Disneyland is rich in details and history, and thanks to that, there are a lot of little “Easter Eggs,” secrets, quirks, and fun minor experiences to be discovered, most of which go unnoticed by casual 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 Disneyland that could qualify for this list. Literally thousands. We’re sure there are plenty of things even we don’t know about! Accordingly, this list is not exhaustive. If you’re really into learning more about the secrets of Disneyland, a couple of great books to check out are the Disneyland’s Hidden Mickeys book and great historical books about Disneyland, like Disneyland Inside Story. We’ve tried to put together a fresh list, so we’ve left out common “secrets” like the basketball court in the Matterhorn (sorry, Travel Channel, if you mention this in every special on Disneyland, it ceases to be a secret), Club 33, the stray cats, and, of course, Disney’s “Best Kept” secret, Disney Vacation Club! However, if you’re a die-hard Disneyland fan, there’s a decent chance most of these will be familiar to you.
Unlike our list of Walt Disney World Secrets, which covered all four parks, there are so many details of Disneyland (the park) that we think it’s deserving of its own list. We’ll cover Disney California Adventure in a subsequent post (and perhaps even a post dedicated solely to Cars Land).
Here are some of our favorite “hidden” Disneyland details, secrets, etc.:
Popcorn Turners – Each popcorn stand in the park has a different character attached to its popcorn turner. These range from a yeti (near the Matterhorn) to the Rocketeer (Tomorrowland) to even seasonal turners like Oogie Boogie (near Haunted Mansion Holiday) and Santa Claus (Main Street). This tradition continued at Tokyo Disneyland, where my all-time favorite one exists in Frontierland–Big Al!
Tomorrowland Future Dinosaurs? – If you look carefully in the planters between Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port and Space Mountain, you will notice a few large, blue eggs among the plants. There is scant information about these eggs online, but a couple of reputable sources have indicated that they are meant to be dinosaur eggs. Dinosaurs in the future? Now that’s a promising future to us! (Out of all of these secrets, this one is my favorite…if you know anything more about these eggs, please share in the comments!)
Secret Restrooms – Indiana Jones Adventure probably takes the cake for having the most little secrets scattered throughout it. One of our favorites is the “secret” restroom in the queue. Our understanding is that this was built out of necessity, as the Indiana Jones Adventure queue is looooong, and waits regularly exceeded three hours when it first opened. Because of that, guests having “emergencies” was a fairly regular thing for a while. There are also “secret” (or lesser known) restrooms in the Tiki Room waiting area.
LEGO Captain Jack – Standing in the scene above on top of a treasure chest is a LEGO Captain Jack Sparrow. You can only really see it if you’re looking for it, and once you see it, it sticks out like a sore thumb on each subsequent ride-through. At least for us.
New Orleans Square Mast – From Tom Sawyer Island, a ship’s mast is visible above the roofs in New Orleans Square. This mast is not visible when in New Orleans Square itself, and to my knowledge, it’s only visible from certain elevated spots on Tom Sawyer Island. Pretty nice touch, especially given that very few people will ever notice it!
Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh & Mr. Toad – Winnie the Pooh displaced the 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! There are other tributes to the Country Bears throughout Critter Country (formerly Bear Country), including at Hungry Bear Restaurant and above the shops.
Plaza Pavilion Mural – During its early years of operation, Disneyland had sponsors for many (most?) of its attractions and restaurants. The Plaza Pavilion, now the home of the Jolly Holiday Bakery, was sponsored by Stouffer’s, and featured a large, whimsical mural about food preparation. That mural was tragically lost forever, but when Jolly Holiday Bakery opened, a tribute to that mural featuring Mary Poppins was added. Most guests probably don’t realize why that quirky “Poppins Tree” painting is in Jolly Holiday Bakery and pass it up without a second thought, but for those who do know the story, it’s a smile-inducing sight.
Esmerelda – The very existence of this fortune teller just inside the Penny Arcade on Main Street would almost be enough for her to make this list (she’s one of those things that hides in plain sight), but the bonus “secret within a secret” of her playing cards that are themed to the Haunted Mansion puts her over the top.
Splash Mountain Critters – Splash Mountain features different characters at Disneyland than at Walt Disney World because Disneyland’s wasn’t built entirely from scratch. Many of the Audio-Animatronics figures in the Disneyland version were sourced from America Sings, which was a stage show that used to play in the Innoventions building. Take a look at this article to see exactly how the Splash Mountain AAs were featured in America Sings.
Miss Tilly – Tilly is a mannequin who works at the Main Street Cinema. Her Cast Member name tag lists here as being from Marceline, Missouri, which is where Walt Disney lived as a child. There are references to Marceline throughout the parks, but this is our favorite because it’s understated. Not sure if there’s any significance of the name “Tilly,” but it seems like more than a coincidence that it’s the name of both this Cast Member and the shrimp boat impaled on Mount Mayday at Typhoon Lagoon. For more info about Tilly, check out this post on Yesterland.
Hidden Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters Target – In the second room of the ride where Zurg stands and turns (revealing and concealing targets with his cape), there is a small “Z” on his chest that does not look like the other targets. But it is a target, and it’s worth 50,000 points. This target can be very difficult to hit (even if it looks like you squarely got it), and it only registers about half the time, but the payoff is great.
Fantasyland Weather Vanes – Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride has a Mr. Toad weather vane, and Peter Pan’s Flight has a Tic-Toc-Croc weather vane. As you’ll learn from another of these secrets, it pays to look up in Fantasyland!
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. 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.
Eeyore Parking – This borders on being too well known, but we think it’s pretty cool. Behind the projector in the Indiana Jones Adventure queue is a sign with a picture of Eeyore on it. The best way to see this sign is to get to the end of the projection room of the pre-show and turn around to look for it. If you still can’t see it, ask a Cast Member. They often carry flashlights and can point it out for you.
Mine Train Thru Nature’s Wonderland Remnants – Mine Train Thru Nature’s Wonderland was, essentially, the predecessor to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, except it was a leisurely train ride focused on sight-seeing and it encompassed a much larger footprint. When it closed, many aspects of the ride were left in place, probably in part due to cost of removal and in part because they added to the look of Frontierland without being obvious elements of a closed attraction. Nowadays, these remnants are fun reminders of the past for Disney geeks like us. I’ve become obsessed with this ride over the years, and given my fondness of other leisurely rides like the Peoplemover, I wish it were still around.
Evil Queen – Above Snow White’s Scary Adventures, there’s a small window (see the photo above) that opens now and then to reveal the Evil Queen peering over guests. Most people miss this small detail because it’s brief, discreet, and above their sight lines.
Morse Code Telegraph Office – I don’t know Morse Code, but I’ve heard from numerous sources that the telegraph office at the New Orleans Square Train Station “plays” Walt Disney’s opening day dedication of Disneyland in Morse Code. It’s either true or this is a carefully promulgated urban legend. Here’s a fun and interesting story about the Morse Code…its level of details suggests that this is true, or the author of that article has an incredible imagination!
Snow White’s Wishing Well – Another Snow White detail is to the right of Sleeping Beauty Castle in Snow White Grotto. If you listen into the Wishing Well here, you will hear an ‘echo’ of Snow White singing.
Jingles – The “lead” horse of the King Arthur Carrousel was dedicated to Julie Andrews in honor of her service to the Walt Disney Company, including during the 50th Anniversary of Disneyland. Ornate decorations and tributes to Andrews were added to Jingles, and these remain today. Jingles is easy to spot as the horse covered with bells (and the most ornamentation).
Party Line Phones – The Market House on Main Street has a couple of 1800s-era party line phones. Pick up these phones to listen into some mundane, yet humorous conversations. With the recent opening of Starbucks, there was some concern that these phones would disappear, but they are still present!
Edible Plants in Tomorrowland – This is another one I can’t verify the truth of, as I haven’t tried to consume them all, but each of the plants in Tomorrowland is supposed to be edible. The idea behind this stems from Tomorrowland’s original role as offering a glimpse into a better tomorrow for America, from transportation to homes to even horticulture. Over the years its vision has morphed to a science fiction land and the plants don’t make quite as much sense, but they’re still a cool detail.
Mailboxes – There are working mailboxes throughout Disneyland. Not a huge secret, but many guests don’t realize that these boxes aren’t just for show. Disneyland used to have its own special Sleeping Beauty Castle stamp for the mail, but now it is stamped with the regular Anaheim, California stamp.
Mike Fink’s Keel Boat – Another remnant of an extinct attraction, this little keel boat along the Rivers of America looks like it’s just one of the many little details added to give interest to the River’s edge for its attractions, but it also serves as a tribute to this attraction of the past.
Swisskapolka – Tarzan’s Treehouse replaced the old Swiss Family Treehouse (which still exists at Walt Disney World), but as a tribute to the former attraction, a phonograph in the treehouse quietly plays the Swisskapolka, which is the catchy theme song from the original treehouse.
That’s the list of our favorite Disneyland “hidden” secrets, Easter Eggs, and other details that we most enjoy! As you can see, a lot of our favorite things are tributes to Disneyland’s past; it’s interesting how Disneyland toes the line between staying current (“not being a museum”) and embracing its storied past. We’ve learned about a lot of these from simply experiencing the parks at our leisure, but also from various D23 events, visiting the parks with passionate Annual Passholders, and from the sites 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 Disneyland, 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!