This posts contains some of our favorite secrets, little details, and fun minor experiences at Walt Disney World that often go unnoticed by guests. They’re obviously not major elements of attractions or substantial things, but they are layers of detail that really enhance the Disney experience for a lot of guests.
There are tons of things in Walt Disney World that could qualify for this list. Literally thousands. As such, there’s no practical way to make this list exhaustive. Things like Hidden Mickeys alone have entire books devoted to them. Others, like the Pirates of the Caribbean “stalemate” and MuppetVision “key under the mat” have become so well known in recent years that I’ll try to avoid them in favor of lesser-known ones.
Here are some of our favorite “hidden” Walt Disney World references, details, etc.:
Nautiluses - There are two hidden references to the Nautilus (the ship from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea). The first is inside the tree at the entrance to the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh queue. This tree was originally over part of the former location of the 20,000 Leagues attraction. The second carving is in the queue to the Little Mermaid dark ride, which is also on the old 20k plot. You can still find an ACTUAL Nautilus at Disneyland Paris in their Discoveryland area of the park.
Skippy - Most people have few reasons to venture into Stitch’s Great Escape, but if there ever was a reason, it’s the pre-show, where Skippy from the previous incarnation of the attraction, Alien Encounter, can still be found. As we’ve said, we think Stitch’s Great Escape is actually an underrated attraction.
Tusker House - If you sit on the back patio of the restaurant, you should be able to hear people upstairs clanking dishes around and doing other cleaning. There are actually a number of awesome little details here, and it’s one of our favorite places to eat in Disney’s Animal Kingdom!
TTA Narration - The previous version of the Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover was filled with in-jokes and references. When the narration changed in 2009, it removed a fan-favorite reference to “Mr. Tomorrow.” Fortunately, this returned shortly after the new narration premiered, albeit in a slightly different form. The line is now, “”Paging Mr. Morrow. Mr. Tom Morrow. Please contact Mr. Johnson in the Control Tower to confirm your Flight to the Moon.” Flight to the Moon was an attraction in Tomorrowland that opened in 1971, and Mr. Morrow and Mr. Johnson were both characters in that attraction.
Metrophone – Near the Tomorrowland Transit Authority and Astro Orbiter in Rockettower Plaza, there is a courtesy phone provided by the Galactic Communications Network. Pick it up and listen to some of their party line conversations! You’ll be able to find out what movies are playing nearby, find out which criminals are on the loose in Tomorrowland, and even “order” a pizza! These aren’t the only party phones at Walt Disney World (there’s also one on Main Street), nor are they the only “fun” phones (you can…or could until last week, hopefully its functionality returns…call the phone booths in Canada and the UK to prank park guests).
Dinosaur: Ketchup, Mayo, Mustard? - When Dinosaur (or Countdown to Extinction, as it was originally known) opened in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the sponsor was McDonald’s. In the loading area, there are red, white, and yellow pipes with chemical names on them. The chemical names are the ingredients for ketchup, mayonnaise, and mustard. There are a lot of little references and elements of backstory told throughout Dinoland, including the rivalry between the Dino Institute and Chester and Hester.
Singin’ in the Rain Umbrella – Near the entrance to Lights, Motors, Action! in the Streets of America is an umbrella attached to a lightpost. Push a button on the umbrella and it “rains” overhead, making for a fun photo op.
Journey into Imagination - As you’re entering the sound testing room, you’ll see an office door with the name “Dean Finder” on it. This is a reference to Dreamfinder, of the original Journey into Imagination. Here’s hoping that this remains after the Journey into Imagination 2014 refurbishment (unless Dreamfinder himself returns with that refurb)!
MuppetVision 3D Extended Queue – If you travel during the busiest times of the year, this may not be so unknown to you, but MuppetVision 3D has a long overflow queue that’s used during busy seasons and Star Wars Weekends. It is a veritable treasure trove of Muppets’ humor, most notably for its many movie posters that spoof actual films. This queue is to the right of the attraction entrance, and Cast Members should allow you to wander back here to check out the posters and other details if the queue is not in use.
Orange Bird – This one received a lot of fanfare last year when it returned, but in case you never heard about it, there’s an Orange Bird behind the counter in Sunshine Tree Terrace. He first appeared back from the opening of Walt Disney World until the mid-1980s as a character created to promote the Florida Citrus Commission. This figure is actually the same one that had appeared in the Sunshine Tree Terrace back then (he was recently found by the Disney Archives).
“FSU” Splash Mountain Gopher - At the end of the Laughing Place scene, a gopher comes down from the ceiling; most guests assume he’s sneezing or just making a random noise, but he’s actually saying “FSU,” for Florida State University. One of the Imagineers working on the project went to FSU, and that’s his tribute. Note that this effect sometimes doesn’t work. There are a lot of other neat references in Splash Mountain that also often don’t work.
Tomorrowland Palms – This could be a common one in the sense that these trees are fairly prominent in front of Space Mountain, but I hear from people all the time who see one of my many photos of them and ask where they’re located. Plus, they’re one of my all time favorite Walt Disney World details, so they make the list. If you have noticed them before, here’s an additional detail that not many people know: one of these trees is unlike the others. If you look closely, you’ll notice one of the trees has its leaves closed and is missing its globe-nuts. This is because the leaves are what collects solar power and this power is stored in the globes. This ties together with the relatively-unknown backstory that these “Power Palms” are one (of many) efforts by the Tomorrowland Light & Power Co. Arcade to find methods of alternative energy.
PhilharMagic Red Jewel/Soarin’ Golfball - Here’s an interactive one that requires a bit of advance planning. In these films, there are parts where objects come toward the audience. If you bring items with you to the park, you can impress your spouse or kids by catching items that fly out “into” the audience. The best options are jewels in the Little Mermaid scene of PhilharMagic (a red jewel is best here, but a ring would work if you want a fun proposal), or a golfball during the golfing portion of Soarin’, which is hit by none other than former Disney CEO Michael Eisner. I’m hoping this works better on kids, as my wife was not impressed when I “caught” a golfball for her!
Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh & Mr. Toad - In the first room of the attraction, Mr. Toad is painted on the wall, handing a deed over to Owl. This is a reference to the attraction Pooh replaced, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Pooh had a habit of replacing fan favorites…in Disneyland, he bumped Country Bear Jamboree, and actual audio animatronics for Max, Buff, and Melvin are actually inside the attraction and visible if you look behind you at the right as you enter the “honey” room during the ride!
Twilight Zone in Tower of Terror - Perhaps the attraction with the most Easter Eggs in all of Walt Disney World, most of these will only appeal to avid Twilight Zone fans. My favorite is the Mystic Seer, a small fortune telling device featured prominently in an episode (“Nick of Time”) of the show starring William Shatner. A full list of Twilight Zone Easter Eggs in Tower of Terror can be found here.
Robo-Mart Ads – The “Stitch Stage” in Tomorrowland sometimes runs ads on its screens, and these are chock-full of references. One of our favorites is for Robo-Mart, which is a store selling robots, including some favorites like Nine-Eye and S.I.R.
Dinorama - If you look closely at the asphalt in Dinorama, you might notice that it’s not real (I can’t tell…guess I’m not a true asphalt expert). There were concerns that using real aspahlt in the Florida sun would create too hot of a surface, so the ground is actually concrete.
Liberty Square Windows – The shutters here are all crooked, but it’s not shoddy workmanship on Disney’s part. It’s actually added authenticity, since in that era, leather was used to hold shutters, causing them to hang unevenly. The shutters in Liberty Square are actually fastened with metal that’s made to look like leather.
Captain Rex – Just inside the second queue room are a few droids sitting in and around packing crates. One of these is Rex, pilot of the original Star Tours. Rex is marked as defective and can be heard faintly playing audio from the original attraction in a broken manner. Star Tours: The Adventures Continue probably has the most inside jokes and Easter Eggs of any Walt Disney World attraction. Author Kevin Yee has a good rundown of them here. Our favorite Star Tours “Easter Egg” has got to be the “Hitchhiking Droids” (like the Hitchhiking Ghosts from Haunted Mansion), but unfortunately, that’s only at Tokyo Disneyland.
Kali River Rapids Water Guns - As you cross the bridge after leaving Kali River Rapids, there are buttons that can be pressed to deploy the elephants to spray guests on the ride. Just remember…what goes around comes around!
Great Movie Ride “Alien” Drinking Bird - As you first enter the Alien scene in Great Movie Ride, look at the spacesuit on the ride, and spot the colorful toy “drinking bird.” This is a tribute to the opening of the film, which also features the same bird in Nostromo.
Sonny Eclipse - Most people are aware of the singing lounge lizard in Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe, which is one of the best counter service restaurants at Walt Disney World. However, few people that he has a “brother” in Tokyo Disneyland outside of Star Tours known as Officer Zzzzyxxx, who works as a baggage screener. Another more immediately “useful” Easter Egg is that Cast Members at Cosmic Ray’s will give out Sonny Eclipse stickers if you ask for them (and if they have some in stock).
That’s our list of Walt Disney World “hidden” secrets, Easter Eggs, and other references that we most enjoy! We’ve learned about a lot of these from simply experiencing the parks at our leisure, but also from the D23 Scvanger Hunt we did a couple years ago, and from the sites, blogs, and books devoted to the topics. Big thanks to all of the great resources from which we’ve learned about these secrets over the years!
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Now that you know some of our favorite secrets, hidden references, and “Easter Eggs” found at Walt Disney World, let’s hear some of your favorites! The ones listed in the article just begin to scratch the surface, so post some of your favorites in the comments!