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!
Hey Tom Bricker,
Could you please debunk this myth for me?
I’ve heard quite a few times that Walt Disney was a Nazi sympathizer. I have never believed that to be the truth. I have always strongly believed Walt Disney to be a good man all-around. I just want to know for sure, so I can tell people it’s absolutely not true when it comes up.
In a short answer, no, he wasn’t.
In a longer answer: Disney studios (and therefore Walt Disney himself) were contracted by the U.S. government during WWII to produce multiple pro-American and anti Japanese and German propaganda pieces, as well as multiple educational films for different divisions of the military. These included “Der Fuhrers Face,” and “Education for Death-the Making of a Nazi.” Both have been credited with gaining significant support from the U.S. public towards the war, so much so they were required films during my undergraduate history classes, and cited in more than a few masters theses. These films were made almost exclusively at cost (Disney made very little if any money from them). That combined with the fact he lied about his age specifically to fight in WWI (though he did not get in as a soldier but instead as an ambulance driver) makes it highly unlikely he was a nazi sympathizer.
If you want to know more about this I’d suggest the book “Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination” by Neal Gabler. However, if you would like a shorter summary, his Wikipedia page does discuss any accusations made as well as investigation findings (spoiler alert, he wasn’t a Nazi). Go to http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walt_Disney and scroll down to the section titled antisemitism and racism.
I know I’m not Tom Bricker whom you addressed, but I hope that helps!
Whenever Julie Andrews comes to the parks, no Mary Poppins characters can be out!
A diverse professional motorcycle stunt performer is Bob Duffey.
Here are the five themes that are currently very popular choices for this Halloween. There
are some beautiful headpieces available, too, for the Queen of the Nile.
Bench mark a date and ven Watch Pretty Little Liars Episode 17.
Which means that Watch Pretty Little Liars Seasopn 1 Episode 17.
The women digest his or her’s wrath in addition to bitterness more than not
deemed and prepare themselves too our head-shrinking to come.
On the Andy’s coming thing. It used to be a very consistent thing but when it became popular they stopped using it because of safety reasons.
yes this is true. It used to be the normal reaction but when it was publicized and got popular they stopped doing it. i heard the last time i was there when i asked about it (september 6 2015) that they did it all the time but one time this little kid yelled andys coming before one of the characters was full on their feet ( it’s not easy in those costumes) and that when the character dropped back down they hurt themselves so the parks stopped it. it’s still able to be done, but ONLY when the “handler” tells you to say that. you can also ASK if you have them do it and sometimes they’ll allow it.
also to the statue thing, Roy Disney was on tv and in an interview he said that the statues of him and walt are close not because of the meaning, it was coincidence and walt is really meant to be saying “look at what we have accomplished, and all that is still possible.” he said that when his statue was erected in that line of sight that it was supposed to symbolise his taking over for walt and the added line of “i’m no longer here, but roy and minnie will take care of you.”
the situation is nice either way….. but the “look at what we’ve accomplished” is the real meaning. mickey is his favorite. he voiced mickey for a long time.
the cat thing, yes it is true, ALL disney parks are home to ferals and stray dogs as well although they do capture the dogs to send to a rescue. not a shelter, but a no kill rescue. the cats are captured and then re-released, they feed them, and clean up after them.
walt was not frozen, he was cremated, although it is true that his last words are a mystery. not in what they were but what they meant. right before he died he scribbled “kurt russell” on a piece of paper. no one knows why as kurt was brand new a little boy not yet famous who’d just come into the company. not even kurt knew. maybe walt was foreshadowing his amazing future.
ToT was struck by lightning in real life twice! in 2010 and on halloween night when it was under construction, also all the furniture in the place are real pieces. not replicas. they’re really worth millions of dollars.
Is it true the Photopass photographers cannot take a photo of Mary Poppins?
I have heard this, with the reasoning being that P.L. Travers did not grant Disney the rights. While it’s true that P.L. Travers didn’t grant Disney all rights to the character, I think the necessary rights to photos of the film adaptation of the character would flow from those rights that were granted.
So, unless there’s a different reason for this, I’m guessing that it’s more incidental that PhotoPass photographers never happen to be around Mary Poppins (that’s true of a lot of characters), than it is intentional.
I love that Disney reacquired Oswald the Rabbit by trading football commentator Al Michaels to NBC. Has to be first person traded for a animated character.
One additional bit to add to “The Hat Rumor” explains a bit more about the concerns over lost revenue for the Mann’s company.
In the late 90’s Ted Mann’s company was facing serious financial problems, and by 2000 was facing bankruptcy. In an effort to save the company they forged a partnership with Paramount and Warner Brothers. This all happened just about a year before the hat was installed for the 100 Years of Magic celebration.
I have a feeling there are a lot of contributing sources to why the Sorcerer Hat was installed, but from my understanding the pressures from Mann’s company did have quite a bit to do with it’s installation. After all, it is a lot easier to change the name of a park than to remove a gigantic attraction.
Interestingly though, Ted Mann owned the theatre when then MGM Studios was built in the 80’s, and had agreed to it’s installation and naming at that time. So, it may have been direct pressure from Warner Brothers and Paramount that led to Mann’s pressuring of Disney to do something about the icon as he was forcing bankruptcy. Since Disney was preparing plans for the 100 Year of Magic campaign for 2002 they could tie in a new Disney icon inspired by one of Walt’s favorite films without ever having to mention the real reason for it’s installation.
We heard several people try the “Andy’s coming” trick when we were there last time, and the characters would stand still for a moment, and then cast members would say, “It’s okay guys, remember? Andy’s away at college.” It was a clever way of handling it. We also really enjoyed that the myth about the bride’s ring from the Haunted Mansion became a reality when they added the new queue (cast members will give you a hint if you’re having trouble finding it.)
We’ve heard that, too. It’s a good way to address the problem caused by the “Andy’s Coming” saying, and hopefully that loses popularity soon.
About the sorcerers hat in Hollywood studios, there is a rumor that is being removed this year, that is not being used in promotional items as 2014, and that the hat was added cause the park didn’t have an icon as the other 3 parks has… That the water tank with the ears wasn’t enough as icon of the park…
That’s been a rumor every year since 2011. I’ll believe it when walls go up.
The walls went up 🙁 We were just there and I didn’t take a picture in front of the hat because I thought we had plenty of time and we had a bunch of pictures already. I’m sad I missed my last chance. I wonder what they are going to put in it’s place as they will need a “big” icon like the Castle in Magic Kingdom, the ball in Epcot, and the Tree of Life in Animal Kingdom. The Earful Tower is hidden by the closing of the Backlot Tour and it just doesn’t seem like a big enough “main attraction” … http://www.mynews13.com/content/news/cfnews13/on-the-town/article.html/content/news/articles/cfn/2015/1/21/disney_sorcerers_hat.html
I wonder if the cats have ever caught a duck or duckling.
Why do you think Huey, Dewey, and Louie are no longer out for meet and greets?! 😉
My favorite “take” on the Walt and Mickey statue (at WDW) was that it was Walt telling Mickey “Everything the light touches is ours” after which Mickey asked “but what about the shadows?” to which Walt replied “That is Universal. You must never go there.”
I probably botched this joke, but it still cracks me up every time.
Definitely left me in chuckles just now!
Which, of course, was covered in a post on this here website: Disney Tourist Blog’s Thoughts on the Hat
😉 Ok, I’m out after this one.
Here is part of the answer.
Here is where I heard it, I believe. I don’t have iTunes at work, so this is as close as I could get, but it’s episode 18. If I was fuzzy on the details, above, my apologies…
I don’t know if I can find the source itself, but I remember a podcast with Jim Hill regarding the hat. I can’t remember the exact details, but it had to do with developing an attraction in what is now the Fantasmic amphitheater. It was a large undertaking, whatever it was supposed to be, and for one reason or another, never happened as it was planned at that time. It may have been that the animation attraction was supposed to be a bigger deal than it was and the hat was supposed to be the entryway to it, something of that nature.
I’m really foggy about the “why” but as the plans fell apart, consumer products/retail was asked to get involved with what to do with what were now spare parts/plans and somehow agreed to fund the building of the hat, but only if it had a prominent location in the park, like at the end of the street in front of the theater, which was an attraction fading in popularity anyway. If I come across the source info I’ll post it, but I definitely remember these main plot points being the reason and it had nothing to do with rights to the theater’s image.
We were told by the tour guide on the Keys to the Kingdom Tour at Walt Disney World that Walt statue is indeed pointing to Roy. Are some on the guides coming up with their own explanations…or is this what they were trained to say?
I’ve also heard a myth a long time ago that no one is allowed to die on Disney property. I’m pretty sure that one has been proven false though.
Wow, interesting stuff. I have to say, I’ve never heard of some of these myths, so it’s kind of cool to read about them knowing they’re not true. I love to chat it up with cast members, but I guess I’ll take their info with a grain of salt! 🙂
I want to inform you about the Studios myth. Photo pass did not begin until late 2005! NOT 2004. You may want to correct that.
Check the dates here: http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=690162
CM’s are apparently guilty at times for spreading myths.
I read a report on DISboards from a guest who was told during a park tour that Oswald the Lucky Rabbit had belonged to Warner Brothers who had changed him after Walt Disney left the company and later developed him into (get this) Bugs Bunny.
This story is ludicrous for a few simple reasons:
1) Warner Brothers didn’t own Oswald, Universal did.
2) Oswald appeared in several Walter Lantz cartoons distributed by Universal the very same year that Bugs Bunny made his debut in WB cartoons.
3) Oswald appeared in 2 more Universal cartoon shorts (in 1943 and 1951) well after Bugs Bunny became a huge cartoon star, and then was the star of a series of kids comic books well into the 50’s.
4) If Warner Brothers owned Oswald, then why did Universal relinquish his rights to Disney just a few years ago?
I really wish I had been on that tour so I could’ve puled that CM aside and told them not to spread this misinformation. I did the same to a tour guide in Savannah, Georgia who told a whole bus full of tourists that a house there was the inspiration for the Haunted Mansion. ummm….wrong.
Yeah, Cast Members are pretty bad about perpetuating myths. We’ve learned never to take the word of CMs as the gospel. The rumor mill has a way of distorting things!