From humble beginnings in a Californian suburb in 1955, the Disney parks have grown into an entirely global brand. There’s something very special about these parks — they’re home to a magic that many other parks aspire to. Behind every magical story there’s an explanation — find out some fascinating secrets and facts about the master of all theme park brands.
The Walt Disney Imagineers seemingly thought of everything, and the parks are full of optical illusions. The famous castles which dominate the parks are actually a lot smaller than they seem because of the use of forced perspective. In this instance, forced perspective is produced by using smaller ‘bricks’ at the top of the castle building. A number of other visual tricks have been put in place in the Disney Parks, specifically based around the intricate theming that the parks pride themselves on.
For example at the Disneyland Resort’s Magic Kingdom; if you’re stood in one of the Park’s themed lands, it’s practically impossible to see any of the others thanks to carefully placed trees, fences, and walls. And when Tower of Terror was constructed at Walt Disney World’s MGM Studios park (now Disney’s Hollywood Studios), Imagineers worked out that it would be visible from certain places in nearby EPCOT — the crisis was averted when it was specifically designed to fit in with the other buildings that would be seen from that vantage point.
Probably the most well-known ‘secret’ of the Florida parks, the utilidors (from ‘utility doors’) are a series of tunnels occupy nearly 400,000 square feet under the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. The origin of these is that Walt Disney was bothered by sight of cast members walking through the Parks in uniform to get to their place of work, and worried that this would break the intricate theming of each of the Park’s lands. And thus, the idea of the utilidors was born! The tunnels allow staff members to simply ‘appear’ in their appropriate land, and this “underground city” is also home to many behind-the-scenes functions including waste removal, food preparation, and storage.
Long thought to be little more than a rumour, more information about Club 33 has surfaced in recent years. Club 33 is a private club located at Disneyland, and is the only place in the entire park to sell any alcoholic beverages. Club 33 takes it name from the fact that there was originally 33 sponsors for the Disneyland Park, a list which included Coca-Cola, Kodak, and United Airlines. Although many tourists think that the door is simply a facade, the entrance is located in the New Orleans Square section of the Park, but getting past the door isn’t easy. As of 2011, wannabe members have to fork out $25,000 in initial fees, plus around $10,000 a year to keep their membership. That’s only if they can afford it when they get to the top of the 14-year waiting list, though…
It’s a well-known fact that smells can evoke certain thoughts and feelings, and the Walt Disney Corporation has well and truly used this to their advantage. Wander down Main Street at any of the Disney Parks and your tastebuds will be tingling from the tempting smells of peppermint, popcorn, and freshly baked cookies outside a variety of the shops. Now hooked, you walk inside and hand over your hard-earned cash for sweet treats — exactly what Walt wanted. Aside from tempting consumers with sugary delights, the ‘Smellitizer’ is used in a variety of attractions. Riders of Spaceship Earth at EPCOT will smell burning wood in the ‘Rome’s burning’ section of the ride, and if you climb aboard Pirates of the Caribbean you can almost taste the salty sea air.
Hidden Mickeys started out as a joke between the Walt Disney Imagineers during the construction of the first Disneyland park, and there are now more than 1,000 documented Hidden Mickeys across the 11 parks. Hidden Mickeys are essentially three circles (two small, one large) that have been arranged (either on purpose or by accident) to make up the silhouette of that famous mouse. Whilst there are no prizes for finding these sought after silhouettes, many make it their mission to find as many as possible. In recent years, Hidden Minnies, Goofys, and Donalds have also been reported, and many fans flock specifically to certain spots to update their photograph collection.
There are plenty of secrets held within the Disney Parks’ magical walls, and it seems as though time and technology are only increasing the efforts to create a unique and magical experience for all of their guests. New things are happening at the parks every day, and we can’t wait to see what they come up with in the future!