Disney World Secrets

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.:

Winnie the Queue!!!

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.

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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.

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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)!

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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!

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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.

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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!

Looking for Disney trip planning tips? Make sure to read our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide and Disneyland Trip Planning Guide.

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Your Thoughts…

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!

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28 Responses to “Disney World Secrets”

  1. Kelly says:

    As an alumnus of FSU, I appreciate that gopher shout-out. It’s my favorite ‘egg’ in all of Disney World. Close second is on the Jungle Cruise-right past the hippo scene you will be attacked by natives, and if you listen closely, one of them says ‘I love disco!’.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      I’ve heard about the Jungle Cruise one, but I’ve never actually heard it. It seems like the Skipper is always making so much noise that it’s tough to make out what the natives are chanting!

  2. David Cohen says:

    You actually nailed most of my favorites (Skippy, Capt. Rex, Dean Finder, the Twilight Zone props, Liberty Square shutters). I’m also a fan of the net full of jello at the entrance to MuppetVision, and the rope at Indiana Jones’ Epic Stunt Spectacular. There are a ton more that I’m sure you know of but intentionally left for us readers to mention in the comments. 😉

    Aaaaaaaand it worked.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      I discovered that the vast majority of my favorites are in Magic Kingdom, specifically in Tomorrowland. In the interest of balance, I did leave a lot of those out intentionally.

      This thing would’ve been trip report length if I wrote all of the ones I’m aware of in the body of the post (and fortunately, I’m sure I’ve forgotten lots of ones I used to know about)!

      You could do an entire post on MuppetVision or Tower of Terror, alone.

  3. Melissa says:

    As a fan of classic cinema, and particularly early silent animation, I love pretty much everything about Echo Lake. It’s cool that they’ve thrown in nods to Gertie the Dinosaur especially, but also to Min and Bill and the host of great films that are referenced on the shipping containers near the dock. I can’t help but stop by and peruse those addresses every time we visit Hollywood Studios. I really hope that if Hollywood Studios gets the rumored overhaul for which it’s sadly overdue, we see more Old Hollywood references, not less.

  4. Kevin says:

    The “Singing in the Rain umbrella” picture looks different than the one I took on my trip. Did they move it or did you just photograph it from the opposite direction? (I took the picture with my back towards LMA.) I have to admit it took us 2 trips to WDW to find where this thing was!

  5. I am confident I have been to Disney more than any other person who lives in Tennessee and I love post like this! It always gives me something new to go explore for on my next trip. I am in Orlando on business frequently, so I am often at the park by myself. The area behind the Tusker House has always been a great escape from the crowds – and when I’m there, I always think of how detailed Disney is by making even an obscure hideaway something special and part of the story. Incredible post!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Most visits in Tennessee? That’s something to be proud of! Gives us an excuse to keep visiting…so we can hold that title in Indiana! 😉

  6. Charles B says:

    The rock dragon hiding in the brush off the bridge to Camp Minnie Mickey. Hopefully they won’t lose this guy as they refurb that area!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      That’s an AWESOME one. I need to photograph him.

      Hopefully there is a lot more “dragon presence” in this area soon–not less!

  7. Megan Dyan says:

    Wait, what? Why can you no longer call the phones in Canada and England??

    • Kevin says:

      Good question – I hope they fix it! Someone from Virginia called my daughter and I while we were standing near the phones waiting for my wife. My daughter thought it was the best thing ever.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      As of last weekend, they have been disconnected. No word as to whether it’s permanent, or just a temporary issue.

      • Dave says:

        I wonder if it has anything to do with the Communicore Weekly guys doing the trivia game there, even if it was indirectly.

  8. Tommy says:

    I can confirm the “I love disco!” line on the Jungle Cruise. I took the Keys of the Kingdom tour and our tour guide stopped the boat so we could listen to the attacking natives.

  9. Dori says:

    Every year during the “Osborn Family Dancing Lights” we hunt down the “Black (pink) Cat” that was from a Halloween display!

  10. Dave says:

    Without being too specific, I’ve learned that it’s almost always worthwhile to look at the various “business” signs, not just the windows on main street, though they would definitely be included, but at the building directory signs, facade doors, etc. They are usually entertaining or contain a tribute of some sort, though with some, you really have to dig deep to find it.

    One of my faves is behind the Keystone Clothiers in the Studios, I only wish that as you looked at the directory sign, that you could hear ladies in the salon gossiping about old Hollywood stars through the door, that would make it really rewarding.

  11. I’m not selected the site you are helping your facts, however excellent subject matter. I has to expend some time studying much more or identifying additional. Many thanks for superb details I used to be seeking this data in my vision.

  12. ann says:

    Thank you **SO** much for the idea about the gems in Philharmagic that we used on our trip last week. Our daughter, 4 years old, was so extremely excited by this. And, we had an added bonus… we stayed in a Little Mermaid room at Art of Animation and had no idea the shower would be Ariel’s treasure trove… “Ariel” left our daughter some extra gems and a necklace to put them on in the treasure trove too. Thanks for inspiring the extra magical memories!

  13. Nita E. says:

    I really really loved this post. Thanks for sharing :)

  14. Dotti Chesney says:

    Thank you for putting all of the information together. I enjoyed reading through the data
    and will use the information a great deal when I go!

  15. Courtney H. says:

    I’ve been to Disney well over 50+ times and appreciate and love this blog! Learned some things that I didn’t know. Disney is full of magic and little treasures! Thank you! I can’t wait to point some of these things out to my husband when we go in a few weeks :)

  16. Diane Burke says:

    Thanks so much for your post. I’ve just “found” you and believe me I have no plan on loosing you. We’re going the week of August 18th and will use much of this info. We didn’t start going to WDW until I was 55 years old and now I’m making up for it by leaving Michigan every six months for a booster fix of The Mouse. Feel blessed that I can do this, hopefully for a very long time. My husband and I have even said that maybe we’ll become snow birds and work there winters as a greeter if possible once we retire.

  17. Elizabeth says:

    Is it possible to know how many times I visited Disney Parks? I have annual pass, I live near Disney Parks and I use to go twice a week! I thing I am one of people who has many visits in Disney Parks! Lol
    Beth *o*

  18. A. says:

    Last year there was nobody in line for the muppets 3D and we had to wait for the show to end, so my sister, my dad, my mom, and I we’re talking to the castmember there. I noticed a sign that said “The key is under the mat, so I asked her if it really was. She said to go look, and there is actually a key glued under the mat. I thought this was awesome because I’d discovered it on my own, and I’d never heard of it before.

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