Did You Know…? Fun Disney Trivia for Your Upcoming Trip
John J. Petrolino III
AllEars® Guest Columnist
This article appeared in the March 19, 2019 Issue #1017 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
Editor’s Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.
Leading up to a recent trip, I wrote several short "Did you know…?" blurbs that I emailed out to my family on a daily basis to get them pumped for the trip. I thought I’d share some of these with other AllEars® Readers, who might want to pass them along to their families in preparation for their upcoming vacations!
— Did you know that the property Walt Disney World occupies is governed by its own special municipality? The Reedy Creek Improvement District acts as a county would in a state. Essentially all the public services that would be provided by a township or county are provided by this body. While driving through the Disney property you’ll notice the Reedy Creek Fire Department. That’s right, Walt Disney World has its own Fire Department, which also hosts its own EMS. It even has its own building codes!
Did you know that Splash Mountain in the Magic Kingdom is based on a movie that you cannot buy? Disney’s "Song of South" from 1946 is not distributed by Walt Disney Pictures. If you want to see this one, you have to get a bootleg copy! "Song of the South" is considered too racially insensitive because it is narrated by Uncle Remus, presumed to be a freed slave from the reconstruction era in America. Sadly this film has been stigmatized since its theatrical release and was never released for home media. Sections of the movie have been redistributed in the form of shorts, showing the cartoons of the Br’er Rabbit stories. Ever hear the song "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah?" Who hasn’t heard this iconic song? Well, it’s from "Song of the South!" When we travel through the Splash Mountain ride, we are transported through many of the vignettes from this movie.
— Did you know that after traveling all the way to the Most Magical Place on Earth you can get your own slice of New Jersey? No, there is no New Jersey pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase. This connection is much more subtle. Prince Charming’s Regal Carrousel has been operating at the Magic Kingdom since October 1, 1971 (formerly known as Cinderella’s Golden Carrousel). The actual carousel was originally built in 1917 and lived at a park in Michigan. Eventually it was moved to Olympic Park in Irvington, New Jersey, and in 1967 it was purchased by Disney, subsequently being placed in The Magic Kingdom. Fun fact, the horses are all the original wooden, maple, ones. When refurbishment or touch-ups need to be done, Imagineers put fiberglass horses in their stead on a case by case basis while the wooden ones are being overhauled.
— Did you know there is a connection between Ralphie from the holiday classic "A Christmas Story" and Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom? For the 1964 World’s Fair, Walt Disney, under WED Enterprises, created the Carousel of Progress. The original recording of the song was sung by Rex Allen, an actor, singer and songwriter of the time. But the 1993 version that you will hear on the ride today is sung by none other than Jean Shepherd. Jean Shepherd plays the role of the narrator or father in the Carousel of Progress, but is even better known as the author of "A Christmas Story." It is his voice you hear as adult Ralphie in the movie’s voiceovers in the movie.
— Did you know that when you are walking at Disney’s Magic Kingdom, you are not actually walking on the ‘ground’ floor? Beneath the feet of park-goers is a whole other world. This is part of the "backstage" area of the Disney Magic. It’s a series of hallways that allow the cast members to work in stealth mode. Walt noticed at Disneyland that on shift change, cast members would have to walk through different areas of the park that would make them anachronistic. For example, someone in Frontierland costume would walk through Tomorrowland. This irked Walt to no end, as he felt it destroyed some of the magic. In the planning of the Magic Kingdom, Walt had the Utilidors planned so that cast members could get to where they were going without being seen at all by park-goers. Pretty slick, right?
— Did you know Stitch’s Great Escape in Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom has a bumpy past? In 1975 a ride named Mission to Mars opened in Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom. The ride was really a re-work of a Rocket to the Moon ride from Disneyland. The 1955 Rocket to the Moon ride probably seemed revolutionary at the time, however post 1969, there was nothing "tomorrowish" about landing on the moon. Mission to Mars took the elements of Rocket to the Moon, changing the destination to Mars. Reduce, reuse and recycle. In 1995, ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter replaced Mission to Mars. This attraction, in short, terrified children. There were no ifs, ands or buts about it. There was a sign out front noting that it was not for the faint of heart. From 1995 to 2004, the debate about whether Alien Encounter was too terrifying to be in Magic Kingdom went on, and eventually the attraction morphed into a more kid-friendly version, Stitch’s Great Escape. Reduce, reuse, recycle. After several years of very mixed reviews, Stitch’s Great Escape is now listed as a "seasonal" attraction, and the location is now used as a character meet-and-greet.
— Did you know a vacation Walt Disney took to New Orleans can be linked to Presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama? In the 1950s, Walt picked up a souvenir antique caged bird. This trinket was more than a normal trinket of its time. The bird would sing and its mouth would open and shut. Sure, in 2018 when nearly every toy has a battery and talks, not a big deal. In the 1950s though, this would have blown your mind. And it did just that to Walt Disney. Walt wanted to use this technology and incorporate it somehow into his entertainment empire. The first course of action was he had Imagineers try to replicate the bird as is. In 1962 the Enchanted Tiki Room opened in Disneyland with the technology developed from reverse-engineering the singing bird. Disney used the newfound animatronic technology to create the robotics for the previously mentioned Carousel of Progress, as well as an attraction called Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln — an attraction where a full audio-animatronic Abe Lincoln moved and delivered excerpts from some of his more famous speeches. Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln made Walt think about a large-scale version for use in the expansion of Disneyland’s Main Street USA, incorporating all the U.S. presidents. Walt’s full vision was not realized until the 1971 opening of The Hall of Presidents in the Magic Kingdom. The first sitting president to record his voice for use in the attraction was Bill Clinton. Since then the attraction has included George W. Bush and Barack Obama, also using their voices. On December 19, 2017, the Hall of Presidents reopened featuring the 45th president, Donald Trump. They say it all started with a mouse, but really a lot of the innovation of the Walt Disney World that we know and love today may have all started with a caged toy bird.
These are just a few of the fun stories I teased my family with before our Disney vacation. If you’re the Disney planner in the family, maybe this will give you ideas for how to educate and excite the members of your vacation party!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John Petrolino is a US Merchant Marine Officer, writer and Disney fanatic. John visited Disney twice as a child with his family, but it was not until his wife Sarah came along that he became addicted to the House of the Mouse. John and Sarah have visited Walt Disney World annually since they started dating in 2010, got engaged in Cinderella Castle in 2011 and brought their then 8-month-old son John on his first trip in 2017 and back again for a second in 2018. At the Magic Kingdom, one of John’s favorite attractions is the Carousel of Progress, because it truly is a "Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow…"