Disney References in Non-Disney Theater, Music, Movies and TV Shows

Jack Spence Masthead

The other day, I was watching an episode of “I Love Lucy” (“The Black Wig” – April 18, 1954). The story opens with Lucy, Ricky, Fred, and Ethel returning to the Ricardo’s apartment after seeing an Italian movie. Lucy and Ethel were captivated by the film while Ricky and Fred were bewildered by its content. Part of their discussion contains the following lines:

Fred: But I couldn’t understand what the picture was all about.
Ethel: If it isn’t Donald Duck, it’s over his head!

I Love Lucy

Being a Disney fanatic, I immediately picked up on the Donald Duck reference. This fascinated me since Desilu Productions had nothing whatsoever to do with Walt and his studio. Yet, a rival studio made a Disney reference. This got me to thinking just how prevalent Disney culture is in our everyday language and in our media.

We think nothing of Zazu singing “It’s a Small World” to Scar in “The Lion King.” After all, this is a Disney reference inside a Disney movie. But non-Disney movies and television shows also use Disney references – and do it quite frequently if you pay attention. What follows are just a few of the hundreds (maybe thousands) of Disney references that can be found in the non-Disney media.

I Love Lucy: Sales Resistance – January 26, 1953

This episode opens with Ricky singing “There’s a Brand New Baby in Our House” to Fred and Ethel. In the lyrics you here the following rhyme:

“He’s the image of my spouse.
He’s the tricky Mickey Mouse.”

Ricky, Fred, and Ethel

The Manchurian Candidate – October 24, 1962

In a nighttime scene, a longshot captures a taxi racing down a street. The vehicle passes a movie theater. The marquee displays Pinocchio.

The Manchurian Candidate takes place shortly after the end of the Korean War (July 27, 1953). Pinocchio was originally released in 1940. However, this incongruity is easily explained. The Disney Company would rerelease their animated movies to new audiences every seven to eight years. One of Pinocchio’s rerelease dates was on February 18, 1954. Although the dates don’t exactly match, it’s close. I have read that Pinocchio was referenced in this film as he was the little puppet boy that lied, as did the brainwashers manipulating the hero of the story.

The Manchurian Candidate

Leave It to Beaver: Voodoo Magic – January 3, 1958

Eddie, Wally, and the Beaver are planning a trip to the movies to see either “Massacre at Blood River” or “Voodoo Curse.” June forbids Wally from taking Beaver to such a film and suggests Pinocchio, which is supposedly playing at another theater.

Once again, we see that Pinocchio has been rereleased. However, the timing is very inaccurate this time around. The first time Pinocchio was rereleased after its 1954 showing was on January 18, 1962, four years after it is referenced in this 1958 Leave It to Beaver episode. I guess that’s why the guys disobeyed their mother and saw “Voodoo Curse.” They couldn’t have seen Pinocchio even if they had wanted to.

Leave It to Beaver

The Nanny: The In-law Who Came Forever – January 6, 1999

Fran’s mother Sylvia explains to her daughter that her bald husband Morty, lost his toupee on Pirates of the Caribbean.

The Nanny

A Christmas Story – November 18, 1983

A Christmas Story has become an iconic holiday classic film, rivaling Miracle on 34th Street and It’s a Wonderful Life in popularity. This enduring movie also has a Disney reference.

Before Ralphie can visit Santa Clause at Goldblatt’s Department Store, his parents force him to watch the local Christmas parade. One of the parade entries features Mickey being accosted by a Flying Monkey from the Wizard of Oz. Although no specific year is ever given for the unfolding story, director Bob Clark and author Jean Shepherd strived to recreate a time period of the late 1930’s to the early 1940’s. In the movie, Mickey resembles the same modern characters we see in the theme parks today. But this shouldn’t be. When Disneyland opened in 1955 (at least 15 years after the time represented in the movie), the characters were far less sophisticated – and a little creepy.

A Christmas Story

Mickey and Minnie

I suspect this factual error was intentional on the part of Disney. In order to use Mickey in A Christmas Story, MGM needed permission from Disney. I believe Disney did not want the movie-going public to see old, grotesque representations of their characters and opted for the more familiar personas we’re familiar with today.

Green Lantern – June 17, 2011

Test pilot Hal Jorden is instructed to recite the Green Lantern oath to activate its powers. Not knowing the words to the oath, he makes up several of his own, including “To infinity and beyond.”

What he should have said was:

In brightest day, in blackest night,
No evil shall escape my sight.
Let those who worship evil’s might,
Beware my power, Green Lantern’s light!!!

Green Lantern

Book of Mormon: Broadway musical opening on March 24, 2011

In the song “Two By Two,” Elder Price explains that for his mission, he wants to be sent to his favorite spot, Orlando, home of Sea World, Disney, and putt-putt golf. Instead, he is sent to Uganda where a number of “Lion King” references are made.

Book of Mormon

Anything Goes: Broadway musical opening on January 24, 1934

During the first act, two characters (Billy and Reno) sing Cole Porter’s famous tune, “You’re the Top” in which they take turns complimenting one another. In the song, our friend Mickey is mentioned.

You’re the top!
You’re the Coliseum.
You’re the top!
You’re the Louver Museum.
You’re a melody from a symphony by Strauss
You’re a Bendel bonnet,
A Shakespeare’s sonnet,
You’re Mickey Mouse.

Anything Goes

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – December 21, 1937

Disney’s original animated movie has been spoofed, quoted, and referenced in literally hundreds of movies, television shows, and game shows. However, most of these references can be broken down into four general categories.

Snow White


Everyone knows this song and its lyrics are often quoted or misquoted depending on the circumstances. Here are just a few examples:

M*A*S*H: Good-Bye Radar: Part 1 – October 8, 1979

Hawkeye sings part of the song “Heigh-Ho.”

The Big Bang Theory: The Fish Guts Displacement – December 6, 2012

Howard says, “Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s off to fish we go.”

Murphy Brown: He-Ho, He-Ho, It’s Off to Lamaze We Go – April 27, 1992

The episode’s title is a parody of the song’s lyrics.

The Magic Mirror

As vanity is often a topic in storytelling, the evil queen’s magic mirror is frequently referenced.

Father Knows Best: Country Cousin – March 5, 1958

“Mirror on the wall” – A line spoken by Jim Anderson

Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Invitation to an Accident – June 21, 1959

During Hitchcock’s opening monologue he speaks: “Mirror, mirror on the wall.”

The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet: A Letter About Harriet – April 1, 1964

Neighbor Clara Randolph says: “Mirror, mirror on the wall. Who’s the fairest one of all?” Her husband Joe responds: “Walt Disney.”

Bewitched: Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall – November 7, 1968

The episode’s title uses this famous line.

The Seven Dwarfs

Even ardent Disney fans have a difficult time remembering the names of all seven dwarfs. This theme can be seen again and again in television shows.

Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman: Barbarians at the Planet – May 1, 1994

In a game with Clark, Lois is unable to remember the names of all seven dwarfs, forgetting Bashful.

Just Shoot Me!: Donnie Returns – November 2, 2000

Jack Gallo says to Dennis: “Who’s the one I always forget?”
Dennis replies: “Sneezy.”

Other times, the dwarfs are mentioned as a familiar reference and comic relief.

McHale’s Navy: The Fountain of Youth – November 20, 1964

Referring to McHale’s crew, Captain Binghamton says that he’s Snow White and he’s come to collect his seven dwarfs.

M*A*S*H: Quo Vadis, Captain Chandler – November 7, 1975

In his never-ending desire to leave military service Klinger says, “I’ll be anyone to get out – Moses, Matthew, Doc, Grumpy, Sneezy.”

Someday My Prince Will Come

Our eternal desire to find love causes many to recite the lyrics from one of Disney’s most famous songs. Here are a few examples:

The Munsters: The Sleeping Cutie – December 10, 1964

In an episode revolving around a Snow White plotline, Marilyn accidently drinks a Sleeping Beauty potion. In another segment of the show, Lily laments: “Someday my prince may come.”

All in the Family: Archie’s Weighty Problem – February 9, 1976

In this episode, absent-minded Edith can be heard singing “Someday My Prince Will Come?”

Cheers: Someday My Prince Will Come – October 17, 1985

The episode title borrows this famous line as the story revolves around Dianne going out on a blind date and summing up her compatibility with her newfound suitor.

Disneyland / WDW

Trips to Disneyland and WDW are often mentioned on sitcoms and in some cases, entire episodes revolve around a trip to the Happiest and Most-Magical places on earth. Here is a partial list of TV shows that either mentioned going to a Disney theme park or actually went. It’s interesting to note, those families that actually make the trip have adventures I’ve never experienced on any of my visits.

Frasier: Shutout in Seattle: Part 2 – May 10, 1999

In a fleeting romance with a waitress named Kit, Niles and she plan a vacation to Euro-Disneyland. Niles tells Frasier, “It’s so lame it’s hip.” Niles and the waitress break up before making the trip.

Blossom: The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men – February 8, 1993

Nick Russo, Blossom’s dad, gets a gig at Disneyland as an Elvis impersonator. He vainly tries to keep his friends and family from joining him at the park, but loses the battle.

Big Bang Theory: The Spaghetti Catalyst — May 3, 2010

Penny and Sheldon return home after a trip (unseen by the audience) to Disneyland. Sheldon is wearing Mickey Mouse Ears and carrying Disney souvenirs. Leonard is upset because Penny allowed Sheldon to eat junk food. Penny informs Leonard that Sheldon threw up his churro on her shoes after riding Space Mountain. We also discover that Sheldon is afraid of Goofy.

Big Bang Theory: The Contractual Obligation Implementation – March 7, 2013

Penny, Amy, and Bernadette play hooky from work and go to Disneyland. After receiving Princess Makeovers, they return home. Leonard and Howard are turned on by their costumes. But much to Amy’s chagrin, Sheldon is bored with the idea.

Big Bang Theory

Full House: The House Meets the Mouse May 11, 1993

It begins with Jesse’s band being scheduled to perform at Disney World. From there the idea snowballs until the entire family takes a trip in this two-part episode.

Although the next three shows were/are not produced by Disney, they were/are broadcast on ABC after it was purchased by Disney (1995). Draw what conclusions you will.

Boy Meets World: The Happiest Show on Earth – May 10, 1996

Topanga, Corey’s ex-girlfriend, wins a trip to Disney World, along with two other classmates.

Rosanne: We’re Going to Disney World – February 20, 1996

The Conner family decides to throw caution to the wind by spending Dan’s last paycheck from the garage on a vacation to Disney World. For your veterans of WDW, you’ll be amused to know that the family leaves their hotel a mere 15 minutes before the Magic Kingdom opens yet are still able to be at the front of the line to get in. Wish I could do that.

Modern Family: Disneyland – May 9, 2012

Simply because they live in Southern California and Disneyland is nearby, all three families visit the park for the day and have a wealth of misadventures.

Modern Family

What I’ve mentioned above is just a small sampling of Disney references in non-Disney media. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, there are hundreds, maybe thousands of Walt’s creations creeping into our lives when we least expect it. If you pay attention, you’ll be surprised by what you see.

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32 Replies to “Disney References in Non-Disney Theater, Music, Movies and TV Shows”

  1. Informative as always! And I had to laugh at the ‘Christmas Story’ reference – both my son and I picked up on that modern Mickey several years ago (after we started going to WDW on a regular basis). It’s nice to be proven right!

  2. Hi Jack,

    Disney has been a part of our culture for so long, but one thing I’ve always resented was they saying, “a Mickey Mouse operation.” I’ve always felt it was slanderous toward Mickey. Then again, I grew up with Disney in my veins, and never outgrew it. I’m a bit “protective” I guess.

    From my younger years, I remember a movie, “Boy Did I Get a Wrong Number,” with Bob Hope & Phyllis Diller. Phyllis was doing dishes, picks up a frying pan from the sink and exclaims, “Mirror, mirror, in my hand. Who’s the fairest in the land?” She then makes a face and says, “Oh, who asked YOU!”

    There was also the 1963 Tony Curtis film, “40 Pounds of Trouble,” from Universal Studios, with several shots taking place at Disneyland. I used to love watching that one on TV.

  3. I think ABC had all the shows in their TGIF lineup visit Disney for a theme week- Boy Meets World, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Family Matters, etc.

    Someone else mentioned that Dorothy and Sofia visited Disney World on Golden Girls. What always seems odd to me about that episode is that no Disney property is ever shown. The scenes all take place in the hotel room. Even more puzzling to me is that from what I’ve heard about the original Backlot Tour, Golden Girls was filmed at the Studios. It would have been the show with the easiest park access!

  4. Oceans 12, first act. Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) to Virgil Malloy (Casey Affleck): …and that very special honeymoon trip to Epcot Center… will have to be postponed.

    Saying it as if that would be the worst possible destination for a honeymoon.

  5. Don’t forget all the references to the “Lady and the Tramp” spaghetti scene. Ones that come to mind are in “Hot Shots–Part Deux” with Charlie Sheen dining with his girlfriend. He even pushes the meatball to her with his nose! In a recent pasta commercial, two lovers share one strand of spaghetti, only to have it break before they can kiss. Frank Thomas, one of the Nine Old Men, came up with this idea–brilliant!

  6. Jack-

    Awesome, as always! I think it’s Shrek II that’s a spoof on Disney of the series of movies. All the Princess stuff & the kid with ears running up the hill. Well, the first one has the whole Du-Lac thing too. Cross between Disney-Stepford & Hershey, PA.

    Surprised that NO ONE mentioned The Honeymooners! There’s an episode where Alice refers to each area of the kitchen/dining/sitting area as a “land” from Disneyland. Classic!

    And the Modern Family DL episode is great & when Penny takes Sheldon to DL-fantastic!!!

    Keep up the grey work, glad you’re back!!

  7. Love it Jack! It amazes me how prolific Disney truely is. Least we forget one of the biggest pop culture references to Disney, National Lampoons Vacation. The whole goal was to get to Wally World. In fact we are going to have so much fun we will be “whistling Zippidy Do Da out of our xxx xxxx.” Lol!

  8. I always get a laugh when I watch Ocean’s Twelve and Andy Garcia’s character comes in and announces that he has to postpone one of the Malloy twins’ honeymoon to “Epcot Center” in order for him to pay back the money owed to him….it’s funny that he calls it “Epcot Center”….I haven’t heard those two words together in a long time.

  9. Welcome back Jack! I hope you are all settled in your new home. Thanks again for an awesome blast to the past! I loved the episodes of Full House in Disney World!!! 46 more days to go until we are back at Disney!!! 🙂

  10. I was watching Despicable Me 2 this weekend and was surprised to hear Toy Story referenced. When one Minion becomes airborne behind a car, he screams out (in Minionese) “To infinity and beyond!”

  11. One of my favorite shows growing up was Family Matters and I remember a series of episodes where the Winslow family went to Disney World so Steve Urkel could participate in a science show in Epcot at the Imagination Institute. I think they stayed in the Wilderness Lodge and went to several different parks. I loved it!

  12. I love reading about all these different references. Probably my favorite one that I’ve seen is from the Mel Brooks movie Spaceballs. When several characters are rescued in the desert by the sparkly little guys I like to call “The Dinkers,” Lone Starr exclaims, “when did we get to Disneyland?”

  13. My wife works at a Disney store, and following Green Lantern’s arrival in theatres, she’d get a few customers asking for GL toys. She’d explain that they don’t carry it (Green Lantern is a DC character, not Marvel), but at least a couple of people pointed out the Buzz Lightyear quote as proof that he was Disney.

  14. Disney references find their way into British television programs too!
    During an episode of long running BBC Sci-fi series Doctor who, our hero – “The Doctor” is attempting to negotiate a peaceful resolution to aliens invading earth when he implores the alien leader

    “these human beings, consider their potential. From the day they arrive on the planet, blinking step into the sun. There is more to be seen than can ever be seen. More to do than… No, hold on. Sorry, that’s the Lion King!”
    Check out this youtube link!

  15. I just saw the episode of Big Bang Theory of Sheldon coming back from Disneyland with his souvenirs. It was funny but kind of heartwarming and sweet. Because Sheldon is so logical and to see him be excited like a child after returning from Disneyland shows-Every One is a kid at Disneyland-even someone with a very high IQ!
    I also enjoyed the girl’s princess scenes. That is a great promo showing even grownup girls can enjoy being a princess.

  16. Lest we not forget the 1955 Looney Tunes Bugs Bunny Cartoon “Broom-Stick Bunny” where Witch Hazel asks “Magic Mirror on the wall, who’s the ugliest one of all?” The whole cartoon is a bit of a spoof of Snow White.

  17. I should be embarrassed to admit this, but I am a huge fan of the series “Golden Girls.” They had several references to Disney as well as WDW. “Dorothy” took her mother, “Sofia” to WDW where it rained all weekend. All Sofia wanted was to go on Space Mtn. “Sophia” also went to visit Epcot Center only to mention something like “Why do I want to see technology in the year 2000?” Rose was a fan of Goofy! I don’t believe “Golden Girls” was owned by Disney till the 90’s?

    Also, the series “Friends” referred to Disneyland a couple times. “Ross” and his ex-wife “Carol” were caught making out in Small World. Also, “Rachel” referred to Matterhorn in conversation, but I don’t remember exactly.

    GREAT ARTICLE! Thanks for the fun read!

  18. Great list! My all time favorite ABC sitcom trip to Walt Disney World was Step by Step. The family’s wacky cousin tries to experience all attractions, restaurants, and shops in record time. JT pretends to be “JT Disney” to impress some girls. The sisters enter a country music singing contest at the Neon Armadillo on Pleasure Island. It’s fantastic!

  19. The Brady Bunch went to Kings Island, near Cincinnati.

    I listen to old-time radio on Sirius on the way to work — almost too many Disney references to mention! Last time I was at WDW, I was marvelling at the miniature cabin Walt built for “So Dear to My Heart” and thought about how I’ve never seen it. That night, driving back from the park, I turn on the radio to hear Jack Benny’s show — and Dennis sings the theme song to “So Dear to My Heart”!

    There’s an episode of the “Alice Fay and Phil Harris Show” where Phil and his pal promise to get a copy of a movie from Disney to show at their boss’s kid’s birthday party. Naturally, they can’t (Phil’s pal doesn’t even know Walt’s first name!), so instead they stage their own version.

    (Of course, Phil Harris went on to do the voice of Balloo and others.)

  20. At the time that ABC acquired Disney, they required all those shows to do a Disney episode. Family Matters was also included. Roseanne didn’t want to, so to get back at the powers that be for making her to a Disney episode, the next episode featured the character David getting a job at a local amusement park where he was brainwashed into being a corporate robot. It was a dig at the Disney brand.

  21. What a coincidence, Jack! Our family just watched “The Black Wig” episode of I Love Lucy last night. Never thought about all of the Disney references in non-Disney shows but I’ll be on the look-out now. Being a 70’s kid, the one that jumps into my head is the episode of The Brady Bunch where they put on a play of Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs and everyone wants to play Dopey. Thanks for the post!

  22. Wasn’t there an episode of The Brady Bunch where they went to Disneyland? I remember a mix up with Mike’s architectural plans with a poster in a tube…

  23. Another great article!

    I just watched the movie “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters” and thought it was hilarious when Percy & Annabeth started singing “It’s a Small World” when they’re on the carnival ride.

  24. How on earth do you remember all these things??? After reading your blog this week I’ve tried to think of some myself and have drawn a complete blank. No doubt I’ll be watching TV later, there’ll be a Disney reference and I’ll jump out of my seat, and my wife and kids will think I’m an idiot. Mind you it won’t be the first time. 🙂

    Just one thing though. Can you count Modern Family as a nonDisney TV show. Don’t Disney own ABC?

    Jack’s Comment:

    Good point about Modern Family.

  25. Jack,
    Great list. Not sure if you are aware of this, but several episodes of NCIS season 10 and 11 reference a man named Tom Morrow. The Director of NCIS calls him on his cell several times. This is the same name referenced in the Tomorrow Land Transit Authority. “Calling Mr. Tom Morrow”

  26. Very cute article. I loved seeing Book of Mormon at the Bob Carr in downtown Orlando. Everyone was going nuts over the Orlando references, so fun!

  27. Don’t forget the reference Of disneyland opening in the first jurassic park movie. Ian malcom says to John hammond that the pirates Of the caribbean didn’t eat the guests

  28. Hey Jack
    Once again your keen eye for detail cannot be beat. It’s amazing to see all of the different references that include some form of Disney in them. There were several that I had no idea about so it was interesting to learn them. Can’t wait for your next blog and as always keep up the great work.