters.
5. IF YOU'RE IMPORTANT YOU CAN GO TO SECRET CLUB 33
In New Orleans Square, one of the buildings houses an exclusive club for super rich people only because it costs $25,000 to initially join and has annual dues of $10,000.
Rebel Wilson got to go recently and told Ellen Degeneres about how everything was so fancy and it was a buffet so she took a bunch of food home under the glaring eye of a Club 33 attendant.
“The way I was brought up is that if you see a buffet you take some home for later…so I just got my handbag, wrapped up stuff in a napkin, and then put it all the bag and the waiter saw me doing it…and he goes, ‘Madam, if you’d like to take some home, perhaps you’d like to use this container.’”
6. THERE ARE CREEPY ANIMAL HEADS IN THE WINNIE THE POOH RIDE
When the Country Bears' terrible ride-to-movie attempt failed to take off, the ride was nixed and turned into a Winnie the Pooh ride. But someone at Disney was lazy and didn't remove three wall-mounted animal heads. They're hard to see because it's dark, but if you crane your neck up, they hang above the entrance to the "Hunny Heaven" room, which is in itself a little creepy as it features an animal head of its own:
7. THERE'S AN APARTMENT AT THE TOP OF CINDERELLA'S CASTLE
The waiting list for the Cinderella suite in Disney world is probably a million miles long and full of celebrities and Make-A-Wish children, but sometimes the park grants access to random visitors. But until you're that lucky winner, here's a behind the scenes video to tide you over.
8. THERE'S ANOTHER SECRET APARTMENT IN THE DISNEYLAND FIRE STATION
Walt Disney lived in this quaint apartment with his family while working on the park. Hardly anyone is allowed inside, but those who have documented that it's kept in the same shape it was when Disney lived there. A lamp in the window is kept eternally lit to signify that his presence is always in the park. Which sums up everything Disneyland is: equal parts creepy and sweet.