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!
I know I am probably the only one who doesn’t know, but where is the peter pan myth located?
From the article:
” The scene in question is from the Disney Store in downtown Tokyo, Japan, and it’s painted on the wall. “
Regarding the Sorcerer’s Hat at Hollywood Studios, you can listen to Jim Korkis explaining why they have it blocking the Chinese Theater on a recent WDW Radio podcast. Link here: http://bit.ly/12r1EwN
Thanks for the link. Mind giving a brief synopsis of what he said?
Korkis said that Grauman’s/Mann’s got upset in the late 90s that the value and uniqueness of the theater was being diminished by the Studios’ theater and its cement handprint/footprint ceremonies. He said that was the reason that it is now referred to by Disney as the Chinese Theater and that the ceremonies went away because of this, but only said this could have been a “contributing factor” to getting the Sorcerer’s Hat. Interview reference point: 14’45”-16’00”
Thanks for that, Jeff.
Color me skeptical on this one. Jim Korkis knows his stuff, but this sounds more like him speculating (at least with regard to the Hat), than anything else.
The contract between the parties would clearly set forth Disney’s rights. Disney wouldn’t just build a huge, expensive structure as a ‘friendly accommodation’ to a theater owner.
Even the owners of Grauman’s now refer to their theater primarily as “The Chinese Theater”… http://www.tclchinesetheatres.com/
This post has sort of inspired me to see how far I can spread some incredible memes of walt disney with totally bogus quotes attached. I bet if I send them as a chain e-mail to my grandma, the eastern seaboard will be over taken with Disney myths within minutes!
Keep fighting the good fight! 😉
I don’t think that’s a good idea because it would just keep perpetuating the false rumors, when what really should be done is debunk them all and make as many people aware of that as possible. Disney is a great company, and it always makes me really sad when I hear negative rumors about it.
DLP fans often joke that Walt is pointing to the exit of the Walt Disney Studios Park, helping you escape back to Disneyland Park…
I think this one could be true! 😉
Toffer, what are some of the false reasons for River Country’s closing? Do you know the real reason?
If not, do you Tom?
The main myth I’ve heard is that there was some brain-eating virus in the water. This obviously isn’t true (or perhaps it’s already eaten my brain, hard to say). IIRC the real reason is that it wasn’t that popular and with Typhoon and Blizzard it was unnecessary.
A few people did die due to an amoeba that pops up from time to time in fresh water lakes in Florida, but the closure wasn’t really caused by those, it stayed open years after the last case. There was a decline in visitors after 9/11 (in general) and River Country was unfortunately not seen as viable with the drop in attendance. So they shut it down and abandoned it.
I heard it did close down because of the bacteria levels in the water and they had a problem keeping them under control. I think the water came in from the lake.
While it was next to the lagoon, the water park was separated by a wall and used it’s own water source.
Years ago Florida set a ‘clean water’ regulation for water Parks. To legally operate, the proprietor must keep a cleanliness level of the water. Since River Country is a natural water source, it was too difficult & too expensive to maintain the proper levels. So they opted to close. I am a Florida resident & most of our local Water Parks closed then as well.
I could be wrong, but I know it to be true of other Florida establishments. The research I did on River Country also cited this as the reason for closing. What have you found, Tom?
Hi Tom, I recently discovered your site & I love it! This was a fun post. It made me think of a Disney myth, but I guess it’s more of a legend. Ever heard of the Pirates of the Carribbean ghost? The story goes that a construction worker named George was killed in an accident during construction of the ride and his spirit decided to hang around. I’ve heard that the POC cast members have a tradition of saying good morning & good night to George every day. If they don’t say it for some reason, the ride breaks down the next day. Obviously there’s no way to prove or disprove this myth, but I think it makes for a fun story. I’ve never had the courage to ask a POC cast member if they really talk to George every day….I’m afraid they’ll think I’m crazy, LOL.
Well, POC did break down on my first day in the parks a couple trips ago…I guess someone forgot to say goodnight to George the day before! 😉
Back in 2005/2006 I was a cast member at pirates of caribbean and never heard of this myth.
Friend of mine worked at Pirates, it’s still unofficial protocol to tell him goodnight over the pa every night
You can find the statue of Roy sitting along side Minnie on a bench located on the left side of the entrance to World Bazaar at Tokyo Disneyland.
Thanks for the heads up. Someone mentioned that to me on Twitter last night and I wasn’t sure if they were right. Then I went back to my photos and saw it in a couple. Wow…now I’m the one perpetuating myths! 😉
Fun article. This just makes me want to do a google search for all the other Disney myths out there!
The “Keys To The Kingdom” tour guide that we had in 2007 did say that the Partners statue was pointing to the opposite statue of Roy and Minnie. I do not remember his exact verbiage, but it did have something to do with look at what we have created together, I will not always be here with you, Minnie and Roy are down there waiting for you to continue.
You’re about the 5th person who has told me they heard this exact story on a Keys to the Kingdom tour. I wonder if there’s one tour guide in particular perpetuating this myth, or what?
It’s a nice story, but it’s not true.
The variation I heard on the Keys to the Kingdom tour was that Walt Disney knew that he was dying and Mickey looked up and ask who was going to take care of him once Walt was gone–keep him from being forgotten. Walt pointed to the front and referenced all the people in the park who love him who would visit him every day. (Shared at the end of the tour & had every one of us in tears…great tour-a real must!)
with regard to ElizabethNDP’s variation to the partners myth, I love this one, brought tears to my eyes….
Generally speaking, ALL of the tour scripts are carefully written, approved by that Disney Legal Department mentioned earlier, and carefully followed. I was a Core Trainer at Disney University and I’ll tell you that those scripts are carefully watched and supervised.
I’ve heard this as part of the Keys to the Kingdom tour several times from different guides (I LIKE the tours!) and I think someone got creative when the script was written and APPROVED. It’s part of the script that at least can be included, I would bet.
“Never believe anything Tom Bricker says.” -Walt Disney
He was a wise man, indeed. 😉
This is great 🙂
Interesting stuff. Thanks for the post!
As for the “If you can dream it, you can do it.” quote, I’ve never given it much thought. I have never had a reason to question its authenticity; however, to be fair I usually take Walt quotes with a grain of salt since they are so often misused.
And you gotta love the liars on the internet. I love the quote of Peter Pan’s shadow being their house. LOL
How about the myth that Walt Disney is frozen when he died? That seems to be one of the bigger ones I’ve ever heard of.
Oh yeah. I think that’s been widely discredit and is thrown around now in jest more than anything else. I doubt many people actually believe it…do they?
I “wish” you had included the “story” of the dying Make-a-Wish kid whose last wish was to sing the theme song to Wishes…or some variation. I cringe every time I hear that one.
I had actually never heard that one! I looked it up and, wow, it’s a pretty popular myth. Wonder how I managed to not hear it before…
I’ve been looking all over for verification/denial of this rumor. Where did you see it isn’t true?
I haven’t gone looking for confirmation, but there’s no chance that it’s true. It would set a dangerous precedent, and would be really risky. Moreover, whenever people heard the song, they’d associate it with death…not exactly the message Disney wants to send.
I actually worked at Disney and it was one of my co-worker’s cousins who sang the little girl part of Wishes. She is very much alive and well today!
You forgot the myth about cast members hiding a paint brush on Tom Sawyer’s Island every morning and the first guest to locate it and turn it in, gets a free fast pass……
That used to be true. They stopped hiding them sometime earlier this year.
My daughter, who was 6 at the time,found one of the paint brushes on our last trip. She was so excited! I hate to hear they’ve stopped doing this…..
That is true up until 2012. I found all three one year! Sadly when we visited in Oct 2012 they said it isn’t done any longer as people were stealing them.
According to a conversation Jim Korkis had with Blaine Gibson, Walt is also “saying” to Mickey, “Look at all the happy people who have come to visit us today.” He’s said something similar several times. He’s also said what you quoted, “Look at what we’ve accomplished together.” I think it’s safe to call both if these as fact, and (as you said) rule out the others as myths.
Jim Korkis is actually my source on that one. I can’t believe I didn’t link to his article on it. Now to go back and find his post…
Former cast member, THANK YOU for this, some of these have needed to be said very badly. Things that also need to be brought up and debunked: Walt’s frozen head underneath fill-in-your-favorite-loacation-here, Wishes is sung by a child who’s dying wish was to sing the music for the show, all the false reasons behind River Country’s closure…
I have no idea if this one is true, but I’ve been hearing recently that Disneyland lets loose about 200 cats every night after hours to control rodent population.
I didn’t believe it at first, but from what I understand, this one is TRUE!
I’m not sure it’s every night, but from what I understand, Disneyland does own ~200 cats. From time to time, Anaheim shelters advertise cats for adoption that come from Disneyland. Can you imagine living up to that. Cat: “I used to tower over a castle in Storybook Land Canal Boats…your scratch-tree does not impress me!” 😉
You can actually see their designated feeder behind the hungry bear restaurant, there’s usually a cat or too around there as well in the overflow eating area
I had heard about this before we made it to Disneyland this past spring. While we were there for two days I saw three cats just hanging around in the landscaping close to the Disneyland Hotel and one in the park. I assumed these were some of the cats I had read about.
On my Disneyland portion of the Adventures By Disney: Backstage Magic tour we went to the tri-circle D ranch and toured the old ranchhand’s home. They said that their charge is to take care of all living animals in the park, whether welcomed or not. Thus, the large feral cat population of Anaheim is included. They put our courtesy feeders of food and water, and do a periodic capture process to spay and neuter. The procedure comes out of the animal budget(They must be fans of Bob Barker). Our guide from the department stressed that the cats are feral (i.e. do not pet them), and that they work with the ASPCA and Humane Society to reduce the population.
WDW has a similar “good neighbor” policy with wounded animals and birds. It’s a bit strange, though, that ducks are not included in the list of animals to assist. At DAK we were often told that we must “let nature take her course” if there was an injured duck.
I was told on a Keys to the Kingdom backstage tour at Magic Kingdom (WDW) that there are lots of feral cats living on the property that take care of the rodents. So not that they are “released” and then somehow recaptured, they just live there. The same may be true at Disneyland. If I were a homeless cat, I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather live, so it makes sense to me.
You nailed it, Sara. There really are hundreds of feral cats in Disneyland. They’re not “released” at night and rounded up, but they do live there. Considering the average feral cat’s skiddish nature around people, Disneyland seems an unlikely place for them to gather, but they’re there, and can sometimes be spotted during the day. I didn’t know that the Magic Kingdom had the same issue, though.
I have seen several cats in DCA. Usually in Bugs Land!
Yup, there is definitely a feral cat population that helps keep the rodent population under control. With the thick vegetation of the berm as well as the jungle, there are plenty of places for a variety of critters to hide. The cats definitely do a great job of staying out of sight during park hours, but after hours you’ll certainly encounter them. Disney however does not play an active role in collecting and releasing them on a day to day basis. They do it on their own.
I will say that after one evening when I was passing backstage from Newstand to Package Pick-up and confronted a rather large rat, I was grateful for anything those cats are able to do!
I think we worked together at Disneyland! I was in Main Street Merch from 1989 until about 1995. I’ve also seen may critters on that same path.
I also remember being afraid to trip and fall into that ivy covered fence along side that path because it had an alarm in it to detect people climbing over the fence. I was told that if you touched the fence security would instantly swarm! Probably another myth? Who knows…..
Great site and fun article Tom! I’ve followed all your trip reports and read most of your articles. Thanks for all the hard work!
I know a current employee of WDW and she said that the “Andy’s Coming” bit used to work, but characters are no longer allowed to do it. I believe she said they no longer do it due to safety concerns (and I think she said for fear the character’s heads coming off, etc)…
I would think that would get old REAL quick anyway…
I am so glad that you included the Toy Story myth. I don’t even know who many people I have had to tell recently that it is absolutely untrue. I haven’t experienced people trying to do it, because I have not been to the parks recently, but I feel like I might facepalm BIG TIME if it ever happens in front of me. Everything on the internet is TRUE! (what most people seem to think). Great list!
In 2011, we were meeting Woody and Buzz in DHS and a cast member whispered to my (then 2.5-year old) daughter to say “Andy’s coming”. She did (quietly) and both characters collapsed like in the “myth”. So it’s on the internet because at at least some points in time and space, it has happened! And for what it’s worth, it was really cool. Neither parent had heard the CM say ti to my daughter and none of us knew what to expect.
As is stated in the article, it’s just not true *now*.
I’m sure it didn’t always work even back then (depends upon which CMs you get), but it DEFINITELY doesn’t work now.
The internet is great, but it ruins some things!
It is good to know that it no longer happens now as I would be that person to watch out for it…but I am equally happy to know that it actually happened as well…even if it was set up from the Cast Members…that’s all a part of the magic of Disney! It is why I keep going back 😀
It used to be true but then it got out and they stopped. Now if you try and do so the say “Andy went to college.” I can only imagine it was a serious pain for the actors.