A LOT of crazy things happen at the Disney Parks. Where else can you fly on an elephant, join a pirate crew, spin in a tea cup, and hug a mouse all in the same day?
But sometimes, really crazy REAL things happen in the Disney Parks. Things that are important to U.S. History — things you’ve heard of, but you’d never guess happened at Walt Disney World or Disneyland.
Here are 5 Insane non-Disney historical events that happened at Disney.
1. Nixon’s “I’m Not a Crook” Speech
That’s right, one of the most famous political speeches of ALL TIME happened at Walt Disney World.
Following accusations regarding the Watergate Scandal, President Richard Nixon held a press conference in the Ballroom of the Americas at Disney’s Contemporary Resort.
When asked about his involvement, Nixon famously responded, “I’m not a crook.” Of course, we all know very shortly after he resigned from the presidency for his actions. But those very famous words live on in American history forever.
2. The Invention of Doritos
Shortly after Disneyland opened, Elmer Doolin, the founder of Frito-Lay, approached Walt about opening a Frito-Lay restaurant in the park. Walt agreed, and “Casa de Fritos” opened in Frontierland (where Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante is located today).
Casa de Fritos served classic tex-mex — Frito pies, enchiladas, chili, and more. However, they did not make the tortillas used in the restaurant — those were supplied by a local company.
As the story goes, a salesman from the tortilla company noticed discarded tortillas one day. Instead of letting them be tossed out, he brought them to Casa de Fritos and suggested the chef chop them up and toss them in the fryer. Tortilla chips weren’t a new invention — but they had yet to be done by the Frito-Lay brand.
They were a hit, and Casa de Fritos sneakily added them to the menu without approval from Frito-Lay. A year later, a Frito-Lay VP was walking through the park and saw the guests’ reaction to the crunchy snack. He then asked the tortilla supplier to mass-produce the chips. Frito-Lay began to market them as “Doritos”, and they have been a snack-time staple ever since.
3. Apollo 11 Moon Landing Publicly Televised
OK, so Disney can’t take credit for orchestrating the moon landing. But they DID broadcast the historic occasion in 1969 live from Disneyland’s Tomorrowland! (Where else?)
Disney and NASA’s relationship goes back to the 1950s when Walt teamed up with NASA Scientist Wernher von Braun to make a series of TV films about space. The shorts garnered a public interest in space, as well as Disneyland (Tomorrowland in particular).
Because of the TV films, and the Tomorrowland broadcast, Walt is often credited with creating the public interest in the NASA Space Program.
4. Anaheim Angels World Series Win
Did you know at one time the Walt Disney Company owned a baseball team? That’s right! From 1996 to 2003, Disney owned the Anaheim Angels. (This was AFTER the film Angels in the Outfield , if you were curious.)
Disney renamed the team the Anaheim Angels from the California Angels upon their acquisition of the team, and Walt Disney Imagineering even helped renovate the stadium.
But most importantly, the team won its FIRST and ONLY World Series under Disney’s ownership in 2002. And where did they have their victory parade? Disneyland, of course!
Disney sold the Angels the following year to advertising mogul Arte Moreno.
5. The Beatles Break-up
Did you know the world’s greatest band officially ended at Walt Disney World? Yep, the official end of The Beatles happened at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, of all places.
John Lennon told the group in 1969 that he wanted out, and Paul McCartney officially announced it to the public in 1970. Of course, to dissolve a band with the intellectual property and success like the Beatles had takes some time.
It wasn’t until 1974 that the band officially signed the papers to end the most famous rock group the world had ever seen. George and Paul signed in New York, Ringo in England, which left John. He was on vacation with his family in Florida, staying at the Polynesian when he received the papers. On Christmas Eve, with a swipe of his pen, John Lennon signed his name and ended the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band in history, with Seven Seas Lagoon and Cinderella Castle as the backdrop.
Did you know these insane historical events took place at Disney? Let us know your favorite in the comments!
Interested in Disney history and Imagineering details? Take a look at these recent posts:
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- 6 Retired Disney World Animatronics We Miss
- Do You Remember These 9 Short-Lived Disney Attractions?
- I Bet You Don't Know Which Attraction Was Inspired by Fantasia!
- What's Left of Disney-MGM Studios 30 Years Later
- 10 Walt Disney World Attractions Walt Had a Hand in Creating
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