Walt Disney World and myths go together like America and apple pie. There are a ton of urban legends about the theme parks, and in this post, we’ll debunk a bunch of common and persistent misconceptions. Many of these have gone viral online, so this should be considered something of a public service announcement post.
When you take a company like Disney that has a long and rich history, and combine that with the illusions, secrecy, and “magic” in which so much of Disney is shrouded, it should be no surprise that over the years certain myths have cropped up to “help” explain some things.
Here are a few of my “favorite” myths concerning Disneyland, Walt Disney World, the Walt Disney Company, and Walt Disney himself. Along the way, we’ll “bust” some of these myths with reality. While this list is confined to five myths, in reality there are so many myths about Disney that it could those fun fellas on the Discovery Channel could devote an entire series to just Disney myths…
Don’t feel bad if you’ve played a role in the popularity of these urban legends. Even certain authors of this blog have been duped by Disney myths from time to time. We encourage you to share some of your favorite myths or ones that have fooled you in the comments at the end of the article.
1. If You Can Dream It, Then You Can Do It. ~Waltwhat?
Egregious is a strong word, but if anything on this list is an egregious offender, it’s probably this one. It’s certainly the most widely perpetuated myth on the list, thanks to its popularity as an inspirational quote. If you are guilty of this one (and I’m guessing about 50% of you are), don’t feel bad–it’s been widely attributed to Walt Disney. From the great minds of the world like Paris Hilton to The Walt Disney Company itself(!), many have played a role in spreading this as a Walt Disney quote. It’s not.
Imagineer Tom Fitzgerald had this to say to legendary Disney historian Dave Smith (this praise is serious…unlike that bestowed upon Ms. Hilton above): “I am very familiar with that line because I wrote it! It was written specifically for the Horizons attraction at Epcot and used in numerous ways, from dialogue in the ride to graphics. I find it amusing that the Science of Imagineering DVD series attributes it to Walt Disney, but I guess I should be flattered.”
Want to see why this is the most egregious offender? Check out the real-time Twitter usage of this quote that is a bit disturbing. Special thanks on this one to the fine folks at the Walt Disney Archives who are working diligently to promote accuracy on all subjects related to Walt Disney and the company he founded.
2. Peter Pan’s “Shadow”
Depending upon your internet habits, you might be saying, “huh?” to this one, wondering how it’s one of the top myths. However, this has become a top myth recently thanks primary to social media sites like Pinterest and Tumblr. There, it’s usually accompanied by a caption that says it’s a cut-out on top of the lamp that “projects” the shadow onto the wall. I’ve even seen one person claim that it’s a photo of their house! Others say that it’s a wall cling that you can purchase at that store.
That last variation is close to the actual truth, but still wrong. The scene in question is from the Disney Store in downtown Tokyo, Japan, and it’s painted on the wall. (So unless you live in Tokyo’s Disney Store, you’re lying, unnamed Pinterest user!) While there may be versions that cling to the wall, this is not one of them, nor does the Disney Store in Tokyo sell such a cling. I know this because we went to this store, and saw the wall in question.
3. Andy’s Coming!
Another one that social media has bestowed upon the world is that if you yell “Andy’s Coming!” in front of any of the Toy Story meet & greet characters, they will fall down. Thanks to an image that went viral with a caption indicating that it was a cool trick you could try in the parks, this has become incredibly popular in recent months. So popular, in fact, that if you were standing in line to meet Woody and Jess this year, there’s a good chance you’d hear this during your wait.
It doesn’t work. At least, it doesn’t work consistently. I don’t doubt that at one time (like when the photo was taken), it did work, and kudos to the characters for cleverly playing along, but it doesn’t work now. Its viral popularity has killed any chance of it working ever again, too.
Now, it’s just annoying. Yelling it in the parks is no more clever than beating the Jungle Cruise skipper to the punchline of the backside of water joke. Neither “proves” you’re a knowledgeable fan…but both will earn you contemptuous stares from your fellow guests…
4. Partners’ “Meaning”
There are more different myths about this statue than just about anything else. Here’s the real story: Marty Sklar approached Disney Legend Blaine Gibson, Partners’ creator, about creating the statue for Disneyland. Multiple potential designs all focused on looking forward were pitched and rejected by Marty Sklar and John Hench. Finally, they settled on the design seen in the park’s today. Blaine Gibson has stated that he was trying to capture Walt saying “look what we’ve accomplished together” to Mickey. As for any deeper meaning of the statue…there’s not.
The statue’s installation at Disneyland was originally controversial, as it is reported that Walt did not want tributes to himself in the parks. The finished product was placed in Disneyland’s hub on November 18, 1993. At its rededication in 2001, Disney Legend Richard Sherman performed. He recalled his performance at Walt Disney World’s Destination D: “There were 2,000 people on Main Street, but I said, ‘I’m going to play this song for Walt.’” When he reached the line, “Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag,” a lone bird flew “down from heaven,” he said, and swept above his piano. He took it as a sign that Walt was watching.
On June 19, 1995 the “Partners” statue was installed in the hub of the Magic Kingdom. As for the myths? Walt is not pointing at Roy (who is located at the front of the Magic Kingdom in Florida, a statue that doesn’t even exist in Disneyland or the Walt Disney Studios Park where Partners is also found), as the “Sharing the Magic” statue was not added until 1999. Walt is not pointing at the Train Station, it isn’t the “ghost” of Walt saying to Mickey Mouse, “go forward and lead the Kingdom” after his passing, nor is Walt pointing to Epcot. (To name just a few of the myths that have been perpetuated over the years.)
5. The Sorcerer’s Hat’s “Purpose”
The good news is that we can officially retire this one, as the Sorcerer’s Hat has been put out of its misery, and the view of Grauman’s Chinese Theater–which will serve as the facade and home of Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway–has been restored. That alone debunks this myth, but in case you’re still curious about what it was, here goes…
The myth is that the Mickey Mouse Sorcerer’s Hat in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre was added because Disney didn’t have the rights to use it in photos, and when PhotoPass came into being, revenue was being lost because they couldn’t station photographers there.
Let’s give this a little thought. Disney filed trademark registration for “Disney’s PhotoPass” in June 2004, and launched the service in November 2004. The Sorcerer’s Hat was unveiled two years earlier in September 2001 as part of the 100 Years of Magic promotion. Presumably, it had been in development for a few years before that. Unless Disney conceived of PhotoPass years prior to trademarking it and built the Sorcerer Hat in anticipation of that issue (an unlikely proposition as Disney typically files for trademarks as soon as a potential concept starts moving), this explanation doesn’t hold much water.
Of course, just because the PhotoPass detail is suspect doesn’t mean the whole legend is, right? The rest could be true without that detail. It could be the case that Disney doesn’t have the rights to use Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in promotional materials. While conceivable, this is incredibly unlikely.
Disney has an incredibly savvy legal department, and the idea that a company that markets itself so heavily would ever allow such a restrictive term in a licensing deal is asinine. Plus, it has been in marketing materials over the years, from books from the 1980s to this photo on the official Disney Parks Blog. While it is true that Disney doesn’t use the Chinese Theatre in marketing materials often, it is used from time to time–which should put the “no rights in marketing” urban legend to bed.
As for the truth, I think that it likely does have to do with the marketing side of things. Grauman’s Chinese Theatre is a real world place, and is not “distinctly Disney.” While other icons are based on real world places, all have gained traction over the years as being Disney icons. That never happened with the Chinese Theatre, at least as far as the general public was concerned. The Sorcerer’s Hat, as ugly and thematically jarring as it is, provided a marketing image that is clearly identifiable as Disney.
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This list just scratches the surface of the Disney myths that have been perpetuated over the years. What are some other ones that you “like”? Do you agree or disagree with our takes on these myths? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!